HC Deb 12 April 1875 vol 223 cc720-2

asked the Secretary of State for War, How soon the detachment of the 75th Regiment, which left the Cape on board the "Himalaya" troopship in the early part of January, is likely to reach England; whether it is true that in consequence of defects in the machinery of that vessel she broke down several times during the voyage, and had at all times to proceed at a very slow pace; whether it is true that messages were sent from Madeira requesting another ship to be sent in her place, which request was refused; whether the troops then went on to Gibraltar where they were disembarked and placed in buts, without protection from the severity of the weather, and without more clothing than was necessary for them in the comparatively warm climate they had left; and, what steps have been taken for bringing them home, and who is responsible for the efficiency of the ships engaged in transporting Her Majesty's troops?


I fear, Sir, I must apologize to the House for the length of my Answer, which I have derived from the Admiralty, who supply transport for the Army. A detachment of the 75th Regiment, consisting of six officers and 250 men, left the Cape in Her Majesty's Ship Himalaya on the 2nd of February last—not early in January—and arrived at Gibraltar on the 9th of March. On the 18th of March two officers and 100 men were transhipped to Her Majesty's Ship Tamar, and arrived at Queenstown on the 26th of March, where they joined the headquarters of their regiment, on board Her Majesty's Ship Simoom, and landed at Belfast on the 31st of March. Four officers and 150 men were landed at Gibraltar on the 18th of March, and on the 2nd of April they embarked in the Paraguay, hired steamer, for conveyance to Ireland. This skip arrived on the 11th in Ireland, and the detachment of the 75th has been disembarked. About the 12th of January, at the Cape, "a fracture was discovered in the fore part of the after crank pin," but, after full investigation, it was not considered of such a nature as to make the voyage home with troops in any way hazardous, but merely to render the precaution of reduction of speed desirable. On the homeward voyage the Himalaya called at Ascension, St. Vincent—February 24, whence the captain reported proceedings by telegraph—and Madeira, reaching that island on the 5th of March. These stoppages, however, were merely precautionary and for the purposes of communication, and not on account of "breaking down."Between the Cape and St. Vincent steam power only was used, strong head winds being experienced, and the duration of the voyage—22 days—did not much exceed that of an average passage, though greater than the Himalaya under other circumstances would have occupied. No application for assistance was made by Captain Grant, but having reported from St. Vincent that the fracture had slightly increased, he was informed that he would find Admiral Symons with the Channel Squadron at Madeira, by whom convoy would be furnished. The four officers and 150 men disembarked at Gibraltar on the 18th of March were placed in buts protected from the severest weather, where they remained until the 2nd of April. During this time not a man was sick, nor was a complaint made. These troops had the same cloth tunics with them which they would have had on landing at home, the serge frocks being of a thinner texture. The Paraguay steamer, has, as already stated, brought the remainder of the detachment to Ireland. The Admiralty is responsible for the efficiency of Her Majesty's troopships or hired vessels conveying troops, subject to the inspection by a mixed board of officers as to the accommodation provided for the troops.