HC Deb 07 November 1944 vol 404 cc1231-42
23. Mr. Quintin Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the case of a non-regular member of Q.A.I.M.N.S. who has served continuously since 16th March, 1940, in India, Persia, Iraq, Egypt and Sinai; whether he is aware that this lady's father died in the winter 1942–43; that her mother is over 70 years of age and that her application for a compassionate posting was refused; and if he will reconsider his decision.

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir. The facts of this case were referred to the Commander-in-Chief who, as the hon. Member is aware, has discretion to revert personnel in his command to the Home Establishment on compassionate grounds. The sister will in any case return to this country shortly under the normal arrangements.

Mr. Hogg

Having regard to the fact that the period for the R.A.F. is only two years, could not the Commander-in-Chief ask for a volunteer in such a case as this?

38. Miss Ward

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now make a statement on the granting of compassionate leave from the Middle East to men who are desirous of starting a family.

40. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if he can now make a statement on the subject of home posting or leave from overseas for the purpose of starting a family.

42. Mr. Turton

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now able to give the House further information on the provision of compassionate leave to men in the Middle East who wish to return home to start a family.

65. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now received a Report from the Middle East Command on the subject of home posting on matrimonial grounds.

Sir J. Grigg

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

Mr. Turton

In view of the fact that this matter has aroused a great deal of concern among Servicemen and their families, and further, as the Business of the House to-day does not appear to be very contentious, could not this Question be answered at the end of Questions?

Sir J. Grigg

The answer itself is long, and it will be necessary to print in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of quite long general routine orders from the Middle East. I do not think it could be read in less than 10 or 15 minutes.

Miss Ward

Is it possible to make an arrangement, in the future, to have a discussion, if necessary?

Following is the answer:

Hon. Members will be aware that there are two schemes of repatriation to the Home Establishment from overseas theatres. By far the larger—though it is not as large as I should wish—is that for repatriation on grounds of length of continuous service abroad. The smaller is for re-posting on compassionate grounds. There is, of course, an infinite variety of circumstances which give rise to claims for compassionate re-posting and it has been a matter of great complexity to set up machinery for investigating them and classifying them in order of priority, it being understood that the claims far outnumber the places available. It has all along been made clear that Commands overseas have full discretion to return men or women on compassionate grounds whenever the circumstances are considered to be sufficiently serious to justify this action and undue hardship to the individual or his family cannot otherwise be avoided.

In the middle of this year, Middle East Command found that they were getting a very large number of applications, a great many of which were of a kind that had no chance of succeeding even apart from the limitations of the quota of vacancies. They decided therefore to issue a General Routine Order on the subject setting out both the principles and the procedure according to which applications would be dealt with. In an Appendix to the Order was included a classification of the main types of case which could arise for the guidance of Commanding Officers of units. This was in effect a reproduction of a table originally produced by the War Office and sent to Commands both for guidance and for ease of communication of the results of any investigations undertaken by the War Office in this country. Commanding Officers in the Middle East Force were instructed to bring the Order to the notice of their units by means of a Notice Board Information. The text of the Order and of this Appendix are contained in Annex I and III to this statement.

The publication of the Order had the desired effect of reducing the number of applications that had no chance of success except in one particular, namely, cases falling into the category "desire for children." Perhaps I should say that the military authorities did not just think up this category. For months past the War Office has had a considerable number of applications on this count, so it naturally had to be included in any classification sent out for the guidance of Commands. Anyhow in this category the number of applications increased very considerably and Middle East Command found themselves in a position whether their machinery was being swamped. After consultation with the Compassionate Posting Committee, which includes other ranks as well as officers and has on it a Chaplain and a Doctor, and with the local representatives of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association, Middle East Command decided to issue a further order (Annex II to this statement) imposing conditions on applications of this nature. I have no doubt this was due to a desire to avoid disappointment as much as possible and in the interests of strict equity. It is clear after the event, however, that the terms of this Order are such as are liable to offend the susceptibilities of some people though—as my postbag shows—by no means of all, and that they also are such as are capable of being easily misrepresented. I have suggested to the Commander-in-Chief therefore that the second Order should be withdrawn. But it is clear that the withdrawal of the Order could not mean an increase in the number of applications entertained under this head and that, in fact, the Posting Committee would either have to adjudicate on such applications very much in accordance with the terms of the Order or to come to the conclusion that all applications under this head should be automatically rejected—which would be a pity.



General Order 684 of 1943 is hereby cancelled.

1. Object. The object of this General Order is to explain:
  1. (a) The general policy laid down by the War Office to secure as far as possible a uniform standard for the selection of officers and soldiers for posting to the U.K. from overseas on compassionate grounds.
  2. (b) The procedure to be adopted in the Middle East for the selection of personnel for posting to the U.K. on compassionate grounds.
2. General Policy. Commands overseas have full discretion without previous reference to the War Office to return on compassionate grounds any officer, soldier or auxiliary eligible for posting to the U.K. wherever the circumstances are considered to be sufficient to justify this action. The number despatched to the U.K. on compassionate grounds each month must necessarily be limited, and for this reason priority will be given to the most urgent cases in accordance with Appendix "A". In order to implement the above policy a Compassionate Posting Committee is in existence at G.H.Q. having been formed in August, 1943 (this will be referred to in subsequent paras. of this General Order as "the committee"). This committee consists of both officers and other ranks. The committee's decisions on the applications submitted will be final. One of the essential functions of this committee is the speedy examination of applications, and for this reason the committee is in constant session. 3. Applicability. The procedure set out in this General Order will apply to all personnel serving with the British Army, British Nursing Service and the A.T.S. whose "natural" home is in the United Kingdom. It will not apply to personnel of the Indian Army nor to British officers and British other ranks attached to the Indian Army. 4. General Standards.
  1. (a) Individual cases must be treated on their own merits, and it is not therefore possible to lay down any hard and fast rules setting out the grounds and types of applications that will be considered for posting to the U.K. on compassionate grounds.
  2. (b) Careful consideration has, however, been given to the classes under which an application may be submitted, and as a guide these are set out at Appendix "A" to this General Order. It should be noted that each category has been divided into four classes, and each class qualified by a separate head, i.e.:
    • Class A—Extreme compassionate case.
    • Class B—A very deserving case.
    • Class C—A genuine case.
    • Class D—A weak case.
It is stressed, however, that this table is to be taken only as a guide, and is reproduced with the primary object of assisting C.Os. in assessing the value of individual applications. (c) (i) Attention is drawn to paras. 4 (a) and (d) of General Order 646 of 1944, under which personnel who have (a) a break in U.K. exceeding six months or (b) who have served abroad in a civil capacity before enlisting in the Army, may submit applications on compassionate grounds for the consideration of the committee. (ii) It is pointed out, however, that unless personnel whose break in U.K. exceeds six months have additional reasons of a compassionate nature similar to those shown at Appendix "A." or the period served abroad prior to the break was extensive, the applications are unlikely to be approved. (iii) Cases submitted on the grounds of split civil and military service abroad will be dealt with strictly on their merits and subject to the limitations of the last sentence of sub-para. (ii) above.

5. Verification of Applications.

  1. (a) It is absolutely essential that the genuineness of the grounds for home posting should be established beyond a reasonable doubt before such applications are granted. This is necessary not only out of justice to other applicants but also to avoid resentment being aroused amongst unsuccessful applicants should a "doubtful" case be posted home and the facts become known to their families.
  2. (b) Normally no application will be considered by the committee unless the grounds under which it is submitted have been confirmed by competent and impartial authority. Only in very exceptional cases and due to extreme urgency will the personal guarantee of the unit commander be accepted. The unit commander will vouch for the genuineness of the case from his own personal knowledge of the applicant and his private affairs over a period, but even so it must not be taken for granted that such guarantee will be automatically accepted by the committee.

6. Procedure for Verification.

  1. (a) On receipt of an application for posting to the Home Establishment C.Os. will cause the pro-forma attached at Appendix "B" to this General Order to be completed and forwarded in duplicate to the S.S.A.F.A. Enquiry Bureau, G.H.Q., M.E.F., provided no other corroborative evidence, e.g., medical certificate, police report, etc., is available.
  2. (b) S.S.A.F.A. Enquiry Bureau will forward the request to the War Office (A.G. 4 (a)) by microgram, or in urgent cases by signal. It will assist therefore if the pro-forma is typed in order to avoid the necessity of copying. War Office will, after inquiry, notify G.H.Q., M.E.F., the class and category into which the case falls in accordance with the table set out at para. 4 (b) above. The War Office will make no recommendations as to whether or not reversion to the U.K. should be approved, and this decision will remain with the committee.

7. Submission of Applications. Applications for posting to the Home Establishment on compassionate grounds come under two headings:
  1. (a) those originated in the U.K., and
  2. (b) those originated in the Middle East.
Applications originated in the U.K. The following action will be taken by G.H.Q. on receipt of notification from the War Office that an application for reversion to the U.K. of an officer, soldier or auxiliary serving in the Middle East has been made to them. If the case is placed by the War Office in Class "A" or Class "B," the unit will be immediately notified and instructions given that, if the officer, soldier or auxiliary concerned is desirous of return to the U.K., he or she will be immediately despatched to his or her base depot to await onward passage to the U.K. If the War Office notification puts the application in Class "C" or "D," the unit concerned will be notified accordingly. A brief statement of the grounds will be included and the unit asked to submit an application to G.H.Q. for consideration by the committee. This case will then be examined by the committee in the normal manner and the decision notified in accordance with para. 8 below. In the event of an application being rejected on the evidence submitted at the time and subsequent evidence being received which strengthens the case, the application may be resubmitted to the committee. Applications originated in the Middle East. All applications will be submitted direct to G.H.Q. (officers' applications to A.G.2 (b), other ranks' applications to O.2E.), in original, only. Each application submitted to G.H.Q. must be summarised on the pro-forma reproduced at Apprendix "C" to this General Order. It is essential that all details are carefully and correctly stated. One certified true copy of all corroborative evidence only will be included with each application. Unless applications are correctly submitted to G.H.Q., they will be returned forthwith to units, and will not be examined by the committee until they are resubmitted in the correct manner as defined above.
8. Notification of the Committee's decision. The committee's decisions are notified immediately after each meeting as follows:- (a) Successful applications. As soon as applications are approved personnel will be called in to their respective base depots under instructions issued by G.H.Q. (A.G.2. (b) for officers and O.2E. for other ranks), to await onward passage to the U.K. (b) Deferred applications. Applications deferred for further evidence will be retained at G.H.Q. to await the arrival of additional evidence, when the committee will reconsider the cases. (c) Rejected applications. Units will be notified of applications rejected and such applications will be retained at G.H.Q. Should further supporting evidence subsequently become available it will be forwarded to either A.G.2 (b) or 0.2E. for further consideration with the original application. 9. Despatch to U.K. Personnel who are posted to the Home Establishment on compassionate grounds will be despatched to U.K. by sea as and when opportunity occurs. It is, however, sometimes possible for personnel to return by air. This possibility is carefully watched by the committee, and when opportunity occurs the most urgent cases are despatched in this manner, but there is no guarantee of air passage even for these cases. 10. Submission of W.P.Rs. and Authority. On arrival at base depots Waiting Passage Returns will be submitted to Mov. 6(S), G.H.Q. quoting the G.H.Q. reference authorising despatch. This reference will also be quoted on the A.F. W5133, which is the individual officer's, other rank's or auxiliary's authority for return to the U.K. No further individual authority is necessary. (General Order 704 of 1944 refers.) 11. Arrival in U.K.
  1. (a) On arrival in U.K. cases are further examined by the War Office. Temporary release from the Army may be granted to those for whom home posting alone is considered unlikely adequately to alleviate the hardship.
  2. (b) Officers and other ranks posted to the U.K. on compassionate grounds will not normally be eligible for despatch overseas again, either in a draft or with a unit, until they have completed six months' service in the U.K. subsequent to their return, unless they volunteer to go overseas before the expiration of this period.
  3. (c) Whenever practicable, and provided that they have not been granted temporary release, they will be posted to units which at the time would appear unlikely to be required for service abroad within six months. If, however, the unit is despatched for service overseas as part of an organised formation they will be required to accompany it.
12. A summary of this General Order is No. in the series, "NOTICE BOARD INFORMATION.


G.O. 959 COMPASSIONATE POSTINGS TO HOME ESTABLISHMENT. Reference General Order 878 of 1944, Appendix "A," para. 7 B (i).
  1. 1. All applications submitted for posting to Home Establishment on the grounds that the spouses have been separated for three years and there are no children must be supported by a medical certificate stating that the wife is capable and desirous of bearing children and that this will not be detrimental to the health of the wife.
  2. 2. No cases will be considered where the age of the wife is under thirty-five, unless there are exceptional reasons which make the bearing of children essential. Such cases must be fully verified from independent sources.
  3. 3. In cases where marriages took place twelve months or more prior to the date of embarkation, evidence must be produced as to why the wife was unable to bear children during this period, or why there are no children of the marriage.
  4. 4. Medical Certificates as required in para. I above should be obtained by the applicant direct from U.K. and not through S.S.A.F.A. It is pointed out that wives may have the certificate written on an air letter and posted direct to the applicant through normal postal channels.


Note.—The examples given below cover the most frequent types of cases, but do not pretend to be exhaustive and are issued as a general guide to Commanders overseas of the standards which will qualify for classification in W.O. reports.

Category. Class "A" An extreme compassionate case. Class "B" A very deserving case. Class "C" A genuine case. Class "D" A weak case.
1. Illness of wife (i) The wife is dangerously ill or dying and there is a reasonable prospect of arrival in sufficient time. (i) As in "A", but arrival in time unlikely. Where the wife is seriously ill but likely to recover slowly in the ordinary course. No children. The illness is not of a serious nature, or is chronic and the wife was in that condition when the husband went abroad.
(ii) The return of the husband may assist recovery. (ii) Where there are children under 16 needing care and the wife is seriously ill.
2. Illness of parent (i) The parent is the only survivor and the son or daughter is an only child. The illness is due to enemy action or public service and the parents are the next of kin. The parents are largely dependent on the child for their livelihood. Other sons or daughters of a useful age are available, or where the condition existed when the child proceeded overseas.
(ii) Both parents are in need of care and no suitable relative is available.
(iii) The return of the son or daughter is essential to save life or reason.
3. Illness of child The parent's presence is essential to save life or reason. (i) The mother is seriously distracted. The illness is likely to be permanent or of long duration and the child is an only one. Recurrent illnesses amongst weakly children.
(ii) An only child is dangerously ill.
4. Death of wife Return of husband is essential to provide adequate care of children. Return of husband is very desirable in the children's interests. Where the wife's death has seriously complicated private affairs which cannot be dealt with by correspondence. The death of a childless wife.
5. Death of parent The other parent is destitute and no competent near relative is available. The death has seriously and materially worsened the family's circumstances. The health of the other parent has serious deteriorated. The qualifications under "A", "B" or "C" are not fulfilled.
6. Death of child (i) Only child and death was due to an accident or enemy action. Only child, death due to natural causes. Where there are other children but the mother's grief has seriously affected her care of them. The mother's desire for comfort, or the husband's desire to give it.
(ii) Mother distracted to an extent liable to affect reason.
Category. Class "A" An extreme compassionate case. Class "B" A very deserving case. Class "C" A genuine case. Class "D" A weak case.
7. Desire for children (i) Death of an only child. (i) The spouses have been separated for three years by service abroad and there are no children, the wife being able to bear. The wife is reaching an age when child-bearing would be difficult or unlikely. (i) To add to an existing family.
(ii) Where the return of the husband is necessary to the wife's health. (ii) A long-standing engagement. (ii) To start a family where there has already been 12 months' sterile co-habitation.
(iii) The wife is threatened with an operation precluding pregnancy.
8. Infidelity … The wife is mentally unstable or neglects her children. (i) The wife is subject to exceptional temptation. The wife is penitent, asks for her husband's return and both parties desire full reconciliation. To enable the husband to decide whether to take divorce proceedings, which the wife does not desire.
(ii) The prospects of reconciliation are compromised by the hostility of a third party.
9. Domestic hardship. (i) Family of six or more where children are out of control. Family of six or more—the father has served three years continuously abroad and the wife desires her husband's return. The family, although not out of control, the father's presence is very desirable. War-time conditions of a normal character.
(ii) Serious criminal charge against the wife.
10. Business (i) The individual serving abroad is head or director of a pre - enlistment family business and return is essential to save it, the family being mainly dependent upon it. The officer, soldier, etc., would obtain a period of release, were he or she at home. Dishonesty of a partner or head employee, imperilling pre-enlistment business. A business acquired by the wife since her husband's enlistment or call up.
(ii) Presence is essential on legal grounds.
11. Other private affair. Where presence is essential to avoid undue hardship, or on legal grounds. Where presence will save delays which, if permitted, will cause undue hardship. Where presence is desirable to avoid future serious difficulties. Where these are not of a pressing nature or can be met by correspondence or power of attorney.