HC Deb 07 June 1883 vol 279 cc1927-30

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is true that in the original medical arrangements for the Egyptian campaign the establishment of a base hospital at Cyprus was proposed by the heads of the Army Medical Department, and agreed to by the military authorities; whether the military authorities afterwards decided that Cyprus should not be used for hospital purposes till the month of October; whose duty it was to inform the Director General of the Army Medical Department or principal medical officer in Egypt of this change in the medical arrangements; if he could state the date at which the alteration was decided on; and, the date at which the heads of the Army Medical Department, at home or in Egypt, were informed of it and instructed to make other arrangements for their base hospital?


Sir, the reply to my hon. Friend's first Question is—Yes. In the original arrangements for the campaign it was contemplated to establish a base hospital at Cyprus. In reply to the remaining four of my hon. Friend's Questions, I think I cannot do better than quote the words of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry, which gives the history of the arrangement made at Cyprus, in the shortest compass, and in official form, being already laid upon the Table of the House— At first it was proposed to place this hospital at Troodos on Mount Olympus; but owing to the near approach of the cool season (when the troops would have to come down to the plains), and to the distance by road to Troodos, it was decided not to establish a hospital at that place for the few remaining weeks of the hot season, and a site in the neighbourhood of the camp at Polymedia was chosen instead, which it was intended to make use of at the beginning of October. The change—namely, from Troodos to Polymedia—was appoved on the 4th of August on the advice of the Chief of the Staff of the Egyptian Expedition, Sir John Adye, with the concurrence of the Director General of the Army Medical Department, Dr. Crawford, and the principal medical officer going out with the Force, Dr. Hanbury, who was in this country at the time. As these officers were parties to the decision taken on the 4th of August, it was not necessary to communicate it formally to them. That is the answer to Questions two, three, and four. With regard to the fifth Question, I have already given the date—namely, August 4, when the head of the Army Medical Department at home, Dr. Crawford, and Dr. Hanbury, the principal medical officer going out with the Expedition, were informed of the change, and when once the Expedition had started, it was for the Com- mander of the Expedition, in consultation with his Chief of the Staff and principal medical officer, to make any change in the hospital or any other arrangements which had originally been made, if the varying circumstances of the campaign rendered it desirable.


said, he did not think his hon. Friend had quite under stood the purport of the Question. In the Report of the Inquiry referred to Mr. Lawson asked the principal medical officer of the Army in Egypt whether he was aware that on the 4th August Cyprus had been abandoned as a base hospital, and Dr. Hanbury replied that, on the contrary, he was under the impression when he left London that Cyprus was to be his base. In the next Question he was asked if he had not orders that Cyprus was not to be used or relied on by him until the autumn, and Dr. Hanbury replied that that was the first time he ever heard of it; and further, on the 9th September——


I must remind the hon. Member that he is not entitled to debate the matter, although he may put a Question arising out of the answer which he has received.


Will the hon. Baronet state to the House, as a positive fact, that Dr. Hanbury had the slightest idea before August 27 that Cyprus would not be used as a base hospital?


I think I have already stated that the two medical officers were present on the 4th of August, and were informed of the change which was necessitated by the variation of circumstances. The change was made by the General Commanding-in-Chief in consultation with the two medical officers.


What was the date of that change?


said, he must protest against being required to answer questions of detail which would properly be raised when the Vote was taken, and in the course of a full discussion. The whole story was contained in the Report laid upon the Table.


inquired whether a full discussion was necessary before a date could be given?


wished to know whether the change was made in consequence of instructions from the Secretary of State or the Commander of the Expedition?


said, he thought that was a Question respecting an official matter which should not be answered in the House; but, at all events, he required Notice of the Question.