HC Deb 04 May 1885 vol 297 cc1504-5

asked the Surveyor General of Ordnance, If his attention has been called to the following description of the cartridges served out to the troops during the recent engagements in the Soudan:— Enquiries have been made on the spot as to the cause of the disastrous jamming in action, and the conclusion arrived at is that the fault is in the cartridge itself. The metal case is thin, papery, and in too many pieces. It bends and breaks in the men's pouches, and frequently expands with such force on being fired as to render the rifle useless. The extraction of the jammed case is a lengthy and elaborate process. Some of the rifles have been jammed at the very first shot, and the officers and non-commissioned officers have thus, from the commencement of the action, had to act as sort of gamekeepers to their men, clearing their guns, while they fought on with those of their dead and wounded comrades; whether it is not the fact that the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been repeatedly called to the dangerous condition of the cartridges served out to the troops for some time past; whether he will give the House a positive assurance that the present war preparations shall not include the manufacture of the same defective cartridges; if his attention has been called to the unserviceable condition of many of the bayonets used by the troops during the recent battles at Suakin; and, if he is still of opinion that these weapons are perfectly serviceable?


My attention has not been drawn to the statement to which the hon. Member refers, and I have no idea who made it. The attention of the Government has not been frequently drawn to the dangerous character of the Boxer cartridge. There has been a great deal of exaggeration about this matter. The Boxer cartridge has answered well in several campaigns, but it is inferior in some respects to the solid-drawn cartridge. As I have previously stated, the solid-case cartridge is in course of manufacture. My attention has not been called to the unserviceable character of bayonets to which the hon. Member refers, and I have no reason to believe that the bayonets in possession of the troops at Suakin are not perfectly serviceable. I have, indeed, received a statement similar to that made by the hon. Member, but without any evidence in support of it. If the hon. Member will furnish me privately with any evidence in support of his statement, I will cause a strict inquiry to be made.


asked whether the now cartridge had been approved or not?


said, he did not say that the solid-case cartridge had not been approved for active service. What he did say was that no decision had been taken to use the solid-drawn case for practice. The Boxer cartridge, of which there was a large supply in store, was perfectly serviceable for practice purposes.


asked whether the failure was not due to old cartridges being refilled.


No, Sir.