HC Deb 13 June 1881 vol 262 cc333-4

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether his attention has been called to a statement in the "Morning Post" of June 3, respecting the 1st and 2nd West India Regiments (stationed at Cape Coast Castle), viz:— Three companies and their officers are living in tents on the seaboard, a very inadequate protection against the tremendous force of tropical rains. The other three companies are quartered in the foully dirty Fantee town. In addition to the general filth which results from the unclean habits of the people, and the herds of pigs and goats which wander at large through the streets, all the houses possess large, open, old cesspools, which for many years have never been cleansed in any way, but overflow in a foul green slime, which percolates beneath the houses and oozes out on the further side; whether one-third of the officers have not already died or been invalided; whether others are not daily sent into hospital; and, who is responsible; and, whether any steps were taken when war with Ashantee appeared to be imminent to place Cape Coast Castle in telegraphic communication with this Country?


Sir, in reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question, I can only refer him to the very full answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Thirsk (Colonel Dawnay) on the same subject on Friday. The troops were sent from the West Indies with the utmost expedition, which has had the effect of preventing war, and there was no time to make any communication to Cape Coast before their arrival. In reply to the second part, I have to say that one officer has died, and 21 out of 55 have been invalided. The troops were put under canvas as soon as possible, and the invaliding thence has been much less than in the hired houses. As to responsibility, I cannot attribute blame to anyone, as, unfortunately, the King of Ashantee threatened war at the most pestilential season, and, but for the prompt measures taken, we should probably have been at war with him now. I have no official knowledge as to arrangements for laying down cables to our Colonies, and some months ago we pointed out the expediency on military grounds of improving the telegraphic communication in the direction of Cape Coast. Of course, other considerations besides military ones have to be weighed in such a matter.