Air Estimates, 1940.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th March 1940.

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Photo of Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson , Birmingham Handsworth 12:00 am, 7th March 1940

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question; and to add instead thereof: this House, while gratified at the satisfactory health and comfort of the Royal Air Force personnel serving at home and overseas, recognises that the maintenance of a high standard of general fitness depends upon the continued operation of effective medical services, which must be encouraged and extended. I would not like to move this Amendment without saying how personally pleased I am and how glad everybody else must be at the restored health of the Air Minister. May I also say how much we value his coming down to-day and speaking at considerable length and with great effect despite his recent illness. As he is not able to remain at this moment in the House, I welcome the presence of his colleague, who is of special value to us because he served in the last war most gallantly, and he knows the Air Service inside out, and answers questions with circumspection and truth. I remember the day when there were only two Services, namely, the Naval and Military Services. One of them was spoken of as the senior Service. I do not know whether "senior" meant "superior," but who could make use of such a term to-day? What detached observer could deny that the Air Service is to-day unique in the quality and range of its new emotions, strains, and risks? It is paramount. Bravery, we know, is always in fashion, and no one will belittle any form of it, but if I had to choose between two classes of men whose courage I most envied, I would select the man who goes like a dolphin under the sea in a ship and the man who soars skywards like an eagle. I take off my hat to the submarine and the aeroplane.

In this connection, may I have the temerity of advocating the use of a new word in the Air Service? There is no generic term to cover flight generally by man, as there is when we speak of operations on the sea or on the land. We have for the Army and the Navy the words "afloat" and "ashore." Might I humbly recommend the use of the word "awing" to correspond for the Air Forces? It is simple, and it is comprehensive. These Air Forces have to be adequately armed, and nothing in the world must stop that, but why stop at arming men? It is common sense as well as humanity to care for their well-being. There should be healths well as homes for heroes. What was it that lost the war for Germany last time? We have had many explanations. Some say it was the German generals, and certainly generals lose more wars than the troops they mislead. Other people say it was propaganda that lost Germany the war, but that is propaganda. I. think that what lost Germany the war was the health, or rather the unhealthy, of her people. It was not that our blockade deprived the Germans of fats, for instance. It was that the Germans calculated food values exclusively in terms of calories; that is to say, in the heat values of food. They refused to believe in certain new other subtle substances, which English professors were discovering, and the Germans suffered calamitously.

This is a perfect example of the punishment of the country, which ignores science, and it is typical of Nazi intellectual isolation and voluntary encirclement. That was a self-imposed blockade far more deadly than any imposed by the Allies in the last war. Twenty-five years ago German scientists and professors refused to study diet in relation to disease, when Frederick Hopkins was unlocking vitamins from his magic box in a little garret in Cambridge and revolutionising research. Why did the Germans after and during the last war suffer from oedema of the legs or swollen legs? It was because they lacked vitimin A. Why did they suffer from corneal ulceration of the eyes? For the same reason. What saved the stamina of our generation? Was it the foresight of any admiral or general? Alas, a general had turned down the tank and an admiral had turned down the convoy. It was not my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), because he more than any other Member of the House was responsible for the tank. It was not he. We had a body of selfless scientists, and we used them. Let other people praise butchers and hangmen; I reserve healers for my praise. There is an eminent society whose first President, Isaac Newton, sat in this very House. That Royal Society has recently compiled a register of 1,200 eminent scientists, the pick of British brains made available for work in this war, whether paid or unpaid, whether uniformed or not. I am sorry to hear that these services are being sparingly used by the Government. Sir William Bragg the other day, at the annual meeting of the Royal Society, lamented Government neglect. This is very serious. Only in the Admiralty have physicists, as far as I know, been used. Where else? Alas, some of our offices are full of semi-scientific jacks-in-office who plead secrecy and other standardised forms of obstruction in order to resist and keep out new ideas and genius. Some officials indeed are suffering, not so much from swollen legs as from swollen heads, and we must cure even that.

Is not this true of this war more than anything else, that it is an experts' war? I therefore invite the right hon. Gentleman, with his colleagues, to appoint a body of outside scientists if only to study the diet of the troops. How helpful I am in making this suggestion. He will be creating a body on a popular basis which will stand between him and public opinion. Few of us can be aware of the complexity of the medical side of the Air Force, for the Air Force suffers from illnesses unknown to other Forces. It is common knowledge that a young pilot pulled his Spitfire from a dive of 650 miles an hour into a climb of 400. He lost consciousness because gravity tried to drag him through the cockpit. Seasoned test pilots regularly dive at 550 miles an hour, and what do the doctors do? Doctors are waiting to plug these heroes' ears and bind their limbs to avoid the pull of the earth. What a terrifying task you now offer the medical world. Again, airmen suffer from night blindness. Night blindness is due to the loss of a pigment in the retina. It is called visual purple. This pigment cannot possibly be built up in the absence of vitamin A. Another illness common among airmen is fatigue at high altitudes, which again is overcome if pilots are properly fed and get oxygen.

I hear at times that airmen are supplementing their rations with visits to N.A.A.F.Is. No doubt they are admirably run. I have nothing but good words to speak of them, but the Government ought to try to give airmen more and not less than they need. The most essential of any single food is that which is popularly called by airmen "cow juice." Cow juice was our first meal in life, and it will probably be our last one. Compare it with what the Germans are getting to-day. I have taken the trouble to purchase a pint of German beer brewed for the Munich Brown House, and I find that it contains no proteins, no fats and not a single vitamin. Even the calorific content is less. English milk is composed not only of proteins, fats, sugars and several minerals, but six vitamins besides. It is a food by itself. It is the equivalent of nine ounces of white bread and of nine eggs. I am very pleased to see that Herr Hitler taunted our airmen the other day as being milk sops. Meanwhile do not let the Government suffer from diet deficiency them. I notice at times a general intellectual fatigue in high places as well as at high altitudes, and a suggestion also of blindness, not only at night. Napoleon said he won his campaigns upon the stomachs of his troops. How true to-day! This is a war of well-being. Our slogan might be, "March upon Milk," and our motto, "Vitamins for Victory."