HC Deb 06 May 1901 vol 93 cc734-5
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether, as stated in the Report of Lieutenant-General Sir H. E. Colvile, he received his orders direct from Lord Kitchener throughout the 18th of February, 1900; whether he will publish the note from Lord Roberts, mentioned in the Report from Lieutenant-General Kelly-Kenny, on the operations on the 18th February; and can he state who, as a matter of fact, is held by the War Office to have been responsible for the conduct of the battle at Paardeberg on the 18th February, 1900.


I have already explained the position as regards the command at Paardeberg. It is most unusual to publish letters passing between generals during an action, and there is no intention of publishing any further despatches; but as there is no mystery in the matter, and as I desire to save the time of the House, I will read the note in question—

Jacobsdal, 17th February, 1900.

"My dear Kenny,—I hope you are pushing on with all possible speed to overtake Cronje's laager. It is of the utmost importance it should not get away. The bullocks drawing his wagons cannot go as fast as our mules, nor so many consecutive days without breaking down. I hope to join you to-morrow; meanwhile please consider that Lord Kitchener is with you for the purpose of communicating to you my orders, so that there may be no delay—such as references to and fro would entail. If we can deal Cronje a heavy blow, it is likely that there will be no more fighting in the Orange Free State.

"Believe me,

"Yours truly,

"(Signed) ROBERTS."


As the right hon. Gentleman has said there is no mystery about this matter, he will probably be willing to answer the last paragraph of the question. Surely the War Office hold some information as to who is responsible for the conduct of every battle?


I have stated this two or three times to the hon. Gentleman already, and this is for the last time of asking. I have said that General Kelly-Kenny was in command, that Lord Kitchener was there under orders and suggested operations to him, and his advice when he made suggestions was taken.


May I ask in the event of a difference of opinion whose decision would prevail?


That is a contingency which did not happen, and hypothetical questions I cannot answer.