HL Deb 15 November 1945 vol 137 cc994-9

5.55 p.m.

VISCOUNT LONG had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, whether any steps have been taken to remove the anomaly in the Territorial Army under which all other ranks of the pre-war Territorial Army, who served a full six years, have qualified for the Territorial Efficiency Medal under the decision that war service counts double time, whereas any pre-war Territorial officer or other rank who has since been promoted from the ranks during the war is thereby precluded from earning the medal or any recognition of his pre-war Territorial service; and further, whether in view of the fact that the majority of these officers will shortly be demobilized a statement can be expected at an early date on this urgent subject which has been so long under consideration.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government a question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. Earlier in the year, in February, to be precise, I submitted to the then Under-Secretary of State for War, Lord Croft, whom I am glad to see here this afternoon, the anomaly that existed in the Territorial decorations, and he was good enough to say that he would inquire into the whole matter. I am led to understand that the whole of this question has been fully discussed for some months. It is quite a simple one. Thousands of these gallant fellows would, if they had remained in the ranks, have been entitled, after six years' service, plus double time for service in the war, to the Territorial Efficiency Medal. But, due to the fact that they have, by their own efficiency, become commissioned officers, they have lost the right to the Territorial Efficiency Medal because they are no longer ordinary men in the ranks. Prior to the six-year limit, they had already become commissioned, and, unless they stay a further twelve to fourteen years in the Territorial Army, they will not become eligible for the Territorial Decoration.

I am sure your Lordships are so well aware of these facts that there is very little I need to say, except that the Territorial Army guard jealously those two decorations. We are not asking for anything that we do not believe is our just due. There are many officers who were Territorials. One, whom I hope I shall be seeing in a few moments, has just returned from Japan where he was a prisoner of war. He has missed the Territorial Efficiency Medal, and, I am afraid, he will not be fit for some time to go back even to the Territorial Army to make himself sufficiently efficient to receive the Territorial Decoration. There is another man in Gibraltar, commanding a battery there and doing extraordinarily well. Wherever I have gone I have heard the same story—"We are going to miss the Territorial Efficiency Medal, and we shall not get the Territorial Decoration."

My noble friend Lord Llewellin yesterday paid a great tribute to the Territorial Army. I merely say tonight that, whatever the plan may be for the Territorial Army in the future, we guard jealously the fact that we are Terriers. Once a Terrier always a Terrier. I appeal to the noble Lord who is going to reply to my question. I ask that the War Office should give some cheering news to these men who, through no fault of their own, but through being efficient Territorial soldiers, have lost, on the one hand, the right to what the Terriers prize very highly, the Territorial Efficiency Medal, and, on the other, have not yet been able to receive the Territorial Decoration.

5.59 p.m.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment a s one who has been deeply interested in this matter over a period of years? As the Chairman of the Inter-Departmental Committee which recommended that double time should count in this war, as in the last, I was aware that this problem, if the war went on sufficiently long, would become an acute one. There were quite a number of people who held the view that some recognition ought to be given to Territorials who were in the Army prior to the actual menace to the nation. Some even went so far as to say that there ought to be some additional special medal. When one looked into the facts, however, and realized that as the war had gone on for six years every other rank in the Territorial Army thereby became entitled, provided he served through the war, to a medal, it certainly seemed to me that it would be anomalous to grant a second medal when so vast a proportion would receive the Efficiency Medal under double time. It also occurred to some of us then that if the war went on for that length of time it might well be that a large number of officers would be promoted from the ranks, and merely by the fact that they were so promoted owing to their efficiency, would be denied the right to share with their comrades the Territorial Efficiency Medal. I hope that the noble Lord can bring glad tidings about this question, because it surely is anomalous that anyone should have served in the Territorial Army and, merely because he won his way to commissioned rank, should be deprived of the ribbon.

Then there remains the case of men who were in the Territorial Army before the war and served for four or five years as officers, and who are going to continue in the new Territorial Army—if there is going to be one—or an Auxiliary Army which has the same territorial traditions and the right to these ribbons and medals. It will be anomalous that when they are called upon to reorganize their units they —the officers—will be the only people who will not have a ribbon showing that they were in the Forces at the time of the outbreak of war. For this reason I hope the noble Lord will be able to give a satisfactory answer to my noble friend, who, I must say, gingered us up on this subject, although I think he knew that I was always sympathetic on the matter. I beg the noble Lord to recognize that these officers are being demobilized probably—I do not know the figure—at the rate of Lao a day, because they joined before the war, and every day's delay in this matter means that, even supposing the decision is favourable, they will not have the right to wear the ribbon. I hope that after these months of consideration and the fact that the matter has been discussed very fully, he will be able to give a satisfactory answer.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, may I, as an old Territorial, add one word in support of the noble Viscount's question? One hopes that this is one of those not very common occasions when perhaps the Territorial Army can come in for a little indulgence. During the 1914–18 war the Territorial Army at least contrived to preserve a separate existence. In more recent years, although it was, during the period of rather flustered apprehension before the outbreak of the present war, the foundation of the building of the Army that was then required, when war came it was rewarded by losing its identity altogether. After the 1914–18 war, the average military breast certainly failed to achieve the polychrome profusion of to-day, but even in those niggardly days a special medal was awarded to those Territorials who had been serving on the 4th August, 1914, when war broke out. This time, although these men gave up their time when the need was greatest, and went and served from the -beginning of the war, whereas if they had not been in the Territorial Army they might have sat at home for another two or three years and carried on their business, they come out with no outward sign of the service they gave in those days. The noble Lord who is going to reply to this question is himself an officer in the Territorial Service, and, I believe, the holder of the Territorial Decoration, which others of us are proud to hold. I hope that in his hands this small concession will be safe.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, there is common between the noble Viscount, Lord Long, the noble Lord, Lord Croft, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and myself, this: that we are all Territorials. It is unnecessary for me to assure your Lordships that I looked with the keenest interest and the deepest sympathy and good will into the question which has been raised, not for the first time, I think, by the noble Viscount. There are, of course, and have long been, a number of anomalies in regard to the award of the Medal and the Decoration in the circumstances prevailing during the war. It has been necessary to make the fullest use of the services of trained personnel, in many cases not only outside their own units but outside their own arms, and, indeed, outside the Territorial Army altogether. In consequence, questions have arisen to which attention has been drawn in the observations which have already been addressed to your Lordships, for many of those soldiers have lost their Territorial status, and, as regards others, as has been pointed out, by accepting the King's Commission they have lost the right to recognition as Territorials after their long and efficient services in the Territorial Army.

Proposals have been put forward designed to rectify that situation, and the noble Lord, Lord Croft, is well entitled to say, as I know, being his successor at the War Office, that he has taken an active and a keen interest in this particular matter. He has referred to an Inter-Departmental Committee. I am now the Chairman of that Inter-Departmental Committee — the Inter - Departmental Rewards Committee. The Committee has met and has reached unanimous conclusions. I am unable to tell the House the details of those conclusions, because, before submission to His Majesty, the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Committee must be presented to the Dominions for consideration by them. But I will say this: that I am hopeful that when it is possible to make a statement, and on the assumption that the recom- mendations are accepted, the noble Lords who have spoken will not be dissatisfied.


I thank my noble friend for his reply.