HC Deb 06 July 1855 vol 139 cc540-3

put the following question to the Under Secretary for War. If a letter from the Commissioners of Police for the city of Edinburgh, which was addressed to Mr. Cowan, and was by him transmitted to Lord Panmure in March last, has received the consideration of the War Department, and whether any of the suggestions therein contained for the removal of the existing irritation caused by the billeting of soldiers and militiamen upon private families in Scotland are likely to be adopted? Also, if the Under Secretary for War is now prepared to name a time when either by the erection of a camp, by the militia being accommodated in temporary or permanent barracks, or otherwise, the localities upon which they are now quartered will be relieved from the burden which is laid upon them? He had received no reply to his letter, or he might have been spared the necessity of bringing the subject before the House. He had learnt from Mr. Ramsey, Lord Panmure's private secretary, that several of the suggestions were considered of the highest value, and that one or more of them would be adopted. Since then he had heard nothing further on the subject. The law regulating the billeting of the militia was entirely different in Scotland to that which prevailed in this country. Here they were billeted upon licensed victuallers and publichouses—in Scotland upon private families. Though the number of militia embodied in Scotland was only about 3,000, the grievance was by no means a small one, for the burden fell upon a small number of householders in the market towns. At Dalkeith, for instance, the 400 militia for the county were billeted upon about the same number of inhabitants. Such was the intense discomfort felt, that people were speaking of openly resisting the law. Dr. Jeffries, of Dalkeith, spoke of the scenes of drunkenness and blasphemy in that town as most revolting. Vermin of various kinds was introduced into the houses, and disease was often the result. He spoke as the medical attendant of some of the individuals. He put it to hon. Gentlemen whether in the case of their own menials they would tolerate such an outrage on the sanctity of their homes. He hoped the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord at the head of the Government, either by the erection of huts for the encampment of the regiments, or in some other way, would with the shortest possible delay take steps for the removal of the cause of this immorality and disease.


stated, in answer to the question of the noble Lord the Member for Grantham (Lord W. Graham), that compensation to officers for the loss of their horses was awarded under the regulations laid down by the Horse Guards according to the rank of the officers. In reply to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) he had to state that if the letter of the army surgeon in The Times was to be believed, and was meant to be understood in a literal sense, no doubt the hospitals in the Crimea must be in a most discreditable state, because it appeared from the letter read by the hon. Member (Mr. Stafford) that the hospitals had been very ill-provided indeed. The writer stated that there was a deficiency of water, surgical appliances, and other things, although there was an abundance of the articles in question in supply at Scutari. It was impossible to give an answer to such allegations until he had had an opportunity of referring the statements to Dr. Hall, the head of the medical department of the army in the East, and receiving his reply. From the communications he had received, however, relative to the state of the hospitals, both regimental and general, he had been under the impression that they were very well supplied with everything that was necessary, and that they contained the requisite number of medical men. The statement that no specific preparation had been made for the wounded of the 18th seemed to be disproved by a letter of Dr. Hall, written on the 18th, a portion of which he would read. Dr. Hall said— In anticipation of the attack, I gave directions the evening before that temporary field hospitals should be established as far in advance down the ravines as safety would admit; that tents, an abundance of water, stimulants, and surgical appliances should be provided, so that aid might be at hand for those who required immediate assistance, and that the right attack should be under the direction of Staff-Surgeon Logan, and the left under that of Staff-Surgeon Paynter. Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals Taylor established his field hospital down the Picket-house Ravine, and remained there for five hours himself. These tempory establishments were found of the greatest comfort and use, and should there be any future occasion of this kind, I will see that they are established for all the divisions. As the men were dressed, and the same with those that did not urgently require it, they were placed in the small chairs or litters, and sent up either to their own regimental hospital or to the general hospital which has been established in camp. We found the chairs and litters of the greatest use in bringing the wounded from the trenches and up the ravines, where waggons could not travel, and I am sorry the whole 200 are not here. A party of 250 Croats, in addition to the regimental bandsmen, were also employed in removing the wounded from the field, and the whole duty was performed in a speedy and very satisfactory manner. He could not, therefore, believe that the statement of the army surgeon could be borne out; but a copy of his letter had been sent to Dr. Hall, and an explanation had been called for. That the letter was genuine he had no doubt, and, with reference to the offer to give up his name, he thought it would facilitate the inquiry and render it more full if the offer were accepted. With regard to the grievance of billeting complained of by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Cowan) he could add nothing to what he had stated on the same subject last week. It was necessary, where a militia regiment was embodied, that they should be collected together and quartered in some place possessing a sufficient number of houses for the reception of the men. Arrangements, however, were being made for removing militiamen out of billets as soon as possible.


wished to call the attention of the Government to the fact that due rewards and encouragement had not been extended to the merits of the medical officers in the hospitals in the East. Many of them had lost their health and some their lives in the performance of their duties. No rewards had been held out to them by the Government, although the unwearied attention which they had paid to officers and men was the theme of admiration among the whole army. He could mention the name of Dr. Macgregor and of others who had distinguished themselves in this dangerous and ill-requited service. The danger to which the soldier was exposed, who, in the excitement of the moment made a charge or who stormed a battery, was nothing as compared with that which awaited the medical officer, who, amid sickness and death, struggled night and day amid the pestilential atmosphere of an hospital to alleviate the sufferings of their fellow men. He called upon the Government, if they were capable of doing an act of justice, to reward and promote the men who were making such sacrifices for their country.


said, if the Report of the Sebastopol Committee were worth anything, the Government would not refer to Dr. Hall again. They would take precautions to obtain more certain information than, in a former instance, was obtained from Dr. Hall.


said, the Under-Secretary of War (Mr. F. Peel) had entirely misconceived the nature of the objection, which was not against the number of soldiers, but against their being all billeted in particular localities. On the part of the army, as well as on the part of the people of Scotland, he entreated the Government to form an encampment as speedily as possible in Scotland. It would be infinitely better, both for the soldiers and for the population. There should be one encampment in England, one in Scotland, and one in Ireland, and they would soon have a good and permanent army.

Motion that the House at its rising do adjourn to Monday next agreed to.