§ 3.27 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I now reply to the Private Notice Question of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, raised earlier this afternoon, which requested that the Government should make a Statement about the accident to a Hastings aircraft of the Royal Air Force, on July 6, in which over forty Servicemen were killed.
Shortly after four o'clock yesterday afternoon, a Hastings from the R.A.F. Station, Abingdon, crashed near Dorchester, about three miles from the airfield. The aircraft, which carried Army and Royal Air Force passengers, some of whom were to undertake practice parachute jumps, had taken off a few minutes 1331 before. The captain had reported control difficulties and the aircraft was returning to the airfield. All six Royal Air Force members of the crew and the 35 passengers of the Army and Royal Air Force lost their lives. Two of the passengers were members of the Territorial Army undergoing parachute training.
A Board of Inquiry has been convened and assembled this morning.
I know that the House will join with me in expressing our deepest sympathy with the bereaved.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends, I wish to echo the sympathy expressed by the noble Lord in his Statement. This is, of course, a terrible way for fighting men to die, but for the bereaved one is as bad as another. I should like to express my personal sympathy to the noble Lord who is responsible for the Royal Air Force. We shall, of course, await the result of the Inquiry which he has announced.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches and myself, I would join the two noble Lords who have spoken in expressing our deep sympathy for the bereaved of the Servicemen who lost their lives. I notice that two of the Servicemen who lost their lives were members of the Territorial Army. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether the Government will take immediate action and look into the circumstances of these men. Their families may be put in considerable difficulty by having the breadwinner killed in this way, quite unexpectedly, while on temporary service with the Regular Forces.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am most grateful to noble Lords. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Of course, their families will be eligible, since the men were on service, for all the benefits of pension and that kind of support. But I think his point was that this may present a very special problem since the families would not normally be within the care of the Service. I take note of the point. I am much obliged to the noble Lord.