HC Deb 31 May 1870 vol 201 cc1740-2

said, he wished to refer to the naval force belonging to this country that was stationed in Greek waters. On a former occasion, when he put a Question on the subject to the First Lord of the Admiralty, he conveyed the idea to the House that there were two English sloops-of-war there—namely, the Antelope and Cockatrice; but the fact was, that when the lamentable massacres took place in Greece, there were only two vessels in the neighbourhood, neither of them belonging to the British squadron. The Antelope was a vessel attached to the Embassy at Constantinople, and at the time of the massacres was on her passage from Constantinople to Brindisi, to meet Sir William Elliott, who was returning from this country. The Cockatrice was a small vessel attached to the Conservators of the Danube, and was at the time accidentally on her way to resume her station on the Danube. He had stated last night, on the authority of Admiral Hobart, that if there had been an English vessel of war off the coast these lamentable occurrences would not have happened. Admiral Hobart knew more of these banditti than anybody else, having captured most of them in Crete, and handed them over to the Greek Government, who sent a sloop of war to carry them off with their arms. He had asked whether it was not a matter of policy that the Mediterranean Fleet should be sent up to the Piræus to strengthen the hands of the Greek Government. He did not indicate any opinion of his own on the subject; but it seemed to him that when Mr. Erskine was deprived of his right-hand man, Mr. Herbert, it would have been well if he had been supported by the mature judgment of Sir Alexander Milne. The police of the seas, formerly maintained by this country, could not be relaxed in any quarter of the world for any length of time without some disaster.


said, he did not pretend to give any opinion of his own; but it appeared from the despatches to be certain that if, when the brigands were encamped on the promontory of Oropos, Mr. Erskine had been able to send an English vessel with a view to the release of the captives, instead of a Greek gunboat, the lives of the prisoners would have been saved. ["Oh!"] Well, that was the purport, as it seemed to him, of the despatches. Mr. Erskine's despatches conveyed the impression that, as soon as the Greek flag was seen at sea on board their gunboat, while the Greek soldiers were drawing a cordon around the brigands by land, the brigands attempted to escape, and committed the crimes which had horrified all Europe. These miscreants naturally suspected that they were being surrounded, and had been betrayed. Had an English vessel been there no suspicion would have arisen, and the lives of those gentlemen would have been saved—there was no vessel, and those lives were sacrificed.


said, he did not rise to reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, because he had, on two previous occasions, given him an answer to similar questions. When the hon. and gallant Member gave notice of his intention to call the attention of the House to the Suez Canal, and then, without Notice, called attention to a different subject, it was exceedingly irregular and very inconvenient to the Government in conducting the business of the House. The hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had entirely misread Mr. Erskine's despatch, which made no allusion to there not being an English vessel in Greek waters. With respect to the Mediterranean Fleet, he could only repeat what he had previously stated—that the force had not been reduced, and that the instructions to commanders re- mained unaltered—those in force having been given by the late Board of Admiralty. Under the circumstances, he thought it was not worth while to discuss the matter further.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to.