§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I gave notice some days ago to the noble Duke the Secretary of War that I should take an opportunity of putting to him some questions of considerable importance with regard to the army now employed in Turkey. The first of these questions relates to the transport of troops to Turkey. The House of Commons, a few days ago, voted a sum of not less than 3,096,000l. for that purpose. That appears to me, my Lords, a startling sum; and I must say that, at the commencement, as we now are, of a very expensive, a very difficult, and, I fear, a very long war, it appears to me to be our bounden duty to look most closely into all the details of the expenditure from the very commencement. If we early pay a bill, large as it is, without looking into its details, we shall soon come into difficulty, and there will be a general reluctance on the part of the people to prosecute a war that is so expensively and perhaps so recklessly conducted. I have seen that the expenditure for transport of troops is 3,096,000l.; and as far as I can gather from what has been stated in another place by a Minister of the Crown, we have already sent 25,000 troops, and I believe the total number to be sent is 27,000, and, as far as I can calculate, the number of horses for cavalry and artillery will be about 5,000. Now, my Lords, the expense for which any lady or gentleman can proceed to India, round the Cape of Good Hope, with every possible comfort, is about 100l.; so that, if every individual soldier had been sent to Turkey at the same rate of expenditure at which a lady or gentleman could proceed to India, the expense would have been 2,700,000l. I find, also, that the expense of sending a gentleman's horse to India, without any additional charge for attendance—which in this case would not be incurred, as there is a soldier to every horse—is 50l.; so that, if all these horses had been sent to India round the Cape, the expense would have been 250,000l.; consequently, the whole expense of sending these horses and these ladies and gentlemen round the Cape to India would have been 2,950,000l.—that is, it would have been less by 146,000l. than the amount of cost of sending these 27,000 men and 5,000 horses to Turkey. My Lords, I thought, in considering this subject, that it was ad- 129 visible to look back to what had been the expenditure under the head of transport in former times, and I selected, as the most convenient time to refer to, the year 1808, a year in which great expenditure occurred on account of the war in the Peninsula. In that year, when it must be remembered that there was a depreciation in the currency of nearly 18 per cent, what was the expenditure? I find that in that year the whole charge for transport was 2,900,000l., but that included a sum of 800,000l. for the maintenance of prisoners of war; so that the whole sum, including the depreciation to which I have referred, was 2,100,000l.—that is to say, very nearly 1,000,000l. less than the sum asked for to pay the transport expenses of the present year. Now, my Lords, we have been told that never had exertions so great been made as at the present moment, and I thought it as well to look back to the year 1808 to see what took place then. I find that in that year the troops which were sent from this country greatly exceeded in number the force which has now been put in motion for service in Turkey. I find that in that year, at an early period of the year, 10,000 men were transported to Sweden; at a later period 5,000 men were despatched to Gibraltar, and by the close of the year the number of men sent to the Peninsula amounted to 49,000. In addition to that force there were also 6,696 horses; so that there were nearly 1,700 horses and 22,000 men more sent to the Peninsula than we have now sent to Turkey; and yet the expense of transport in that year was nearly 1,000,000l. less than in the present year. My Lords, I must say that it is necessary to make some deduction from the charge for transports for the present year, because I think that there are charges under that head which were not paid by the transport department in the year 1808. I have selected a few items, amounting to 293,000l., which ought to be deducted on that account, including 160,000l. for coals for the engines, which of course could not occur in the year 1808; and after that deduction I find that the total charge for the present year is above 2,800,000l. I have already stated that the charge in 1808, after deducting the amount required for the maintenance of prisoners of war, was 2,100,000l.; so that the real difference is 700,000l.; and, if to this I add the sum of 468,000l. on account of the depreciation of the currency 18 per cent, the practical difference becomes 1,168,000l. I think, my 130 Lords, that this statement is not suggestive of any blame to the Government, or to any officer of the Government, but that it justifies me in asking for some explanation of the items of which that large sum is composed. My Lords, I may mention one circumstance which fell under my own knowledge, and which induces me to think that the detention of transport ships may have some effect upon the great bulk of this charge. On the 8th of March I went on board two transport vessels, and on inquiring how long they had been engaged, I found that they had been engaged from ten days to a fortnight, and that they were ready to receive troops in three days. This was on the 8th March, and they sailed about the 8th of April; so that an additional expenditure had been incurred by the detention of those vessels—in the case of one of them of 1,800l., in the case of the other, of 1,350l. These were only two vessels; and there are a great number, for, as your Lordships are aware, the cavalry is only now on the point of sailing, while the ships necessary for their transport have been in the hands of the Government for a considerable period. There is another matter of a totally distinct nature about which I also wish to put a question to my noble Friend—and that is, I wish to ask him in what manner it is proposed by Government to pay the troops now serving in Turkey? I have made such inquiries as I could with regard to the currency in Turkey, and I have ascertained that that currency is depreciated 82½ per cent, that the silver currency is only copper washed with silver, and that the copper is visible at the edges of the coin and on the inscription. That currency is undergoing still greater depreciation, and the sovereign which in January was worth 125 piastres, is now, I understand, worth 150 piastres. It is, therefore, quite impossible that Government can pay the troops in the currency of the country. I understand that at Malta and at Corfu the troops are paid in the currency of England; but there is a difficulty in Turkey connected with our currency which does not exist at Malta or Corfu. The English soldier may have shillings, and the French soldier may have francs worth one-sixth less than our shillings; but the English coin meeting the French coin in the market will hardly obtain the value of this difference in exchange. It may be advisable to coin tenpenny pieces, nearly equivalent to the franc, to avoid this loss; but in Turkey the 131 larger the coin with which the soldier goes into the market the larger will be the loss, from the demand for small coin which he must have to make his purchases with. I should propose enabling the soldiers to go into the market with a still smaller currency more nearly resembling the silver coin of twopence; and it would be desirable, I think, to strike a number of those coins and distribute them, because they would nearly correspond with the current value of the piastre. I will venture to mention to your Lordships that in the Indian army there is in almost every regiment a person whose duty it is to change rupees into pice—the rupee contains sixty-four pice, and he is permitted to give sixty-three pice. It is found practically to be of great convenience; and I apprehend that the Government would do well to consider whether they cannot in some manner give the English troops in Turkey the same advantage as that possessed by the troops in India from this arrangement. They need not employ natives in this matter; their whole staff need not extend beyond the regimental paymaster; and I see no reason why arrangements could not be made through the Commissariat, which would place the paymaster in a position that would enable him to make the rate of exchange more favourable than the soldier could otherwise obtain. If the paymaster were enabled to pay the soldiers in small silver coin, they would at the same time afford them an opportunity of changing the small silver coin for the current coin of the country. This arrangement is sustained by its uniformly satisfactory practice in India. I am aware that what I am suggesting is not in accordance with the rules of political economy, and that it interferes with individual enterprise and fair competition in the market; but I am satisfied that the individual enterprises of the Armenian shoof would be too strong for the individual ignorance of the troops. The soldiers would be cheated, and would become exceedingly angry, and the result of that anger might be, that blows would be introduced into the currency of the market, and exercise a considerable influence on the price of commodities, while the coin on the other side might be knives and stilettos. These are inconveniences which ought not to exist, and I recommend my noble Friend (the Duke of Newcastle) to take the matter into serious consideration. There is one other point to which I wish to call the attention of the noble Duke. I desire to 132 know what measures have been adopted to afford the means of moving the army in Turkey? My Lords, I see by the public press that it is a common error in this country to suppose that the moment these troops are landed with their cavalry and artillery, the officer in command can move them wherever he pleases, or wherever the exigencies of the service may require. There cannot be a more grievous error. I do not state this upon my own authority, but I will take the liberty of reading to your Lordships an extract from a letter which I received about twenty-five years ago from the late Duke of Wellington, and which referred particularly to the condition of the Russian army in Turkey in the campaign then in course of progress. I had written to the Duke to ask him to be good enough to state his views as to the best mode of conducting any future war in Burmah in which this country might be engaged. The Duke in his reply pointed out the cause of the vast expense of war beyond sea as being the transport of animals, without which it was impossible to move an army, and he pointed out the great advantage the Russians then had in being able to transport troops by sea within a short distance of Constantinople; but that those troops could not move for want of animals and were thus useless. Now, it is, of course, impossible for me to judge what may be the amount of our force in Turkey which may be employed in operations inland, and what part may be required for garrison duty at Gallipoli or Constantinople, or for operations upon the shores of the Black Sea. That, of course, rests entirely with Her Majesty's Government to decide; but I will say, that even where our troops are in garrison, as they may be considered to be at Gallipoli, even there some animals are required for the purpose of alleviating the labour of the troops, for the purpose of enabling them to bring stores, ammunition, provisions—everything they require for the service—from the shore, which is at a distance, I understand, of nearly seven miles from the camp. More than that; if troops are to be removed by sea to any point upon the shores of the Black Sea, even there animals will be required; for that force, when thrown on shore for the purpose, it may be, of besieging a fortress must land heavy guns—must bring up all its provisions from the beach—all its stores and matériel. In former times no provision—or, at all events, very inadequate provision—was made for the purpose of enabling 133 our expeditions to have the advantage of the use of animals with which to make these necessary movements. Seamen and marines—especially seamen—were employed to a very great extent. It has necessarily very much disheartened these men to have to draw all these heavy guns and stores to, frequently, a considerable distance. They have, however, done that duty zealously and well, and would do it again, no doubt; but it must be recollected that while on shore the efficiency of the fleet, which may be suddenly called into action, is diminished by their absence, and also that these operations are conducted much more slowly than if the men had the advantage of animals; and the noble Duke opposite knows perfectly well that time, in an operation of this kind, is essential to success. Again, in any operation intended to be carried on along the shores of the Black Sea a very considerable number of animals would be required (besides those for the use of the artillery) for the purpose of facilitating the movements of the troops. If these animals were to be shoved out of the ship, and made to swim ashore through the surf as best they could, and if there was no hope of re-embarking any one of them, I still think it would be no less important that they should be made use of. It must be generally admitted, I think, that it will be impossible for any very large proportion of the force to be employed in mere garrison duty. At least some portion of our expeditionary force will be employed in the interior, and it is to be considered what number of animals is absolutely necessary for the purpose of enabling that force to move in a way to execute any operation required from it. I have no doubt that I may be supposed to entertain very extravagant views with regard to the difficulty of moving an army. It is generally understood that in India the baggage attending an army is unduly and unnecessarily large. But some few years ago a great general—Sir Charles Napier—went to India. He was perfectly aware of all the embarrassments which arose out of the enormous amount of baggage, and he set himself to reform that abuse. Sir Charles Napier has given to the world his reasoning upon the subject, and the amount of baggage which he considers absolutely necessary; and, without presuming to offer any opinion of my own upon the subject, I will state to your Lordships what amount of baggage he considers absolutely necessary. Now, his calculation was founded 134 upon the supposition that the army was a combined army of Natives and Europeans; but an army of that description requires a very much smaller amount of baggage than an army composed altogether of Europeans. Sir Charles Napier states distinctly that upon an average—of course the amount would vary according to circumstances—but, upon an average, there should be one camel to every two men. One camel was to be reckoned in the calculation as about equal to two horses; and therefore, if we are to move 15,000 men in the East, we shall require 15,000 animals. But, beyond this, Sir Charles Napier distinctly states that there ought to be a reserve of 30 per cent for contingencies; and any one who has seen the number of animals that are left upon the road upon even a comparatively short march must be of opinion that such a reserve is absolutely necessary. If, therefore, we are to move 15,000 men in any operation, we thus require 19,500 animals to enable that army to move, even upon the low and most economical calculation made by Sir Charles Napier. And then, it must be recollected that in Turkey—a country which very much resembles some parts of India—it will be necessary that the army, when engaged in operations in the interior, should move with at least fifteen days' provisions. This would require a still larger number of animals; and therefore it becomes a consideration of the greatest possible importance, for, unless sufficient means of carriage be furnished to the general, he has not any means of executing the great operations of war. I have thought it right to say this in justice to the officer in command in the East, and to the troops employed there; because, unless these means of carriage be supplied, they cannot be expected to act with that vigour and efficiency which would be desirable. The question I have to ask my noble Friend (the Duke of Newcastle) upon this subject is—what measures have been adopted for the purpose of furnishing the Army with these means of land carriage?
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
My Lords, I can assure your Lordships, and my noble Friend in particular, that there is no indisposition on the part of the Government, or on my part, to give to my noble Friend, and to the House, any information we possess, provided we can do so consistently with our regard for the public service; at the same time nobody knows better than the noble Earl that it is im- 135 possible for any person, except those immediately concerned in carrying on those affairs, to know what information can be given with safety, and what information ought not to be given. Now, as an instance—before I proceed to answer the other questions put by my noble Friend—with regard to this very question of the means at our command for the movement of troops, I can assure my noble Friend that, under certain circumstances, to answer that question in the only way an English Minister can answer—that is, with entire truth—might be giving a very great advantage to the enemy, while it would effect no good in this country. Suppose that, for the purpose of carrying on the war, adequate provision had been made for the movement of troops by land, and inadequate provision made for their movement by water, or vice versâ that inadequate provision had been made for the movement of the troops by land, while adequate provision had been made by water—would not the fact announced in this House, however great the certainty of the mistake being corrected, and the deficiency supplied, within the next month or six weeks—would not, I say, the knowledge of that fact be of the most essential importance to the enemy, as proving what operations we could undertake, and what operations we could not undertake, and enable them to provide their measures accordingly? I only say this, in reference to the inconvenience sometimes of putting questions of this kind, and in anticipation of my inability or objection on other occasions to answer them. That inability, as regards this particular question, does not exist on the present occasion, and it is for that reason that I have given the instance which I have just presented to your Lordships. I shall now proceed to give to my noble Friend such information as I can, and shall take the questions in the order in which he put them. The first question the noble Earl put was, whether I am prepared to lay upon the table of the House the details of the Estimates which have been lately voted by the House of Commons for the transport of the troops from this country to Turkey. My noble Friend said, with great justice, that the sum was a formidably large one, and that it required explanation. Now, as a matter of account, the Members of the Government will undoubtedly be bound to give a full and entire account of the manner in 136 which any money is disbursed which is voted by the House of Commons for the furtherance of this war; and as a matter of account, I can assure the noble Earl that no difficulty will be thrown in the way at the proper time for this information being given. But my noble Friend seems to forget, when he asks for an account of those sums, that this money has not been already expended, that the transports for this service have not already been paid for, that the whole proceeding is now in course of progress, and that the greatest possible practical inconvenience might arise from giving details which would enable those with whom the Government are in negotiation to deal more advantageously for themselves, but less advantageously to the public, than they can do at the present moment. A great part of the sum is only a matter of estimate; and with regard to those parts that could be considered more in the light of accounts, so great was the haste with which the Government had to take up a number of those ships, that it was impossible in some instances to come to an actual arrangement with the parties as to the sum that should be paid to them; and they, to meet the wishes of the Government that no time should be lost, consented, if any difficulty should arise, that the matter should be settled by arbitration. That is one case; as to another case, three-fourths of the amount have been paid, and one-fourth of the amount has been held back on account of some dispute that has arisen, and which is not yet decided. Therefore it is impossible to give my noble Friend such details as he requires, or attempt to give him any greater details than have already satisfied the House of Commons. I think my noble Friend will see that, being, as we are at this moment, in the market to deal with the persons possessing these vessels for the transport of troops, we should be neglecting the interest of the public service if we gave the details for which my noble Friend calls. I readily admit that the sum asked for is a formidably large one; but if he contrasts the expense with a former period, he should state it as the expense for conveying, not 27,000 troops, but 30,000 troops, as the truth is. My noble Friend contrasts the cost of conveying 27,000 troops to Turkey with the cost of conveying 27,000 ladies and gentlemen to India—and says that the cost for the conveyance of troops is greater than in the other 137 case. But I think his argument entirely fails. The noble Earl must bear in mind that these ladies and gentlemen who go to India round the Cape do not carry with them many thousand tons of ammunition and other articles which are required in the transport of troops. Again, another most important consideration is, that the vessels which convey ordinary passengers to India return to this country laden with return freight; but these transports, engaged for the conveyance of the troops to the East, in the great majority of instances have not been taken up by the voyage (in which case the expense to the Government would have been materially reduced), but they have been taken up for a period of twelve months; and the Estimates had to be based on the supposition that the vessels would be required for the whole of that time. Thus, my noble Friend will see that the comparison he has made falls at once to the ground, under the circumstances to which I have referred. The noble Earl said that he was led to form a had opinion of the mode in which these affairs have been conducted, and of the lavish expenditure incurred upon them, by facts that he had personally witnessed, with reference to the detention of two vessels—the Lord Palmerston and the Tonning—which he had seen at Woolwich; and he said that he was afraid the cavalry transports stood in the same category, having been taken up for many weeks, and yet only putting to sea at this moment. Now this is certainly the fact; but the Government will not have to pay for the delay—because the detention of these transports was not owing to the fault of the Government or the cavalry officers and troops, but rested with the contractors who provided the vessels. Although, undoubtedly, the ships had been taken up many weeks ago, the contracts had not been fulfilled; and this arises, I admit, from many circumstances which involve scarcely any blame on the part of the contractors. They have had many difficulties to contend with—such as the strike among the carpenters and other artisans by whom the vessels were to be fitted up, and the desertion of the sailors for the purpose either of enlisting on board the fleet, or of seeking employment in the merchant service—perhaps in ships bound to. Australia, attracted by the higher wages offered to them. All these circumstances mitigated any culpability that might attach to the contractors; but I must repeat, that it has been the 138 fault of those engaged to supply the ships, and not of the Government, that these horse transports have not sailed from this country many weeks ago. With regard to the Lord Palmerston sailing transport, to which my noble Friend adverted, that vessel took out the first detachment of artillery. It was detained from causes which it is not necessary to mention, and by the direction of the Government, for two or three days, but not longer; and that is the only instance of a sailing transport engaged to convey cavalry or artillery being detained one hour in their departure by the orders of the Government, or by any laches on the part of the military authorities. As regarded the other vessel mentioned by my noble Friend, the Tonning steamer, it took out a portion of the staff and part of a body of troops, who were conveyed to Turkey in three steam-ships. The receipt of the convention with Turkey in reference to the landing of English troops in Turkey was expected whilst this portion were under orders to sail, and they were detained a week or nine days waiting for its arrival after the vessel was ready to sail, so that as regards them, I think, some demurrage will have to be paid. But as respects the remainder of the vessels, the delay was occasioned in consequence of the inability of the contractors to prepare them for sea, and not from any fault on the part of the Government or the military authorities, or of the officers and men of the regiments that were ordered away.
With reference to the second question of my noble Friend, as to the currency in which the troops in Turkey are to be paid—he is no doubt aware that there is a standing rule of the Commissariat Department; on occasion of any expedition of this sort, a general order is issued fixing the standard of the army pay, which, of course, is regulated by the intrinsic value of English coin, and its proportion to the coin of the country to which the troops are about to be embarked. With reference to the particular currency, he is no doubt aware that for a very long period the currency of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean has been almost entirely carried on in the colonnado, or pillar dollar. The diminution of this currency has of late years been very great, and even four or five years ago it was to a great extent disappearing, and the ordinary sovereign of this country to a considerable degree has taken its place in many 139 parts of the Levant, and of course more especially so in those most frequented by British subjects. The entire supercession of the colonnado by the English sovereign has been accelerated, I believe, by the enormous drain of the former coin to China. Under these circumstances, it was felt to be desirable that the basis of the currency in which the troops should be paid should be the English sovereign, and, therefore, an arrangement has been at once made for sending a supply of that coin from this country. I believe that 225,000 English sovereigns have been sent to the Commissariat Department accordingly, and 5,000l. of English silver—the latter more as an experiment, in the direction which my noble Friend has suggested, than from any practical necessity at the present moment. This is meant as a temporary arrangement until the effect of the experiment has been ascertained; and inasmuch as the troops cannot be regularly paid in English sovereigns, it will be absolutely necessary that they should be paid in the current coin of the country where they were stationed. I am aware that my noble Friend has previously made the suggestions on this subject which he has thrown out this evening to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I have to thank him for so doing. I think there is a great deal that is very valuable in his suggestions, and therefore we have transmitted a copy of them to the Commissariat in Turkey, accompanied with a desire that they should report how far it would be possible to carry them out, and whether any difficulty attaches to the plan originally devised for paying all the accounts in English sovereigns and in the coin current in the country, fixed in its proportion to the value of the sovereign.
The last question put by my noble Friend was with respect to that point which I have already touched at the commencement of my observations, namely, the means of moving our troops. My Lords, I can assure my noble Friend—admitting to the full extent all that he has said, based on the great experience and information he has obtained by his attention to these subjects—that this matter has not been neglected, nor was it overlooked at the commencement of this expedition. Orders were sent out long before any troops embarked from this country to the Commissariat officers, who were early despatched to Turkey, instructing them to make in- 140 quiries in all directions as to the means of obtaining animals for carriage, and authorising them to make provisional contracts for purposes of transport. We, as long ago as the month of March—I forget now the exact day—had a report from one of the Commissariat officers, who stated that he had been more successful in this respect than he had at first anticipated; and every subsequent report received in this country leads us to expect that, although the means of transport in Turkey are not so good as might be obtained in other countries, there will be sufficient in point of quantity, and that there certainly will not be the difficulty originally apprehended. With the single exception of a very small transport corps organised in this country, the whole of the remainder will for the present be conducted by Turkish subjects, assisted by the Turkish Government; and only this morning a letter was received from a Commissariat officer, dated the 29th April last, in which appear these words:—"The Turkish Government acts with good faith and loyalty towards us in matters relating to transport and supplies." All the other accounts agree in entertaining a hope that the supply of transport will be sufficient, and every means are taken to provide the troops with baggage horses, which are abundant, and baggage mules, which are much less abundant and more expensive, and also with baggage waggons. On the other hand, as I have already explained to my noble Friend, we are also provided with transports for the conveyance of troops by sea. We have at our disposal permanently in those seas transports for an amount of force equal to at least 30,000 men, without encroaching on the resources possessed by our ships of war for carrying out effectually any operations which they may undertake. I hope, therefore, that my noble Friend will feel satisfied that all these important matters have not been neglected. As regards other points, I am not able to give him now the estimates for which he asks; but I can assure him that we shall have no hesitation, at the proper time, and consistently with the interests of the public service, to satisfy Parliament and the country as to the mode in which we have expended the money that has been so liberally voted by the House of Commons.
I have thus far been answering questions that have been asked. Before sitting down, I will just mention—although no question has been asked with respect to it—that I have had an intimation from noble 141 Lords that in some quarters there is an apprehension that the state of the health of the troops at Gallipoli is such as to cause considerable anxiety. I am happy to state that it is in my power to give the most positive contradiction to any such statements. The number of British troops at Gallipoli is 5,300 men; and out of this force, by a letter I have received, dated the 25th of April, I find that there were only twelve men sick; and by another letter, dated the 30th of April, and received this morning, there were only twenty men sick. Such a small proportion of invalids in a force of 5,300 men is hardly to be found in the records of any army in the field, or even in the records of this country itself. I have thought it necessary to make this statement to your Lordships, in order to correct misapprehension.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, as the noble Duke had alluded to the health of the troops, he wished to say a word respecting the comfort of the wounded. He saw that the Government had devoted attention to providing waggons for a travelling hospital. He had no doubt that in passing over good macadamised roads these waggons would cause the least possible aggravation of the sufferings of the wounded; but as the troops would have to go up rocks and rugged bill country, it would be impossible that these waggons could follow them. Unless coolies were employed for the assistance of the wounded, they might depend upon it that men who had been injured would be left to die on the field of battle, and many others would have their sufferings increased.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he should be sorry if there were any misapprehension on this subject. Great pains had been taken in organising an ambulance establishment on the most approved system, and this was the first time that such a provision had been made for an English army. It was quite possible that in many parts of Turkey these waggons would not be available for the conveyance of the wounded; but at the same time it had been thought desirable to send them out, in order that they might be useful where the roads were fit for them. This part of the arrangements would not interfere with the employment of any other means of conveyance where waggons should be found impracticable; and certainly whatever fault might be found with their other measures, the medical and hospital departments had been most effectually provided. 142 The staff of surgeons and the supply of medical appliances of every kind had been on the largest scale—larger than in any former war—and no pains, care, or cost would be spared to secure the fullest and most effectual provision for our wounded or sick soldiers.