HL Deb 27 June 1881 vol 262 cc1343-6

in rising to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the state of the cemeteries and monuments of those who fell in the Crimean War; and to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any addition will be made to the annual allowance now granted for their maintenance, the present sum being found quite inadequate for the purpose? said, that the subject of which he desired to speak concerned the treatment of the revered remains of our fellow-countrymen who died in the Crimea in the service of their Queen and country, and he was sure would therefore enlist their Lordships' sympathy. He had no intention of casting blame on the Government or on their Predecessors. On the contrary, he had reason to be satisfied with the courtesy with which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had treated the representations he had thought it his duty to make to him. During the summer of last year, when at Constantinople, he visited the British cemetery at Scutari, and had reason to admire the beauty of the place and the perfect manner in which the graves and monuments were preserved. From Constantinople he went to Sebastopol, and visited the cemeteries on Cathcart's Hill; but there he found a different state of things; the gravestones and monuments in the smaller cemeteries had been greatly neglected, they were broken in various places, and the graves presented an aspect of lamentable desolation. He did not, however, wish their Lordships to think that there was anything very serious the matter; but he certainly found even the principal cemetery which contained the remains of Sir George Cathcart, General Strangways, General Goldie, and many other distinguished officers, much overgrown with weeds, and it was evident that nothing had been done even there for months. He could not see the guardian, who was a German; but his wife informed him that they had no tools to work with, and she assured him that the £25 allowed them by the Government hardly enabled them to keep their children in food, and that they could buy no more tools. He then went to the two neighbouring cemeteries devoted to the Light Division, and there he found the same neglect, although, as there was no pretence of keeping up a garden there, it was not necessary to mow the weeds; but many tombstones were displaced, and the outer walls beginning to crumble away. The French had a fine cemetery not far distant, for which they allowed £144 for the guardian, and £50 for the maintenance of the walls and tombs; while the Russians had a magnificent Greek church, 100 feet high, on the north side of Sebastopol, for which they had paid £40,000, and for the monuments £14,000 more. Why, he would ask, should this country be behind those two nations in taking care of the remains of those who had died in their country's service? When he came home he placed himself in communication with the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and also with General Sir John Adye, the present Surveyor of the Ordnance, who had been sent out to the Crimea in 1872, with Colonel Gordon (Chinese Gordon), to report upon the graves. Sir John Adye afforded him every assistance, and he found that by their advice £4,000 had been expended in removing the tombstones from about 130 ceme- teries into six or seven, the principal ones on Cathcart's Hill, and that there had been an allowance of £30 for maintenance, and of £25 for the guardian, making altogether £55 a-year. That, he was happy to say, had now been increased by £25, making altogether £80 per annum. Grateful as he felt for that increase, he must still maintain that it was not sufficient. It was ample for the principal cemetery; but it was not enough to keep up the Light Division cemeteries, for which a lump, sum was required on them of, say, £500, or even £1,000, for building stone walls, strongly cemented with mortar, or an iron railing, or for digging a deep haha ditch round them to keep out the herds and flocks. There was also no garden for the custodian, and a well to be sunk, all of which would cost money. For what had already been done he tendered his thanks in the name of the Army; but he must maintain that it was insufficient, and he hoped that the allowance would be increased.


said, he hoped the noble and gallant Marquess would forgive him if he answered his Question instead of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was perfectly true that the management of the cemeteries was under the control of an officer who was attached to the Foreign Office; but the subject was more connected with the Office which he represented in the House than with the Foreign Office. He was sure that no one in that House would be surprised at the anxiety manifested by the noble and gallant Marquess that the cemeteries in which their brave soldiers were laid should be maintained with reverence and care. That was a feeling shared by himself, and, he thought, by all his countrymen, and not least by the present Government and the Secretary of State for War, who had a deep personal interest in those cemeteries. The noble and gallant Marquess had spoken from personal experience. But he would remember that Questions had been asked in the course of last month of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War as to the condition of these cemeteries. Certain accounts, which appeared to be exaggerated, had been published in the newspapers. His right hon. Friend promised to make inquiries of the Consul General at Odessa. Since that Question had been put to his right hon. Friend he had received a letter from the Consul General, dated May 11, and addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He need not read the letter, as a letter from the Consul General containing the same information had appeared in The Times of June 6. Mr. Stanley in that letter said that the accounts which had been given were absolutely inaccurate. Mr. Stanley had visited the cemeteries, and especially Cathcart's Hill, and described them as in good condition. The wall, which had been broken down in one or two places, had been repaired. One monument was slightly and another seriously injured by the action of the frost; but he had taken care that all proper repairs should be executed. Considerable sums had been expended in improving the condition of these cemeteries after Sir John Adye's visit in 1875. In all, some £4,000 had been spent. The annual sum paid as salary and for annual repairs to the custodian had this year been raised from £55 to £80, and the Consul General at Odessa was of opinion that that sum was sufficient for the purpose. He fully sympathized with what had fallen from the noble and gallant Marquess, and he could assure him that everything would be done by the Government to maintain the cemeteries in good order; but he did not think there was any necessity, at the present time, to vote any additional sum for the purposes mentioned in his Question.


said, he had no doubt that one feeling only would be entertained by all classes of the community, and that was that these cemeteries should be properly maintained. A great deal depended upon those who looked after these cemeteries; there was more in this than in anything else. A small sum judiciously laid out at the proper time, with proper supervision, was what was required. He was quite sure that if any further sum was needed it would be cheerfully given to show honour to the dead who had fallen in the interests of their Sovereign and the country. He was satisfied that if the Consul General at Odessa were called upon to exercise the necessary supervision, very little additional money would be needed,