HC Deb 08 October 1946 vol 427 cc6-7W
103. Mr. Parkin

asked the Secretary of State for War if he has any statement to make regarding the accident on 27th August, by which six Gloucestershire soldiers of the 15th Infantry Training Company lost their lives; and if it is proposed to make any alterations in this type of training.

Mr. Bellenger

I deeply regret that a contributory cause of this tragic accident was failure of those responsible to observe in full the requisite safety precautions. A military inquiry has been held and disciplinary action will be taken where called for. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my sincere sympathy with those who are bereaved.

Full and adequate safety measures are laid down for the conduct of Army training and exercises involving swimming or the crossing of water obstacles, and no alterations are called for by reason of this accident. It is the War Office policy, as far as facilities permit, to train all troops to swim up to a standard which enables them to cover limited distances in full clothing and lightly equipped. Troops are not trained to swim while wearing heavy packs or heavy equipment. If it is necessary for a man to wear heavy equipment during the crossing of a water obstacle by boat or raft, he is taught as a safety precaution to leave the buckles of the equipment, and the shoulder straps, unfastened, to facilitate the quick discarding of the equipment in case of necessity.

Mr. E. Porter

asked the Secretary of State for War what inquiries, in the case of the loss of six lives by drowning at Colchester of members of the Gloucester Regiment, were made by the officer in charge before going on this river exercise to ascertain that all troops could swim even when carrying heavy packs; and what steps are being taken by his Department in the future to see that all troops are taught to swim while carrying heavy packs.

Mr. Bellenger

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave today to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Parkin).