HL Deb 30 April 1885 vol 297 cc1094-6

rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether he could give the House any information with respect to the present transport arrangements for conveying clothing and stores to the troops on the Nile? His noble Friend, he was sure, felt that the comfort and welfare of the troops on the Nile was a matter well worthy of his attention. He had heard from sources on which he could rely that the troops were in a very bad state as regarded their clothing. In some cases the clothing was all but falling off the backs of the men, and the troops were in an equally bad condition with regard to boots. Officers seemed to suffer alike with the men. So far as he was aware, no fresh clothing had reached thorn yet; and he should like to know what prospect there was of the troops getting the necessary stores? No doubt the transport difficulties were very great, for he was quite aware of the great loss of camels which the Army in the Soudan had sustained. In the march from Gubat to Korti the loss of camels was enormous, and it would appear that there had been no margin left for casualties in this respect. He had heard that the stores of clothing had not got beyond Assouan, and he should be glad to be informed that his information was incorrect. He hoped his noble Friend would be able to say what the present and future transport arrangements were, and whether the troops were to wait for the rising of the Nile before they obtained fresh clothing. He might be told that all these matters were left to the General commanding, but the War Office was ultimately responsible; and they should know accurately and be able to impart such information, where the stores actually were, and what prospect there was of these stores reaching the regiments. Large sums of money had been subscribed in this country for the purchase of stores; but these would be useless if they did not reach their destination. If the health of the troops was to be secured, there should not only be sent out comforts of every description, but books and newspapers were invaluable to men who were cooped up all day in straw huts, and who, after the excitement of a campaign, were so liable to sickness. It was stated that four weeks ago our men were entirely destitute of clothing and other necessaries.


said, he was not at all surprised that the noble Lord should have asked this Question; and he could assure him that anything which conduced either to the good health or to the comfort of the troops in the Soudan occupied the serious and earnest attention of the authorities who had to supply their needs. With regard to transport, the position was this. They knew generally that certain means existed of conveying various articles to the troops; but those means were entirely in the hands of the General who commanded the lines of communication and the commanding officers. They, and they alone, determined what were the particular articles which were most in demand; and the orders of those officers, who were perfectly acquainted with the most pressing demands of the troops, must regulate what articles were sent out. The noble Lord was quite wrong in stating that the clothing had not got beyond Assouan. The stores of clothing and boots in Egypt were enormous, and there had been for a long time considerable stores at Wady Halfa. In the last detailed Report he observed that a steamer was now plying above Dongola, and had started more than four weeks ago with a large supply of clothing and necessaries required by the troops; and a distinguished officer, who had recently returned from the upper regions of the Nile, had informed him that at the time he left the General in command of the communications had stopped all supplies except those required for pressing needs, and those were forwarded without delay. He trusted that by this time the clothes and boots had reached the men who required them. He might mention that since the time referred to by the noble Lord some of the [troops had descended the Nile, and had, no doubt, met the supplies halfway. He could assure him that the difficulties of transport were very great indeed, and that the greatest efforts had been made to keep up the lines of communication by steamers and boats, and where these were not available by camels. Everything that could possibly be done had been done to keep the troops supplied with what was necessary for their health and comfort.