HC Deb 19 April 1944 vol 399 cc182-3
10 and 11. Mr. Arthur Duckworth

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) the average length of time that elapses between the accepted enlistment of men with the R A.F. and their final call-up for service;

(2) whether his attention has been called to the case of Victor Crane, of Brandon, Oakfield Road, Shrewsbury, who was accepted for enlistment in the R.A.F. in February, 1943, and was still waiting to be called up for service at the time of his death in March, 1944; and whether steps will be taken to curtail this waiting period in future cases or, alternatively, to release enlisted men for service in other branches of the Armed Farces.

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

In view of the length of the answer, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The average length of time that elapses between the enlistment of men into the Royal Air Force and their final call-up for service depends on the nature of the duties for which they have enlisted. This period of deferment is, and always has been, short for men accepted by the Royal Air Force for ground duties. In the case of volunteers accepted for aircrew training, however, it is essential to have available a considerable reserve of suitable young men who can be called into training as required.

Developments in the war situation, particularly our increasing air superiority over the enemy, have changed the nature of our aircrew requirements, with the result that the calling-up of volunteers for pilots, navigators and air bombers has had to be deferred for longer periods than for other categories who were accepted at the same time. A prolonged delay in the use of young and highly qualified personnel could not be justified at the present time, particularly as early opportunities are available for their employment in other aircrew categories, e.g. as air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers.

Special steps have in consequence now been taken with the aim of providing that all aircrew volunteers for service with the Royal Air Force will be subject to approximately the same period of deferment, and endeavours will be made to keep it to the shortest period which is consistent with the maintenance of a reserve of volunteers adequate to ensure an even flow into training. As from 1st April, 1944, aircrew volunteers will, notwithstanding any provisional classification which they may have been given on enlistment, enter training on a common footing; they will then be given an opportunity to compete on their merits for their position in aircrew, and their classification to category will depend on their demonstrated suitability and the operational needs of the Service. As a result of this now procedure, it is expected that it will be possible, in the next few months, to absorb into aircrew training most of those who are available and have been waiting for any considerable period on the deferred list.

As regards Question No. 11, I am aware of the circumstances of this unfortunate case. The volunteer in question was awaiting recall. This had not been overlooked but had been deferred for the general reason which I have indicated.