HC Deb 11 February 1947 vol 433 cc163-6
10. Mr. J. H. Hare

asked the Secretary of State far War why 14983788 Corporal R. Hewitt, 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment, was not granted an extension of leave when in possession of a medical certificate stating that his father was dying, but was made to embark for overseas service on 7th January.

Mr. Bellenger

Corporal Hewitt came home on 30 days' leave on 6th November. He was given extensions for compassionate reasons which brought his leave up to a total of 61 days, expiring on 6th January. On 4th January my Department heard that his father had been discharged from hospital to his home, with the advice that he should be admitted to another institution; I understand that his family did not accept this advice and kept him at home. No medical evidence that death was imminent was supplied, and as the corporal's mother and two sisters were at home, further extension of leave would not have been justified on the information available.

Mr. Hare

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Corporal Hewitt visited the War Office on 6th January with a medical certificate stating that his father was dangerously ill, and that he was referred to Chesham Place, and there that afternoon he saw an officer who informed him that once his father was dead his troubles would be over? His father died on 10th January. The corporal was recalled from Toulon on 12th January, but did not arrive until the 14th, too late for the funeral. In view of these facts, would the right hon. Gentleman see that the War Office deal with these matters in a more humane manner?

Mr. Bellenger

The latter part of the question is totally uncalled far—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—totally uncalled for. On the facts I have given, this corporal had 61 days' leave, and I think we did take into account all the circumstances. It might interest the hon. Gentleman to know that this gentleman's own doctor was reticent about the expectation of life and stated that he would be surprised if death occurred in the near future.

26. Air-Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for War if the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield can have a reply to his letter addressed to him, dated 17th September, 1946, regarding the grave of 11266448 Gunner Ronald Salt, 171/57 Light A.A., Royal Artillery, and the wrong photograph which was sent to his widow, Mrs. C. Salt, 101, St. George's Street, Macclesfield, by the Imperial War Graves Commission on 17th August, 1946.

Mr. Bellenger

The hon. and gallant Member will have had a letter, dated 5th February, to the effect that the matter has unfortunately not yet been cleared up. The Imperial War Graves Commission are making careful inquiries, and a letter will be sent to the hon. and gallant Member as soon as there is any definite news.

Air-Commodore Harvey

This is a most unsatisfactory answer. This matter has been under consideration for nearly six months. The photograph which was sent to the widow was a faked photograph, and has caused great distress. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter, and get a decision at an early date?

Mr. Bellenger

I hope the hon. and gallant Member will have a talk with me afterwards. There are considerable difficulties in identifying the photograph, but what I am concerned about, and what he is concerned about, is that the headstone which was ordered is put on the right grave.

34. Mr. J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for War why Lieutenant P. J. Allen, of the Worcestershire Regiment, who was placed under close arrest on 29th June, 1946, was not brought to trial until seven months later, on 6th February, 1947; and what steps he will take to see that under no circumstances do such delays occur in the future.

Mr. Bellenger

The delay in this case was due partly to the great complexity of the case, which involved the collection of evidence from many sources in this country and overseas, and the fact that the earlier investigations gave rise to further charges, and partly to Lieutenant Allen's unwillingness, for over a month, to disclose his account, and the fact that he escaped from arrest and was not apprehended for a further month.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this officer did not break out from his arrest until three months had elapsed, during which time he had been awaiting trial? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that such delays as these will prejudice his appeal to deserters to return, and give themselves up?

Mr. Bellenger

No, Sir. As a matter of fact, the deserters who are voluntarily returning are being dealt with expeditiously.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why this officer was placed under close arrest originally, since apparently it is contrary to King's Regulations in the ordinary course?

Mr. Bellenger

I would not like to go into the details of the 19 charges against this officer. I understood that the trial has been completed, and that he was not acquitted. I should be happy to discuss this matter privately.

Mr. Delargy

When my right hon. Friend receives letters from Members about soldiers being unduly detained under close arrest, will he please give instructions to those who answer for him not to give answers which are a source of bewilderment to those who know anything about military law?

41. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Secretary of State for War for what offence 97004725 Private H. J. Harrison, after arriving at Fort Darland detention barracks on 16th January, 1947, was given a hot shower-bath and placed almost immediately in a punishment cell known as the ice-box, in which an electric fan built into the ceiling was switched on to produce a cold blast of air; who awarded such punishment or what authority existed for this action in the absence of any sentence or award by the commandant; what provision there is for the summary hearing and suitable punishment of offenders; whether he is aware that this man, on the same date, was stripped and dressed in uniform against his will by three sergeants; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

Mr. Bellenger

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Davies

Bearing in mind that this man is a conscientious objector, will my right hon. Friend tell his officers that he is entitled to the protection of the law?

Mr. Bellenger

Yes, Sir, I quite agree with my hon. Friend, but I hope that he will read my answer carefully. It disposes of a good number of the suggestions made in my hon. Friend's Question.

Following is the answer:

Private Harrison was admitted to the detention barracks at Fort Darland and in the usual manner taken to the shower baths to wash. After his bath he was given his uniform and refused to put it on. He was then taken to a silent cell, to avoid disturbance in case it became necessary to dress him forcibly. Here he obeyed the order to dress himself in his uniform. This room contains an electric air extractor and is heated with warm air driven by an electric fan.

A soldier under sentence in a military detention barracks may for the sake of decency and health be forcibly dressed in uniform, provided that no more force than is necessary is used. None of the treatment that I have described constituted a punishment, and the suggestions made in the Question bear no relations to the facts. A soldier under sentence, however, who commits an offence against the rules of the detention barracks, may be remanded for the commandant next morning and, for certain offences, may be dealt with summarily.