HC Deb 28 November 1867 vol 190 cc337-9

said, he would beg to ask a Question of the Secretary of State for War, respecting the reported conveyance of a regiment past Plymouth to disembark at Portsmouth, and its re-conveyance by railway from Portsmouth to Plymouth; and to inquire whether this was due to any absence of proper arrangement between the War Department and the India Office?


was understood to say that the facts were quite true, but he was not prepared to admit that there was any want of proper arrangement. There was something about it he was not able to understand, and which required an explanation. Perhaps the Question ought rather to be addressed to the First Lord of the Admiralty than to himself. In all cases Indian transports landed at Portsmouth. He could not help thinking that some arrangement ought to exist by which such an occurrence as that referred to ought to be avoided.


Perhaps, Sir, I may be allowed to refer, in connection with this subject, to the Report of a Committee of this House which sat in 1861. At their recommendation the question of the Indian transport service was referred to a Departmental Committee composed of officials belonging to the Admiralty, the War Office, and the India Office. In their recommendation I find the following paragraph:— We recommend that the troop ship pier in Her Majesty's dockyard, Portsmouth, be the point of departure and arrival in this country, and it is believed that every facility exists at that port to insure despatch in the embarkation and disembarkation of troops, and in coaling and equipping the two ships. One of the reasons for this recommendation was this—The Indian transport service is always conducted in the winter months, when westerly gales are very prevalent at Plymouth. In these gales it is difficult to move long ships from the Sound into Hamoaze without risk; and the consequence would be that if, at the time of arrival, these gales prevailed the troops would either be landed in steam tugs, perhaps in rainy weather, to the great inconvenience of officers and men, and of their wives and children, and possibly to the injury of their health, or else remain on board till the gale subsided. That would not only be most objectionable, but it might be fatal to the proper conduct of the service; because the time allowed between the arrival from Alexandria and the departure for Alexandria is so short that it is with the greatest difficulty that the dockyard at Portsmouth can effect the repairs which are always necessary on the return of the ships from so long a voyage. The result of putting into Plymouth might be entirely to dislocate the whole scheme of the Indian transport, and I am informed by the Director of Transports that if allowance had to be made for three or four days' delay at Plymouth it would be requisite to build a spare ship in order that the service might be carried on with the requisite punctuality. I need not say that it would be rather more expensive to build an additional ship than to pay for conveying the troops from Portsmouth to Plymouth.


said, he wished to know, whether it was the case that, although the troops were landed at Portsmouth last Friday or Saturday morning, their luggage was not conveyed to Plymouth till yesterday?


said, he would beg to ask, why the 4th Hussars were lately sent from Exeter to Portsmouth?


said, he would answer these Questions to-morrow.