Oral Answers to Questions — Merchant Navy (Awards)

– in the House of Commons on 29th September 1942.

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Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

asked the Prime Minister why Merchant Navy officers and men are appointed to the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire for gallantry in action against the enemy while Naval officers are recommended for appointment to the Military Division for office work on shore; and whether he will reconsider the decision to exclude the Merchant Navy from the Military Division?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

As I informed my hon. Friend on 8th September, Naval awards are now available for the Merchant Navy for gallantry in action with the enemy. The conditions for appointment to the Order of the British Empire in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy are similar, whether the recommendation is made for services at sea or on shore and whether for bravery not in the face of the enemy or for good service. There is no difference in standard between the Military and Civil Divisions, that is entirely a matter of occupation. It is not proposed to vary the long-standing custom that the appointments of civilians shall be in the Civil Division and of military personnel in the Military Division of the Order.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the Merchant Navy is in fact one of the Fighting Services, and is it not very confusing to the public that a Merchant sailor who has fought the enemy gallantly should wear the civil ribbon while a Naval sailor who merely sits on a chair efficiently should wear the military ribbon?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

I cannot accept the suggestion that Naval officers merely sit on chairs while the merchant seamen engage the full brunt of the enemy. On the contrary, I think both Services take the rough with the smooth.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

I made no such suggestion.