I much regret the accident which resulted in the death of this soldier, and I would express my sympathy with his parents. During an exercise in the early hours of 22nd April a scout car in which he was travelling overturned into a sandpit. Three of the occupants were pinned beneath the car, and when it was lifted Fusilier Marshall and the officer in command of the scout car were found to be dead.
Is the Minister aware of the fact that this staff car was ordered to proceed across country under cover of darkness without headlights, that in so doing it fell into a sandpit 20 feet deep, that it was four hours before these men were found, and then only because the driver of the vehicle with a badly smashed shoulder walked five miles to secure help, and that during that period one man lay dead, another dying and another injured? Will he take steps in future to see that obstacles of this character are sufficiently reconnoitred and danger signals posted before we waste lives unnecessarily in this way?
The time of the accident has been carefully checked. From the time this incident occurred to the arrival of the rescue party was one hour and 20 minutes. With regard to training, we are confronted with the difficult problem that, if we have all training at night with headlights, the realism of this type of training suffers considerably. Although these accidents are most regrettable, they have been few, and I believe that to have undue safety precautions for training might result in a much greater loss of life in the event of war.
asked the Secretary of State for War why 7591061 Corporal Bartolo had still not been posted to Malta in the middle of May; whether Corporal Bartolo is now in Malta; what are the reasons for the delay in handling this case, which was first brought to the attention of his Department on 24th January, 1952; and if, in view of the hardship caused to Corporal Bartolo's wife and children, he will make the issue of the local overseas allowance and special family allowance retrospective to 8th April, 1952.
Corporal Bartolo and his family are now united in Tripoli. For various administrative reasons I regret that it was found impracticable to post him to Malta on compassionate grounds. No retrospective payment of these allowances can be made.
I recall that well. Indeed, it was on the strength of a signal at that time from the Middle East that he was to be posted to Malta. The administrative reasons are rather complicated, but I can tell them to the hon. Gentleman behind the Chair. As a result, his wife came to Tripoli instead of him going to Malta. I think they are now reunited, and I hope he is content.
This man had been called up; he had fired several times on the range. One day he said he would not let off his rifle. He was asked again to do it, he was warned of the consequences, he came before his commanding officer, was punished, and will shortly go before an appellate tribunal.
My hon. Friend has explained to the hon. Member that it is never the practice of my Department to inform the parents or relatives when a soldier is in this sort of trouble. I think that the hon. Member will agree that to do so would be an unwarranted interference in the man's private affairs, Any man is, of course, perfectly free to inform them himself.
Is the Minister aware that this young lad is practically illiterate and mentally retarded, that he was taken within three miles of his home under escort, his parents were not informed and no defence could be provided, yet the officer who accompanied him was a hostile witness in the force? Where was the Army Legal Aid Department?
It was perfectly open for this man to apply for legal aid and equally open to him to inform his parents of his trouble. Even though he is illiterate and rather short in brain power, he could surely have found some method of informing his parents.