Air Estimates, 1940.

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , Swindon 12:00 am, 7th March 1940

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I will pass from that subject by saying that I hope I have shown there is a very real need for an investigation into the operations and running of this monopolistic concern. I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on the efforts he has made in providing entertainment for the personnel. There is no doubt that their comfort is well looked after in this direction but I would suggest that greater encouragement should be given in stations to the formation of choral and debating societies and the like. Many men have voluntarily given their services to the Air Force and have left civil life for a period of time, feeling that there is a great gap in their lives. We should do all we can to lessen the blow by giving them the opportunities they have in civil life for carrying on hobbies and bringing out any special qualities they may have. During peace-time opportunities were given to personnel in the Royal Air Force for educational advancement. Obviously, under the stress of war it has not been possible to give the same opportunities, but I hope the Minister will do his utmost to see that there is a return of opportunities for educational advancement. Many of the personnel will have to return to civil life after the war and it is only right that they should be given every possible opportunity of continuing their education.

I would now refer in particular to that part of the Amendment in which attention is called to the maintenance of a high standard of general fitness within the Royal Air Force. Everyone knows that in peace-time every encouragement was given to the personnel to play games and take part in recreational activities. It was fully realised that the strain of flying demanded physical exercise and that there was no better training for them than playing games, which maintain the stamina and skill of the aircraft crews. But, unfortunately, since the outbreak of war, owing to the rapid expansion and the fact that many of the recreation grounds have been covered with hutments, the opportunities which existed in peace-time are no longer available for games of various kinds. I hope the Minister realises the importance of this, as indeed I believe he does, because I have just heard that a policy has been developed for providing physical training officers in various stations. I congratulate the Air Ministry on this development and also on the type of personnel they have chosen for the task. Full opportunity should be given to these officers, many of whom are very experienced in this kind of work, and I hope they will meet with no restrictions in their efforts to develop physical recreation.

In encouraging physical training and recreation I suggest that "physical jerks" at 6.30 a.m. should be avoided. I myself always loathed that practice, and most people do. It is useless to try and keep personnel fit by pulling them out at an early hour, and it will not achieve the result required. Physical training and games should be at reasonable hours of the day. Prior to the war, the National Fitness Council carried out many tests with a view to establishing throughout the country a fitness campaign and Colonel Campbell, first of the Army and then of Edinburgh University, devised agility tests which would be admirably suited to the needs of the Royal Air Force. In the National Fitness Council we realised that for the tests to be successful they would have to be suitable for small club-rooms or small yards and that the measurement of those tests by factual results must be easy. All the information is available at the Board of Education and I hope that it will be utilised for the Royal Air Force. Opportunities could be given for competitions on the tarmac, or in the crew rooms.

I congratulate the Air Ministry on a recent publication which points to the importance of physical training for maintaining high morale. It points out that we are opposed to a highly disciplined, brave and determined enemy, renowned for his thoroughness and efficiency in the whole practice of war. If our airmen are to maintain, throughout a long war, the clear eye, quick movement, the alertness of mind and the steadiness of heart with which they entered this struggle, no opportunity must be neglected of providing regular periods of recreation to offset the strain of war-flying and, above all, as the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) pointed out, the waiting which inevitably takes place prior to a flight. I congratulate the Minister on this new policy he has inaugurated for developing physical and recreational training in the Air Force, but at the same time a great deal remains to be done before the peace-time level of activity is reached. I hope he will leave no stone unturned to equal, and, if possible, exceed that peace-time activity, in order to offset the strain of war-time flying. Whatever he may consider best to do in this direction, I am sure will have the support of the House.