HC Deb 02 July 1868 vol 193 cc517-9

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, If his attention has been called to the following paragraph in the Hants Telegraph:— The steamer Princess of Wales, belonging to the Port of Portsmouth and Ryde Steam Packet Company, left Southsea Pier on Thursday morning, at half-past nine o'clock, on her passage to Ryde. When opposite Fort Monckton a shot passed between the foremast and the jib stay, causing considerable consternation among the passengers, many of whom were so frightened that they laid down upon the deck. This occurrence will serve to show the immense amount of danger resulting from the shot practice at this fort, for if the shots had struck the vessel beneath the water line, the probability is that she would have been sunk, and that many lives would have been sacrificed; and, if that statement be true, whether measures have been taken to prevent the recurrence of a practice so dangerous to the lives of Her Majesty's subjects?


said, in reply, that as soon as the statement to which the question referred appeared in the newspapers, a communication was sent to the Assistant Adjutant General at Portsmouth, desiring him to inquire into and report upon the facts; and he now held in his hand the answer returned by Lieutenant Colonel Peel, which was as follows:—. Portsmouth, July 1. Sir,—In accordance with instructions received in your telegram of this day's date, I have the honour to forward for the information of his Royal Highness Commanding-in-Chief the accompanying statements of Lieutenant Colonel Lovell, R.A., and Captain Girardot, R.A., the officers under whom the artillery practice from Fort Monckton was conducted on Thursday morning, the 25th of June, 1868. These officers both state most positively that no shot fired from Fort Monckton passed within 600 yards of any steamer during the practice. In consequence of the hour at which the telegram was received (5.20 p.m.) I have not been able to procure from the editor of the Hants Telegraph any information as to the source of the report contained in his newspaper, the office being closed. I understand that practice was also being carried on that morning from Her Majesty's ship Terrible, now laying at Spithead. Lieutenant Colonel Lovell wrote— Fort Monckton, July 1, 1868. Sir,—In reply to your memorandum of this day's date, requesting a full report upon a statement contained in the Hants Telegraph that on Thursday, the 25th of June, that a shot from Fort Monckton passed between the foremast and jib-stay of a Ryde steamer, I have the honour to state that I was superintending the practice carried on by Captain Girardot, R.A.'s battery on that date, and no shot fired on that morning passed within 800 yards of a Ryde steamer or any other steamer, and I am at a loss to understand what could have caused any report to such effect. I beg to forward a statement of Captain Girardot, R.A., commanding the battery, Captain Girardot's statement was to this effect— I was in command of No. 7 Battery, 6th Brigade, Royal Artillery, during the hours of gun practice, from 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. on Thursday last, the 26th of June. The firing was conducted under the superintendence of Lieutenant Colonel Lovell, R.A. The greatest precautions were taken to observe the orders regarding the distance of vessels passing from the range, and I most confidently state that no shot was fired when any steamer was within 500 yards of the range. He could not allow that question to rest where it was. If the statement in the Hants Telegraph was a true one it was quite intolerable that the public should be exposed to such a danger. He should therefore make further inquiries in order to have the matter thoroughly sifted.


said, he wished to say that he had a letter in his pocket from a passenger in the steamer—["Order!"]