HC Deb 06 May 1919 vol 115 cc720-2
18 and 19. Mr. WATERSON

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) if he can acquaint the House as to the arrangements for relieving troops in the East who have been due for demobilisation for some time; if he can state how many troops are going out to relieve them, if any; if any troops are on their way home now; if so, what regiments they are; if he can allay the anxiety of many by giving some information as to when they may be expected to leave; if he is aware of the unrest in the country owing to the treatment of these men; (2) whether he is aware that Private Stephens, No. 275,546, enlisted in 1914 in the ⅙th Essex Regiment; that he sailed for the East in 1915; that from that time he has had no leave and is now attached to the Wiltshire Regiment; that he is due to be demobilised; if he will state whether the War Office intends these men for the Army of Occupation by the inactivity as to getting these men home; and if he will state definitely when these men may hope to be released and so allay the feeling of resentment now prevalent amongst these Eastern troops?

26. Lieutenant-Colonel PARRY

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the large number of members of the Territorial Force still serving in Egypt who have been overseas for nearly four years without home leave, many of whom are well advanced in years and married, and who, except for the trouble in Egypt, would have been demobilised, he will state what steps have been taken to substitute other troops for those concerned; and when they may expect to be released?


As the answer is a lengthy one, I propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the answer referred to:

All possible arrangements are being made to relieve troops in the East who are due for demobilisation, as already explained to the House in my statements made on 15th February and 15th April. Considerable drafts are now on their way to various stations in the East, and, on the arrival of these men, it is the present intention to send home a corresponding number of men who are due for release. It was originally intended, as stated by me on the 3rd April, in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome, and on other occasions, to utilise some of these drafts that are now on their way in order to give leave to men who are compulsorily retained in the Army and who had served abroad for a long period. Owing, however, to representations that have been made by the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief abroad, that it would be very unwise to send home on leave men who were compulsorily retainable at the expense of men who were due for demobilisation, I have not been able to carry out my intention.

The numbers at my disposal are limited, and the strengths in retainable men of certain Expeditionary Forces do not come up to the establishments required. It is obviously, therefore, impossible to bring home the releasable men due for demobilisation as well as the retainable men who are due for leave. Although the total number of men that are being retained may come up to the total numbers required, it must be remembered that men have been retained on a basis of age and service, with no relations to the arm in which they are serving, their particular trade or occupation in that arm, or the theatre in which they are serving. Considerable transfers, therefore, between arms and theatres will be necessary, and, in any case, such transfers must take time to complete. In this connection I must point out that, while there may be an excess in the fighting arms, there is a shortage in the technical arms owing to the fact that these arms have for the past eighteen months been gradually filled with the older and more skilled men, in order to release younger men for duty in the trenches. Hon. Members will understand that one cannot make up a deficiency of motor drivers, fitters, and other skilled tradesmen by merely transferring from the Infantry and other fighting arms.

To compensate retainable men whose leave has of necessity to be postponed until the redistribution which I have indicated to the House has been completed, I am at the present time considering a scheme by which such men will be granted additional leave when they eventually come home.

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