HL Deb 05 May 1854 vol 132 cc1281-3

said, he wished to put to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a question upon a subject on which their Lordships and the whole country would doubtless be extremely anxious to have authentic information. He trusted that the answer which the noble Earl would be able to give would be such as would give their Lordships the greatest satisfaction. It was commonly reported, as their Lordships were no doubt aware, that a telegraphic despatch coming from Belgrade, and founded upon information sent to that town by Her Majesty's Consul at Varna, had been received at the Admiralty, to the effect that Her Majesty's forces had achieved a considerable success in their operations against the fortified port of Odessa. He wished to ask whether it was true that any particulars to that effect had been received?


My Lords, I have great satisfaction in being able to answer my noble Friend's question in the affirmative, and to say that the news to which he alludes has arrived this morning at the Admiralty by a telegraphic despatch from Belgrade. The best way in which I can communicate the news to your Lordships is to read the despatch itself. Mr. Fonblanque writes from Belgrade, on the 4th of May, at a quarter to seven o'clock in the afternoon, and says:— Admiral Dundas announces, through Her Majesty's Consul at Varna, that a division of steamboats of the combined squadrons destroyed, on the 22nd of April, the imperial mole and the Russian ships at Odessa. The mole of the Quarantine, the foreign ships, and the city itself, have not been injured, great care having been taken with respect to private and neutral property. The Pasha of Belgrade stated yesterday that the great powder magazine had been blown up, that the land batteries had been entirely destroyed, and that the loss which had been sustained by the allied fleets did not exceed eight men killed and eighteen men wounded. I am further informed, my Lords, that the fleets, immediately after the attack on Odessa, sailed towards Sebastopol.


then put a question with respect to certain statements that had appeared in the newspapers reflecting upon the conduct of the Duke of Cambridge for alleged delay in proceeding to join the expeditionary army in the East. The noble Lord's statement was inaudible.


My Lords, I have not even seen the articles to which my noble Friend alludes; and although I am not by any means surprised that he or any other Member of your Lordships' House should feel that the character of the Duke of Cambridge ought to be vindicated on such an occasion, yet, on the other hand, I cannot help feeling that at least all those who know the illustrious Duke, and indeed the country at large, treat such imputations with contempt. My noble Friend accurately stated the circumstances under which the Duke of Cambridge went to Paris and remained there, and subsequently proceeded to Vienna; and I may add that not only did the Duke of Cambridge act upon the instructions of the Government, but that in all the transactions in which the Duke has been engaged he has fulfilled the instructions of Her Majesty's Government, not only with the greatest fidelity, but with the greatest ability and success. I assure your Lordships that the Government have every reason to be satisfied with the desire expressed by them, that the illustrious Duke should go to Vienna as well as to Paris. With reference to any imputation of slackness, I can assure your Lordships that the illustrious Duke was, in the first place, most anxious to be employed in active service; and I may say, even expressed the greatest pain and anxiety when there was any doubt on the subject, and was subsequently most anxious from day to day to proceed to his post. He lost no time in going from Paris to Vienna when he received instructions from Her Majesty's Government to do so; and when his duties were executed at Vienna, without one moment's delay he proceeded to Trieste, and thence to Corfu, where a boat was to be in waiting to convey him to Constantinople, at which he has no doubt by this time arrived.


Your Lordships will, I think, concur with me in placing the highest confidence in the character and courage of the officers employed by Her Majesty, both by sea and by land. But there is another description of courage which I do hope and trust will exist in the minds of these gallant officers, and that is, moral courage; so that they will treat with contempt, and will not allow themselves to be urged on by, expressions which may be used in the public press in reference to naval and military operations.