HC Deb 14 February 1917 vol 90 cc604-5

asked the Under-Secretary for War whether he is aware that Thomas M'Kessy, of Newcastle West, county Limerick, a boy of 16½ years of age, as his certificate of age forwarded to the military authorities proves, joined the South Irish Horse, and that his father applied to the military authorities for his discharge on the ground that he is under military age and not of robust health, which application has been refused; and whether, for the reasons stated, his discharge will now be granted?

The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

Inquiries are being made, and my hon. Friend will be informed of the result.


Will the hon Gentleman give the House, definitely, the legal position with regard to such a question: Whether it is legal to hold boys at the age of sixteen in the Army against the wishes of their parents?


I cannot discuss that within the limits of question and answer.


Does not it simply require an answer, yes or no?


When the hon. Member is asking a question on some legal point, he might put the question down. Legal points require consideration.


Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the minimum age at which a boy is eligible to join the Army? Is there anything definite?


The minimum age is really eighteen, but we get a great many patriotic young boys who come forward and give a wrong age.


Having regard to the fact that this boy's father has stated, and that I have written to the military authorities saving, that he is not in robust health, what is the use of keeping him in the Army?


I have told my hon. Friend that I am making inquiries, and if the facts are as stated in his letter the matter will get full consideration.


asked the Under-Secretary for War whether he is aware that a boy named Maurice Quinlan, of Newcastle West, county Limerick, who was under seventeen years of age when he enlisted in the South Irish Horse, stationed at Cahir, was retained against the wish of his father, who made application for him, while another boy, named John Flynn, who enlisted after December, 1916, in the same regiment, was discharged; that Maurice Quinlan's health was bad, as his father informed the military authorities, that he had to be conveyed back to barracks from his home against the local doctor's wishes at Christmas, and that since his mind got deranged, and he is now in a lunatic asylum; and whether, when in future the father of a boy under military age asks for his discharge, it will be granted by the military authorities?


It is the fact that the discharge of Quinlan was refused in accordance with the general practice. He is at present in an asylum, and as soon as he is fit for removal, he will be brought before a medical board for discharge from the Army. I have no information as to Flynn, and inquiries are being made. The discharge of soldiers under military age is not now authorised, unless under very exceptional circumstances, and I regret therefore that I cannot give the assurance asked for.