Orders of the Day — Ex-Service Men (Badge).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 19th March 1942.

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Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) should be honoured by the fact that the Foreign Secretary has come to reply to him to-day. I think that we might have had one of the Service Ministers, or the Minister of Pensions, on the Front Bench, although I do not wish my right hon. Friend to think I am complaining in any way; there is no one who has a better record in these matters, and who will be more sympathetic to the claim put forward. Clearly, I think, there is a need for some recognition, although, of course, every man presumably obtains his discharge certificate, which gives evidence that, in fact, he has served for his period. I may be in error, but I do think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans) is correct about the 1914 Star and the 1914–15 Medal. It is certainly the case that the Medals were issued at a later period, otherwise some of us would have been wearing them earlier. There is, I think, a case for some recognition, but as to which form it should take I am in some little doubt it is difficult, I imagine, to draw the lin2. There is the man who volunteered in the first few days or weeks of the war, who, by reason of some injury suffered in the last war., was not accepted for His Majesty's Forces. I put myself in that category, because in the heat of the moment I endeavoured in the first week of the war to join the Royal Air Force but was not found medically fit. No doubt there are many cases of that sort. A most deserving case is that of a volunteer who suffered an injury in the war, but whose injury has not for technical reasons entitled him to receive a pension. Whether that is so or not, clearly there should be some recognition of that sort.

My only doubt is as to precisely where the line should be drawn. I do not feel competent, without more thought than I have been able to give it, to express an opinion on that, but I think that in normal cases those who joined up or were conscripted or had commissions and suffered ill-health during their service, possibly due to the service, should receive some acknowledgment. Throughout the war we have perhaps been lacking in a number of respects of this sort. I have often felt recently that many of us, myself included, perhaps may be a little to blame in a number of matters that we have preached about, the attacks that we have made upon the brass hats, and so on. The Army must be backed up, and we must show our confidence in it. I have no doubt that when the time and the opportunity come the present Army is as good as, and possibly better than, any that has gone before it. We have boosted the Air Force and the Navy, and we have rather neglected the Army, and I feel that at the first opportunity we ought to ensure that the Army should have its tail up as much as the other Armed Forces, and this matter would help to some small extent in that direction. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may be able to give a favourably reply to the request.