HC Deb 13 May 1881 vol 261 c403

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether the unprecedented proportion of killed to wounded amongst, Her Majesty's troops during the Transvaal campaign was caused by the use of explosive bullets by the Boers, or by the slaughter of the wounded, or whether there are any other causes to account for it; and, when he will be able to inform the House of the losses among the troops from sickness since the commencement of the campaign?


Sir, in reply to the hon. Member, I have to state that the number of deaths by sickness in the recent campaign in the Transvaal is reported to be 25. We have not as yet any reports of the cases of sickness which have not proved fatal; and no accurate information can be expected until the medical monthly Returns have been received. None have reached us for any month of the year 1881. As to the first part of the Question, there is no evidence to show that the proportion of killed to wounded is due either to the use of explosive bullets or to the slaughter of the wounded. In one case it was reported that a bullet was heard to explode after it had passed through the body of an officer who was wounded; but I can find no other reference to any suspicion that these bullets were used. As to any slaughter of the wounded, the reports, on the contrary., describe their treatment as considerate and humane. The high proportion of deaths may be simply due to the very accurate shooting of expert riflemen at short distances.

In reply to Lord EUSTACE CECIL,


said, it was reported that a bullet had passed through the leg of a wounded officer and exploded in the air; but he doubted very much whether the rumour was well founded.