HC Deb 04 September 1880 vol 256 c1275

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether he is aware that a statement has appeared in certain Italian newspapers (Palermo and Messina) alleging that a Marine, of H.M.S. "Alexandra," was lately condemned to be keel-hauled and died under the punishment; and, whether he will institute inquiries upon the subject? The hon. Gentleman added that the newspapers had been ostensibly sent to him by an English officer.


Sir, it is wholly impossible that there can be any truth in the story reported in the Italian papers, that a Marine has been keelhauled on board the Alexandra, and died under the punishment. We have heard nothing about it, and I do not think it is necessary to insult the officers of the ship by asking whether it is true. The last reference to keel-hauling in the Navy is contained in a well-known story of the Emperor Paul of Russia, which shows that in his day there was a current belief on the Continent that this punishment was practised. When he came on board a man-of-war he asked to see the process, and when he was told that it would cause the death of the seaman, he offered one of his staff for the experiment. The editor of the Italian paper was about as well informed as the retailer of this anecdote. I do not think it necessary to make further inquiry.