HC Deb 17 February 1953 vol 511 cc1065-6
49. Mr. Short

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will take steps to see that crosses properly inscribed are provided for all Chelsea Pensioners buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

No, Sir. The Pensioners and staff of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, are buried in a special plot and are commemorated by a central memorial.

Mr. Short

Is it not a shocking disgrace that these fine old Pensioners should have their graves marked only by a peg in the ground with a number attached to it, especially as there are a short distance away neat, well-kept graves of Poles and Czechs tended by the Imperial War Graves Commission? Will the hon. Gentleman have the graves transferred to the Imperial War Graves Commission?

Mr. Hutchison

I would point out that there is a fine central memorial to all the Chelsea Pensioners. There are opportunities for Pensioners to make comments upon this, but they have never done so, nor have their relations. If relations wish to provide for a burial outside the cemetery, it is open to them to do so, and they get financial aid. Furthermore, if a relative wanted to erect a cross of this kind, he would be allowed to do so in consultation with the authorities.

Mr. Short

Does not the Minister realise that these old Chelsea Pensioners are buried in a rough, uneven bit of ground in Brookwood Cemetery and that each grave is marked only by a peg with a number on it? Does he not regard that as shocking?

Mr. F. Maclean

What expenditure would be involved in the hon. Gentleman's suggestion?

Mr. Hutchison

About £l0 to £12 each. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The funds of Chelsea Hospital are not excessive, and we believe it is better to expend them on the living.

Mr. Wigg

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Government are making money out of the Chelsea Pensioners? Before a man becomes an inmate of the Royal Hospital he has to surrender his pension. Would it not be only decent to give back some of that money in order to erect at least a headstone?

Mr. Hutchison

I shall have to look into that aspect of the matter.

Mr. Short

It may be a small thing, but I regard it as a minor national disgrace. I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.