§ 6. Mr. Tomney
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement respecting the death of 22502217 Fusilier G. Marshall, Royal Fusiliers, British Army of the Rhine.
§ Mr. Head
I much regret the accident which resulted in the death of this soldier, and I would express my sympathy with his parents. During an exercise in the early hours of 22nd April a scout car in which he was travelling overturned into a sandpit. Three of the occupants were pinned beneath the car, and when it was lifted Fusilier Marshall and the officer in command of the scout car were found to be dead.
§ Mr. Tomney
Is the Minister aware of the fact that this staff car was ordered to proceed across country under cover of darkness without headlights, that in so doing it fell into a sandpit 20 feet deep, that it was four hours before these men were found, and then only because the driver of the vehicle with a badly smashed shoulder walked five miles to secure help, and that during that period one man lay dead, another dying and another injured? Will he take steps in future to see that obstacles of this character are sufficiently reconnoitred and danger signals posted before we waste lives unnecessarily in this way?
§ Mr. Head
The time of the accident has been carefully checked. From the time this incident occurred to the arrival of the rescue party was one hour and 20 minutes. With regard to training, we are confronted with the difficult problem that, if we have all training at night with headlights, the realism of this type of training suffers considerably. Although these accidents are most regrettable, they have been few, and I believe that to have undue safety precautions for training might result in a much greater loss of life in the event of war.
§ 7. Mr. Driberg
asked the Secretary of State for War why 7591061 Corporal Bartolo had still not been posted to Malta in the middle of May; whether Corporal Bartolo is now in Malta; what are the reasons for the delay in handling this case, which was first brought to the attention of his Department on 24th January, 1952; and if, in view of the hardship caused to Corporal Bartolo's wife and children, he will make the issue of the local overseas allowance and special family allowance retrospective to 8th April, 1952.
§ Mr. Driberg
Does the Minister recollect that the date of 8th April in the Question is the date on which he assured the House that this man would be posted to Malta very shortly, but that he had still not been posted a month after that? Could he say the date on which they were reunited?
§ Mr. Head
I recall that well. Indeed, it was on the strength of a signal at that time from the Middle East that he was to be posted to Malta. The administrative reasons are rather complicated, but I can tell them to the hon. Gentleman behind the Chair. As a result, his wife came to Tripoli instead of him going to Malta. I think they are now reunited, and I hope he is content.
§ 9. Mr. Driberg
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the sentence of 112 days' detention imposed on Private C. A. McNichol, a National Service man professing Communist views, for disobeying a lawful command, has been confirmed.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
In view of the fact that so much care has been taken to keep information about secret weapons from the Communists, what is the point of sending them into the Army where they will be in close contact with those secret weapons?
§ 20. Mr. Simmons
asked the Secretary of State for War why the parents of Gunner Shillingsford, who was taken by military escort to Brierley Hill police court, were not notified, in order that legal advice could have been provided for him.
§ Mr. Head
My hon. Friend has explained to the hon. Member that it is never the practice of my Department to inform the parents or relatives when a soldier is in this sort of trouble. I think that the hon. Member will agree that to do so would be an unwarranted interference in the man's private affairs, Any man is, of course, perfectly free to inform them himself.
§ Mr. Simmons
Is the Minister aware that this young lad is practically illiterate and mentally retarded, that he was taken within three miles of his home under escort, his parents were not informed and no defence could be provided, yet the officer who accompanied him was a hostile witness in the force? Where was the Army Legal Aid Department?
§ Mr. Simmons
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.