HC Deb 22 June 1943 vol 390 cc986-7
26. Mr. E. P. Smith

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the coroner's verdict at the inquest on Mr. Arthur Chudley, of West Wickham, Kent, to the effect that death was occasioned by heart failure due to and following strain while engaged on military Home Guard duties; and whether, in the light of this fact, he will reconsider his recent refusal to institute medical examination of the Home Guard?

Mr. A. Henderson

Yes, Sir, and I should like to take this opportunity to express my sympathy with the relatives of Corporal Chudley. He was an enthusiastic Home Guard and set the highest example to his comrades. I understand that before the exercise it was explained to the men that those should fall out who felt they were not equal to it or found in the course of it that the training was too hard. Much as I deplore the death of this Home Guard, I do not consider that the facts of the case show that the arrangements outlined in the answer given by my right hon. Friend on 1st June should be modified.

Mr. Smith

Now that the Home Guard are qualified for military death and disability pensions, what logical alternative is there to giving them proper and periodical medical examinations, together with grading for duties?

Mr. Henderson

It would be extremely difficult to carry it out, having regard to the number of the Home Guard and to the number also of doctors available.

Mr. Smith

It is done in the National Fire Service.

General Sir George Jeffreys

Is not the presence of elderly men of doubtful fitness, however keen they may be, a source of weakness to the Home Guard?

Mr. Henderson

I do not think there are many of them, but I would like to make it clear to the House that any Home Guard who may consider himself not quite fit is entitled to ask for a medical examination.