HL Deb 19 February 1856 vol 140 cc978-9

THE EARL OF HARDWICKE rose to call the attention of their Lordships, and of the Government, to a subject of considerable interest, although only in a very remote degree under their control. At the commencement of the war with Russia, the Russian authorities in the port of Sebastopol, for the defence of that port, thought proper to sink seven, eight, or nine—he did not know how many—large ships of war. The state in which they were sunk was not known; whether with stores on board or not; nor whether they were built of oak or not, though it was most likely that they were, from the abundance of that kind of timber in that country. He was sure that the Government would agree with him, that if, after the close of the war, there should be a resurrection of these ships, very great pain and irritation would be felt by the people of this country, who firmly believed that the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea had been utterly and completely destroyed. He, therefore, ventured to call the attention of the Government and of their Lordships to the state of things which thus existed; believing, as he did, that though he had heard it stated that as the ships were sunk under the fire of the northern forts it would be impossible to carry on any operations for their destruction, the science of this country could devise means for destroying them while under water. He felt, that as Sir Edmund Lyons was about to proceed to resume command of our naval forces in the Black Sea, the attention of the Government should be directed to the subject. The scientific men of this country could, it was evident, place before them a scheme for effectually destroying the sunken ships, without exposure to the fire from the northern forts at all. It was known that operations could be carried on under water with as much safety, if not as great facility, as on land; and as the Allies were in possession of one side of the harbour, operations could be carried on under water for the destruction, of these ships, although they were sunk under the northern forts. He had taken the liberty of noticing the subject in that House, because he felt confident that the people of England—who believed that their successes had led to the destruction of the Russian flag in the Black Sea—would feel the deepest mortification and disappointment if it were discovered that these ships were to rise again from the deep.


said, the noble Earl had assumed that which was not entirely the case with respect to our possession of the harbour of Sebastopol. Operations of the kind suggested by the noble Earl could not be undertaken in the daytime without the certainty of exposing our men to the fire of the Russian guns in the northern forts. With respect to the general question to which the noble Earl had called attention, he (Lord Panmure) could assure him that not only now, but ever since the south side of Sebastopol had fallen into the hands of the Allies, they had lost no opportunity of destroying, as far as lay in their power, everything that could be applied at any future time to the reconstruction of the naval and military establishments at Sebastopol. It was only yesterday that a, dispatch was received from Sir W. Codrington, announcing the final destruction by our Allies of Fort St. Nicholas. He felt assured the country could rely upon the zeal and energy of Sir Edmund Lyons, and would be satisfied that, as far as it might lie in his power to prevent any resurrection of the Russian Black Sea fleet, no opportunity would be lost in accomplishing all that science and gallantry could effect for the destruction of those ships, whether under the water or above it.

House adjourned to Thursday next.