HC Deb 03 March 1843 vol 67 cc259-64
Sir C. Napier begged

to call the attention of the House to the statement he had made the other evening, anxious as he was to sustain a character for justice, fairness, and impartiality. In making a comparison between the manner in which two Boards of Admiralty had rewarded different officers, he had stated the case of a captain (Maunsell), who, although distinguishing himself in command at an important action, had not been made C. B., while another Board of Admiralty had granted that honour to Captain Grey, who had only served with the army as a volunteer. Upon that occasion the present Secretary of the Admiralty very unwisely contradicted him; and the hon. Member for Halifax very indiscreetly contradicted him also. Both founded their contradiction upon an extract from the despatch of General Schoede. The Secretary of the Admiralty, and the ex-Secretary too, should have known the rules of the service better. [A laugh]. The recommendation of a general officer, in his despatch to the Secretary of State, unless supported by his own commander-in-chief, was absolutely good for nothing. He would show that in the case of Captain Grey the recommendation of General Schoede was not supported by the commander-in-chief in the slightest way whatever. Sir W. Parker, in giving an account of the number of ships he had brought up the river, did not mention the Endymion (which was commanded by Captain Grey) at all; and he went on to state, that so little resistance was expected it was not deemed necessary to land the seaman and marines. That showed pretty clearly that Captain Grey could not have commanded at their disembarkation. The despatch stated that Captain Richards, Admiral Parker's flag-captain, afterwards landed from the flag ship with 200 marines, and a party of seamen. Admiral Parker expressed his admiration of the energy and ability with which the operations were conducted, eulogizing the zeal and gallantry of the officers, and enclosing a list of the ships and officers most conspicuously engaged. The only error he had committed was in stating that the Endymion was not at Chin-chow-foo, when in fact that vessel was there. Admiral Parker, as he had stated, enclosed a list of the officers who were under his command on the 21st of July, 1842, and in that list the name of Captain Grey did not appear. He (Sir C. Napier) was therefore perfectly right in stating that Captain Grey was not a captain-commandant, but a simple volunteer. He thought it was not right that a volunteer should receive the same reward that was accorded to an officer in command. In the case of an army landed by a fleet, if there was not employment for the naval officers in command, they might obtain leave from the admiral to attach themselves as volunteers to the troops, and they would have the same right which Captain Grey possessed to the distinction which had been conferred upon him.

Mr. C. Wood

expressed his surprise that the hon. and gallant Member had again adverted to this subject. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman alluded to this matter before, the main ground on which he found fault with the conduct of the Admiralty was, that Captain Grey could only be a volunteer, because his ship was not present. The hon. and gallant Member ought not to make assertions calculated to prejudice the characters and to wound the feelings of public men without due inquiry; and, by a reference to the Gazette he would find that the statement he made was not founded in fact. It was not for him to express an opinion as to whether the honour conferred upon the officer to whom the hon. and gallant Member had alluded was or was not de served; but he was convinced his gallant relative would be unwilling to receive, as matter of favour, any distinction which was conferred upon other officers as a reward for their services. He had risen to set the gallant Member (Sir C. Napier) right upon a matter of fact. The hon. and gallant Member had, when he previously mentioned this subject, misstated the facts; and he believed that the hon. and gallant Officer had misstated them now. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had before stated that Captain Grey must be a volunteer because his ship was not present at the scene of operations, but the gallant Member had now found out his mistake, for it appeared by the despatch that Captain Grey's ship was on the spot. The list containing the stations of every vessel in the squadron showed that Captain Grey's ship was at Chin-chow-foo at the time of the attack. The next question was whether Captain Grey superintended the landing of Major-general Schoede's division? He was aware that Captain Grey was not in command of the detach ment of sailors and marines which landed; but as an officer of the British navy he was charged with the duty of superintending the landing. [Sir C. Napier: "No, no."] What, would the gallant Member quibble about the despatch? [Sir C. Napier: I am not quibbling.] Major-general Schoede states, I must also beg to express my best thanks to Captain Grey, commanding her Majesty's ship Endymion, who superintended the disembarkation of the brigade, and who volunteered. [Sir C. Napier "Hear,"]—after having, as a matter of duty, superintended the disembarkation of the troops, To accompany me throughout the day, for his able assistance and prompt and kind attention to every request I made him regarding the landing of the brigade. After the brigade was landed, Captain Grey volunteered to accompany Major-general Schoede through all the toils and labours of the day; his services as a volunteer commenced from the time at which the disembarkation of the forces was completed, and throughout the operations of that day he accompanied General Schoede. He contended that these three points were clearly made out, that Captain Grey's ship was present at Chin-chow-foo, that he superintended the landing of Major-general Schoede's brigade, and that having done so he volunteered to accompany General Schoede throughout the operations of the day. The Board of Admiralty were the proper persons to judge whether or not the honour conferred upon Captain Grey was or was not deserved, but the facts which he had stated were borne out by public documents.

Captain Gordon

had been surprised to hear any dissatisfaction expressed with regard to the honour her Majesty had been pleased to confer upon a gallant officer for services performed against an enemy. For his own part, he thought few persons could be found who would suppose that the honour conferred upon Captain Grey was misplaced. It was, he conceived, unnecessary for him to enter into any explanation of the reasons which had induced the Crown to award this distinction to Captain Grey; but he must say, that, having observed in the despatches of Major-general Schoede, that after superintending the landing of the brigade Captain Grey accompanied the troops — having seen that the general commanding the brigade spoke in the highest terms of the services rendered to him by Captain Grey, he could not imagine on what ground objection was taken to the favour which his Sovereign had seen fit to confer upon that gallant officer.

Sir C. Napier

said, be was surprised that the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. C. Wood) had laid so much stress on the mistake lie had committed with regard to Admiral Parker's despatches. He read the despatches, but, on finding that the hon. Member complained of his misrepresenting the facts, he referred to the list of ships, and according to it the Endymion did appear to have been at Chin-chow-foo. The Secretary to the Admiralty and the right hon. Baronet opposite—

The Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member must confine his observations strictly to explanation.

Sir C. Napier.

Well, Sir, I will explain then. The rules and customs of the service—["Order, order."] Well, if I am not allowed to mention them, I will again refer to the despatch of a general officer. [Again cries of"Order, order."]

The Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must confine himself to ex planation.

Sir C. Napier

Then, Sir, I have no thing further to say.

Captain Pechell

regretted that this discussion had been revived. The hon. and gallant Member evidently felt, with other hon. Members and with Officers not in that House, that Captain Mansell had not been well treated. He maintained that sufficient and adequate honours were never conferred upon naval officers. [An hon. Member: Honours.] Yes, honours! Did the hon. Member think he was alluding to money? The estimates were, almost immediately, to be brought before the House; and he hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite would recollect the agreement which had been made the other night, when hon. Gentlemen on his (the Opposition) side allowed the vote for wages to pass. The persuasive powers of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had on that occasion prevailed with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), but he hoped that, in allowing the vote for wages to pass, they were not precluded from entering into a wide discussion on the estimates. It was agreed on all hands that the steam-power of this country was not justly maintained. Hon. Gentlemen opposite contended that this country did not possess sufficient steam-power, and that in this respect France was our superior. He contended, that the Government of this country had not availed themselves of some valuable suggestions for the improvement of steam-ships which had been offered to them. He was not going to accuse the Government of any reckless activity, or any mischievous meddling; but he did accuse them of mischievous delay, in not taking advantage of suggestions which, it had been proved to them, might have been adopted with great benefit in her Majesty's naval service.

Mr. Hume

said, that the other night several votes of public money were brought forward after midnight; and, although he objected to some of those votes, yet he, with several of his hon. Friends, abstained from advancing those objections, on the understanding that, in committee, they would be allowed an opportunity of discussing them, although that course might be somewhat irregular. He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite would keep good faith in this matter.

Mr. B. Escott

wished to make a remark with reference to an observation which had fallen from the hon. and gallant officer opposite. The hon. Member had stated, that it was highly desirable, for the interests of the country, that captains and naval officers in command should always be particular in making reports of those under their command who had performed meritorious services. He (Mr. Escott) had himself known instances of great hardship, in which officers had lost their promotion merely from the negligence of their superior officers in not making proper reports.

Question again put.

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