HC Deb 18 June 1903 vol 123 cc1304-6

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War what is the number of camels recently purchased in or for Somaliland, and what is the total expenditure to date upon the expedition there; whether he has yet received General Manning's views upon future operations; and whether in that case he will state the intentions of the Government as to those operations.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

I beg also to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he can state what reinforcements it is proposed to send from India, and also from this country, to Somaliland, and about what date it is anticipated that these reinforcements are likely to reach General Manning. Also, whether General Manning has now sufficient transport to enable him to relieve Colonel Cobbe, and for how long it is calculated Colonel Cobbe's supply of food will last.


The expenditure up to date on the Somaliland expedition amounts, so far as can be estimated, to about £400,000, as against £500,000 voted in last year's and the present Estimates. The position in Somaliland at present is as follows: On 5th May instructions were sent to General Manning to gather his outlying garrisons together and concentrate them at Bohotle. General Manning estimated that his available transport and provisions would fully enable him to carry out this movement, and we have heard nothing from him to cast doubt on his power to effect the concentration. Meantime the Abyssinian advance to Gerlogubi has caused the Mullah to move to the north-east, and his mounted troops are reported in the neighbourhood of Damot on the route of General Manning's march. Damot is 140 miles from Galadi, and we have no reason to suppose Galadi is threatened. General Manning has not asked for reinforcements, but, as the mortality of camels has been heavy, His Majesty's Government have ordered 1,200 camels to be sent from Aden, of which 700 have reached Berbera, and 1,300 from India, which are due at Berbera next week. Three hundred men of the Hampshire regiment and 300 Indian troops have also been ordered from Aden to Berbera with full transport, and will leave at once, and the Indian Government are holding further reinforcements from India in readiness for despatch if required.


Has General Manning transport sufficient to enable him to return to his base, and how long may Colonel Cobbe's food supplies be expected to last?


Will the movements of the Mullah from the south-west to the north-east not take the Mullah into British territory; what are the troops available, apart from the garrison of Berbera, for operations in the field, either under General Manning or Colonel Cobbe; and when do the War Office intend to make a light railway to help out the question of transport?


We have no reason to suppose that Galadi, which was occupied by Colonel Cobbe, and from which he has since removed, is in any way threatened, and therefore there is no question of his food supply or transport. As to a light railway, that is a question which would require very serious consideration; and we have no reason to suppose at present that the state of the roads would enable the railway to be laid down with rapidity. In any case, it would involve great cost. The House must excuse me from giving exact details of the forces which are available at different points. His Majesty's Government have sent 600 men from Aden because they thought it well to place additional men at Berbera in case they should be required. But no demand has yet been made for reinforcements.

MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)

Is the War Office in communication with General Manning, or are communications broken? Is General Manning in communication with Colonel Cobbe?


According to our last information, General Manning and Colonel Cobbe may be at this moment with one force. But for the last fortnight or three weeks we have had no information from General Manning, as at this moment he is executing his march to Damot in his retirement on Bohotle.


Are the communications with General Manning broken?


We have direct communication with Colonel Swan at Bohotle, and as soon as he hears from General Manning we shall hear from him.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Why is the Boer contingent being withdrawn when fresh troops are being sent?


They had come to the end of their engagement. They engaged for a certain period, and, having served with excellent results, they have returned to South Africa.