HC Deb 13 February 1917 vol 90 cc426-8
13 Captain BURGOYNE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether Lieutenant-Colonel R. J. Norris, D.S.O., a retired officer, after voluntarily serving for sixteen months as a draft conducting officer, was, on 15th September last, suddenly reverted to the unemployed list for reporting to the proper authorities smoking on board a transport whilst discharging shells and cordite at a French port where fires and explosions had already occurred and the discourteous treatment of a German officer when embarked as a prisoner of war on board one of His Majesty's transports; and whether, before the decision to revert this officer, reports were called for from all parties concerned; (2) whether the Army Council, in notifying their decision to Colonel Norris, admitted that it was based on a report made by a junior officer, prior to referring the matter to Lieutenant-Colonel Norris, who had no opportunity given him either of refutation or confirmation; and whether, seeing that this method of procedure was publicly denounced at a recent court of inquiry, with the full approval of the Secretary of State, as improper, harsh, and unjust he proposes to take any action; and (3) whether Lieutenant-Colonel Norris has been informed, in reply to an appeal for redress to the Secretary of State for War, that it is regretted it is not possible to assemble a court of inquiry at the present time; what are the reasons for the delay; and what steps he proposes to take with a view to full and immediate justice being done to this gallant officer?


The action of the Department was taken on the recommendation of the Inspector-General of the Lines of Communication. When the decision was conveyed to Colonel Norris, he submitted an appeal which was referred back to the Inspector-General of Communications, but as a result of this officer's reply and after further consideration the Council decided that the previous decision should be upheld. My hon. and gallant Friend will thus realise that full consideration has been given to the matter, and I am afraid I cannot admit the suggestion that Colonel Norris has been treated with injustice or harshness. It is undesirable, in military interests, to hold a Court of Inquiry in such a case as this, as it would involve the withdrawal of various officers from their duties in France.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a grave scandal of military injustice lies behind these questions?