HL Deb 30 April 1855 vol 137 cc1935-40

said, he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the War Department to a statement that had appeared on Saturday, in a letter dated the 22nd of the month, from Genoa. That statement was to the effect that two of the largest vessels, the Crœsus and the Nubia, had been laden with provisions for the Sardinian troops, in consequence of the Commissary General in the Crimea having declared himself unable to fulfil the engagement that the Sardinian troops should be supplied with provisions by the British Commissariat. He was of opinion that, unless there was some military convention of which they had no knowledge to supply the Sardinian troops from the British Commissariat, that duty was not imposed on them. The obligation we had undertaken was, to secure and facilitate the supply of provisions to the Sardinian army; but he apprehended that such securing and facilitating the supply of provisions to the Sardinian army would be effected by giving to the Sardinian Government the use and advantage of the transports at our disposal. It was desirable that their Lordships should have information as to what steps had been taken to carry out the provisions of the convention. With regard to the alleged inability of the Commissary General in the Crimea to fulfil the condition—supposing it existed—of supplying the Sardinian troops from the British Commissariat, he could not think it possible that that could be the case. He thought it was impossible, because the convention was dated the 26th January, and of course it must have been known for a long time before that it was in contemplation; and he presumed that the Minister of War had given immediate information to the Commissary General, with directions to take care to obtain a sufficiency of provisions for the additional troops. Difficulty there was none in providing a sufficiency of food at Balaklava for the use of the troops. A single ship of 1,000 tons would convey provisions for twenty-two days for 40,000 men, and four times that amount of tonnage would so continue that supply, that the army would have always at its disposal twenty-two days' provisions, besides what was contained in its magazines. Therefore, considering the amount of tonnage at the command of the Government, he thought there could be no difficulty in complying with that requisition at Balaklava. There was no doubt that the demands on the Commissariat had largely increased since October. In that month there was probably about 30,000 rations required; and notwithstanding all the losses the army had sustained, yet, taking into consideration the large drafts that had been sent out from this country to several regiments, and the large number of additional regiments already sent out, as well as the ten regiments that were to be sent from the Mediterranean when they were relieved, and also considering that a number of men were to be provisioned by the Commissariat, who were employed and would be employed in the land transport corps, he could not but think that at present there was a demand for 40,000 rations. They would besides have a new demand in a few weeks for rations for 20,000 troops of the Turkish levy, and there was also a further demand coming upon them for 4,000 rations on account of General Beatson's corps of cavalry, and for rations for the followers necessarily attached to these troops. There would be also a new demand for rations for about 10,000 men of the reserve stationed at Malta, so that, instead of there being only a demand, as in October, for 30,000 rations, the demand could not be less than for 70,000 or 80,000 rations. Difficulty there could be none in supplying the troops near Balaklava; and in the ordinary state of the roads there would be no difficulty in carrying up to the lines a sufficiency of food to be used by the troops. 450 or 500 animals would be perfectly capable of carrying up all the rations for 40,000 men every day. As the men had hitherto been fed from hand to mouth, he presumed it was intended they would continue to be fed in the same way, and, therefore, 450 or 500 animals would be sufficient. But the case would be different when the army moved into the field. When it moved into the field 10,000 mules would be required to carry provisions, and as they required 4,000 persons to lead them and look after them, they would also require 4,000 more rations. For these 10,000 mules they would require forage, which, in a country like that, must be carried also. And the further the army went from the coast the greater number of mules would be required, to return empty and keep up the supply by bringing back to the army fresh provisions. Therefore, if the Commissary General said it would be impossible for him to supply the army in the field with provisions, that would be probably the fact, because the question of land transport would be involved in it; but the only question that had been put to the Commissary General was, whether he could supply food or not to the Sardinian troops at Balaklava; and he (the Earl of Ellenborough) thought it was impossible that he should have said he could not. When he thus referred to the great demand on the resources of the Commissariat—to which he had also re- ferred on former occasions, but with little success—he must at the same time press upon the noble Lord the Minister of War the necessity of providing persons, without taking them from the ranks of the army, for the purpose of acting in various situations under the Commissariat, and in the various situations in which men were required to act with an army. As the army then stood, or lately stood, he learned, not only from information he had himself, but from what he had gathered from the information contained in the public journals, that 4,000 troops were detached for Commissariat purposes; and if they sustained a loss of 4,000 men in consequence of the number required for those purposes, and if they did not otherwise provide for the execution of the duty, by the extension of the force now taking place, they would be reducing to a very serious, dangerous, and painful extent, the ranks of the army, which they must again fill up; but no matter what provision they might make for that purpose, if they could not obtain men it would be impossible for them to carry on the war with success. He wished to know whether there was any convention in furtherance of the objects of the clause in the Military Convention with Sardinia for the purpose of specifying what France and England were to do with the view of securing and facilitating the provisioning and maintenance of the Sardinian troops, and whether the Commissary General in the Crimea had been applied to, to supply those troops, and had replied that he was unable to do so?


in reply to the first question of the noble Earl, had to state that he had heard with considerable surprise what had been stated with regard to the Crœsus, one of the most important vessels in the transport service, and which had been intended to convey Sardinian troops to the Crimea. He did not say that the ship went to be laden with provisions, but he did expect that provisions would have been sent for the maintenance of the Sardinian troops. The understanding between the two Governments was, that, in the first instance, the Sardinian Government should send forth an army accompanied by one month's provisions for the maintenance of that army. There was no further convention between the two Governments, but there was an understanding with reference to the Sardinian army, that, to avoid contention in the market, provisions should be supplied to it from the British Commissariat, which were to be paid for by the Sardinian Government, and the Commissariat Department of the British army had been charged to furnish magazines able to answer the demands for rations made by the Sardinian troops. What was received by those troops would be paid for, and an intimation to that effect had a considerable time ago been sent to the Commander in Chief of the British army in the Crimea. It was quite true that Mr. Filder, in the first instance, expressed some doubt as to procuring supplies; but neither Lord Raglan nor Mr. Filder had ever expressed any doubt that, with sufficient means at their disposal, they could fully and efficiently supply the necessities of the army. He was satisfied, from information which he had received by the last mail from Sir John M'Neill, who had been sent out to inquire into the efficiency of the Commissariat, that that gentleman was convinced, from the facts before him and his experience in that country, that ample supplies of meat and grain were to be found there, and that there was at this moment at the disposal of the Commissary General sufficient for the maintenance of any number of troops which it could fall to his lot to have to supply. He thought that this answered two of the questions which the noble Earl had put. With reference to the other point—namely, the increasing demand upon the Commissariat, he might state that the Commissary General of the army in the Crimea would not he called upon to supply the Turkish Contingent or the troops forming under General Beatson. Those forces would be supplied from other sources, and not from any means at Mr. Filder's command. With regard to what the noble Earl had stated respecting the large number of men detached on commissariat duty, the attention of Lord Raglan continued to be directed to the importance of reducing as much as possible the number of persons employed in administering to the wants of the army from the ranks of the army itself. The question appeared to resolve itself into this—whether, when an army was called upon to advance into the interior of a country, or was employed as the British army was at present employed in the Crimea, it was desirable to take from the ranks of the army a certain number of men to perform these services, or to add to the non-combatant ranks of the army individuals who should do that work for them, as was the case in the Indian army? No doubt there were evils in both systems. A practical soldier might say that the manner in which the service was performed in the Queen's army was attended with less inconvenience than resulted from the plan adopted in the Company's army. For himself, he thought that whenever the services of civilians could be employed they ought to be; and he was happy to state that at this moment the whole duty of the camp, which would fall naturally upon the pioneers, was entirely in the charge of civilians, and that for that purpose, therefore, no troops were detached from the ranks. Whenever the army began to move he feared that it would be necessary to continue to observe the practice which at present obtained in the British army, of course always taking care that no men should be detached from the ranks whose services were necessary in other situations. However, when the army moved, he was afraid that it would be necessary to detach men from the ranks, instead of the army being accompanied by a large number of men for the purpose of performing these duties, which might be attended with much inconvenience, and these parties might fall into the habit of plundering the country.

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