HC Deb 11 May 1854 vol 133 cc172-4

said, that he had given notice of his intention to put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty with respect to the conveyance of the 1st Royals from Plymouth, in the Andes steamer, to the East. The matter was one with respect to which he thought it advisable that no misrepresentation should be allowed to have currency, and he had therefore deemed it right to put the question at once. The statement which had appeared in the public papers with respect to the removal of the regiment in question was as follows:—In the month of April last the Andes, a steamer not of very considerable size—1,200 tons burden—had been chartered for the conveyance of 500 men to the East; that the number of the regiment upon its arrival at Plymouth had been found to be 800; that there were only 500 berths in the vessel, and that in consequence a telegraphic message had been sent up to the Admiralty to know what course was to be taken under the circumstances of the case. Orders were issued thence, it was stated, to the effect that as much accommodation as possible should be provided for the troops, but that the whole number must embark; that the troops had embarked, and that, in consequence of the orders to which he had referred, 800 men, or something above that number, had been sent out of Plymouth without a moment's delay, and commanded to proceed at once to their destination. It was further stated, that, in consequence of no efficient examination of the vessel having been made before her departure, and the bulkhead not having been covered with iron, that portion of the vessel had taken fire, that a very considerable quantity of gunpowder had been placed on board without the usual precaution of a magazine being established, and that but for the determined gallantry of the privates of the Royals, every person in the vessel would have been blown to pieces. A great quantity of gunpowder, it was also mentioned, had been thrown overboard, and the vessel had arrived in a very damaged condition in Malta. It was added that the naval officer there had reported her as being in that condition, and that, notwithstanding that report, she had been ordered to sail with the troops on board her to the East. Such were tile statements which had appeared in the public papers, and he had thought it but fair to submit them to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty at as early an opportunity as possible.


said, that, in consequence of the notice which the hon. Member had given him, he had made inquiry that morning with respect to the subject of his question. In reply to that question he had to state that no complaint whatsoever of an official character had reached the Admiralty, nor, as far as he had ascertained, the Horse Guards, with respect to the matter to which it related. It was perfectly true that the Andes had not been originally engaged to convey so large a number of troops to the East as she had actually taken out. He should, however, inform the House, whose authority it was upon which that number had been enlarged. Sir Harry Smith, the general commanding at Devonport, had been consulted with reference to the increase, and he had given it as his opinion that the vessel in question was perfectly qualified to convey the additional number of men. The commander of the regiment himself had also concurred in that opinion, and that being the case the Admiralty had come to the conclusion that they might safely act upon the information they had received from those gentlemen. Thus much he had to state with respect to the numbers. It had also been deemed advisable that some powder should be conveyed in the Andes. It had been so conveyed, and most unfortunately, owing to the long working of the engine and the stormy weather, a fire had taken place on board. The danger of course had been considerable. The conduct of the commander, the officers, and the men had been, as might be expected, most exemplary; no real misfortune bad occurred; the vessel had arrived in safety at Malta, and had been forwarded, without loss of time, with the troops to the East. He might also be permitted to take that opportunity to state that the conduct of Admiral Stewart, at Malta, had been such as to entitle him to the utmost gratitude. His efforts had been most energetic and most successful.