§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War if he can state what were the losses amongst the troops engaged in the field day at Aldershot last Monday, how many hours the troops were engaged in the operations during the excessive heat, what rations were served out to them during the day, and whether the Commander-in-Chief at Aldershot was with the troops on that day; and whether, in future, care will be taken that troops in ordinary uniform and with head gear unsuitable as a protection from the sun shall not engage in field days during the excessive heat.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
The General Officer commanding at Aldershot was with the troops. On the other points in the question I must refer my hon. friend to the full reply I gave to similar questions put on Friday, the 15th instant.† As I mentioned then, each regiment engaged in the operation has been called on to† See page 144 of this volume.283 report what arrangements were made both for giving the men breakfast before they started and for providing refreshments during the day; and the following has been received from the General Officer commanding at Aldershot—With reference to your telegram of the 16th June, 1900, I have the honour to report as follows:—1. Reports received from commanding officers state that all men had breakfast before starting for the field day on the 11th inst.2. Light refreshments were actually supplied and carried by every unit, some in the haversack, but in the majority of cases in transport carts.3. The only units that did not receive their refreshments on the 'cease fire' sounding were the 5th Worcester Regiment and the 4th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.In the case of the 5th Worcester Regiment the officer commanding reports that the cart conveying the refreshments went astray during the operations.As regards the 4th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the commanding officer reports that a contractor had undertaken to supply the battalion with bread and cheese. At the hour of the departure of the battalion he failed to appear. A mule cart was then loaded with the refreshments, but, owing to the driver not being acquainted with the locality in which the operations took place, the cart unfortunately did not turn up.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at the inquest on one of the men it was stated that the contractor had orders to take out supplies but failed to do so, that another cart was then sent out to try and find the contractor, which also failed, and that certainly in the case of one regiment, if not more, no food was supplied.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
May I ask whether the final decision of the Secretary of State upon the whole of the business will be laid on the Table of the House before the Vote is taken for the War Office.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
I understood the Secretary of State had instituted an inquiry into the circumstances and called for a report, upon which I presume the noble Marquess will express an opinion.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
I imagine that the matter is narrowed down to two points— namely, headdress—as to which I gave information on Friday—and light refreshments, as to which I have just given information.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
I shall be pleased to expand my statement if the right hon. Gentleman will indicate on what lines he wishes me to proceed. I do not see that I have anything to add.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
With regard to the question of headdress, may I ask whether the old forage cap of the British Army was not capable of having a sunshade put over it, and whether the troops did not go all over India at the time of the Mutiny with that headdress.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Is there to be no inquiry into the circumstances, and no court-martial?
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
There has been an. inquiry, and it is for the House to determine whether that inquiry was not sufficiently exhaustive. For my part I feel that we are departing very widely from decentralisation by taking out of the hands of the officers in command matters with which they are perfectly competent to deal. I think we should risk much in assuming that any officer in command does not realise to the full the great responsibility which rests upon him.