HL Deb 06 March 1855 vol 137 cc157-62

My Lords, I must trouble your Lordships by presenting myself before you on a personal matter.


My Lords, if the subject is the one on which I suppose the noble Earl is going to speak, may I request him to defer his observations until my noble Friend the Secretary of War and the Commander in Chief have taken their places?


My Lords, I find myself compelled to present myself before your Lordships on a case personal to myself. As I informed your Lordships, that immediately on my arrival in England I applied to the General Commanding in Chief to have my conduct subjected to an investigation by a court-martial—


I beg the noble Earl's pardon, but I rise to order. I feel that this is a very inconvenient course of proceeding. The noble Earl wishes to read a document without any question being before the House. If the noble Earl wishes to place the document before your Lordships, the regular course will be to move for its production; and the noble Earl can then raise any question upon it he thinks proper. The course the noble Earl now proposes to pursue is quite contrary to the rules of both Houses of Parliament.


I believe the course which I am about to pursue is per- fectly regular, inasmuch as I intend to move that the letters which I am about to read should be printed.


If the noble Earl means to move for papers without any discussion, there is no objection; but if the noble Earl intends to comment on them before they are laid upon the table, it is irregular. I am sure that the noble Earl's discretion will suggest to him that the present is not the proper course to pursue.


I have these papers with me ready to lay upon the table, and they will be in your Lordships' hands to-morrow morning; but the noble Earl can, if he thinks fit, read them now. I had the honour of seeing the noble Earl on Friday afternoon last, but did not receive from him any intimation of his intention to read any further letters to your Lordships.


It is undoubtedly trne that I was with the noble Lord on Friday afternoon, but the papers I am now going to read I did not then know the existence of, and therefore should have found some difficulty in referring to them. I suppose the noble Lord will have no objection to my reading a note I received from him yesterday. I desire to do so, because it charges me with producing an incomplete correspondence. The noble Lord says— My dear Lord,—As I perceive that you read an incomplete correspondence on Friday in the House of Lords, I think it right to forward you a copy of Lord Raglan's despatch of the 16th of December, 1854, addressed to the Duke of Newcastle. Yours faithfully, "PANMURE. March 5, 1855. And why was the correspondence incomplete? Because I did not know of the existence of such a letter as the one forwarded to me, and because, for reasons best known to the Government—or, more properly speaking, to the late Government and the noble Lord—papers which should have been made public long ago, were kept back until yesterday afternoon. Now, my Lords, I hold the letter in my hand, and as I do not intend to offer a single word of comment upon it, I shall certainly read it, unless I am stopped by your Lordships' House, and for this reason, because I think that I should not be acting fairly by the Government, or by Lord Raglan, if I did not take the earliest opportunity of putting your Lordships and the public in possession of the whole of the facts of the case. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), to whom there is no Peer more ready than I am to yield deference, says that so long as "I refrain from any comments I am justified in reading this letter." I shall take advantage of this admission.— Before Sebastopol, Dec. 16, 1854. My Lord Duke,—I regret to be under the Necessity of forwarding to your Grace the Copy of a Letter which has been addressed to me by Lieutenant General the Earl of Lucan. When I received it I placed it in the Hands of Brigadier General Airey, the Quartermaster General, and requested him to suggest to his Lordship to withdraw the Communication, considering that it would not lead to his Advantage in the slightest Degree; but Lord Lucan having declined to take the Step recommended, I have but One Course to pursue, that of laying the Letter before your Grace, and submitting to you such Observations upon it as I am bound in Justice to myself to put you in possession of. Lieutenant General the Earl of Lucan complains, that in my Despatch to your Grace of the 28th of October I stated that 'from some Mis-'conception of the Instruction to advance the 'Lieutenant General considered that he was bound 'to attack at all Hazards.' His Lordship conceives this Statement to be a grave Charge, and an Imputation reflecting seriously on his professional Character, and he deems it incumbent upon him to state those Facts which he cannot doubt must clear him from what he respectfully submits is altogether unmerited. I have referred to my Despatch, and far from being willing to recall one Word of it, I am prepared to declare, that not only did the Lieutenant General misconceive the written Instruction that was sent him, but that there was nothing in that Instruction which called upon him to attack at all Hazards, or to undertake the Operation which led to such a brilliant Display of Gallantry on the Part of the Light Brigade, and unhappily at the same Time occasioned such lamentable Casualties in every Regiment composing it. In his Lordship's Letter he is wholly silent with respect to a previous Order which had been sent him. He merely says that the Cavalry was formed to support an intended Movement of the Infantry. This previous Order was in the following Words: 'The Cavalry to advance, and take ad-'vantage of any Opportunity to recover the 'Heights. They will be supported by Infantry, 'which has been ordered to advance on Two 'Fronts.' This Order did not seem to me to have been attended to, and therefore it was that the Instruction by Captain Nolan was forwarded to him. Lord Lucan must have read the First Order with very little Attention, for he now states that the Cavalry was formed to support the Infantry; whereas he was told by Brigadier General Airey, 'that the Cavalry was to advance, and take ad' vantage of any Opportunity to recover the 'Heights, and that they would be supported by 'Infantry;' not that they were to support the Infantry; and so little had he sought to do as he had been directed, that he had no Men in ad- vance of his main Body, made no Attempt to regain the Heights, and was so little informed of the Position of the Enemy, that he asked Captain Nolan 'where and what he was to attack, as 'neither Enemy nor Guns were in sight.' This, your Grace will observe, is the Lieutenant General's own Admission. The Result of his Inattention to the First Order was, that it never occurred to him that the Second was connected with a Repetition of the First. He viewed it only as a positive Order to attack at all Hazards—the Word 'attack,' be it observed, was not made use of in General Airey's Note—an unseen Enemy, whose Position, Numbers, and Composition he was wholly unacquainted with, and whom, in consequence of a previous Order, he had taken no step whatever to watch. I undoubtedly had no Intention that he should make such an Attack; there was nothing in the Instruction to require it; and therefore I conceive I was fully justified in stating to your Grace what was the exact Truth, that the Charge arose from the Misconception of an Order for the Advance which Lord Lucan considered obliged him to attack at all Hazards. I wish I could say with his Lordship, that, having decided, against his Conviction, to make the Movement, he did all he could to render it as little perilous as possible. This indeed is far from being the Case, in my Judgment. He was told that the Horse Artillery might accompany the Cavalry. He did not bring it up. He was informed that the French Cavalry was on the Left. He did not invite their Co-operation. He had the whole of the Heavy Cavalry at his Disposal. He mentions having brought up only Two Regiments in support; and he omits all other Precautions, either from Want of due Consideration, or from the Supposition that the unseen Enemy was not in such great Force as he apprehended, notwithstanding that he was warned of it by Lord Cardigan, after the latter had received the Order to attack. I am much concerned, my Lord Duke, to have to submit these Observations to your Grace. I entertain no Wish to disparage the Earl of Lucan in your Opinion, or to cast a Slur upon his professional Reputation; but, having been accused by his Lordship of having stated of him what was unmerited in my Despatch, I have felt obliged to enter into the Subject, and trouble your Grace at more Length than I could have wished in vindication of a Report to your Grace in which I strictly confined myself to that which I knew to be true, and had indulged in no Observations whatever or in any Expression which could be viewed either as harsh or in any way grating to the Feelings of his Lordship.—I have, &c. (Signed) "RAGLAN. Now, my Lords, nearly at the same moment at which I received this letter, I received another letter from the General Commanding in Chief, in answer to an application which I had made to the noble Lord to allow my conduct to be investigated by a court-martial. Horse Guards, March 5, 1855. My Lord—I have had the honour to submit to the General Commanding in Chief your letter of the 2nd of March instant, reporting your arrival in London, and requesting that your conduct in ordering the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at the action of Balaklava, on the 25th of October last, and writing the letter you addressed to Field Marshal Lord Raglan on the 30th of November, may be submitted to and investigated by a court-martial. I am directed by the General Commanding in Chief to state in reply that, after a careful review of the whole correspondence which has passed, he cannot recommend to Her Majesty that your Lordship's conduct in those transactions should be investigated by a court-martial. I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient servant, G. A. WETHERALL, A.G. Lieutenant General the Earl of Lucan. My Lords, on seeing this letter of Lord Raglan's—with the existence of which I was uninformed until yesterday afternoon—my case appeared to be so entirely altered that I felt myself obliged to write to the General Commanding in Chief this letter, which has this day been delivered to the Adjutant General— Hanover Square, 5th March, 1855. Sir—I have the Honour to acknowledge the Receipt of your Letter informing me that the Commander in Chief cannot recommend that my Conduct should be investigated by a Court-martial. Until this day I have been kept uninformed of the Letter from Lord Raglan, which appears to have been addressed by his Lordship to the Minister of War when forwarding mine of the 30th November last. This Letter contains entirely new Matter, and is replete with new Charges, reflecting more seriously than before on my professional Judgment and Character. There is now imputed to me, and for the First Time, not only the Misconception of one Order, but Inattention to and Neglect of another Order; and, again, a total Incapacity to carry out any Instructions and to avail myself of the Means placed by his Lordship at my Disposal. Charges so grave and of a Character so exclusively professional cannot, I submit, be properly disposed of without a Military Investigation. I find myself, therefore, compelled to express my anxious Wish that the Commander in Chief will be induced kindly to reconsider his Decision, and consent to my whole Conduct on the Day of the Action of Balaklava, 25th October, 1854, being investigated by a Court-martial. I have, &c. (Signed) LUCAN, Lieutenant General, "The Adjutant General, &c. &c. &c. Now, my Lords, I do not intend on this occasion, any more than I did the other night, to depart from the undertaking into which I entered; and therefore I shall now content myself with merely thanking your Lordships for the kind attention you have accorded to me.

MovedThat there be laid before this House Copies of any Letters or Papers relating to the Conduct of Lieutenant General the Earl of Lucan, com- manding the Cavalry Division of the Army in the Crimea.


My Lords, it is not my intention to make many remarks upon the painful position in which your Lordships' House is at present placed in having a matter which is entirely one of military discipline thus brought before you; and I trust that your Lordships will not make this an occasion on which points of discipline are to be discussed in this House. I wish merely to explain one point. The noble Earl says that this correspondence ought to have been laid upon your Lordships' table long ago. Now, when I was appealed to on a former occasion to produce this correspondence, I stated my reason for withholding it, which was, that the noble Earl was then on his passage home to this country, and would soon arrive here, and that if, after he reached England, he should desire that it should be produced before the House and the country, no man would be more unwilling to stand in the way of its being laid on the table than I should. That was my only reason for then objecting to the production of the correspondence; but I have brought it down to the House with me to-night, and now hold it in my hand, for the purpose of laying it on your Lordships' table.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.