HL Deb 26 January 1855 vol 136 cc947-9

inquired whether it were true, as had been stated in the newspapers, that ships had been chartered from this country to bring home the 12th and 91st Regiments from the Cape, and that no orders to that effect having been given to the officer in command at the Cape, he had refused to allow the regiments to be embarked?


said, the circumstances were these. In the despatch he addressed to Sir George Cathcart, at the time that the constitution was given to the Colony, he stated the amount of military force which he thought ought to remain at the Cape for a time, and also the amount to which it might be ultimately reduced. Subsequent events, however, and communications with Sir George Cathcart, had led him to believe that it would not be possible to reduce the force so rapidly as he had proposed; and on December 22, 1853, he addressed a despatch to Sir George Cathcart, intimating that the force would not be further reduced until he had had an opportunity of completing his arrangements. On the 14th of March last he received from Sir George Cathcart information that he thought it undesirable that the force should be reduced lower then 5,000 men; and though he (the Duke of Newcastle) had informed him that the 12th and 91st Regiments, which stood next for relief, should be brought home, Sir George Cathcart expressed a desire that the 12th should be left, and said that he would remove the 91st from the frontier to Cape Town, with a view to its embarkation, when ships, which probably would be calling at the Cape on their way from Australia, would bring them home. The breaking out of the war led to an alteration in these arrangements. It became impossible to relieve the 99th in Van Diemen's Land, and also desirable that the 46th, which was to have gone out to Victoria, should be retained at home, with a view to its being sent (as it ultimately was sent) to the Crimea. That being the case, it being desirable to bring home the 91st as soon as the Cape force was raised to 5,000 men, arrangements were made that the force should be raised to that amount by drafts sent from this country, in vessels which should bring home the 12th and 91st Regiments. Accordingly the Maidstone and the Punjaub were chartered for that purpose; and on the 6th June he wrote a despatch to the Lieutenant Governor of the Cape, informing him of these arrangements, and of the vessels which would be sent to bring home these regiments; and he also addressed letters on the 30th of May (a week previously) to the Admiralty and to the Horse Guards, informing the Horse Guards of the arrangement, and desiring the Admiralty that ships might be provided to bring home the troops in question. The vessels arrived at the Cape in the middle of October; but it appeared, unfortunately, that although his despatch to the Lieutenant Governor had arrived, the General in command of the forces—Major General Jackson—had not received corresponding orders from the Horse Guards; and under those circumstances, though he was informed by the Governor of the directions he had received from the Minister of War, he declined, because the drafts sent were not sufficient to raise the force to the number of 5,000 men, to allow either of the regiments referred to, to come home. He (the Duke of Newcastle) had subsequently written to him for a more complete explanation of the circumstances. But it was too true that one of the vessels sent out had come back empty, and that both would have done so had it not been for an accidental circumstance—the wreck of a vessel on its way to India, in consequence of which the other of the vessels had brought home a detachment of the 27th Regiment. With that qualification, the report referred to by the noble Earl must be admitted to be founded on fact.