HC Deb 18 December 1945 vol 417 cc1263-7W
Mr. Benn Levy

asked the Secretary of State for War how many ships and with what total capacity, were allocated last month for the repatriation of troops from the India Command, and of S.E.A.C. troops from Burma, respectively.

Mr. Lawson

Fifteen ships sailed for the United Kingdom during the month of November, bringing 46,037 passengers, of whom 43,766 were Service personnel. The Army quota, apart from returning prisoners of war, was 27,794 In addition, 8,803 Service personnel returned by air during the month, including 6,141 Army personnel. I cannot say how these totals were divided as between men returning for release, repatriation and leave, nor can I distinguish between India and S.E.A.C, as personnel from S.E.A.C. are transported both direct and through India. As I have previously stated, however, I have no reason to think that the repatriation from S.E.A.C. is falling behind the schedule planned.

Mr. Levy

asked the Secretary of State for War whether mere promulgation of the date of release for a given group automatically deprives members of that group from what would have been their legitimate home leave, even when the promulgation is in respect of release to be made six months ahead.

Mr. Lawson

Privilege leave from overseas is not normally granted to men who are about to return to the United Kingdom for release or home posting. The object is to avoid bringing them home for long distances, returning them to their units and bringing them home again shortly afterwards. In the case of some commands, where leave involves long absence from the unit, it is not granted within six months of the date of repatriation. This arrangement is both economical and reasonable and, as I have previously stated, I see no grounds for making any change.

Commander Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of men due for repatriation being held up in Burma and the reason for the delay in repatriating such men.

Mr. Lawson

I am not aware of any undue delay in the repatriation of men from Burma. I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my reply on Tuesday last to Questions by several hon. Members, and to the further information given today in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Benn Levy).

Mr. Lipson

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the concern felt by men serving in B.A.O.R. at the new order that from 1st December a man had to complete 120 days' service from his last leave before obtaining further leave, and, as that will deprive many of them from spending their first Christmas at home since the war, if he will rescind the order and revert to the former three-monthly leave intervals.

Mr. Lawson

This order is a reasonable one. The present rules in B.A.O.R. allow the grant of 12 days' leave every six months. With extra shipping it has been possible recently to reduce the average interval to about 4½ months. The minimum period of 120 days is imposed to ensure equality of treatment between the different units. Vacancies forfeited under the rule are allotted to units which are not maintaining the average.

Mr. Palmer

asked the Secretary of State for War why soldiers due for repatriation to England by the "Durban Castle" liner from Rangoon, on 4th and 5th November,1945, are held at Rangoon awaiting transport.

Mr. Lawson

The ship referred to sailed from Rangoon on 5th November, with 2,174 personnel. Other ships have since sailed and others are due to sail this month. It is confirmed from S.E.A.C. that all personnel with 3 years 4 months service or more in the Far East, and all other ranks up to Group 25, subject to the usual individual exceptions, will have left for the United Kingdom by 31st December.

Sir D. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give instructions that Regular soldiers, such as those in the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, which battalion left this country in 1935, who have recently returned from being prisoners of war in the Far East, can be allowed to remain on leave over Christmas and the New Year.

Mr. Lawson

Yes, Sir. As far as possible these men are being allowed to take their 28 days special "end of the war" leave at a time which will enable them to spend Christmas at home.

Mr. Collins

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 550 East African civilians were given passage recently on the ss. "Cape town Castle "from Kilindini; and why this was permitted, when a number of Forces personnel, with more than four years' service, have to remain in East Africa because of alleged lack of transport.

Mr. Lawson

The shipping space from East Africa is allotted under a general plan which provides for only the minimum of essential civilian travel. The fact that a comparatively large number of civilians embarked on one particular occasion has no significance. It represents merely one item in the overall plan, and there is no reason to suppose that it had any effect on the scheduled movement of Service personnel. The latter also come by way of Middle East and across France, a route not open to civilians.

Sir G. Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that in the 9th Battalion, Dorset Regiment, soldiers with six years' service, including three years as prisoners of war, who have never had a Christmas at home during their service, are being refused leave for Christmas this year, though in the same unit, young soldiers with only a few months' service are being granted such leave; and whether he will make it possible for these men of long service to spend Christmas at home.

Mr. Lawson

I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member must have been misinformed. I have confirmed that in filling the privilege leave allotment of this unit preference was given to all men who have been prisoners of war for long periods and to others who have not spent Christmas at home for several years. Leave is also being given to those who have to proceed overseas next month, but no preference has been given to soldiers with only a few months' service.

Mr. Pritt

asked the Secretary of State for War why the signalmen of S.C.U. (No. 1) at Tattenhoe had their Christmas leave stopped after being informed that they were to have it; and whether he will reverse this order, which inflicts hardship on men some of whom have not had Christmas at home for five years.

Mr. Lawson

Instructions regarding leave were issued prematurely in this case and had to be withdrawn for revision to comply with the general rules. The unit will receive Christmas leave to the full extent allowed by the latest general instructions.