HC Deb 23 August 1895 vol 36 cc660-2

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, with regard to the case of Surgeon Lea, of H.M.S. Ringarooma, who, doubting the mental fitness of Captain Johnson for the command of the ship, had him put on the sick list, whereupon the Captain put the doctor under arrest, from which he was released almost at once by the Senior Naval Officer of the Port; what was the finding of the Court Martial convened by Admiral Bridge to try Surgeon Lea whether he is aware that the Court ruled that they had not anything to dc with the question of the Captain's health and refused to hear evidence on the point of his mental fitness, and also refused Surgeon Lea's offer to produce medical evidence; whether telegrams and reports have been received at the Admiralty from Sydney, where the Court Martial was held, and what decision has been come to on the question; what length of service has Surgeon Lea had; and whether it is a fact that his record is an untarnished one?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. T. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

This question has been framed by the hon. Member in terms which are calculated to convey an altogether false impression of the facts, which are briefly as follows:— On the occasion in question the Captain of the Ringarooma was engaged in exercising the crew at general quarters, and in the course of his inspection of the arrangements for battle, had occasion to find some fault with the Surgeon as to the arrangements for the wounded, after which Surgeon Lea followed the Captain on deck, accompanied by a member of the sick berth staff, and endeavoured to remove him from the command of the Ringarooma, on the ground that he (Surgeon Lea) had placed him on the sick list, and that his case required observation. For this gross act of insubordination and contempt, Surgeon Lea was placed by Captain Johnson under arrest, and was subsequently tried by Court Martial, found guilty, and dismissed from Her Majesty's Service. His release from arrest by the Senior Officer was no doubt governed by the requirements of the medical service at the time, and was, in accordance with the Queen's Regulations, without prejudice to his trial by Court Martial. Ho was released from arrest in order that be might be changed into another ship for the time, otherwise the Ringarooma would have been without a medical officer. I should add that the ship was in harbour, and that other men-of-war were there also, and a Senior Officer, to whom, if there had been any real ground for believing the Captain incapable, Surgeon Lea might have gone to make the proper representation. The proceedings of the Court Martial have been carefully reviewed by the Judge Advocate of the Fleet, who has advised the Board of Admiralty that the ruling of the Court as to the reception of evidence was correct. No telegram or reports have been addressed, so far as I am aware, to the Admiralty from Sydney, except a petition from Dr. Lea himself; nor could any such communications affect a question of naval discipline or the finding of the Court Martial. Surgeon Lea had 12 years' service, and his record up to his late offence was untarnished. This, however, cannot affect the sentence of the Court Martial, which the Admiralty confirm.