HC Deb 28 July 1854 vol 135 cc907-9

said, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty to a statement which had appeared in one of the public prints, and which, in his opinion, had cast an unmerited slur on the memory of a most gallant officer, who had recently fallen in the execution of his duty. He alluded to an article which appeared yesterday in a public journal in allusion to Captain Hyde Parker. There it was stated that "Captain Parker literally threw his life away, without glory to himself or result to the public service." He would not read the whole of the article, but it went on to state —"Nothing would serve but the organisation of a little excursion for the sake of pleasure or curiosity." Now, the fact was, and he could so state from his own personal knowledge and from letters he had received, that the whole statement of that journal was totally void of foundation. He had the fullest reason to believe that this gallant officer, instead of having fallen in the indulgence of "pleasure or curiosity," had fallen in the zealous execution of his duty to his Queen and country; and he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would inform the House whether or not despatches had been received which entirely bore him out in this correction of a statement which, having by this time gone, not merely throughout the country, but well nigh throughout Europe, required, if erroneous, to be corrected.


Sir, I am extremely obliged to the hon. and gallant Officer for having put to me this question, which enables me to give an answer which I hope will be satisfactory to him and to the House. The comments to which the hon. and gallant Officer has referred have, I know, inflicted the deepest pain on the surviving relatives of Captain Parker. I need not inform the House that his gallant father, Sir Hyde Parker, only died within the last few weeks, and his widow is in the last extremity of suffering, so severe, indeed, that the friends and relatives in attendance upon her have not ventured to inform her of the death of her son. The House may well imagine what pain such comments would cause to this lady so circumstanced. Those comments, I must say, have been somewhat hastily made under an entire misapprehension of the facts. The Board of Admiralty has taken the earliest opportunity of giving the utmost publicity to a despatch of Admiral Dundas, in which the real facts of the circumstances under which Captain Parker had fallen are officially related, and this despatch will appear in the Gazette of this evening. So far from being rash and unauthorised, Admiral Dundas speaks of Captain Parker as having acted in the most gallant manner in the destruction of the batteries outside of the Sulina mouth of the Danube. There were also batteries inside of the passage which Captain Parker thought it was his duty to destroy if possible; and in his boat with an armed party, and attended by another boat, he entered within the passage for the purpose of reconnoitring, when he received a fire of musketry from the battery. With- out hesitation he instantly resolved to carry the battery by storm. He landed in the most gallant manner, and was shot through the heart in the execution of his duty. With respect to enterprises of this nature, I must say the public are somewhat hard task-masters. If bold and desperate enterprises are not undertaken, then there is some suspicion that orders have not been given to carry on the war with energy, and even the conduct of those who are employed is somewhat suspected. If, on the other hand, deeds of extraordinary boldness are performed, such as raised Lord Dundonald and other men to great celebrity, then the charge is of an opposite nature. It is imputed to them that they ran needless risk; that gallantry partakes of the character of foolhardiness, and that men who lose their lives in this way have almost received their just reward. I sincerely regret that in this case those observations have been made. Captain Parker was one of the most promising officers in the English Navy. He was the gallant son of a gallant father. On this occasion he acted as became his name, and he fell in the discharge of his duty, a bright example to other officers. I only regret that in the British Navy there is no other Hyde Parker now left; and I hope this House and the country will, at all events, be just to the memory of this gallant man. Let no adverse comments induce this House to believe that this gallant officer did not act in a manner which became him in the discharge of his duty, and that his memory is not entitled to the respect and veneration of his countrymen.