HL Deb 01 May 1855 vol 137 cc2043-6

moved for a Return of the Number of Men and Horses sent or to be sent as Reliefs or Reinforcements to the Cavalry now in the Crimea; Regiments, or Squadrons from Regiments, now in this country, to be employed on this service; Date of Embarkation; Name of Transports in which these Reinforcements have been or are to be sent out, stating whether sailing or steam. The noble Lord said, he had, on a former occasion, moved for a similar return; but he had been induced to withdraw it on the assurance given by the Commander in Chief, that he would at once send a number of men from every regiment in this country, so as to form a strong squadron at the seat of war. Believing that to be the best course to be pursued, and believing that the Commander in Chief would act upon the assurance he had given, he did not press for any return. Finding, however, that up to this moment —certainly up to the last very few days— no single regiment of cavalry had been sent to the East, he felt it his duty again to introduce the subject to their Lordships. It appeared to him, if their army were to continue before Sebastopol, it was essential that that branch of it which was of the highest importance in the operations of the siege, and which at the present moment was the most weak, should be reinforced. He knew he should be told that reinforcements had been or were about to be sent to the Crimea. He was happy to know it; and all he now sought was, that they should be sent by the speediest conveyance. What he desired to know was, what were the means which the Government had of conveying these troops? He feared lest the Government should be once again "too late;" and he thought they would best show that there was no ground for apprehension by stating not only the force they were about to send out, but that they were prepared to send them out in steam-vessels.


said, it was very true the noble Lord did, on a former occasion, request him to afford the House information as to the way in which he purposed to carry out the reinforcements of cavalry to the army in the East, and that at that time he (Viscount Hardinge) thought the best course would be to send out to each of the ten regiments that were at the Crimea one additional squadron from the nine regiments that were at home. Subsequently, he had seen reason to believe that the better plan would be to take two of the nine regiments and send them en masse, instead of a squadron from each of the nine regiments, as he had proposed in the first instance. Accordingly, two regiments—namely, the 1st Dragoon Guards and the 6th Dragoons—had been sent out. The force of the cavalry in the East at the present moment was 1,300 efficient men. These would be reinforced by about 700 troops, forming the two regiments which were to be sent out. In addition to those two regiments would be the troops that were coming from India. The first regiment had already arrived at the Crimea from India, and, when the whole reached that country, they would amount to rather more than 1,000 rank and file besides officers. There would then be in the Crimea rather more than 3,000 efficient cavalry. He should further add, that the number of recruits that were now ready was at least 1,000, together with 1,500 horses, all between five and six years old. The regiments at home had cheerfully consented to act as instructors to those recruits, by which essential service had been done. The Inspector General and the Duke of Cambridge had concurred in these arrangements. He had nothing to say as to the mode of embarkation, because that did not belong to his department, but more than half of the reinforcements had sailed, and the other half were ready. The noble Lord had asked whether the reinforce- were sent out in sailing or steam vessels? He was sorry to say there had been but one steamer available, and that the remainder were sailing vessels; but he was satisfied that whatever delay might take place through sending out the reinforcements in sailing vessels, there was at home a very efficient force to send out.


hoped there was no indiscretion in giving the Emperor of Russia this information as to the amount of cavalry strength that the Government proposed to send out.


said, that when questions of this sort were put relative to the amount of force to be sent out, he always refused to give information; and although, according to the manner in which everything relating to the army was published nowadays, the enemy had every opportunity of knowing exactly the force of which our army consisted, yet it was not a good precedent for Parliament to grant returns which showed the strength of our national forces in time of war. Such returns were usually asked to elicit explanations, such as had been obtained from the Commander in Chief, for a particular and special purpose, and he therefore hoped the noble Lord would not press for the returns. With reference to sending out cavalry reinforcements, every means of despatch had been used to send these and all the other reinforcements at the disposal of the Government. At this moment we and our allies had, he believed, engaged every available steam transport that could be hired for the purpose. But there were not steamers available for the transport for 3,000 miles of so many men as the Government desired to send, and they had, therefore, been compelled to have recourse to sailing vessels, not only for the transport of cavalry and artillery, but also of infantry, to the seat of war.


hoped that whenever the Government determined to send cavalry to the seat of war they would give the earliest possible information to the Commissary General, because, although it was very easy to find food for men there, it was very difficult to find food for horses. If they had not done so they ought to use the electric telegraph for this purpose, or else these fine horses would find nothing to eat when they arrived, and they would be destroyed before they met the enemy. Noble Lords must recollect that the cavalry and the rest of the army now in the Crimea were living in a desert producing nothing whatever. When ea- valry were in the field they could ordinarily obtain the means of subsistence for their horses, but our cavalry in the Crimea must depend for their support upon what was sent out in ships. That made another serious demand upon the tonnage available for transport, to which had been super-added the claims of the Land Transport Corps. He trusted that the instant the Government determined to send out cavalry they would give information to Mr. Commissary General Filder.


said, that Mr. Filder had received the information to which the noble Earl had referred; but he had also taken care to have a large quantity of hay sent out from this country and landed in the Crimea for the supply of the troops until the season came round. There could, therefore, be no possibility of a failure in the supply of food for the horses.


would not press his Motion for the production of the returns.


might add, that he had communicated that day with General Scarlett, who had just returned from the Crimea, and that excellent officer had informed him that the force of cavalry in the Crimea when he left was 1,300 men and 400 horses.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

House adjourned to Thursday next.