HL Deb 22 May 1946 vol 141 cc422-3

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government—

  1. (1) How many, days a month the Field Training area at Imber is used for full battle practice.
  2. (2) How many Officers, N.C.O.'s and men take part in each of these battle practices.
  3. (3) What is the cost of each of these battle practices.]


My Lords, I have assumed that in using the term "full battle practice," the noble Viscount has in mind exercises with live ammunition. The Imber Training Area is used for such operations principally by the School of Infantry, who carry out battle practice on twenty days and eight nights a month in eighty-eight separate exercises. The area is also used occasionally by other training organisations, at present to the extent of about five days a month, while the Royal Air Force carry out bombing practice with dummy bombs on four or five days a week. The above programme takes no account of rehearsals, which go on continuously and take up as much time as the actual battle practice, if not more. These figures make clear that the training area is in more or less constant use.

The number of officers and other ranks employed varies with the type of practice. There are twenty-five different forms of exercise carried out by the School of Infantry alone. The numbers employed on any particular exercise vary between about 160 all ranks and about 1,250 all ranks, according to the type of exercise. These figures do not include personnel of training establishments other than the School of Infantry, nor of the Royal Air Force.

In the time available, I have not been able to calculate the exact cost of each type of exercise, but I have obtained an aggregate figure relating to the operations of the School of Infantry. The approximate cost of the explosives used and the comprehensive mileage cost of the vehicles employed is £67,000 a month, for the whole of the 88 exercises to which I have referred. This represents roughly the total cost involved by those exercises apart from the cost of flying a small number of aeroplanes in one particular exercise.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for his answer, may I ask him further if he has heard of any unofficial or official complaint of the last exercise on a grand scale that took place ten days ago, the repercussions of which were felt some twelve miles away from the area? Further, I would ask him if it is a fact that a few bodies of officers, N.C.O.'s and men are brought at great cost to the country on trains from training camps in the north in order that they may be given a few hours' training in this area?


As regards the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, no such complaint has reached my ears. Whether it has reached my office I cannot tell the noble Lord, but I will make some inquiries. The second part of the noble Lord's supplementary question raises a point which, I feel, lies outside the scope of the particular Parliamentary question which the noble Lord has put to-day.