HC Deb 08 June 1857 vol 145 cc1341-3

said, that in the discussion which had taken place with respect to Aldershot a few evenings before, several statements as to the employment of the men in pitching their tents and other matters had been made at variance with those to which, he had given expression. Now, as he had occupied the position of second officer in command at that camp, he had deemed it to be his duty, in order to set matters in their true light, to write to its present commander, General Knollys, in order to obtain all the information bearing upon the point. He had received that morning, in reply to his communication, the following letter, which he thought would satisfy the House that many of the statements to which he had adverted were not quite consistent with the fact. General Knollys said,— The troops have been under canvas during 1855 and 1856, as long as the weather admitted of it, and they will shortly be placed again under it. The last two months have been chiefly passed in drill, agreeably to the general instructions of our service, and the weather has not admitted of my putting the troops under canvas until the last week without special orders. The same system will, however, be pursued this year as has been carried out during the last two. Of this, cooking in the field, of course, forms a part, and at which you may remember all the regiments of militia were successfully practised, as well as the young and newly-enlisted regiments of the line; the case is some what different with regard to those regiments who came from the Crimea, who had little to learn in cooking that I could teach them. Field operations have been always practised when the summer field days could no longer take place. Route inarching, taking up positions, outpost duty, form part of this instruction, along with reconnaissances for the cavalry, and bridge making for the engineers. We have a class of officers receiving instruction in surveying and military sketching under an artillery officer from Woolwich, and I trust to be enabled to extend this instruction still further, and to a greater number of officers. Besides the fort we constructed under your superintendence, we have executed military works on the bank of the canal. All the roads lately finished have been completed by the soldiers—three entirely without working pay. The whole of the temporary stabling was constructed by the military. The horses have continued remarkably healthy, particularly some of the military train, who continued out throughout the winter. The only casualties among the latter were from kicks. There is only one hut in the whole camp that is at present out of repair—mess-house, letter M. The felt is in a good state of preservation throughout, and no rain enters through the roofs. The whole of the gravel in the lines has been spread by the troops. I have no idea that desertion has ever been induced by the camp. Whatever there has been extra may easily be accounted for by the peculiar circumstances which attended the regiments coming from the Crimea. The average of the sick has continued lower than that of any other station. We have an abundant supply of good water from Cæsar's camp, and it is not likely to fail. The above are the points you have made queries on, and I trust you will think my answer satisfactory. That letter showed a very satisfactory state of things, and, to prove that it was borne out by the facts, he would next read a statement which was made by the brother of Sir H. Smith, who was barrack master at Aldershot, and an experienced officer. With reference to the huts, his words Were— They are in excellent repair, not the least appearance of decay; they are light, airy, and wholesome; there is but one instance on record of a hut having given way, which is the mess-hut in M line, south camp, used as a private residence; the back broke—the defect was made good immediately. The felt is extremely good and water-tight, will last for years—in my opinion as long as the hut stands, by proper attention being paid to it. The supply of water from Cæsar's camp is good and ample, without the least probability of its failing. In the event of the bank of the reservoir giving way, the wells in the camp will sufficiently supply the troops with good water until such time as the reservoir has been repaired. The latrines are extremely well, and from the manner in which the Cyanic Manure Company deodorize them there is no complaint. The urinals have been reconstructed and answer well; they are deodorized by the company, as are also the drains, by which means no offensive effluvia arise there from. In the kingdom there is not a more healthy spot than Aldershot. Take the average of the number of men quartered (12,000) in the camp during the last six months, the sick amounted to 2½ per cent; in my opinion not another barrack in the kingdom could show this. From the opening of the camp in May, 1855, to the 1st of June, 1857, the camp has accommodated 4,825 officers, 131,632 men, and 6,550, horses; and I do most positively assert that every officer, man, and horse were accommodated with everything the regulations allow them immediately on their arrival in the camp. No cavalry regiments arrived in the camp last November; consequently what was stated in the House the other night is totally unfounded. From conversations which I have had at different periods both with officers and non-commissioned officers, I am convinced the camp does not lead to desertions; on the contrary, the men are partial to it.

Motion, "That the House go into a Committee of Supply," agreed to.