HL Deb 16 March 1885 vol 295 cc1211-3

in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Return of the number of the chaplains attached to Her Majesty's forces in the Soudan, and the distribution of them, said, he had noticed that Army chaplains had not been present with the Soudan Expedition; but he was sure there was no wish on their part to be absent from any place where their services might be required. He perfectly understood that the distribution of both combatants and non-combatants must be left to the discretion of the General in command, and he was also aware that no General desired to attach to his Force any more non-combatants than necessary. Still, it must not be forgotten that the ministrations of the chaplains to the wounded, the sick, and the dying were just as essential as the medicines served out from the ambulance tent. If the chaplains were absent from the front, he was sure it was from no wish of their own. The post of the chaplains was naturally that of duty and danger, and they wished nothing better than to accompany the officers whom it was their business to attend. The noble Earl concluded by making his Motion.

Address for— Return of the number of the chaplains attached to Her Majesty's forces in the Soudan, and the distribution of them."—(The Earl of Carnarvon.)


said, that he had not the slightest objection to grant the Return asked for. He could tell the noble Earl the number of chaplains now in Egypt and the Soudan. There were now in Egypt, independently of those at Alexandria, Cairo, and other points on the Lower Nile, 12 Army chaplains; of these five were Church of England, three Roman Catholic, two Presbyterian, and two Wesleyan. At Suakin the number of chaplains was as follows:—Two Church of England, two Roman Catholic, one Presbyterian, and one Wesleyan. As regarded the distribution of the chaplains, there was such a constant change going on that he was unable to give their present distribution. There was no wish that the chaplains should be kept away from the front or wherever their duty called them, and he was quite certain that it would be the earnest wish of the chaplains themselves to be present wherever required, no matter what the danger might be. As his noble Friend had stated, the distribution of the chaplains rested with the General commanding the troops, and he could only say that the Authorities at headquarters were most anxious that the services of the chaplains to administer the consolations of religion to the wounded and the dying should be available whenever required.


said, that it must have been noticed that the funerals of some of the most eminent persons who had been unfortunately killed in the Soudan had been performed by laymen—it might be presumed, because no clergy were at hand He had also seen letters speaking of the want of chaplains to attend to the sick and dying at the front. The chaplains had no duty on foreign service with an Army more important than attendance on the wounded, the sick, and the dying; and those who had gone to Egypt earnestly desired to exercise their ministrations to the utmost and not to be kept safe. He might add that chaplains had often proved useful on other occasions, as well as in attending the sick and dying. The responsibility of the distribution of the chaplains, he was well aware, must rest with the General in command; but it seemed to him that to forbid the chaplains to carry out their special work—that of attending the wounded—would be the same thing as the sanitary authority of a town in which cholera prevailed, forbidding the clergy from exerting themselves for the relief of the sufferers, at the very time when they were most able and most anxious to be of service. The chaplains were few in number, and, few as they were, their services were most important, and the men devoted to their work.

Motion agreed to.