asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the widow of a soldier killed at parachute training has received a telegram informing her of his death and that either his body could be sent home but no other expenses, funeral or travelling would be allowed, or else the funeral would be held locally and free railway warrants issued for only two persons to travel there upon application to the police; and whether he will take steps to prevent a repetition of such-treatment which causes unnecessary suffering to widows of Service men?
I do not know whether my hon. Friend complains that the telegram sent in this case was brusque or that it said nothing of the grant which is made towards the cost of the funeral expenses incurred by the relatives. The normal practice is as follows. When a soldier dies on duty a telegram is sent to his next-of-kin asking whether it is desired (i) that the soldier shall be buried by the Military authorities, or (ii) that the body shall be sent home. In the first case the whole expense of the funeral is borne by the public, and two railway passes are issued, upon application to the nearest police station, for two persons (one a relative) to attend the funeral. In the second case, the cost of the conveyance of the body home is accepted as a charge against the public, and, in addition, a sum of £7 10s. 0d. (less any expense incurred by the military authorities for the coffin, etc.) is allowed towards the cost of the funeral expenses incurred by the relatives. If my hon. Friend considers that the particular case to which he refers should be looked into further I will gladly do so if he will forward me the particulars.
Is the Minister aware that the telegram was cast in very cold terms and will he agree that in circumstances such as these it should at least be of a most sympathetic nature and should state the amount of expenses which are to be allowed to the widow?