HC Deb 27 February 1885 vol 294 cc1618-20

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether his attention has been called to the following extract from a letter of the special correspondent of The Morning Post, dated Gakdul, January 13th:— The groceries for this force have been taken entirely from the Nile boat stores, that is to say, from the whalers, and it has been discovered, with dismay, on opening these stores here, that from one-half to two-thirds of the tea and a large proportion of the rice and sugar have been hopelessly damaged by damp, and are unfit for use. These provisions were what is called 'trade packed,' that is, packed by the different firms who supplied them, and there should be no difficulty in discovering with whom the blame for this severe loss lies, and the sufferers may justly hope in exacting retribution. There is reason to fear that not the best exertions of the Commissariat Department, which has worked so well and succeeded so completely, will avail to avert from the hard worked force on the line between Korti and Metammeh a want of tea and other groceries, which in such a climate must be a severe suffering. The cause of the damage to the stores lies evidently in a neglect to solder the cases in which the stores wore packed; whether any information has been received as to the stores in question; if so, what was the amount of groceries received at Gakdul from the whalers, and how much of them were damaged; and, what official bought the stores in question; through whom were they bought; was any inspection made to see that they were properly packed; and, if so, who inspected and passed them?


Information up to the end of January has been received about the whaler supplies generally; but there is no precise information as to the quantities of groceries sent to Gakdul. The whole of the whaler groceries were packed in the Government establishments, none being in trade cases. The whaler supplies were originally intended for consumption in the boats after leaving Wady Haifa. The packages were made somewhat lighter than the ordinary field cases, in order to economize the carrying power of the boats; and two articles out of the five composing grooery rations—namely, salt and sugar—were for the same reason packed in bags instead of cases. The packages were settled by a Special Committee on Nile Boat Service. These supplies were, by local order, not consumed between Wady Haifa and Korti; but were kept in reserve for subsequent Nile or Desert routes. Bulk was broken 27 times between Alexandria and Korti, besides special portages, and the packages were thus exposed to extraordinarily severe usage beyond what was contemplated as incidental to their original purpose. The loss, on examination at Korti, is estimated at about 25 per cent on this particular portion of the supplies. The loss of sugar and salt was due to the submersion of bags in water, and to theft by Native boatmen and camel drivers. The loss on tea and pepper is supposed to have been due to the tops of the tins being secured by shellac instead of solder. Shellac has been used with perfect success in all climates since 1878, and the immediate causes of its failure on this Expedition are not yet ascertained. All tins are now soldered. The supplies were purchased by the Army and Navy Directors of Contracts, through brokers or contractors, and inspected at the Government establishments, a medical officer of special experience having been attached to Woolwich to assist in this duty. In the Report of the senior Commissariat officer, forwarded by the Chief of the Staff, it is stated that— There is no doubt that in the important respects of strength, size, and weight the packages sent out on this occasion are an immense advance in the direction of improvement on anything that has fallen to the lot of previous Campaigns. As regards quality, the Report adds that while it is too soon to speak about the whaler rations, which were only beginning to be consumed, all were agreed that the quality of every article, without exception, was excellent, and better than had ever been supplied before. Considerable losses were inevitable in such a Campaign; and, in spite of those reported in a portion of the supplies, great credit seems due to the officers and others at the Government establishments at Woolwich and Deptford, who carried out this service under extraordinary pressure.