HC Deb 10 June 1941 vol 372 c17
32. Captain Thurtle

asked the Secretary of State for War the result of the recent court-martial on Guardsman Ernest J. Whitehead, of the Grenadier Guards, for refusing to enter church when on compulsory church parade?

Captain Margesson

The soldier in question was found guilty of disobeying a lawful command by his superior officer and was sentenced to seven days' detention.

Captain Thurtle

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend think it is very undesirable that soldiers should be dragooned into church in this way if they do not want to go? Does he not also think that the time spent on such a court-martial as this could be much better employed, and will he discourage courts-martial of this kind in future?

Captain Margesson

This was a peculiar case. In this case the soldier stated on attestation that he had no religion, but when he filled up his attestation paper he was under the impression that he had to give some religion, so he entered himself as "Church of England." Actually, notices in large type are displayed in all recruiting offices to the following effect: Every recruit is entitled to be classified for religion in the Army in accordance with his own declaration on the subject. This does not preclude an entry as atheist. The soldier has now been given an opportunity of amending his religious classification and will not be compelled to attend service in future.