HC Deb 21 July 1936 vol 315 cc228-9

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet reached any decision on the question of forming a national defence force?


Yes, Sir. It seems to me to be anomalous that responsibility for home defence should be shared by the Territorial Army and a body not fully identified with it, namely, the Royal Defence Corps, and I have decided, therefore, that the Royal Defence Corps shall be replaced by National Defence Companies of the Territorial Army. The companies will be formed on a county or, in some cases, a city basis, and each will be linked with a Territorial infantry battalion. Enrolment, which will start on 1st September next, will be open in peace to ex-members of His Majesty's Forces, normally between the ages of 45 and 60 years, who express themselves as willing to be commissioned or enlisted for home service in a local national defence company when required. The role of the new force will be to protect important points in Great Britain when war is threatening or has actually broken out, but members of the force will not be called up until these conditions arise, nor will they be called up on account of civil disturbance. A total of approximately 8,450 officers and men, distributed among the various counties in Great Britain, will be required, and I have every confidence that I shall have no difficulty in securing this number of men in a very short time. I have indeed been most gratified by the general interest taken in matters of national defence, as evinced by the numerous letters containing offers of help or suggestions which I have received, and I should like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who have assisted me in this way, particularly, in this matter of the national defence companies, my hon. Friend the member for Deritend (Mr. Smedley Crooke).


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the announcement which he has just made will give widespread satisfaction?


Can my right hon. Friend say why the lower age limit is as high as 45?


It is thought that anybody under that age who has served in the Forces would be still serving in some branch of the Forces. I am quite prepared to make exceptions should it seem advisable to do so.


When this National Defence force is set up will the right hon. Gentleman ask those gentlemen who enlist whether, should war break out, they will give active service in less than four years after the war has taken place?

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