HC Deb 05 March 1918 vol 103 cc1883-4

I fear I have unduly detained the House, but before sitting down I would like to refer to one or two subjects connected with the personnel of the Fleet and the Auxiliary Services, which, I am sure, will be of interest to the House. In the first place, it is a matter of the highest satisfaction to the Admiralty to be able to state that all reports indicate that in the trying and arduous circumstances both officers and men remain cheerful and contented, and their mutual trust and regard for each other remains on as solid a basis as ever. Further, the general health of the Fleet, both at home and abroad, afloat and ashore, has been excellent. The daily percentage of sickness in the Grand Fleet is only.67 per cent., and in the Mediterranean.86 per cent. The greatest credit is due to the medical officers, afloat and ashore, for this continued good health.

As the House will see from the numbers which are included in Vote A, the provision of personnel to meet the growing requirements of the Fleet has necessitated a continuous increase in the number of officers, particularly in the junior ranks. This has been met by the acceleration of the advance of junior officers to the ranks of lieutenant and sub-lieutenant, and by the extension of the scheme for promotion from the lower deck. The total number of officers in the Naval Service has increased from 10,300 in 1914 to something over 32,000 at the present time. The loss of the usual theoretical training undergone by officers has been carefully considered, and steps taken to mitigate its effect as far as war conditions permit.

During the War it has not been possible for junior officers to be put through the usual courses of instruction in order to qualify them for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, and a Committee was appointed in 1916 to consider the steps to be taken on the termination of hostilities to provide for cases of officers who had not been able to undergo these courses. In view of the experience gained during the War by these officers, the Committee recommended that those who had completed the full course of training at the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth and had undergone some part of the further course of training in the training cruiser, should not be required to undergo courses at the end of the War. This recommendation has been accepted by the Admiralty. In regard to the officers who have not completed the full four years' course at the colleges, the Committee recommended that they should be required to undergo courses on the termination of hostilities, and arrangements will be made to this end.