HC Deb 14 February 1893 vol 8 cc1380-1

I beg to, ask the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the statements in the newspapers as to the recent voyage of the Royal Scots Fusiliers from Glasgow to Dover in H.M.S. Assistance; whether he is aware that the ship was greatly overcrowded, and that the limited accommodation of the ship rendered it impossible for numbers of the men to he down with any degree of comfort; that the regiment, and especially the women and children with it, suffered much discomfort and hardship; and that one sick man died in consequence; what was the duration of the voyage; whether the information in his possession shows that H.M.S. Assistance is efficient as a troopship for winter work; and whether he will take steps to avoid such overcrowding in future?

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is not the fact that the troops conveyed coastwise by these ships, although the voyage often lasts several clays, receive no sort of berthing or bedding; and whether the officers are not deterred from drawing extra blankets by reason of the heavy charges made for stains or injury?


I may also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether H.M.S. Assistance actually carried some 250 more men than she can possibly accommodate in her recent passage with the Royal Scots Fusiliers from Glasgow to Dover; whether the want of decent accommodation on board this ship has been frequently reported to the War Office by officers commanding regiments; whether she is incapable of carrying the baggage of a regiment which has to be forwarded by other means; and whether, considering that for economical reasons it is the custom to move troops by sea, he will consider the advisability of providing a new and capable transport?


I greatly regret the discomfort which was undoubtedly experienced by the Royal Scots Fusiliers on their recent voyage to Dover in Her Majesty's ship Assistance. The weather was exceptionally bad, and the tune occupied was three and a-half days, during a great part of which the men had to be kept below, the most of them prostrated by sea sickness. The commanding officer considered that the ship was overcrowded, and one can easily believe that in such circumstances as I have stated the numbers were too great for comfort. By the Admiralty Returns, however, the vessel is shown as having accommodation for 200 more than the number actually on board. One blanket per man was served out, and when it was proposed to apply for au additional one the men declared it unnecessary, owing to the heat below. The death which occurred on board was due to apoplexy. As regards the efficiency of this vessel for transport coastwise, she was expressly built for the purpose; but I am bound to admit that complaints have been received, in regard to which I propose to confer with the Admiralty.