Oral Answers to Questions — Merchant Navy (Awards for Gallantry)

– in the House of Commons on 8th September 1942.

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Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether any decision has yet been reached on the question of creating a Merchant Navy Cross and Medal for gallantry in action or, alternatively, making officers and other ranks of that service eligible for naval decorations even when fighting independently of naval orders;

(2) whether officers and other ranks of the Merchant Navy, who receive the Order of the British Empire, are appointed to its civil or military division; and whether he will advise His Majesty that all such awards for gallantry in action should be in the military division with effect from 3rd September, 1939?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

Officers of the Merchant Navy, serving as such, who receive the Order of the British Empire, are appointed to the Civil Division, which is, of course, of equal status to the Military Division of the Order. It is not proposed to vary this arrangement or to make any recommendation for the creation of further decorations. The personnel of the Merchant Navy serving under special agreement as part of the Royal Navy have hitherto been eligible for the Naval gallantry awards other than the D.S.O. That position has now been rectified and the D.S.O. is available for Merchant Navy officers serving in these circumstances.

The special services of the Merchant Navy generally were recognised several years ago by His Majesty's approval of officers and men in that Service being eligible, under certain circumstances, for the award of the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross. I am glad to be able to inform the House that His Majesty has been pleased to approve the addition of the Distinguished Service Order, the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, and the Distinguished Service Medal to this list of decorations open for award in the Merchant Navy.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

In regard to the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire, does the Prime Minister really think it is appropriate that the Merchant Navy should receive for gallantry the same decoration and wear the same ribbon as civilians who have never been under fire at all?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

It is a compliment to the civilians.