§ MR. BILL (Leek, Staffordshire)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War on what date the steamship "Zibenghla" and the steamship "Zayathla" left the Mersey, and by whom they were inspected previous to their departure; what number of days was the "Zayathla" detained at Las Palmas through the breaking down of her engines; and whether these steamers were unable to obtain a sufficient supply of water at Las Palmas for the horses on board.
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
had on the Paper for to-morrow the following question: To ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether two transports named "Zibenghla" and "Zayathla," which were hired by the Admiralty to convey three batteries of artillery to South Africa with all speed in a great emergency, broke down as soon as they started; whether news has been received from the Grand Canary that these vessels had put in there, one having already lost sixteen horses, and the other having been delayed there for three days from the breakdown of her machinery; whether he has any objection to state the age of these vessels, whether they were sold by original owners as slow and obsolete, how long these vessels had been lying up inactive, how long would a thorough and efficient overhaul of boilers and machinery have taken, and was any overhaul or examination made to the satisfaction of a competent Board of Trade engineer; on what date did these vessels set sail from England; and whether there is any news of their having arrived yet at the Cape of Good Hope.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I will ask leave to be permitted to answer this question, and at the same time the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Cheltenham, which he has placed on the notice paper for to-morrow. The "Zayathla" left the Mersey on the 27th September, and the "Zibenghla" on the 2nd October. They were surveyed by the Board of Trade last month, and given the Board of Trade certificate. They had been previously 720 surveyed in September, 1898, by Lloyd's, and classed 100A1. When engaged as transports they were inspected by the Admiralty transport officer at Liverpool, and the engines, etc., by the Fleet Engineer of H.M.S. "Colossus." The joint naval and military inspections before embarkation and before sailing were held by the Admiralty transport officer and a military officer. All the usual strict surveys applied to the engagement of transports were carried out. The "Zayathla," which had been directed to call at Las Palmas to coal, arrived there on the evening of the 5th October, and, after coaling and having some slight repairs to her low pressure slide valve made, left on the 8th October. She arrived yesterday morning at the Cape. The "Zibenghla," which had also been directed to coal at Las Palmas, arrived there on the 10th October, and left the following day. The officer commanding the "Zayathla" reported that three or four horses had died. We know of no horses having died on the "Zibenghla." I have heard nothing as to any difficulty in obtaining water in the case of the "Zayathla." The "Zibenghla" had some little difficulty in obtaining a supply of water, but after a visit of the officer commanding the troops and the vice-consul to the municipal authorities, the difficulty seems to have been overcome. The "Zibenghla" and "Zayathla" were built in 1883 and 1884 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company for a mail and passenger service with New Zealand. I am informed that they performed that service without an accident. There have been persistent and inaccurate statements that they had been laid up for two years prior to their sale to the British India Company. This is an entire misstatement. They have been employed regularly during the last two years between Liverpool and Canada, and their last voyages ended as late as last June. The hon. and gallant Member asks how long a thorough and efficient overhaul of boilers and machinery would have taken, and was any overhaul or examination made to the satisfaction of a competent Board of Trade engineer. My answer to the question of the hon. Member for the Leek Division of Staffordshire shows that such an overhaul had taken place, and that the Board of Trade was satisfied. I am informed that the steamers were bought on the 28th June last, subject to the Board of Trade's inspection, and that 721 inspection being satisfactory, they accordingly passed into the hands of the purchasers, the British India Company, for the purpose of being added to the fleet of that company in Indian waters, a fleet which has furnished nearly all the transports which have so successfully transferred the Indian contingent from Bombay to Durban.
§ SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
Were the boilers of these vessels of the old school—compound, and sixteen years of age—and what was the rate of consumption of fuel per day in each vessel?