HC Deb 06 June 1856 vol 142 cc1095-8

said, he wished, as general discontent prevailed at the delay in bringing home the troops from the Crimea, to put a question on the subject to the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was upon the 13th of March that the treaty of peace was signed, but for some time previously the Government must have been well aware that the negotiations would lead to a successful issue. Well, they had now arrived at the 6th of June, and, to the best of his belief, not a single infantry soldier had been brought home from the Crimea. He wished, therefore, to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what was the cause of that delay; for during the same period nearly 60,000 French troops, and nearly the whole of the Sardinian army, had been removed? At the same time our transports had been employed to carry the troops of our Allies. He was aware that it had been stated by the Government that the militia were in the first place to be brought home, and that then troops were to be taken from the army in the Crimea to garrison the Mediterranean stations. What, however, he wanted to know was, why the navy had not been employed as well as the transports to bring home the troops? Last week, indeed, orders were received at Plymouth and Portsmouth for ships of the navy to proceed to the Crimea to bring home troops. But if it was right that that order should be issued last week, why was it not equally right that it should have been issued five or six weeks ago?


said, directions had been given that, in the first place, the Sardinian troops should be sent home, and upwards of 10,000 had accordingly been conveyed to Italy. In the next place, after those troops had been taken back to America, which had been withdrawn in consequence of the war, other English troops were to be conveyed to the Mediterranean stations, and the militia regiments which occupied those stations were to be conveyed home. Then the embarkation of the troops to be brought from the Crimea to England was to take place. The number of men who had been and who would be embarked was, in round numbers, as nearly as could be calculated, as follows:—10,000 Sardinians and 2,600 horses had been conveyed to Italy. Up to the 1st of June 17,000 English troops had been brought from the Crimea, and 4,000 from Scutari, making together 21,000 men. By the 20th of June there would be embarked 19,000; by the 10th of July 18,000; and by the end of July the remainder, about 14,000. This was according to most unfavourable calculation, but it was hoped that all the troops, including the Land Transport Corps, would be removed by the 30th of July. Steam transports had been provided for 32,000 men; sailing transports for 9,000. He calculated that 14,000 or 15,000 would be brought by ships of war. Two line-of-battle ships and six large steamers had been ordered from the Black Sea, three sailing line-of-battle ships had been sent hence, directions had been despatched to the Mediterranean that any vessels which could be spared should be employed in the conveyance of troops, and ten line-of-battle ships, two frigates, and two large steamers had been appropriated to that service. If the numbers had been correctly calculated, 38,000 men would be embarked by the first week in July, the total number to be removed was 47,000, and transport had been provided for 51,000. It was his belief that all the men would have left the Crimea by the end of July.


said, that, notwithstanding the right hon. Baronet's explanation, he yet wished to know why the ships of war were not ordered to bring home the troops before last week?


replied, that the reason was, that the ships were not in a state to be sent to sea immediately for that purpose.


said, that six weeks ago he had asked whether any line-of-battle ships, or other vessels, were to go to the Crimea to embark not only troops, but stores, guns, and other articles, including captures from the Russians. He was sorry to say that he only got a brief and unsatisfactory answer, and on repeating the question at a subsequent period, he was told that it was not proper employment for Her Majesty's ships. Those ships were ready to go to the Baltic if the war had continued, and now it was said that they had not been ready to go to the Crimea, although the mere removal of their lower deck guns would have made them fit for the purpose. If the ships had gone after the review at Spithead, they would have been home again by this time. If the hot season should cause sickness among the troops in the Crimea, he thought much blame would attach to the Board of Admiralty for having hesitated so long in the matter.


said, that he was in a great degree answerable for his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty not sending out the line-of-battle ships at an earlier period of the year, for as a naval officer he was aware how much ships were disorganised by the conveyance of troops. Besides, there was another circumstance which might not be within the knowledge of the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell), but was within the knowledge of the Admiralty, namely—that a three-decker was nearly sunk in the Mediterranean on account of the way in which the screw was fitted. Consequently, when the ships came from the Baltic, it was thought necessary to examine all the screws, in order to prevent the possibility of accidents which that House and the country would have deeply deplored. The hon. and gallant Member for Bath intimated that it would have been an easy matter to get out the lower-deck guns of the line-of-battle ships, but it was no easy matter to make room for troops unless part of the ships companies were removed as well as the guns. For these reasons he had advised the First Lord of the Amiralty not to send out the line-of-battle ships to the Crimea, unless the necessity was urgent indeed.


said, he could not conceive why the Baltic fleet, immediately on its return home, was not sent out to bring home troops. It was quite true that the conveyance of troops was likely to disorganise a ship of war. But last night it was shown that the coastguard men, the riggers, and the "five years' men" had been all dismissed from the fleet, so that the crews of the ships had by that means been so reduced, he considered, as to allow of their bringing home troops without any inconvenience. He might also be allowed to observe, that the screws of the Baltic fleet had been all examined before proceeding there, and, therefore, he presumed, the ships were in a fit state to proceed to the Black Sea. He certainly thought the ships would have been perfectly ready to sail immediately after the review at Portsmouth. He was happy, however, to find that at last the ships had been ordered to the Mediterranean for the conveyance of troops, and as otherwise a great number of them would be paid off, he did not see how in any event the service could suffer.

Subject dropped.