HL Deb 07 July 1881 vol 263 cc209-10

asked the Under Secretary of State for War, If he could now give any information regarding the casualties which occurred among the troops at Aldershot on last Monday?


My Lords, I can now give to your Lordships more information as to what occurred on the field-day at Aldershot last Monday than when my noble Friend put his Question to me on Tuesday evening. As I told my noble Friend on that day immediately the report arrived at the War Office the Secretary of State for War at once called for a detailed account of the circumstances. The field-day was appointed for Monday four or five days previously. On Sunday and Monday, on the Fox Hills, where the field-day took place, it was somewhat hot, but a strong breeze was blowing. The troops went out as usual in field-day order—that is to say, they had nothing to carry except their water bottles. They started after breakfast at 8.30. The manœuvres were over before 1 o'clock, and until then there were no casualties and few men fell out. About that time, however, the heat greatly increased; and, unfortunately, the usual anxiety to get back to their lines led to the regiments hurrying the pace, and this, in the heavy dust and increased heat, probably caused a good many men to fall out. Of the 19 men who were sent into hospital the greater part fell out then. Unfortunately, four men have died. Three died of sunstroke—one was an old sergeant of Militia, aged 45, who did not fall out; he was somewhat stout, and liable to suffer from the heat. The second was a man of long service, aged 32, and, on post-mortem examination, he was found to be highly predisposed to illness of this kind; the third was a perfectly healthy man, of long service, aged 33. There was a fourth death of a driver, from heart disease; but he was riding on a waggon all day, and had undergone no fatigue, nor did he complain till later in the day. It is remarkable that from the brigade which went over the most ground, and did the hardest work, the smallest number of men, only 12, fell out, and none went into hospital. At a time of exceptional heat all parades take place in the early morning, so that troops may be back in camp before the power of the sun becomes excessive. I do not think that beyond this well-understood rule, attention to which has been especially called by a Circular, issued on Tuesday, the discretion of commanding officers need be hampered. We are all greatly distressed by, and deeply lament, the deaths of these men; but I think I have plainly stated the exceptional circumstances under which they occurred.