HC Deb 27 April 1948 vol 450 cc196-8
31. Mr. John Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a full statement on the circumstances of No. 3461764 Bandsman K. Bowden serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers and stationed at Bury, whose release was authorised by his Department on 12th January, 1948, in order for him to go back to the mines where he was employed for 18 months prior to joining the Army, but who was subsequently advised that his release had been cancelled as a result of representations of the officer commanding the Lancashire Fusiliers depôt.

Mr. Shinwell

As a full statement on this matter is necessarily rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this young soldier was notified that he would be released for the mines and that this release was subsequently withdrawn on representations from the depôt by the leader of the band? Once release has been granted by the War Office, is it right and proper in any circumstances that my right hon. Friend should play ducks and drakes with the susceptibilities of a serving soldier?

Mr. Shinwell

I would advise my hon. Friend to read my answer before he mixes his metaphors.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will the Minister tell us what status or rank a "leader of the band" holds in the Army?

Mr. Shinwell

I should have thought that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was so very well informed on military matters that he would know all about it.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no such thing as "leader of the band" as a rank or status in the Army? It is high time he knew that.

Following is the statement:

Bandsman Bowden enlisted as a boy in the Regular Army on 18th March, 1946, at the age of 15, with his father's consent. His engagement was for nine years with the Colours and three with the Reserve.

In January, 1948, his name was received from the Ministry of Fuel and Power for consideration for release, as an underground coalminer, under the scheme in force for the release of men with six months or more previous mining experience. As the military particulars of other ranks are not held at the War Office release in such cases is subject to confirmation by the Officer in charge of Records that the soldier is eligible under the normal conditions. In this case the Officer in charge of Records reported that as he was on boy's service he appeared Ineligible for release. The case was considered and an offer of release was authorised, but his Commanding Officer and the Commandant, Royal Military School of Music, represented, as they were entitled to, that his out-of-turn release should not be granted on the grounds that he had joined the Army at the age of 15 and had received two years' training at the public expense as a Bandsman, whereas his mining experience could only have been of a limited nature. He was recorded as having been a haulage hand.

The case was at once referred to the War Office by the Officer in charge of Records, and the Ministry of Fuel and Power were then consulted. In view of his age, his limited mining experience and the two years Army training which he had received, the Ministry decided not to press for his release. Authority for the offer of release was therefore withdrawn as there was no longer justification for releasing him on the ground that he was an experienced miner.