HC Deb 29 May 1883 vol 279 cc1096-7

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it be true, as alleged, that the Catholic soldiers on board Her Majesty's Troopship "Euphrates," which sailed from Bombay on 12th April, and arrived at Portsmouth on the 19th April, were forced by order of the commanding officer to attend Protestant service; whether the commanding officer in this instance acted entirely on his own responsibility, or under superior orders; and, whether, in any case, such an order is legal; and, if illegal, whether he cannot be called upon to furnish an explanation for acting contrary to the spirit of the regulations of the service?


asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it be the fact that on board Her Majesty's Troopship "Euphrates" on her recent voyage home Roman Catholic Soldiers were forced on the second Sunday of the voyage to attend the Protestant service; whether this was required after objection made known to their officers; and, whether, when the service was about to commence, a few of the Roman Catholic Soldiers rose to ask permission to withdraw, and were at once made prisoners and kept in close confinement until the same hour next day; if so, who was responsible?


Sir, the facts of the case would appear to be substantially as stated. The proceedings of the commanding officer were injudicious, and he has been so informed. There was, however, some justification for the course taken. On the previous Sunday the Roman Catholic soldiers were ordered to fall out; and as there was no Roman Catholic chaplain on board they avoided religious service altogether. The commanding officer considered that many more men fell out than were Roman Catholics, and a later investigation proved that this was the case. He was, however, unable to obtain access to the men's records before the Sunday referred to in the Question; and, therefore, to stop shirking, he injudiciously required all the troops to attend the Church of England Service.