HC Deb 11 May 1858 vol 150 cc473-95

then rose to propose the following Resolutions:— That the long continued excessive mortality of the British Army has been mainly caused by the bad sanitary condition of their barrack accommodation. That this House has viewed with satisfaction the efforts of successive Governments, aided by Parliamentary Grants, to improve the moral, intellectual, and physical condition of the British soldier, and is encouraged by the happy results of such efforts and grants to hope much from a continuance and further extension of the same. That much still remains to be done with regard to barrack accommodation; firstly, for its increase, with a view to the discontinuance, as far as may be, of the present practice of billeting, as being alike oppressive to the civilian and demoralising to the soldier; and, secondly, for its improvement, both with a view to the healthy accommodation of the troops in general, and to the decent accommodation of the married soldier. That, in the opinion of this House, such increase and improvement are imperatively called for, not less by good policy and true economy than by justice and humanity. That in moving the Resolutions of which he had given notice, in the very words in which they had stood upon the notice Paper just two years ago, he must ask for a double portion of the indulgence of the House. He was always painfully conscious of his inability to address the House in a manner worthy of the first deliberative assembly in the world. But if he had been permitted to bring the question before them two years ago, he could at least have promised that he should have spared no pains in collecting information or verifying facts. The misfortune, however, with which he had been visited had rendered it impossible for him ever to turn fully to account the mass of documents, English and foreign, he had already collected with a view to this Motion; and had sadly crippled his efficiency as an advocate, though the recollection of his own sufferings, notwithstanding, the many alleviations he had enjoyed, had intensified a hundred fold his desire to see the sickness among our soldiers diminished, and a treatment very different from that hitherto bestowed upon them when sick, adopted for the future. But previous to entering on the main question he would earnestly disavow being actuated in this matter by any party motive, and he as earnestly deprecated the indulgence of any feeling of crimination or of recrimination in connection with the great evils he lamented and deplored, and which he earnestly prayed the House and Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to remedy. The state of the case was this. The mortality in the British army had been long continued and excessive, and it would not require many figures in order to prove that position. The mortality in the Guards was upwards of 20 per thousand; that of the Line was but 18 per thousand; that of the Cavalry 11 per thousand; and in the general population of England and Wales, of the same ages as the soldier, little more than 9 per thousand, and among the population of the same ages in healthy districts nearly 7¾ per thousand. It therefore appeared that the mortality in the ranks of the Guards was nearly three times that of the population in healthy districts in England and Wales of the same ages, and to this they had to add nearly an equal number taken away by invaliding. Now, it was obvious that invaliding represented a considerable addition of the ill health and mortality among those who had been enlisted and enrolled in the ranks. The mortality varied in different regiments in different corps, during the first year after the soldiers had been pensioned, amounting in the Guards to 134 per thousand of those invalided, and on the average to something like 76. He (the noble Viscount) had more figures within reach, but he would not encumber the House with needless statistics, giving his figures from memory in round numbers rather than resorting to the tables of the blue books with whence he could obtain extracts and figures in profusion. He had said that mortality in the army exclusive of invaliding, and speaking of the troops at home, was more than double that of the rural population, and taking it in the army generally it amounted to 33 per thousand, and in particular colonies—unhealthy colonies—it was as much as 60 per thousand. In estimating the amount of this loss we should not neglect the consideration of one important fact, namely, that a soldier's life would be considered in any insurance office, at the time be was enlisted, a picked life, and one of the high. est class that could be insured. No recruit was admitted into the ranks of the army who had any trace of ill-health or of malformation. He was required to be not only sound in wind and limb, but of a certain physical strength over and above the general soundness of health. About one-third in round numbers of such as presented themselves for enlistment were rejected, and all these defective lives were thrown back on the general population, and pro tanto increased the ratio of mortality in the class with which he had been comparing the soldiers as regards mortality. But beyond that, all the soldiers who were invalided, and whose mortality varied among the different corps—but the average of which was 76 per thousand in their first year—all these were thrown back on the general population, and were included by the Registrar General in those returns of mortality, which nevertheless contrasted to so striking an extent with the awful mortality that prevailed in the ranks of the originally strong, and sound and healthy soldiery. Now he (the noble Viscount) contended that this alarming mortality was preventible, and he traced it mainly to the bad sanitary condition of the barrack accommodation of the British army. In order to determine the causes which led to such excessive sickness and mortality a comparison ought to be made with the amount of mortality and sickness prevailing among other persons in an analogous position to that of the British soldier. The admirable Report that had been drawn up by the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), assisted by other hon. Members of eminence, and among them the late Mr. Stafford, whose loss would be lamented by every soldier and every soldier's friend, furnished some very remarkable information. As compared with agricultural labourers who were members of friendly societies, the mortality in the Household Cavalry was 1½ times as great, in the Dragoons rather more than twice, in the Line in England, nearly three times, and in the Foot Guards more than three times as much. It might be said that the comparison with the more provident portion of the agricultural class was not a fair test, but taking the agricultural labourers who were not members of friendly societies the mortality was still greater in the army. In the Household Cavalry the mortality was 1 1–3, in the Dragoons 1 2–3, in the Line twice, and in the Foot Guards 2½ times as great as among agricultural labourers. It might be said that a great deal of a soldier's life was passed in towns, and that a comparatively small proportion was quartered at the Curragh, Aldershot, or Shorncliffe, in a situation analogous to that of the agricultural population. But the crowning test of the unhealthiness of the army was, that if we took the most unhealthy occupations, such as mining, or the unhealthiest occupations in towns, we should still find that the mortality in the army was greater than any; and even taking the case of night printers, an indoor occupation, involving night duty six nights out of the seven, they found that the mortality in the army was even greatly in excess of that. They were told that this mortality was owing to the night duty, and no doubt it added considerably to it; but the night duty of the soldier ought not to be more unwholesome than that of the night printer, under less favourable circumstances; the fact being that, in the case of the night printers of The Times office, where great care was bestowed on ventilation, the result was a diminution in the mortality among them which brought it nearly down to that of the agricultural labourers. He attributed this difference to the greater sanitary improvement carried out in The Times than in any other printing-office, and it bore in a very important manner on the question of barrack accommodation, and which might be corroborated by the statistical evidence of eminent medical men, who attributed to defective ventilation much of the excessive mortality and sickness in the army. The night duties of the police were far more severe than those of the soldier, a constable's period of duty being from ten p. m. to six the next morning every night in the week; yet the mortality among the Household Cavalry was 1 1–3 times in the Dragoons 1½ times, in the infantry of the Line twice, and in the Foot Guards more than twice, greater than among the police. The miners, too, presented a much more favourable result than the army. It had been said that much of the mortality among our troops was attributable to cold, but he had had placed in his hands by Dr. Guy a most able paper upon the statistics of mortality among the firemen of the metropolis, who were greatly exposed to alternations of heat and cold and other trying vicissitudes, more than the soldiers leaving their overheated and close guard-rooms, after, for reasons known only to the military authorities, and unintelligible to laymen, passing half the night there in their great coats, instead of putting them on like other people on going out into the cold air. The mortality, however, of the firemen was only as seven per thousand, and this included deaths by accident, which in spite of the hazardous nature of the employment were rare. Hence it might fairly be inferred that the night duty of the soldiers alone was quite inadequate to account for the excessive mortality amongst them; and the statistics of sickness in the Crimea contradicted the supposition, because the duty there was very much more severe, and the troops were exposed to a cold much more intense than that of England, and yet the number of deaths from consumption was only 116, whereas the deaths from pneumonia, bronchitis, and pleurisy was about four times the amount. In England the deaths from consumption and tubercular disease enormously preponderate, and were about ten times as great as those arising from disease resulting from the action of intense cold on healthy persons, and therefore they were bound to seek elsewhere than in mere exposure to cold for the cause of the immense proportion of the mortality resulting from consumption. When they analyzed this mortality they found that the number of deaths from consumption alone in the army, exclusive of invaliding, was actually somewhat greater per thousand than that of all the deaths from all causes, in the general population, of the United Kingdom, though swelled by rejected recruits and moribund invalids. The deaths annually front all causes was under ten per 1000 in the population of England. The deaths in the infantry of the Line serving at home were, from chest and tubercular diseases, upwards of 10 per 1000, the total deaths being within a fraction of 18 per 1000; while the deaths from chest and tubercular diseases in the population generally were about 4½ per 1000. The question was, whence arose this frightful scourge amongst so naturally strong and healthy body of men? Various modes of accounting for it had been given. He had disproved the idea that exposure to the cold or night duty alone were sufficient causes. It had been suggested that drinking was one cause and demoralization the other. But as to drinking, the evidence of Mr. Neilson, with reference to the rarity of delirium tremens, of nervous disorders and diseases of the digestive organs, afforded a strong primâ facie case against drinking being the great cause of disease in the army. Indeed, he could not help thinking that from a desire to avoid the true cause of the disease, there had been a great disposition amongst medical men to exaggerate the extent to which drinking habits prevailed in the army. Moreover, drunkenness when off duty was treated in the British army as a grave offence, but in the French service it was not regarded in that light, and therefore the great number of soldiers who had obtained increased pay for good conduct, and the generally exemplary behaviour of the men in our army, ought to exonerate them from such an imputation. Then with regard to the other cause alluded to, it should be observed that in the Artillery, where the mortality was little more than two-thirds what it was in the line, the admissions to the hospital on account of diseases arising from immorality, was somewhat higher than the case of the Guards. The main cause of the excessive mortality was the bad sanitary accommodation given in barracks, and therefore, by removing that bad sanitary accommodation, we might hope to remove the cause of so much suffering, of so much cost to the nation, and of so much diminution in the efficiency of the ermy. Experiments which had been tried upon animals, and verified in their results by frequent observations, went to show that over-crowding, with deficient ventilation, was quite sufficient to induce consumption and tubercular disease among the healthiest subjects. He held in his hand a Return, from which it appeared that in a very considerable number of barracks in the United Kingdom the average space per man was under 400 cubic feet; in twenty-six barracks it was under 300 cubic feet; and in some others it was very much lower than that. There were ten hospitals with an average of less than 400 cubic feet a man, and in five hospitals the average was actually less than 300 cubic feet. With regard to the barracks in the Colonies, the accounts he hail received from various quarters, together with the graphic description given by die late General Sir Charles Napier, of barrack accommodation in India in his time, left no doubt on his (Viscount Ebrington's) mind that, if such a state of things as had been disclosed before the Commission on the Sanitary State of the Army could be permitted to exist at home, under the very eyes of the military authorities, the, circumstances must be much worse in India and in the Colonies. He hoped that much had been done to remedy the frightful state of things in India as described by General Sir Charles Napier. Defective ventilation in hot climates was almost certain death, and the evidence of Sir Charles Napier on the subject was conclusive as to its destructive consequences. The description of barracks in India, as drawn by that gallant Officer, was a harrowing picture of the sufferings of British troops in foreign stations. In one case Sir Charles Napier reported that instead of putting two regiments into a barrack, which when so occupied as prescribed by the Military Board, had proved a perfect charnel house, he only put the wing of a regiment, and the result was most satisfactory. In fact, it turned out that whereas in one year almost a whole regiment had been cut off there, in the following one there was an average of only twenty-nine sick out of 1,054 men, and not one of them from climate. Equally striking effects had been produced in Jamaica, by the steps taken by Lord Metcalfe, to diminish the overcrowding of barracks in Jamaica. There was a want of decency as well as of engineering skill displayed in the arrangements connected with both hospitals and barracks in this country; and the low standard of comfort and convenience recognized in the military as distinguished from the civil hospitals in the kingdom was also remarkable. He had had some experience with regard to workhouses, and he unhesitatingly said that the average standard of workhouse accommodation in this country was enormously superior to that which was given to our brave soldiers. Not only was there a larger allowance of cubic feet per man in the dormitories in the former than in the latter instance, but in the workhouse a day room was always insisted upon, while it was scarcely ever found in the barracks. No workhouse was without a warm bath; but he knew it for a fact that no warm bath had been given in the Plymouth Hospital for some years, on account of the labour of filling the place, ten feet square, which there served as a bath; and he might observe generally that nothing struck him so much in going through the military hospitals as the contrast that existed between the appliances and comforts of civil and those of military hospitals. He now turned with satisfaction to the second part of his Motion, which declared— That this House has viewed with satisfaction the efforts of successive Governments, aided by Parliamentary grants, to improve the moral, intellectual, and physical condition of the British soldier, and is encouraged by the happy results of such efforts and grants to hope much from a continuance and further extension of the same. It was only a short time since double tiers of beds had been abolished, ventilation improved, libraries, racket-courts, and other means for improving and preserving the health of the soldier, afforded to him; and great results had followed this wise, kind, and in the end economical expenditure. The third paragraph of his Motion declared— That much still remains to be done with regard to barrack accommodation: firstly, for its increase, with a view to the discontinuance, as far as may be, of the present practice of billeting as being alike oppressive to the civilian and demoralizing to the soldier; and, secondly, for it, improvement, both with a view to the healthy accommodation of the troops in general and to the decent accommodation of the married soldier. After the debates which had recently taken place with respect to the ill effects of billeting in Scotland, he need not dwell upon its oppressive character with respect to civilians, and he believed that all military men were agreed as to its tendency to demoralize the soldier. It was particularly distasteful to the embodied militia, and he knew that in the case of the Devonshire militia, that the fact of their being billeted instead of in barracks materially increased the difficulty of recruiting. He had already detained the House too long, and he felt some scruples on bringing forward this subject after the debate which had occurred on the previous evening, and he would only express a hope that the House would agree to the last paragraph of his Motion— That, in the opinion of this House, such increase and improvement are imperatively called for, not less by good policy and true economy than by justice and humanity. Indeed to obtain their consent, it was only necessary for him to call attention to the cost of our troops. He believed that no one would put the cost of a well-trained soldier at less than £100. Now, between the ages of twenty and forty, six out of every ten men in the army were removed by death or being invalided. The number that would be removed if the disease and mortality were only in the same proportion as in the civil population, would be only four out of ten. It was evident that by the excessive proportionate mortality in the army we sacrificed a large sum expended in the preparation and training of the soldier, while we also diminished the number of veteran troops, and caused an undue proportion of our army to be com- posed of recruits. He called upon the House therefore, on every ground, of policy, economy, justice, and humanity, to resolve that the state of things which had existed should exist no longer; that a system so costly, and so injurious to the reputation of that House, of the Government, and indeed of the country, should be at once abolished; that an entirely new system should be from this time forth established in its stead. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Resolutions.


said, he yielded to no man in a desire to see the soldier well cared for, as he thought the truest policy with regard to the soldier was to make him comfortable. If he understood the object of the noble Lord it was to increase barrack accommodation, and have a smaller number of men than at present allotted to each room, although he had not sketched out any precise plan for remedying the evils he complained of. There was no doubt that of late years the accommodation to the soldier in barracks had been greatly increased. He could remember when soldiers lay two in a bed, and even in barracks in this metropolis slept in berths, ranged one above another. All this was now changed, and the late Duke of Wellington had himself planned barracks, which had been built in London, and allotted the space which each man was to have; and among other changes, iron bedsteads had been substituted for wooden ones. The admirable Report of the Commission presided over by the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) did not state the comparative mortality of the married and unmarried soldiers; but it was well known that the mortality of the married men was not to be compared with that of the unmarried. The better accommodation provided for the married man had no doubt much to do with this result. He differed from the noble Lord in his statement that he did not think the night duties of the soldier was a cause of the mortality. Now, he believed it was the cause of time mortality which existed, and when the noble Lord instanced members of different trades and said they had more night work than soldiers had, he would suggest that, though they might have more night work, they had less night duty and were less exposed to out-of-doors service in all weathers. He thought also that the injurious effect of night-duty was much aggravated by the fact of the soldier's watch being broken into two or three periods. In the intervals they lay about the guardroom in their accoutrements, and therefore could not, like the policemen, get any refreshing repose. Of late years they had been increasing the soldier's comforts, giving him racket-courts and lavatories, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) had taken great pains in the improvement of barracks, especially in giving to the married soldier most desirable accommodation. The army was also much indebted to the noble Lord for bringing this subject before the House, and also to the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), who had taken great pains to add to the soldier's comforts. He hoped, however, the House would not run away pith the idea that the want of cubical space was die cause of the bad sanitary condition of barracks. Everybody knew the temptations to which soldiers were subjected, and they often suffered from disease which, not being early discovered, injured their constitutions materially. The mortality among the Sappers and Miners and Engineers, which was not noticed by the Sanitary Commissioners, was, he believed, very much less than that in any other regiment in the service. This result lie attributed to the fact that the men were kept employed from morning to night; in addition to which they had not one-tenth part of the night duty which devolved upon the Guards or the Line. The cavalry, again, were much more healthy than the infantry, which proceeded in a great degree, he believed, from the severer employment to which they were subjected, though the rooms in cavalry were generally less lofty than those in infantry barracks. If the views of the noble Lord were put to the test, hon. Members must be prepared either to diminish the force, or to increase the sum spent upon the barracks, but he feared that even then the result to which the noble Lord so kindly looked forward would hardly be attained.


said, he rose chiefly to state a few facts relative to the comparison made by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone between the police and the Brigade of Guards. He had that morning received a letter from a medical officer of the Guards, which seemed to show that that comparison was not quite to be trusted. The number of time men in the two forces was much the same, so that time ratio of mortality ought also to be nearly equal. In the first place, however, the greater part of the police were married, and their pay allowed them to live in comfortable houses. Then, any policeman might retire from the service if he found it too laborious, by giving a month's notice, while a soldier was unable to leave until he had completed his term or was invalided. Then all the bad characters and drunkards were at once dismissed from the police force, and no policeman was punished by imprisonment. The commanding officer of a regiment of Guards, however, could not get rid of his bad soldiers in this summary way, but they were imprisoned, and kept to hard labour on low diet, and came back to duty seriously deteriorated in health and constitution. The number of men discharged from the police force, as he was informed, was about twenty-five men a week, so that in twelve months it required 1,300 men to keep up a force of 6,000. Now, the Guards required only 623 men, instead of 1,300, and it was therefore very clear, as the medical officer to whom he was referring observed, that if the Guards were to invalid their unhealthy men and drunkards as the police did, the deaths would be very much reduced, and would probably exceed very little those of the police. According to table F. b, in the appendix to the Report of the Sanitary Commission, there were at the end of a given term of years 3,521 men in the brigade of Foot Guards of twenty-one years' service and upwards; whereas in the whole of the Line under the same circumstances there were only 3,135.


said, that the preservation of the soldier's health was a question which commended itself to the attention of the House on grounds alike of economy and of humanity. His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief recently complained that he could not get money from that House even for repairing the barracks. But the amount of money voted for soldiers' barracks during the last three years was most extraordinary. During the last thirty-four years no less a sum than £7,500,000 had been expended for this purpose, and more than £3,500,000 of that sum had been expended during the last three or four years. It was said that night duty interfered with the health of the soldiers, and the late Minister for War had suggested that the night duty of the Foot Guards should be performed by policemen. He was sure that the present Minister for War, who was a soldier, had never entertained such a thought. He had seen in the newspapers that a splendid pavilion had been erected in the midst of the camp at Aldershot for Her Majesty and the Court, which would allow them to pass many days and nights there, and also enable Her Majesty to entertain the officers. It was a new thing fur a Sovereign of England to live in a pavilion in the midst of a soldiers' camp; but if it were Her Majesty's wish to have a pavilion at Aldershot, he was sure the House would not object to vote the money fur it. To erect such a pavilion, however, with the money voted for the use of the soldier was unpardonable, and some explanation ought to be given by the Secretary to the Treasury or the Minister for War on the subject. He was as ready as any man to provide for the comfort and health of the soldier, but he disliked extravagance, and he trusted that if the House voted any future sums for the accommodation of the troops, it would be properly applied.


said, he wished to tender the thanks of the army to the noble Lord who had brought this subject under consideration. He believed that the night duty had a great deal to do with the mortality of the Foot Guards, and that their sleeping in wet clothes was the cause of much illness. It might be a heresy on his part, but he could not understand why soldiers should not be allowed to take off their greatcoats in the guardroom. Of course, they could not be allowed to go without their accoutrements, as it was necessary to prevent a surprise. He was acquainted with very few guardrooms where there were the means of hanging up greatcoats. He was confident that his Royal Highness the Commander in Chief had spoken the truth on the occasion referred to by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams). No one understood the wants of the soldier better than his Royal Highness, and it was equally certain that he did not possess the power to remedy one of the wants that his Royal Highness had pointed out. His Royal Highness, in fact, was only the medium of communication between the officers of the army and the Secretary for War.


did not rise to address the House upon the details of barrack arrangements. He took it for granted that the representations of the noble Lord were all true, but he would submit that, although the improvement of barrack accommodation might be the right thing to do, there was a right time in which to do it. If £3,000,000 had been voted for this purpose during the last three or four years, a large amount of barrack accommodation must have been given, and it would be well to try how far the best system had been adopted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been told that he had pretty easily lifted the House over the stile of the financial difficulty, but the House had found it necessary to impose a new tax in order to raise a sum of £200,000, and with wars abroad and great expenses for recruiting at home, the present was scarcely the right time for any large outlay.


said, that having been a Member of the Barrack Accommodation Committee of 1855, he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) that he was under a mistake in supposing that £3,000,000 had been spent upon increased barrack accommodation during the last three or four years. That sum had been spent upon the emergency caused by the breaking out of the Russian war, in providing accommodation for a large body of troops near the Metropolis, and in constructing huts and barracks in Aldershot and elsewhere. He must do the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) the justice to say that he had done all in his power when in office to ameliorate the condition of the soldier. The barracks in many parts of the kingdom were placed in the centre of populous districts, and were in most unhealthy and inappropriate situations. He recommended that those barracks should be sold—for, as many of them were in the midst of large towns, the sites which they occupied were of considerable value—and that new barracks should be provided outside the towns, which would afford more convenient accommodation for troops and ample space for their exercise. The Committee of 1855 recommended that architects should be called upon to send in designs for improved barracks. The suggestion was adopted, and plans were sent in; but he had not heard that any barracks had been built upon the plan which had been approved. He believed that the unhealthiness of the existing barracks was mainly attributable to defective ventilation and want of sufficient space; and it was utterly impossible that a large number of persons, who were constantly eating and sleeping in the same rooms, could be in a very healthy condition. He hoped, therefore, that the Motion of the noble Lord would receive the assent of the House.


remarked, that the arrangements with reference to barrack accommodation should not be left so completely as they were at present to the Ordnance Department, but that officers connected with the line and the cavalry ought to be consulted on the subject. He believed that, if the Barrack and Hospital Commissioners had a voice in the matter, not only would the health and comfort of the soldier be materially promoted, but there would be a considerable saving of public money. He was sure the House would greatly regret the calamity which had prevented the noble Lord (Viscount Ebrington) from devoting his attention more closely to this subject, especially as that calamity was occasioned by his zealous endeavours to ameliorate the condition of our soldiers.


said, that the Report of the Sanitary Commissioners attributed the great mortality among the troops chiefly to defective ventilation and bad drainage; and, unless proper principles were laid down for the construction of barracks, the complaints which now existed would be renewed in ten years' time. He might remind the House that, notwithstanding the rapid strides of science in most departments, the science of ventilation was at a standstill. Why, when they first got into that House, there were constant complaints of the draughts of hot and cold air by which they were alternately inconvenienced; but although Committees and Commissions were appointed to devise the best means of ventilation, their inquiries were not attended with much success. Thousands and tens of thousands of pounds had been spent upon the ventilation of the Houses of Parliament. When that House was first occupied, there was not a window in it that would open; the air breathed by hon. Members was entirely artificial, and was pumped up by some machinery, coming across the Thames on one side, and across the graveyard of St. Margaret's church on the other. He would ask whether they were now breathing sound and good air? He knew that hon. Members were constantly complaining of the sufferings to which they were subjected from remaining in the impure atmosphere of that House. He thought, then, that if all the scientific men whose services had been at the command of different Governments had failed to give them perfect ventilation in that House, the Engineer officers could not be blamed because they had not succeeded in providing perfect ventilation in the barracks. Millions of money had been spent upon drainage in this Metropolis, and yet an efficient system of drainage had not been established. Could the officers of the Engineer corps, then, be justly blamed if their endeavours to drain the various barracks of the kingdom had not been entirely successful? He must tell the House that soldiers were a class of men with whom, in matters of this kind, it was difficult to deal. As long as the non-commissioned officers were in the room, the windows were kept open; but when they left, the soldiers shut the windows and prevented ventilation. Therefore, there was a great fault on the part of the soldiers themselves. He merely rose to vindicate the conduct of the Engineer corps, the members of which were not so guilty as the Report would seem to imply.


said, he was sure that the House felt much indebted to his noble Friend for his clear and interesting speech. No man had devoted an intelligent, active, and far-seeing mind to a subject of great importance with more success than his noble Friend had in treating of the matter he had brought under the consideration of the House, and it must be evident to everybody that the accommodation which his noble Friend wished to provide was one of the highest importance to the public service. When they were told that they ought not to spend money in improving the barracks because they were engaged in expensive operations of another kind, he could not say that that argument had any force on his mind, because it was demonstrable that the money spent in improving barrack accommodation was money spent for the most economical purpose, in promoting the efficiency of the army and in taking care, as they were bound to do, of those brave men who were engaged in the service of the country. While, on the one hand, his noble Friend had pointed out the methods by which they might prevent the continuance of the evils adverted to by his noble Friend, yet, on the other, he did not think that any blame could attach to those Departments of the Service by which those evils had not hitherto been set perfectly right. They must all remember that, strange as it might appear, considering the progress of science in every department, it was only within a few years that mankind had found out that oxygen and pure air were really conducive to the well-being of the body. It must be remembered that not only had the troops been victims from ignorance in that matter, but the Members of the Legislature had been as great sufferers as the troops from the neglect of the commonest principles of science. Those hon. Gentlemen who, like himself, had had experience of the earlier House of Commons must remember the sufferings endured by Members from the vitiated and pestiferous atmosphere which they were doomed to breathe, and which he ventured to say was the cause of the death of many hon. Members. The hon. and gallant Officer said that the atmosphere of the present House was complained of. He believed that he had spent more hours in that House of late years than any other Member, and he could only say that his health had not suffered. He always quoted that House as a proof of scientific ventilation, for he thought that the atmosphere of the House, considering the number of persons assembled in it, constituted a triumph of skill in respect to ventilation. He thought that if the barracks could be supplied with as good air as that House was, the efficiency of the army would be immensely improved. It might be true that night duty in the case of soldiers was attended with injury to the health of the men, especially if the men remained with their greatcoats on in the guard room, and, when in a state of perspiration, went out and had the perspiration checked by the cold. But circumstances like that admitted of correction, and he hoped that, the attention of the military departments being directed to the matter, some simple remedy would be devised. He knew that in consequence of suggestions made to Viscount Hardinge, that nobleman provided sentry boxes with additional coats to be put on by the men on duty,—a precaution imitated from arrangements made in the French service; and the right hon. and gallant General would be able to tell the House whether that arrangement was continued. He hoped that the Resolution of his noble Friend would be agreed to. Much might be done by improvements apparently of no great importance, because, if they could not increase the cubical space of the barracks, they might by judicious arrangements, introduce into them a quantity of good air, and allow the bad air to escape. He trusted that if the House adopted the Motion of his noble Friend, that would be considered by the Government as indicating a desire that greater attention should be paid to the arrangements and improvements of old barracks and new barracks.


said, that, after what the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had said with respect to the good economy of an outlay for the improvement of barrack accommodation, he should not refer to the objections which had been urged against it, but he wished to say a few words in reference to sonic objections which had been raised to the Report of the Sanitary Commision. He had no wish to take any exception to the statements made by the officers of the Guards, who thought that the statistics on which the Commission stated the mortality of the Guards were erroneous or exaggerated; but lie was bound to say in justice to Dr. Balfour and Sir A. Tulloch that, now that the Guards had made their own returns, so far from those statistics being impugned they were confirmed. Having been exposed to this severe test, the accuracy of the statistics stood beyond exception. The return made by the Guards was perfectly fair, and made the mortality certainly slightly larger than the Commission made it, but that might be accounted for in this manner—the Commission adopted the army statistics laid on the table of the House, which made the annual mortality of the Guards 19.15 per 1,000, and the Officers made it 19.45. The difference arose in this way—that the Guards included eighteen men returned from Canada, whom Sir A. Tulloch and A. Balfour excepted, because they did not consider them to be fair instances of the effect of duty in the Guards, as they were sent home on account of ill health contracted abroad. Nothing could be fairer than the return of the Guards, because they put down one man as having died of old age, and on inquiry he found that the man was only fifty-nine years of age, which was not commonly considered a very old age to die of, but he believed the man died of apoplexy. The return, however, produced by the Guards was most valuable, and further inquiry might be instituted into it with great advantage. There were three regiments of Guards doing identically the same duty, enlisted On the same principle, invalided on the same principle, inhabiting the same barracks, and performing the same night duty. He could not find any difference in those respects between the three regiments, but the mortality differed widely. In the Grenadiers the mortality was larger than in the Coldstreams, and it was smallest of all in the Fusileers. The late Secretary to the Commission divided the period over which this mortality extended into three distinct parts, and the result which came out as a matter of figures was worth attending to. With respect to the Grenadiers, the mortality in the first period was 21 and a fraction, in the second period 23 and a fraction, and in the third the same as in the first, 21 and a fraction. In the Coldstreams the mortality was, in the first period, 19 and a fraction, and in the two last periods 18 and a fraction each, that fraction diminishing as the time went on. In the Fusileers the mortality in the first period was 23; in the middle period 18, and at the end 15, lower considerably than the average of the Line. He had tried to ascertain how that could be accounted for, the duty and the barracks being the same for all, and it would be most desirable to ascertain whether it arose from any internal discipline, or any arrangement depending on the commanding officers, or from any difference in the origin or the habits of the soldiers. He thought it was important to search further and see what was the cause of this great difference. This led him to remark that there was a great want of an organized statistical department of the medical board. Hitherto the statistics had been, in a manner beyond all praise, drawn up by two gentlemen unconnected with the department, and they gave their time and labour fur the love of the service. The hon. and gallant Officer said that in their Report the Commissioners had drawn inaccurate conclusions as to the police. He thought he could show the contrary; but with regard to these statements, he did not stand out for the accuracy of every one of them. If they had had more time they might have come to still more accurate conclusions, but he thought it important that they should bring their labours to an end in time to commence practical operations. It was proved that the mortality was great and that it could be reduced. He cordially agreed with his noble Friend (Viscount Ebrington) who said, "Never mind who is to blame provided you can trace the causes in a way to remedy them." The Commissioners did not say that it was all owing to the barracks, or to intemperance and debauchery, or to night duty. To any one of those matters singly, charging the whole mortality together upon it, there was an irrefragable answer. Eminent and ingenious men told them that there was no intemperance in the army. It was found that among intemperate classes—especially in Scotland, where he was sorry to say intemperate classes abounded—a large proportion of deaths arose from diseases of the nervous and digestive, especially the nervous organs, and that deaths to a very small extent occurred in the army from those causes. But to say that there was no intemperance in the army was absurd, because they knew that there was a great deal of intemperance in the army. Another curious fact was that the deaths from nervous diseases in the Life Guards were to a far greater amount than in the Foot Guards; but every one knew that there was more intemperance among the Foot Guards than among the Life Guards. These things were likely to mislead. The great disease which destroyed the army was consumption, and it was easily to be understood that intemperate persons might perish from other causes long before there was any chance of their dying as a result of intemperance by disease of the nervous organs. Another statement which had been made was that cubic space and overcrowding had nothing to do with the mortality; but that it was entirely owing to the want of exercise. No doubt exercise was an important thing and the case of the Sappers and Miners was a strong illustration of this. Their barracks were not so good as those of the others; but they took a degree of exercise which no other troops took, and were healthy in proportion. The reason, however, why the Commissioners laid great stress in their Report upon the question of cubic space was that, while intemperance could not be got at very easily, and could only be effected gradually by moral influence, cubic space was a question of bricks and mortar, and they could give it to-morrow morning if they liked to put their hands in their pockets. If it were the case that cubic apace was immaterial, no man had been done greater injustice to than Shah Soojah Dowlah, who killed a number of people by putting them in the Black Hole at Calcutta. It was not a bad room, but it was overcrowded. According, however, to the theory of space being immaterial, and exercise everything, if he had only put a treadwheel in with them so that they might have had plenty of exercise the people confined in it would have turned out perfectly healthy the next morning. His noble Friend had alluded to two or three points quoted by Dr. Guy. He would mention another. Dr. Guy had taken all the printers and divided them into classes—those who lived in a space of 300 cubic feet, those in 500, and those in 600 and upwards. He then ascertained that the number of men who had inflammation, spitting of blood, or some disease of the lungs, rose and fell exactly in proportion to the number of cubic feet in which they lived. He hoped that the agreement of both sides of the House upon the subject would lead to some practical conclusion. He said last night, and he repeated it again, that he had received the most cordial support from his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War, and in a very few days he hoped to be in a position to lay before him a report of the Commissioners on the London and some adjoining barracks, pointing out the means of putting them in a comparatively healthy state. It was absurd to suppose that they could carry on improvements upon an enormous scale without considerable expense, but they could not do anything so extravagant as to kill good men whom they had trained at a great expense. He believed he was right in assuming that his right hon. and gallant Friend would not oppose this Motion, and he thanked his noble Friend for having brought it forward in the efficient manlier in which he had introduced it to the House.


said, that not only every military man, but every one who had the welfare of the army at heart, was indebted to the noble Lord for having brought the subject before the attention of the House. He was perfectly certain that the more it was discussed, the more completely would the evils be remedied, and so far from objecting to the Resolution, although he did not think it necessary after what occurred last night, he believed it would strengthen the Government in that which they were now doing. He could only repeat what he said last night, that he thought he was taking a wise and practical course in taking up the question where he found it. His attention was drawn to the report of the Sanitary Commission. He inquired what steps had been taken to remedy the evils which they pointed out. He was told that a Commission, at the head of which was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert), had been appointed by his predecessor, Lord Panmure, and he was waiting until that Commission reported, when he should call upon the House to carry into effect the remedies which they suggested. He had given every facility to his right hon. Friend to make some small changes preparatory to a general plan, and he believed the House would be ready to carry out everything which could be provided to be of benefit to the army, for he could not agree with those who said the fault lay with that blouse. An hon. Gentleman opposite had pointed out that the plans of the Barrack Committee which sat in 1855, had not been carried out. The reason was, that barracks at Portsmouth only had been erected since that time, and it was necessary in that instance to construct them in connection with the fortifications. He was aware that it would be necessary, not only to improve the barracks, but to make many other improvements which might tend to improve the health and comfort of the soldier. He had done duty in every barrack in London, and it was surprising how great had been the improvements which of late years had been made in them. There was no doubt that further improvements were necessary, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman nothing would give hint greater pleasure than submitting to the House the recommendations of the Commission. The Report was promised in a few days, and no time should be lost in taking it into consideration.


said, he wished to remind the House that the Report of Dr. Balfour referred to the author of the army, not to the military authorities, as an hon. Gentleman had quoted in the course of this discussion. He had himself been for seventeen years in the Guards, and the subject of the mortality there prevailing had received his constant and most anxious attention. He had observed as a curious circumstance, which did not appear to have received from others the attention it deserved, that the mortality amongst the men of six feet in height, of which there were two entire companies in his regiment, very largely exceeded that of the central companies which were composed of short square men about 5 feet 9 inches. Now, it had been attempted to establish a comparison between the mortality of the police and of the Guards. There was no fair parallel, he contended, between the two, inasmuch as the soldiers were enlisted at the precarious age of eighteen, whereas the police entered the force at the more advanced age of twenty.


said, he was glad to find that there was at last courage enough on the Treasury Bench to come down and ask the House of Commons for the money which was wanted to improve barrack accommodation. He thought that to put the barracks into a healthy state they must double the quantity of accommodation, for instead of 500 cubic feet per man there was now only 200 and 300, whilst prisoners in gaols had 1,000 feet. He also wished to press upon the Government the desirability of attending more to the comforts of the soldier in the construction of the barracks, and of taking some pains to throw something of the air of home about his room. In any future arrangements which might be made it would be of great advantage if one or two large rooms were attached to each barrack which could be used as day rooms. In several instances where this experiment had been tried it had been attended with the most satisfactory result in respect to the health and comfort of the soldier. He might also mention that at present in a barrack-room there was not even a place for soldiers to lock up their things, whilst in every foreign barrack each soldier had a cupboard over his bed.


said, he wished to remind the House that many excellent plans had already been submitted to the authorities on this subject, but their existence appeared to have been ignored. He trusted they would be made some use of, as, if it was objected to them that they would involve too much expense, he would remind them that those plans had been framed upon specifications furnished by the Government then in office. He thought it also a great injustice to the Gentlemen, who had prepared them, for the highest reward given for them was only £200, which would not pay fur the labour they had cost. The barracks were such places that they would not put their paupers in them, and he hoped that the plans which had been sent in would be looked over, that some effectual improvement might be made in the accommodation for the soldiers.


said, the reason why no barracks had been built according to the plans referred to by the hon. and gallant Member was that, with the exception of one at Dover and another at Portsmouth, none had been commenced since the Report of the Commission. The speech of the Secretary for War was most satisfactory; the House was unanimous; and he was sure they were all ready to express their gratitude to the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone for the able manner in which he had brought the subject forward. But his object in rising was to suggest to the Secretary for War one mode of getting rid of the pecuniary difficulty. Many of the existing barracks were so badly situated and so small in size that they were utterly useless, and could not be made available for military purposes. The suggestion he had to make was that the Secretary for War should get a list of those which never could be occupied, and sell them at once. By that means he would be able to raise a considerable sum of money applicable to the improvement of those barracks which might be used, and to the erection of new ones.


said, he wished to call attention to the state of the citadel barracks at Plymouth. Those barracks were estimated to accommodate 1,100 men, but a third of the space consisted of casemates, which were so badly ventilated that it was impossible for men to live in them with any degree of comfort.


said, he had to thank the House for the favourable manner in which it had received his Resolutions, and hoped that the discussion which had taken place would accelerate the movement for the improvement of barracks. 1. Resolved, That the long-continued excessive mortality of the British Army has been mainly caused by the bad sanitary condition of their barrack accommodation. 2. Resolved, That this House has viewed with satisfaction the efforts of successive Governments, aided by Parliamentary grants, to improve the moral, intellectual, and physical condition of the British soldier, and is encouraged by the happy results of such efforts and grants to hope much from a continuance and further extension of the same. 3. Resolved, That much still remains to be done with regard to barrack accommodation; firstly, for its increase, with a view to the discontinuance, as far as may be, of the present practice of billeting, as being alike oppressive to the civilian and demoralizing to the soldier; and, secondly, for its improvement, both with a view to the healthy accommodation of the troops in general, and to the decent accommodation of the married soldier. 4. Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, such increase and improvement are imperatively called for, not less by good policy and true economy than by justice and humanity.