HC Deb 10 March 1902 vol 104 cc865-6

I have to ask the leave of the House to read the following telegram I have just received from Lord Kitchener—

"Pretoria, 10.30. A. m., 8th March.

"I greatly regret to have to send you bad news about Methuen. He was moving with 900 mounted troops under Major Paris and 300 Infantry, four guns and one Pom-Pom from Wynburg to Lichtenburg and was to meet Grenfell with 1,300 mounted troops at Rovirainesfontein on 8th. Yesterday morning early he was attacked by Delarey's force between Tweebosch and Pahnietknill. The Boers charged on three sides. Five hundred I and fifty mounted troops have come in to line at Maribogo and Kraaipan. They were pursued by Boers for four miles from scene of action. They report Lord Methuen, Major Paris, guns, baggage, etc., were captured by the Boers. Lord Methuen when last seen was a prisoner." [Cheers and laughter from some Irish Nationalist Members, and general cries of "Shame."] "I have no details of casualties or any further information at present. Will keep you informed, and would suggest your delaying publication till I can send you definite news. I had already arranged to send troops to this district. I think this sudden revival of activity on the part of Delarey is in order to draw off troops pressing De Wet."

I have also received the following further telegram—

"Pretoria, 9th March.

"Major Paris has come in with remainder of men to Kraaipan. His report is that the column was moving in two parties, some with ox wagons left Tweebosch at 3 A.M., mule wagons an hour later. Just after dawn Boers attacked, before reinforcements could reach them the rear screen broke; meantime a large number of Boers galloping up on both flanks. These were at first checked by flank parties, but a panic and stampede of mules had begun and all the mule wagons with a terrible mixture of mounted men rushed past the ox wagons. All efforts to check them were unavailing. Major Paris collected some 40 men and occupied position a mile in front of ox wagons, which were then halted. After gallant but useless defence the enemy rushed into ox wagons, and Lord Methuen was wounded in thigh. Major Paris being surrounded, surrendered at 10 A.M. Lord. Methuen is still in Boer camp. Casualties as follows:—Killed: Lieutenants G. R. Venning and T. P. W. Nesham, both Royal Field Artillery; Lieutenant G. Hartly, Steinacker's Horse, and 38 other ranks. Wounded: Colonel J. G. Wilson, 3rd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, dangerous; Captain J. D. Outram, 3rd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, severe; Lieutenant M. Dennis, Yeomanry, severe; Lieutenant Nash, Cape Police, severe; and Lieutenant R. H. Logan, Yeomanry, severe; and 72 other ranks wounded, not yet received. Missing: Captain Tilney, 17th Lancers, and 200 others; but many of them are probably amongst those who have come into line. Lieutenants Nesham and Venning were killed whilst, gallantly serving their guns with case."

As it has been my duty to announce this reverse, I trust I may be allowed to say one word about the commander of the troops who have experienced defeat. It is only fair to Lord Methuen, under the circumstances, to say that for two years past lie has been conducting operations week after week in a most difficult country with forces of all descriptions, entirely to the satisfaction of the Commander-in-Chief and without failure in any particular. Lord Methuen earlier in the war failed in carrying out the relief of Kimberley under conditions which, after a full survey of the position attacked and considering the composition of his force, appeared to Lord Roberts to reflect no discredit on him; and the untiring energy which he has since displayed, and the confidence with which he is regarded by all who have since served under him, deserve the fullest recognition. [General cheering.]†

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