HC Deb 15 July 1952 vol 503 cc1965-6
29. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for War how many of Her Majesty's Forces were, on 31st December, 1945, and on each succeeding 31st December, absent from their units; how many of these, though not proved to be dead, were then and are now unaccounted for; and how many have, and how many have not, been traced to civil life.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

On 31st December, 1945, there were 17,317 men still unaccounted for who had deserted from the Army during the late war and 1,043 who had deserted since 31st August, 1945. On 31st December, 1951, the corresponding figures were 10,432 and 3,556. I will, with permission, circulate the figures for the remaining years in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister agree that the fact that so many men for so many years have remained unaccounted for is contrary to good order, and cannot he devise some means whereby these men can return as good citizens?

Mr. Head

I have given this matter a good deal of consideration. The vast majority of the numbers referred to as deserters in the last war are either in Ireland or elsewhere overseas. The remainder have now settled down in civilian life, possibly under assumed names, and the fact that crime may be attributable to them is not borne out by the evidence available to me.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does the Minister's answer mean that since the war there has been a reduction of some 4,000 in the number of deserters all told? In other words is it correct that 4,000 have been re-captured and recovered in some way?

Mr. Head

Yes, Sir. My figures show a reduction of nearly 7,000 since the war.

Following are the details:

Date Deserted during the late war Deserted after 31st August, 1945
31st December, 1946 14,791 1,902
31st December, 1947 12,912 2,003
31st December, 1948 11,106 3,002
31st December, 1949 10,615 3,183
31st December, 1950 10,558 3,129