HC Deb 08 June 1885 vol 298 c1412

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether the promised inquiry into the conduct of operations in the Soudan by Generals Graham and M'Neill, and especially into the circumstances of the surprise of the 22nd March, has been carried out, and with what result?


asked the Secretary of State for War, When and what inquiry he intends instituting with regard to the loss of life caused by the surprise on the occasion of the attack on General M'Neills zereba, in the neighbourhood of Suakin?


In reply to both these Questions, I may say that, as Lord Wolseley was about to proceed to Suakin, he was instructed to make personal inquiries on the spot, and to give his opinion on the events referred to. In a despatch acknowledging these instructions, Lord Wolseley strongly deprecated any further inquiry; and I may, perhaps, be allowed to read a short extract from the despatch in which he gave his opinion on the subject. He says— But at the same time I would point out that I myself strongly deprecate (save in the most extreme cases) inquiring too rigorously into the conduct of commanders after unsatisfactory engagements. It is hopeless to expect to find a general who does not make mistakes. The history of war shows that the greatest generals have done so often. There may he cases in which these mistakes are of such a character as to call for the immediate removal of their author from his command. But, short of this, to examine minutely into any faulty dispositions that have been made, and to publish to the world a condemnation of them, simply takes away from the general implicated all the confidence of his troops without, as far as I can see, any compensating good result whatever. Up to the present time Lord Wolseley has not sent any further Report. Under those circumstances, His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief is of opinion—in which opinion I concur—that it will be advisable to await Lord Wolseley's return before coming to any decision on the whole question. This delay can have no unfavourable results to the Public Service, inasmuch as the Expeditionary Force has been broken up, and the officers referred to are returning to this country.