§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
I rise to put a question to the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Newcastle) of which I have given him notice. I only put the question pro formâ, as I cannot doubt what the answer will be. The question 1157 is, whether a correspondence which has appeared in the Morning Chronicle of today, between Marshal de St. Arnaud and General Brown—
THE EARL OF WICKLOW
I rise to order. It is the time for proceeding with the Orders of the Day (a quarter past five), and if your Lordships wish to adhere to your regulations, you will conform to the desire of those noble Lords who wish the Orders of the Day to be proceeded with. It is contrary to the orders of the House and its regulations that questions such as the noble Earl is putting should be put after the time for the Orders of the Day, and especially when the Orders have been called for.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I am always disposed to maintain your Lordships' Orders, and now an objection has been raised whether I have the right to put this question now. I shall therefore give notice of it to-morrow; but I must say that if it is to be understood that no question of public importance arising in the course of the morning shall be put after the clock has passed the quarter, it is necessary for your Lordships to rescind that order. The correspondence to which I was referring bears evident marks of authenticity; and I call the attention of your Lordships to it because it has an important bearing on a subject which has been frequently introduced to this House since the commencement of the war—namely, the question whether the transports employed in the conveyance of troops to the East have with them a sufficient quantity of boats for the convenient embarkation and disembarkation of those troops. The letter to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention purports to be addressed by General Brown to Marshal de St. Arnaud, through Lord Raglan, and it is in these terms:—Scutari, May 7, 1854.My Lord—In communicating to you the safe arrival in this port of the 93rd Regiment and of the second brigade of the Rifles, I should fail altogether in my duty if I did not inform your Lordship of the prompt and efficient assistance which I received for the embarkation of these troops from Admiral Bruat, General Canrobert, and all the French authorities residing at Gallipoli. Not having on the spot any English vessel of war, and finding myself without any other means of establishing a communication with the steamers or transports but the very defective aid of the boats of the locality furnished by the Commissariat, it would have been impossible for me to effect that embarkation without a consider able loss of time, had it not been for the aid of our allies. In such circumstances, I did not hesitate to apply to the 1158 French admiral and general, whose readiness to lend assistance to the troops of Her Majesty had been already appreciated by me on previous occasions. General Canrobert at once placed at my orders all the flat-bottomed boats which he could dispose of, and Admiral Bruat was kind enough to employ all the boats of his squadron both in towing the others and in carrying troops, until all the men were placed on board. The result of this prompt and friendly co-operation was, that the two regiments, which had already marched eight miles from their lines at Gallipoli, of which the embarkation did not, in consequence, commence until one in the afternoon, were all on board, with upwards of one hundred horses, by sunset, so that it was possible to weigh anchor before nightfall. I am deeply impressed with the feeling that, owing so much personally to these distinguished officers for the kind co-operation which they afforded me on this occasion, as indeed on many others, I should be most ungrateful were I not to seize on the very first occasion to express the obligations under which they have placed me from the first moment that I have been acting in concert with them.—I have the honour to be, my Lord, your very obedient humble servant,G. BROWN, Lieutenant General.Now, with the aid of the fiat-bottomed boats belonging to the French, it appears to have taken six hours—that is, from one o'clock in the afternoon until sunset—to place these 2,000 men and 100 horses on board. It seems from this statement— which I assume to be an accurate copy of the letter of General Brown—that the apprehension I have entertained from the beginning, with respect to many of those transport steamers, is correct—namely, that the Government, or those employed in the fitting out of those steamers and transports, did not have regard to the necessity of having an unusual number of boats, of an unusual size, to each of those steamers and transports, for the purpose of enabling them rapidly to embark and to disembark troops. It is unnecessary for me to press upon your Lordships the extreme importance of attaching to every vessel employed in the conveyance of troops, as many boats, of a fit description, for their complete embarkation and disembarkation, as is consistent with other branches of the public service. Everything may depend, in the success of operations, on the rapidity with which a large number of troops can be thrown on shore. The wind may rise, or the sea may rise, and it may be impossible for the ships, after a short period, to communicate with the shore. A small body of men may thus be thrown, without resources, upon the land, and exposed to the attacks of the enemy, whom they might not be in sufficient strength to resist, when, if there had been a sufficient number of boats 1159 for the purpose of landing a large body with stores and provisions, no danger could have been incurred. And, more than that, the want of sufficient means of embarkation may compel an officer to select a disadvantageous instead of an advantageous spot for such disembarkation. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this matter; and I do trust, if it has not hitherto, it will attract the immediate notice of Her Majesty's Government; or, if these vessels, as I apprehend, have been despatched without a sufficiency of suitable boats for the purpose of the disembarkation of troops, that that defect will be at once remedied, and that a sufficiency of boats will be at once sent out. I made a suggestion some eight years ago, which your Lordships will perhaps allow me to repeat, that it would be expedient to have on board every one of the larger vessels a large boat, with a small amount of steam power, sufficient to tow other boats and to turn the ship's head round. If all the troops are to be conveyed on shore in boats rowed by seamen, the number conveyed on shore at one time must be very small, and the process of disembarkation will proceed less rapidly than it would otherwise do; but if a small steamboat were attached to every ship for the purpose of towing the boats to and from the shore, the thing could be accomplished with the greatest despatch.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
In the first place I am enabled to inform my noble Friend that the letters, in reference to which he has put this question to me, are perfectly authentic. I am enabled to say that, because I have been furnished with copies of them by Lord Raglan. Whatever distrust my noble Friend may feel with reference to the preparations made in this respect, I can only repeat now what I stated on a former occasion when a similar question was asked, that Her Majesty's troops serving in the East have been provided most amply with the means of transport, so far as the sea is concerned. I think I can prove that the instance which he produces of boats having been borrowed from the French, at Gallipoli, is by no means conclusive as to the neglect of which he complains. Your Lordships are aware that, in order to enable this country to despatch two of the largest fleets that have ever sailed in the Black Sea and the Baltic, it was at the same time considered desirable that the large body of troops destined for Turkey should not be conveyed thither 1160 in vessels of war, but in such vessels as could be procured from the commercial service of this country, and the whole of that force has been conveyed in ships hired for that purpose; and my noble Friend is well aware that the admirable invention of flat-bottomed boats which was made some years ago did not exist as regards these particular vessels. Now it is perfectly true that every one of those vessels has been provided with an adequate number of boats for ensuring the safety of the men on board, in the event of accident; but they are not provided with the flat-bottomed boats which are essential for the embarkation and disembarkation of troops for military purposes. The French, who had sent the greater portion of their troops, not by vessels hired for the purpose, but by ships of war, had there five sail of the line, which of course were supplied with those boats, and they very courteously lent them to facilitate the landing of the English troops. But why does my noble Friend assume, having given him on a former occasion to understand that the transports were of this description, that because on an unimportant occasion of the disembarkation of troops at Gallipoli they had not those boats at immediate command, they have not been provided for those great emergencies which may be expected to arise? I can only repeat that ample provision has been made for the purpose of embarking and disembarking troops at any particular point. There would be an inconvenience in stating to your Lordships publicly in this House the number of boats which have been provided, or the number of troops which can be thrown on any portion of the shore at any one moment; but I say these things have been most carefully considered; and I received a letter only the other day through the Admiralty, dated 20th of May, from Admiral Boxer, a gentleman appointed by the Admiralty to the command of the transports in the East, with an adequate number of officers under him—than whom I believe there was no officer more competent for such a service—and who states that all the necessary preparations have been made, and that he was able to embark or disembark troops at any point that might be required with perfect safety and with the greatest celerity.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, it appeared to be the case that the Government did not make any arrangement with the persons to whom these transports and 1161 steamers belonged, in order that the vessels should have, on this particular occasion, when they were to convey troops, a larger number of boats—and boats, too, of a larger kind, than they were accustomed to carry. In point of fact, if the troops had depended on the boats belonging to the transports, they could not have disembarked without the greatest inconvenience and delay.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
observed, that any arrangement such as the noble Earl adverted to could not possibly have been made. When such vessels as the Himalaya and Orinoco were taken up at a fortnight or three weeks' notice, did the noble Earl suppose that the Government were in a position to call on the parties to whom the vessels belonged to supply flat-bottomed boats for the embarkation and disembarkation of the troops? No company could have made such a preparation without three months' instead of three weeks' notice. What the Government did was to take care that, when the transports arrived in the Bosphorus, sufficient means should there be provided for disembarkation.