HC Deb 17 March 1879 vol 244 cc1031-3

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, what coaling depôts are owned by Her Majesty's Government en route for the Cape of Good Hope, and the nature of the arrangements made for coaling the transports engaged for the conveyance of troops and stores intended to meet the emergency in Natal; and, if the commanders of the steam colliers chartered to carry coal for the use of the transports had instructions to call at St. Vincent, and if they were dispatched before or after the sailing of the troops?


In answer to the hon. Gentleman, I have to say that the Admiralty have no coaling depôts on the direct route for the Cape, as there is no English soil on that route; but we have coaling stations at Sierra Leone and Ascension, which are sufficient for the ordinary requirements of the Naval Service. Arrangements were made for the coaling of the transports at St. Vincent and the Cape, there being ample coal for the purpose at either place. At St. Vincent the quantity at Admiralty disposal was 7,500 tons; known to be in private hands, 11,000 tons; quantity shipped by transports at St. Vincent, 7,100 tons. At the Cape the quantity at Admiralty disposal was—Dockyard at Simon's Bay, 4,000 tons; bought at the Cape, 1,800 tons; total at Admiralty disposal, 5,800 tons. Quantity in eon-tractors' hands, 8,000 tons; quantity shipped for the Cape, 10,000 tons (2,000 tons optional to be sent to Delagoa Bay). At Delagoa Bay the quantity sent out for transports was 3,100 tons. The mail steamers Pretoria and Dublin Castle, which took out troops, coaled at Madeira. No difficulty whatever has occurred in coaling the ships in the order in which they arrived; but the delay arose partly inconsequence of the weather preventing the loading being carried on as expeditiously as possible and partly in consequence of the mail steamers and transports arriving simultaneously. A telegram received from the Consul at St. Vincent, dated the 14th of March, which also states that strong north-east winds were prevailing from the 2nd to the 14th of March, says— Detention caused by accumulation of mails and transports, which necessitated their being coaled in turn. Had transports not arrived simultaneously they would have been more quickly despatched. Everything in contractors' power has been done to facilitate despatch. Labour and coal appliances not wanting. Spain and Egypt sail to-morrow. It is hoped that these difficulties will not occur at the Cape. Part of the transports will coal at our own stores alongside the dockyard at Simon's Bay, and the others will be coaled by contractors at Cape Town. It is to be observed that it is only eight days' steaming from the Cape to Natal and back. The information was given to the House as to the order in which the transports arrived at St. Vincent's. I am glad to say they have all been dispatched. The unfortunate delay which occurred was simply due to the fact that labour could not be found to coal them more rapidly under the circumstances in which they arrived.