HC Deb 08 June 1899 vol 72 cc663-7

It will not, I think, be necessary for me to trouble the House at any length in regard to the series of resolutions which I propose you should put, Mr. Speaker, from the chair, for on Monday last, to the best of my ability, I made a general survey of the campaign which culminated at Omdurman, and did my best to explain the difficulties which were inherent to that expedition, and the skill, success, and courage with which the Sirdar and all those who served under him contrived to surmount them. For similar reasons it will not be necessary for me to say anything at all about the first of these Resolutions, for the ground of it was entirely covered by the Debate on Monday, and the result of the Division which the House then took is a sufficient indication of what the opinion of this assembly is as to the merits of Lord Kitchener as a soldier and as a general. With regard to the remaining names mentioned in the Resolution, it is hardly necessary for me to do more than say one word, for they are writ large in the history of the campaign, and they are names familiar to all those who followed the fortunes of British and Egyptian arms from month to month and year to year, in the course of that arduous and protracted contest. It may suffice, therefore, if I remind the House that the first name on the list—that of Major-General Hunter—is that of a man who has for 14 years been connected with the organisation of the Egyptian Army. As much as any other man, perhaps, he is to be congratulated upon the degree of discipline and efficiency which that army has attained. In addition to these services, stretching far back into the past, I may remind the House that he was in high command at Ferkeh, Hafir, and Dongola, and was in chief command of the expedition which took Abu Hammad, an expedition which was remarkable for a forced march of, I think, six days under the blazing sun of a tropical summer, a feat of endurance not perhaps least remarkable among the feats of a similar kind of which we have a record. The next name is that of the Chief of the Staff—Major-General Sir H. M. L. Rundle, who, in his responsible capacity, did so much to organise the expedition, and who, like General Hunter, has long been honourably connected with the history of the Egyptian Army. Major-General Gatacre is known to all Englishmen in connection with the Chitral campaign. He was, in this campaign, the chief commander under Lord Kitchener at the battle of Atbara, and he commanded the British Division at the final and crowning triumph at Omdurman. The two next names on the list are those of the generals who commanded the two brigades of British troops—Major-General Lyttelton and Major-General Wauchope. Sir, the British troops were but a third, or thereabouts, of the total force engaged on our side, but, as everybody will admit, though they were a relatively small fraction of the total force, they were an absolutely essential portion of it, and without the assistance of British troops it would have been insanity to have undertaken the final advance towards Khartoum, and any attempt to have made that advance without them would have been followed by signal disaster. The next name is that of Colonel Sir F. R. Wingate, who, I think, under ordinary circumstances and in an ordinary campaign would probably hardly appear in the list of those whom this House would desire to thank in connection with a successful expedition; at least I am not aware that the head of the Intelligence Department has on similar occasions been included on the list of officers whom this House has desired to honour by name. But, Sir, this expedition had many circumstances which sharply distinguish it from other expeditions in which this country has been engaged, and the part played by the Intelligence Department was so important and so critical that I think we are well advised to include specially and by name the most distinguished officer to whose labours in chief measure the efficiency of that department is due. I need hardly mention the Intelligence Department without at the same time mentioning a name which does not appear, and cannot appear upon this list. It is a name which I think everybody must have in their recollection when they turn their minds to the sources of information which enabled us to deal successfully with the power of the Madhi. That name, sir, is that of Slatin Pasha, whose dramatic history is familiar to all. Sir, I do not know that I need say anything in particular about the distinguished names which follow, which are those of the commanders of artillery and the brigade commanders of the Egyptians and the Soudanese. Their names are familiar to all; they are Colonel MacDonald and Colonel Lewis; and perhaps it is only needful for me to remind the House that Colonel MacDonald had, by the fortune of war, an opportunity of showing perhaps the most brilliant tactical display of the battle of Omdurman, and of bearing an especially distinguished part in a contest where all played their part well and manfully. Colonel Lewis, who also commanded a brigade at Omdurman; had the good luck some month or six weeks later to be the General in chief command at the brilliant battle of Rosieries, and though that battle is subsequent to the military operations with which these resolutions specially deal, it is not unfit that we should bear in mind that his services in the Soudan were not confined either to the battle at Omdurman or the previous work which he did in connection with Lord Kitchener's main force. The last name in this list is that of Commander Keppel. It is not often, I believe, that the Navy has proved itself an efficient ally of the Army at a distance of 1,400 miles from its native ocean; but in this case, as is well known, this distinguished naval officer and those under him played an essential and practical part in the battle of Omdurman, and had their place in the British line, and in that position performed essential service to the British arms. I need not dwell upon the spirited and most useful performances which distinguished the naval forces at earlier periods. It is enough if I remind the House that at Omdurman they were an essential part of our commanding force, and they performed admirable services not only in the battle of Omdurman, but in connection with the taking of the city of Omdurman after the victory was won. There is one other name upon the list—that of Lieut.-General Sir Francis Grenfell. He had not the good fortune, which he so ardently desired, of himself taking any immediate and active part in the advance to Khartoum, but none the less he did great service in the part that was allotted to him, and I am glad to think that we are able to include his name in this list, because surely no man is more closely or honourably associated with the recovery of the Egyptian military force from the disasters which had reduced it to a nullity, and almost worse than a nullity, than the distinguished general whom I ask the House to include in the list of those whom they are going to thank by name. Sir, the last paragraph of this series of resolutions refers to those who, alas! cannot be benefited by any action we can take, and who are beyond the reach of any thanks or praise from us. They did their duty, and died in the consciousness that they would earn by their death the gratitude of their countrymen, and I am glad that I have this opportunity of putting on permanent record our sense of their services, and of conveying to those who mourn them, not merely as public servants and devoted citizens, but as near relations and friends, our sense of the magnitude of the loss they have endured. I think it is not necessary that I should add anything more, and I beg now to move the Resolutions which stand in my name on the paper.


I rise for the purpose of seconding the Motion just made by the First Lord of the Treasury. On Monday last, like the right lion. Gentleman, but in the more modest measure which befits my position, I had the opportunity of expressing my opinion of the splendid qualities exhibited and the brilliant services rendered in this expedition by the General in chief command, by the officers who constituted his staff, and by the troops of all ranks who served under him. I will not occupy the time of the House by repeating anything I then said, but will merely say that I cordially and sincerely approve of these Resolutions, which give expression to the admiration and gratitude of the House of Commons.