Recruitment and Promotion.

Oral Answers to Questions — Royal Navy. – in the House of Commons on 4th October 1939.

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Photo of Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish , Lewes

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will make a statement regarding the recruitment and promotion of personnel for the Navy during the war period?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. The Admiralty propose to rely during the war upon the methods of voluntary recruiting which have served the Royal Navy so well in the past. All the normal arrangements for entering officer-cadets and seamen sufficient for the permanent post-war requirements of the Navy will continue, including the special service entry.

The policy of promoting an increasing number of men from the Lower Deck and from the younger Warrant Officers to permanent commissions will receive a wider scope. Direct promotion will also be extended to the Accountant Branch. The average of such commissions over the last four years has been 15. During the war, it is expected and desired by the Admiralty that under existing schemes at least 75 commissions from the Lower Deck, or five times the average of the last four years, will be given annually.

These promotions concern the regular permanent Naval service. The abnormal war-time needs for officers and men will be dealt with as follows. First, for temporary officers our main reserve and source will be the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve, who will be given commissions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and called up in batches for training. Except for a limited number with special qualifications, there will be no further direct entry for officers into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Secondly, a number of candidates recommended by University recruiting boards or otherwise, as suitable for commissions, will be accepted. Thirdly, promotion to commissioned rank from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve ratings, or from the successive age-groups called up under the National Service Act for hostilities only, will be open on lines similar to those now in force for promotion of permanent service ratings from the Lower Deck. The entry of both officers and seamen into the Royal Navy must, of course, be governed by the capacity of our training establishments and by the number of ships in commission.

The increased war-time requirement for seamen of all ratings will be met by selection from among the men who volunteer for Naval Service when they are called up in the successive age groups. It is hoped that the services of some of the skilled craftsmen we require will be obtained from this source. In the selec- tion of volunteers from these age groups, preference will generally be given to the Sea-faring community or those associated with the Naval Service. The Admiralty, however, reserve to themselves the freedom to enter for temporary service from time to time a selected number of volunteers with special qualification outside fee age group.

Finally, the closest co-operation with the Merchant Navy will be preserved and there is already available from this source a considerable number of officers and men who are members of the Royal Naval Re-serve. Any further claims on the personnel of the Merchant Navy will only be made as they can be spared from their normal service.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Does my right hon. Friend realise the widespread satisfaction that the improved promotion prospects will give; and can he give an assurance that, where it is possible, a volunteer should always be chosen before a conscript?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

We do not attempt to draw the slightest distinction of public status or of honour between the age groups and the volunteers, but in computing the share which the Navy have of the age groups, the volunteers who like the life on the sea will be given the preference, and as there are a great many of these, the question will be one of picking them out.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Does the First Lord realise that, while we appreciate very much the extent to which progress has been made in this statement about promotions from the lower deck, in that part of the First Lord's answer which applies to permanent promotions for the personnel of the Royal Navy, he proposes to limit it during war time to 75, and that that will be perhaps about one promotion — I am giving the average — per 1,000 men? That is a very low rate of promotion still, and, as I say, while we appreciate it, we are somewhat concerned to hear from the First Lord that this is proposed for war time only.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

I am naturally dealing with war time promotions at the moment, but we have to deal with the regular services of the Royal Navy, and I do not propose for a moment that the 75 should be the maximum. I intend it to be the minimum, but, of course, we have to consider the number of officers who will be on our staff after the war is over.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

In reference to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, recruitment for which has been stopped, will my right hon. Friend say what provision will be made for young university students in the Manchester area who have applied to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and have been told to go to Liverpool? Does that mean that they cannot now join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at all?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

Commissions to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve will depend upon the Royal Naval Supplementary Reserve through whom they pass.