HC Deb 21 November 1945 vol 416 cc415-7
9. Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he has yet received a report on the recent refusal of men of a R.A.F. unit in Central India to obey orders and on the action taken in the matter by the authorities.

Mr. Strachey

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Mr. Strachey

A report has now been received on the incident at Jodhpur on 13th October. A commanding officer's inspection parade was ordered for 08.00 hours that morning, but when the time came the airmen of two maintenance units stationed at Jodhpur refused to attend this parade and went direct to the technical site for work. The commanding officer sent for 12 airmen to voice the grievances of the men, which they did in an orderly manner.

The airmen had three main complaints:

  1. (i) The apparent wide discrepancy between the rate of release in the R.A.F. as compared with the other services as announced by the Minister of Labour on 2nd October.
  2. (ii) The quality of the food at the R.A.F. station Jodhpur, where catering difficulties arise owing to the ban on beef in this Hindu State and the fact that frozen mutton and vegetables have to be flown from the nearest ration depot 350 miles away.
  3. (iii) What the men considered un-necessary drill parades in an extremely hot station.

The commanding officer called upon a detachment of Jodhpur State forces to stand by. This step proved entirely unnecessary, and I much regret that it was taken. There was no hint of violence during the whole incident. The Air Officer Commanding 226 Group visited Jodhpur on the following morning and addressed the men, pointing out the seriousness of their action, but undertaking to represent their grievances in the proper quarter. He also addressed the officers and called attention to their responsibilities. He issued instructions in respect of improvements in messing and arrangements for parades. The airmen were quiet and orderly, stating that they had no mutinous intent but felt bound to draw urgent attention to their complaints. Normal work was resumed on the Monday morning.

The Air Marshal Commanding Base Air Forces South East Asia is satisfied that no further action is necessary or desirable. I believe that a major reason for the anxiety of airmen in India about release and repatriation has been a lack of adequate information among the men about the progress of the release scheme. As to that I am satisfied that the DEMOBFORM Signals to which I referred in my speech on 22nd October are having a good effect. Another cause of the trouble was undoubtedly the fact that as originally announced the R.A.F.' s rate of release in the New Year did fall several groups behind that of the Army; but that has now been corrected.

Brigadier Maclean

Is it true that armoured cars were employed by the Jodhpur State Forces?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. My information is that they were brought up in ordinary lorries;

Mr. Lipson

Can the Minister say whether the officer who ordered the Jodhpur State Forces to stand by is still there, or whether he has been replaced?

Mr. Strachey

I should require notice of that question.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not obvious to the Minister that there must have been great neglect of the ordinary interests of these men to cause them to take such action as this?

Mr. Strachey

I think that misapprehension about the rate of release was the main cause.

Mr. Scollan

Would not the Undersecretary agree that intelligent leadership at that station would have prevented any such public incident from taking place?

Mr. Strachey

I cannot judge that, not having been on the spot, but we very much regret the action that was taken.

Mr. Scollan

Is the Minister prepared to take every proper action in the event of finding that faults were there? Will he remedy them?

Mr. Strachey

I think we shall find remedies.

Lieut.-Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison

Does not this incident emphasise the importance of getting on with demobilisation?