HL Deb 25 March 1881 vol 259 cc1923-5

said, he wished to put a Question to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with regard to an answer he had given yesterday to the noble Lord (Lord Brabourne) with reference to the 94th Regiment. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that the noble Earl said that certain action that had taken place on the part of the Boer commanders, to which reasonable exception might be taken, and which would come generally under the head of "outrages and massacres," would be referred to the decision of the Commissioners to be appointed in South Africa. The noble Earl had gone on to say, however, that the massacre or destruction of the 94th Regiment would not be one of the points so referred, but that it would he covered by the amnesty. Whatever opinion he (Viscount Bury) himself might entertain as to that destruction, he did not wish to obtain from the Government any declaration of opinion upon the subject; but there were so many people who entertained the belief that the transaction in question was not a justifiable act of war, that considerable dissatisfaction would be occasioned if it were withdrawn from the consideration of the Commissioners. He should be sorry, therefore, if any words which had fallen from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies should be considered as pledging the Government to so withdraw the destruction of the 94th Regiment from the consideration of the Commissioners, and he, therefore, hoped that the noble Earl would be able to give an assurance that what lie had said yesterday was not to be taken as conveying such a pledge. Sir Owen Lanyon, in his despatch of the 23rd of January, had said that the column of the 94th had been surprised by the Boers, who numbered about 1,500, while the band was playing, and the men were spread over a line a mile and a-half long. The enemy sent a message with a white flag to order the column to proceed no farther, and whilst that was being done, they continued to advance under cover of the white flag, and so took up a position which, from a previous reconnoitre of the ground, they had chosen as most suitable for pouring in a deadly fire upon our men. He (Viscount Bury) hoped it would be considered that if any armed force used the white flag to decoy troops into a previously-selected ambush, that was, at any rate, a subject which ought not to be withdrawn from the consideration of the Royal Commissioners when they began their work. It must also be borne in mind that, though we had not any certain information on the subject, we did not know that war had actually been declared when this attack was made on the 94th Regiment; but if the matter were referred to the Commissioners, the real facts of the case would come out. He hoped, therefore, that they would hear from his noble Friend that Her Majesty's Government were not pledged to withdraw it from the consideration of Her Majesty's Commissioners.


, in reply, said, that the noble Viscount (Viscount Bury) had not correctly repeated what he (the Earl of Kimberley), on the part of the Government, stated to their Lordships on the previous evening. He had not said that certain "outrages and massacres" were to be referred to the consideration of the Commission. But what he had said was that an amnesty had been agreed to, from which were excepted persons who had committed, or were directly responsible for, acts contrary to civilized war- fare; and that the Boer leaders had declared their willingness to cooperate with Her Majesty's Government in punishing such persons. As to the affair at Brounker's Spruit, he said that with regard to the destruction of the detachment of the 94th, according to the information in the possession of Her Majesty's Government, that act was not contrary to those usages, and was, therefore, covered by the amnesty. But, of course, Her Majesty's Government were not precluded from further action in the matter; and if they should receive information which would alter their view, though they did not anticipate it, of course they would take a different course.


asked, whether certain telegraphic communications made known to the other House last night would be laid before their Lordships also?


I am not aware to what telegrams the noble and learned Earl refers; but I read here last night the same telegrams that were read "elsewhere." Perhaps he refers to the telegram ordering General Sir Frederick Roberts to return home; but the best answer which I can give is to say that I have to-night laid on the Table of your Lordships' House a further Paper, which brings the telegraphic despatches down to the present time.


gave Notice that, on Thursday next, he would call attention to the arrangements recently made by Her Majesty's Government with the Boers, as appeared in the communications received from South Africa, and would ask. for explanations.