HL Deb 23 February 1854 vol 130 cc1133-7

said, he wished to put a question to Her Majesty's Government on a subject which he could not but think of great importance. In adverting to the subject, he was not inclined to think that Her Majesty's Government had acted otherwise than with the greatest prudence and judgment in carrying negotiations to the last moment possible before coining to the conclusion that recourse to arms was unavoidable; nor did he believe that they were now about to send out an expedition to the seat of war without an intention to carry on operations with the utmost promptitude and vigour. The inquiry he had to put was one entirely of expediency, and he believed was worthy of the consideration of the Government. He had heard with great regret—and he could not but add with a great deal of surprise also—that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take advantage of the discoveries in art and science which the ingenuity of man had placed at their disposal,—that they were not going to send out every branch of the expedition by means of steam navigation. He had been informed that they were about to send out the infantry to the seat of war by steamers, but that the same description of conveyance was not to be used for the transport of those important branches of the service—the artillery and cavalry. He had heard this announcement with great regret, because the delay and inconvenience of conveying horses by sailing vessels was very great, and was also accompanied with much risk to the horses themselves, because, where the voyage was long, it was often found that numbers died on the passage, and others had to be shot after being landed, being unfit for service. The experience obtained in the conveyance of horses belonging to the cavalry in steam-vessels which plied between Liverpool and Ireland, showed that horses could be conveyed in steamers with perfect safety. The inconvenience which might arise to the expedition from the use of sailing vessels instead of steamers was perfectly obvious, because the north-easterly winds, which were more prevalent at this time of the year than at any other, were likely to cause great detention on the outward voyage. He therefore wished to ask the Government whether they did not mean to take advantage of the resources of steam navigation existing in this country for the purpose of transporting every branch of the proposed expedition to the seat of war in steamers, without incurring the risk, delay, and danger necessarily attendant upon sailing vessels? He was quite sure that the people of this country, now that they had entered upon the war, would not grudge any small additional expense for the more efficient prosecution of that war, and to render our aid as prompt and as effectual as possible.


My noble Friend has called the attention of your Lordships to a very important question, and I can assure him that Her Majesty's Government have not neglected its consideration. My noble Friend says, he is quite certain that the country will not grudge any additional expense which might be required for transporting the cavalry and artillery by steam instead of by sailing vessels. I entirely agree with him in that statement, and am confident that no extra cost that may be necessary for that object will be grudged; but it is not upon the ground of expense that the arrangement has been made. My noble Friend thinks that, in the present flourishing condition of the steam navigation of this country, there would be no difficulty in carrying out his suggestion. Now it is precisely in consequence of that very flourishing condition of our steam navigation that the difficulty arises; and although I do not say that it would be absolutely impossible, yet, I believe, such an arrangement as he recommends would be impracticable without entirely deranging those postal communications which the Government do not wish to interfere with so long as no very great emergency exists. I can assure my noble Friend that, so far from the operation being so easy as he supposes, when the Government first came to the determination to send out this expedition to the Mediterranean, those with whom I had to put myself in communication thought it would be found to be absolutely impossible that so large a force as 20,000 troops could be transported in steam-vessels unless the arrangements of the steam companies were greatly, if not entirely, interrupted. That has not, however, proved to be the fact; and it is only due to the companies that I should say that the difficulty has been overcome by the patriotic readiness they have displayed in aiding the Government. It is necessary to say that I do know that the arangements of the Government have already seriously inconvenienced these companies; and although we of course pay a considerable sum for the use of their steamers, I believe that the payment which the country has to make to the companies does not repay them either for the inconvenience they will suffer, or for the wear and tear which their ships will sustain. My Lords, I am sure that the same spirit which has been manifested by the steam companies will also be exhibited, as occasion may demand, under existing circumstances, by every other class of Her Majesty's subjects. I can assure my noble Friend, that the best inquiries were made as to the practicability of obtaining a sufficient amount of steam transports for the conveyance of the number of horses already ordered, namely, 1,500, without taking into consideration the additional number which will be required to be sent out before long. We were well assured that it was totally impracticable; and when the noble Earl recollects the immense amount of space required by horses, and also the great portion of space necessary, not merely for the horses themselves, but for the steam machinery and for the fuel which has to be carried; and further, that in conveying horses you must make an allowance for the provender, and likewise for the large quantity of water requisite for a long voyage, he will see that the cost of conveyance of this kind to the Mediterranean must be very great indeed. I am afraid, therefore, that his suggestions, however valuable in themselves, cannot be carried out. But this may be done to obviate the inconvenience which he has pointed out; namely, that when the sailing vessels are prepared and ready to be sent out with the horses on board, we may be able to attach some steamers to them, in order to take a certain number of the sailing vessels in tow, in the event of adverse winds or calms, and thus, to a certain extent, we may obviate the inconvenience of a less rapid means of transit.


said there could be no doubt that the difficulty in sending out horses to the Mediterranean must be very great. He believed that every horse required ten tons; and as 1,500 horses were to be sent out in the first instance, this would take 15,000 tons altogether; and no doubt it would be extremely difficult to obtain the requisite amount of space in steam-vessels. At the same time, however important the postal communications of the country might be, facility for the transport of the army was of still more importance. The infantry must be chained to the coast of Turkey if it were sent in advance, and would be unable to act in the interior without the cavalry and artillery, and therefore it would be perfectly absurd to send any force with the view to immediate operations under circumstances of that description. There was, however, one consideration that had not been referred to—namely, that steamers could make three trips whilst sailing vessels made one; and therefore, although each horse required ten tons, one-third of the tonnage required to carry 1,500 horses by sailing vessels would suffice to convey the same number by steamers in the same time; and there would be this advantage in using steamers, that at least one-third of the artillery would arrive in good time. He did not know how the country viewed the matter, but the operation which the Government of this country, and that of France, had undertaken was, to his mind, one of enormous and unparalleled magnitude, and such as it would scarcely be possible for any effort on the part of either Government to carry out. It was impossible that the French Government should design to send less than 6,000 cavalry; they would require at least 3,000 horses for their artillery, and at least 1,000 horses for staff purposes. Altogether 10,000 horses attached to the forces would have to be sent by both countries to Constantinople; and this would require 100,000 tons of shipping; and it must be recollected that these forces would be sent to a country in which it would be almost impossible to obtain the means of transit on the spot. Therefore, no doubt the difficulties of carrying out the intentions of the Government would be great indeed; and he thought the noble Duke would have to look for further means of overcoming those difficulties. They should at least try to obtain this steam tonnage, because the efficiency of the force would depend a great deal upon their obtaining it.


said, that sailing vessels, if they were properly ventilated and fitted up, could convey horses with great safety. When he had been connected with the cavalry, horses had been frequently conveyed in that manner. He had known of forty horses being brought home by one transport, without one of them being injured. Horses were formerly put into transports like so much luggage. This was a matter of great importance; and, although he had no doubt that sailing vessels could carry horses, yet, if steamers could be procured, they ought certainly to be in readiness in order to provide against contingencies.