HL Deb 02 June 1881 vol 261 cc1856-8

in rising to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Why such a delay has taken place in the distribution of the medals to the officers and men of the Royal Navy and of the Marines who were employed on shore in the Naval Brigade during the Cape Colony and Zulu wars of 1878–79? said, that when in command of the British Forces in South Africa he had received such efficient support from the Sister Service that he was anxious that no greater delay than was absolutely necessary should occur in the presentation of these honorary rewards to the men of the Naval Brigade for their gallant services. The General Order granting a medal for service in South Africa during the years 1877–8–9 was issued to the Army in the month of August, 1880, and the first distribution of medals to Staff and other officers took place in September of the same year. The 1st Battalion 24th Regiment received their medals in December, 1880, and there were, at the present time, only two regiments who had not received it; whilst, as he understood, not one medal had as yet been issued to the Navy. The Naval Brigade consisted of blue-jackets and marines from the Active, Shah, Tenedos, and Boadicea. The two former ships had been paid off; the Tenedos had been home since the war was over, and was now in the West Indies; and the Boadicea had its headquarters at Simon's Bay. He could not, therefore, see why the distribution of medals for those entitled to receive them should not have been made as quickly as was the case in the Army. It must be remembered that honours and rewards for campaigns only reached a small minority, and that the great majority of those who took part in them had nothing to look forward to but the medal as a reward for their services.


My noble and gallant Friend would have been more accurate in the contrast which appears in the Notice of his Question between the issue of medals to the Army and to the Naval Brigade for the Cape and Zulu wars of 1878 and 1879 if he had said, as he has now explained, that some of these medals had been distributed to the Army six months ago, instead of implying that all had been then distributed. The fact is, that although the distribution of medals to the Army commenced some time ago, it is not concluded, and two regiments have not yet received them, owing to the necessary delay in engraving the name of each man on his medal. As regards the Navy and Royal Marines, there were some doubts as to the rules under which the medal and the clasp were to be given to the different ships employed in the operations, which made it necessary to refer to the Commodore at the Cape, and also the Commodore preceding him (Sir Francis Sullivan). As soon as answers were received from those, the nominal rolls had to be made out, and in doing this the Admiralty have more difficulty than the War Office, for seamen do not remain together like soldiers in a regiment; and it took three months, from February till May last, to complete the rolls. They were completed about a fortnight ago, and sent to the Commissary General at Woolwich, and I am informed that 200 medals are ready for issue to H.M.S. Boadicea, and that the remainder are daily expected from the Mint. I do not think that any blame can properly be attached to the officers of the Admiralty Departments on account of the time which has been taken in this matter. Although I admit that it is highly desirable that such rewards should be conferred promptly, it must also be remembered that great care is required, both in settling the service for which medals should be given, and also to prepare accurate lists of the men who are entitled to them.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, till To-morrow Two o'clock