HC Deb 21 February 1868 vol 190 cc1006-7

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is the fact that the 86th Regiment having been detained on its way to the Mauritius at Algoa Bay, owing to the prevalence of fever in that island, was ordered on with instructions not to land unless the fever had abated; that on its arrival there in Her Majesty's Ship Tamar on the 27th of December last the authorities of the island met and decided that the fever being then on the increase the regiment ought not to be landed; that the Regiment was landed on the 28th of December, and that fever is now spreading amongst the troops? What are the circumstances that justify the landing of the said regiment at the Mauritius, or that demand the presence of European troops in that island during the prevalence of fever there; and, whether it is the fact that, by reason of this fever, of two companies of Engineers lately stationed there but sixty men remained, and of the entire force of Artillery but 100, and that the 13th Regiment also suffered most severely from the same cause?


said, in reply, that the 86th Regiment had been sent from Gibraltar to the Mauritius last summer, but on arriving at the Cape of Good Hope was detained there in consequence of a serious epidemic then prevailing in the Mauritius. The military authorities here had sent orders to the General commanding at the Cape not to allow the regiment to proceed until he had received intelligence from the Mauritius that it might be done safely. Instructions had been also sent to the General in command at the Mauritius that he was to send to the Cape to have the regiment come off when he thought the epidemic had subsided. In the month of October General Milman, who commanded in the Mauritius, thought that the fever had so far subsided that there was no danger, and he sent word to the Cape to that effect. As soon as a transport could be obtained the 86th were sent on, and they arrived on the 27th of December. But, in the meantime, the epidemic had broken out again, and assumed a very grave aspect in the town of St. Louis. Accordingly, when the regiment arrived, it became a matter for very serious consideration whether it could be safely allowed to land. A consultation was held between the General and the principal Medical Officer, and they decided that the regiment ought not to land. The surgeon of the regiment expressed in writing a very strong opinion that the regiment ought to go back to the Cape. That opinion was communicated to the Colonel, but he remonstrated so strongly, solely on the grounds of discomfort and inconvenience in being sent back, that the General changed his mind and allowed the men to land. He, however, took the precaution of sending the regiment as soon as possible to the out-stations, and dispersed the men in the more healthy parts of the island. The result was that up to the 17th of January, three weeks after the landing, only twenty-five cases of disease had occurred, and he was happy to add that no death had taken place. Still he thought it his duty to know why it was that the Colonel of the regiment pressed that the regiment should be allowed to land, and why the General changed his mind and suffered the regiment to incur so great a risk. As far as he knew the facts he felt bound to say that the landing was not justified. He was happy to state that with regard to the Artillery and the Engineers the case was not so serious as the hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose. He found—speaking of what had occurred in the Mauritius—that up to the 17th of last month, only ten deaths had taken place in the Royal Engineers, and only two in the Royal Artillery. In the 13th Regiment, which had returned to this country last July, no great loss of life had occurred.