HC Deb 28 February 1917 vol 90 cc2011-2
12. Mr. O'GRADY

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the anxiety of the relatives of the white troops engaged in the East African campaign in respect to the health of such troops, the transport of materials, and the rationing; and whether, having regard to the statement of General Smuts that white troops were not suitable for fighting in East Africa, he can give the House an assurance that in all particulars these troops are well conditioned in every respect, so as to assure their efforts being effective to bring this campaign to a successful conclusion?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. The composition of the East African Expeditionary Force has been varied from time to time according to the climatic and other conditions under which it was operating. It was long since recognised that in the event of the German forces retiring into the malarious southeastern portions of their colony it would be desirable to reduce the number of white troops employed to a minimum. Steps were accordingly taken to provide coloured units to replace white. At the present moment the bulk of the white troops have been withdrawn, or are in process of being withdrawn, whilst arrangements have been made to give other white units a period of rest and recuperation in a healthy climate. In regard to certain reports of the hardships undergone by the troops in East Africa, which have gained currency, the following extract from a telegram from General Smuts may be of interest: The complaints are exaggerated perversions of the admitted fact that the hardships have been unusually great in this campaign. The health and rationing of the troops, the provision of adequate transport, mechanical and other, is constantly engaging attention.