Oral Answers to Questions — Military Service (Lower Recruitment Age)

– in the House of Commons on 22nd October 1942.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I beg to ask the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he has any statement to make with regard to the minimum age for the compulsory recruitment of men to the Forces.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Yes, Sir. The lower age in the National Service Acts has always been 18, but in practice the minimum age of calling up was originally 20 and was subsequently reduced, first to 19 and last December to 18½. Recruitment has continued in the last 10 months on a large scale without calling up men under the age of 18½, but the stage has now been reached when, in the opinion of the Government, this further reduction in age can no longer be postponed and is indeed urgently necessary. I will not, I am sure, be expected to go into detail about recruitment for the Forces; but I may say that there are requirements for all the three Services that necessitate this step. His Majesty has to-day signed a further Proclamation as a result of which men who have reached the age of 18 up to this date will be made liable to be called up under the National Service Acts, and I propose to register on 7th November those who reached the age of 18 between 1st July and 30th September, both dates inclusive; they will be medically examined later in the month and called up to the Forces as required, and many of them may expect to join in December. I will consider as usual what adjustments may be necessary in the national interest as regards apprentices and students. I should like to make it clear that the reduction in the age of calling up does not affect the minimum age, namely 19, at which men called up to the Army are posted for service abroad.