HL Deb 25 February 1887 vol 311 cc559-61

, in rising to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, As to the state of the drainage of the Knightsbridge Barracks; and whether the death that occurred last week of an officer of the Royal Horse Guards was in any way attributable to the defective drainage of the officers' house? said, he had been induced to bring this matter forward in consequence of the many complaints he had heard in various quarters as to the insanitary state of the barracks at Knightsbridge. Over and over again officers quartered at the barracks had reported a state of things that pointed directly to defective drainage, and it was advisable that an inquiry should be made into the matter. There had been complaints also as to the condition of other barracks in London—the Horse Guards, and particularly of Dublin Barracks, which were in a most lamentable and disgraceful state, and where several cases of typhoid fever had occurred. A well - known and gallant officer contracted typhoid fever in the barracks but a few months ago, and died of the disease. That such a state of things should exist as was said to be the case at Knightsbridge Barracks, which had been built only seven or eight years, was most unsatisfactory, and demanded some explanation. It should be ascertained who was responsible for building the barracks with insufficient sanitary arrangements. Surely this trifling with the health of Her Majesty's troops was not to be dealt with lightly; and he would express the hope that the matter might be made one of strict investigation, not by Boards composed of Royal Engineers and barrack-masters, but by thoroughly competent sanitary engineers. The noble Marquess concluded by asking the Question of which he had given Notice.


said, he was not surprised if the sanitary arrangements of the barracks had been overlooked, and agreed that similar matters were treated too lightly in the past, if not with carelessness; but he was not surprised if the sanitary arrangements at the barracks were defective, since, instead of having the Hospital in the immediate neighbourhood of the Barracks at Knightsbridge, it was not so; but on a less healthy site, at an inconvenient distance from the barracks—namely, at the Regent's Park. These facts were placed before the Authorities at the proper time by the Medical Officers concerned—namely, those of the Household Brigade of Cavalry.


, in reply, said, he feared he must confine himself to the Question on the Paper. Had he received Notice that the noble Marquess intended to refer to Dublin Barracks, he would have been prepared to answer his noble Friend's Question on that point; but he was not now in a position to do so. With reference to the Hyde Park Barracks, he was happy to assure the noble Lord that there was no suspicion whatever that the drainage was defective. He had himself examined the half-yearly reports of the principal medical officer for the Home district made in October and February last, and in that document it was stated that the Hyde Park Barracks were in good sanitary order. He had also examined the quarterly report of the regimental medical officer in charge, and the weekly reports of the same officer, and all those reports were to the same effect—that the sanitary condition and the drainage of the barracks and officers' quarters were good. It was quite true that previous to June last there were complaints, but in that month a very important improvement was carried out in connection with the officers' quarters, by which all the soil-pipes were placed on the exterior of the walls; and since that time there had been no complaints from the troops or from the officers whose business it was to inspect the buildings. With regard to the last part of the Question, although he had not received an official report on the matter, he had received private information to the effect that the medical officer who was in attendance had no reason whatever to suspect that the death of the officer referred to was attributable to defective drainage.


Will the noble Lord inform the House whether the death was from typhoid fever or not?


said, he had given his noble Friend the best answer in his power. He would, however, add that, in the last weekly report of the regimental medical officer, it was stated that the case in question had typhoidal symptoms; but he understood that since the death the medical officer was quite satisfied that this was not a case of typhoid fever.


suggested that the reply of the noble Lord (Lord Harris) was not quite satisfactory, and he asked whether it would not be better to have the buildings inspected by a competent sanitary engineer.


said, he would mention the matter to the Secretary of State for War; but he might inform their Lordships that, since the death of the officer in question, there had been an examination of the buildings by the Royal Engineer commanding the district and the regimental medical officer, and they were unable to detect any symptoms of defective drainage.

House adjourned at a quarter before Five o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.