HC Deb 27 March 1885 vol 296 cc841-2

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is not a fact that more than a year ago Her Majesty's Government received reports from Sir F. Roberts, complaining of the Martini-Henry rifle cartridges in use in India, and giving statistics of the numbers which had jammed during the manoeuvres of the troops; whether any notice or action was taken on these reports; and, whether now that these cartridges are reported as having jammed in every engagement fought in the Soudan, Her Majesty's Government will, in view of the present critical state of public affairs, and in view of the fact that this jamming is supposed by the most eminent military authorities to be easily remediable, cause immediate and searching inquiry to be made into the question, without waiting for the presence of Lord Wolseley or even for more detailed reports from him?


Since a somewhat similar Question to this was answered last night in "another place," further search and inquiry have been made; and it now appears that the following statement is contained in a Report by the Commander-in-Chief, Madras, dated the 23rd of February, 1884, on certain trials carried on between three experimental Gardner one-barrel guns and 60 men of the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers at the Camp of Exercises, at Bangalore, of the Madras Army, in 1884, namely:— With regard to the rifles of the Infantry, several rides were out of action, or only fired comparatively a few rounds, owing to a number of jams of exploded cartridges in the rifle breeches; and— The jams of exploded cartridges in the breeches of the rifles of the Infantry are being inquired into, and both ammunition and rifles will be tested at the Arsenal, Madras. The Report from which the above extracts have been taken is one on the subject of machine guns, and was sent to the War Office on the 7th of January, 1885. Action was taken on it as regards the machine guns at once. Action had already been taken in India as regards the rifles, and the result has been asked for. The second part of the Question shows, I think, that the noble Lord has misunderstood the answer I gave yesterday. I then said that it was impossible to explain to the House the cause of the failure of the cartridges at Abu Klea until the detailed accounts had been received from Lord Wolseley; but I did not say it was intended to defer action on these Reports. By the decision of the Secretary of State to-day, orders have already been given for manufacture of the solid-case cartridge for Martini-Henry rifles as requested by his Lordship.