HC Deb 26 October 1899 vol 77 cc722-3
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether he can now state what arrangements have been made for the care of the wounded in Natal; and what number of Roman Catholic chaplains are now with the troops in Natal.


There are at the present time in Natal 44 officers and 263 men of the Army Medical Corps, with five nursing sisters. Eight more officers and 80 men were due to reach Durban to-day. The organisation of this staff depends on the principal medical officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Exham, in whom we have every confidence, but so far as is known here the arrangement is as follows:—A medical officer is attached to every battalion or regiment, and there are also two independent bearer companies. There are 5½ field hospitals, making up 550 beds, a stationary hospital at Ladysmith with 100 beds, and one at Maritzburg with 250. When the staff due at urban to-day has arrived, there will be in all 1,100 hospital beds available in Natal. Beyond this, we have at Wynberg, near Cape Town, a hospital with 520 beds, and in order to make that available as a base hospital for the force in Natal, we have sent out two transports, the "Spartan" and the "Trojan," specially fitted up for the conveyance of invalids between Durban and Cape Town. The "Spartan" should reach Durban in about ten or twelve days from now, and the "Trojan" ten days later. As to medical stores, medicines, etc., the Director-General informs me that there is an ample stock in Natal for the whole British force, but that it is possible, if we have to take charge of large numbers of Boer wounded, that our resources may be strained. We shall make provision for this contingency. We are already doing this so far as the occasion has arisen. On the 23rd instant three Boer doctors with their assistants arrived at Ladysmith, and the Boer wounded were placed in the Dutch church under their charge. These doctors expressed to our principal medical officer their gratitude and satisfaction at the unexpected arrangements for the comfort and welfare of the wounded. In reply to the second paragraph of the question, there are, so far as we know, three Roman Catholic clergymen with the force in Natal acting as chaplains, but Sir George White has authority to appoint as many more as he thinks necessary.


Do I understand the Under Secretary rightly that the forty-four officers in the Medical Corps are qualified medical doctors?


Yes, Sir. There are forty-four who are qualified medical doctors bearing Her Majesty's commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps.