HC Deb 21 August 1945 vol 413 cc432-3
28. Dr. Stross

asked the Secretary of State for War how many miles the K.R.R.C. marched between Barnard Castle and Windermere and at what time did the men parade on the 20th July last; what were the men carrying and what was the weight; why was the exercise carried out at Windermere in view of the prevailing conditions and weather; who was responsible for proceeding with the exercise; and why no men were detailed to watch for any emergencies.

Mr. Lawson

This unit was carrying out a five-day self-reliance exercise. After conveyance by transport to Haltwhistle, the unit marched a total of 57 miles to Windermere, between 16th–20th July, including a night march of 25 miles folloed by a day's rest on 19th July. The men were wearing denims, steel helmets, belts, ammunition braces and pouches, and personal weapons, the total weight being 15–20 pounds. After a three-mile march during the early hours of 20th July, they arrived at Lake Windermere and proceeded to cross to Belle Isle at 3 a.m. Two boatloads crossed safely but on the third trip a sudden squall struck up and the boat became waterlogged and sank. I regret to say that one officer and five other ranks lost their lives and I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my deep sympathy with the relatives of these men. When the party began the crossing the conditions were entirely satisfactory. All the men taking part were fully trained and experienced. A further more detailed report is being prepared and I cannot, of course, give more particulars until these investigations are completed.

Dr. Stross

May we have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that, in view of the happy change from war to peace, hazardous exercises -which bring in a contingency of serious accident or death shall, in future, have every possible precaution available for safety measures?

Mr. Lawson

I will give that matter my consideration, now that the war is over. These men however have to submit to training, and training these days is severe. They have to be trained far occupation purposes.