HC Deb 10 May 1916 vol 82 cc642-3
14. Mr. KING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that on 2nd May a non-commissioned officer at the non-combatant camp, Weymouth, informed the men of that corps that on 28th April 107 men of that corps had been sent to France, and of these seventy had already been shot when sent out in front of the advance trenches to mend barbed wire; whether he has any official information on this matter; and whether, in view of previous statements made on the work of the Non-Combatant Corps, he will say whether it is intended to expose this corps to such work that its numbers may be regularly reduced at the rate of 70 per cent. per week?


I am really surprised that my hon. Friend should introduce into a serious question a piece of sheer camp gossip such as that which he has reproduced in the first part of this question. Three companies of the Non-Combatant Corps, about 300 strong, were sent to France at the end of April, and the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the British Armies in France had previously received instructions from the Army Council that these men were not to be employed in the firing line, and there is no reason to suppose that these instructions have not been scrupulously carried out.


Does my right hon. Friend not realise that the point of my question is not whether this is a fact, but whether a non-commissioned officer stated it to his men as a fact without fear of contradiction?


I think he must have been indulging in a sally into the realms of humour.