HC Deb 12 April 1872 vol 210 cc1142-4

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, If there is any truth in the accounts published in seve- ral newspapers, since the arrival of the last Australian Mail, of the destruction of the village of Nukapu in the Santa Cruz group, by Her Majesty's Ship "Rosario," when a considerable number of the natives are said to have been killed; if it is true that afterwards a quantity of live stock, of great value as food to the islanders, was carried off from the island of Vasulai, as a fine on the people of that island for an alleged act of cannibalism, and that various acts of retribution or revenge against the inhabitants of other islands were subsequently committed by the same ship; and, if these accounts are true, or partially true, if the officer commanding the "Rosario" was acting under instructions from any superior authority, or if these acts of hostility against defenceless persons were committed on his own responsibility?


, in reply, said, that the Admiralty were entirely without communication, direct or indirect, from the commanding officer of the Rosario since October last. A letter had, however, reached the Medical Director General of the Navy from the surgeon belonging to the ship, in which the writer expressed his regret that he had to report the death of a man who died from lockjaw, occasioned by an arrow wound in his left arm, received during an engagement with certain hostile natives at Nukapu on the 29th November. It was therefore clear that there had been some engagement of the kind; but the Admiralty were without official or unofficial information as to the events which had occurred. No doubt the correspondence had gone in the first instance to the commodore, and that circumstance would account for the delay in its receipt in this country. As to the instructions on which the commander of the Rosario was acting, all the Admiralty knew was, that Commodore Sterling had informed the Admiralty that the Rosario was to proceed on a cruise to the South Sea Islands, to inquire into certain murders of white persons alleged to have been committed, and into the labour traffic reported to be going on in those islands. As to the last Question, he believed that Captain Challis was not in command of the Rosario between October and February, the time during which these occurrences were alleged to have taken place, and he would rather not state at present the name of the officer whom the Admiralty believed to have been in command.