HL Deb 05 August 1889 vol 339 cc270-2

, in whose name there stood upon the Paper a notice "to call attention to the hostilities on the Nile, and the general condition of affairs in Egypt," said: I have only within the last hour or two received a letter from my noble Friend the Prime Minister, stating that it is impossible for him to be present in the House this afternoon, and under these circumstances I think your Lordships will consider that I am exercising a sound discretion in postponing the notice standing in my name. But I cannot do this without one word as to the news that has reached us this morning. We have heard once more of a signal and complete victory; once again English valour and skill have triumphed; and although, as far as we can judge from the reports, the brunt of the contest has fallen upon the Egyptian troops, those troops have been led and officered by Englishmen. It is impossible not to feel for the fanatical and courageous sons of the desert, whose blood has been poured out so lavishly on this occasion. At the same time, every one must rejoice at the victory which has been achieved; and every one must hope that, for the present at all events, it is conclusive. Every one must hope this in the interests of humanity, as well as in the interests of the country, but I am bound to say that I cannot regard it as likely to be final. There is a much larger question even than that of these hostilities, which this victory, conclusive as it is, will not settle. It would be impossible, however, to enter upon this question in the absence of the Prime Minister, and I will therefore postpone my notice till Friday next. As this matter has been mentioned, perhaps I may be allowed to ask my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for War whether he has any information to give us on this subject in addition to that which has appeared in the newspapers this morning?


I was quite sure that my noble Friend would not desire to enter into questions relating to foreign policy in the absence of my noble Friend the Prime Minister. But as he has called the attention of your Lordships to the victory which has been obtained in Egypt, it is only right that I should express on the part of Her Majesty's Government their great satisfaction at the report we have received, which shows alike that the soldiers were worthy of being led by a gallant English officer, and that that officer showed a skill and strategy which were worthy of the occasion, and that in the conflict ensued there was so little loss of life, while, at the same time, there was unhappily very severe loss on the other side, which was necessary under the circumstances. I am sure that your Lordships will deeply regret that the few who are mentioned should have suffered, and especially one distinguished and gallant English officer. I believe that the wanton invasion of Egypt—for it was a wanton invasion—has been stopped, and that for a time, at all events, it will not be repeated. What will be the future policy of this country with regard to this whole subject I will not now venture to remark, but I feel that I am speaking the sense of your Lordships when I congratulate the distinguished officer who has won this battle and the soldiers who fought under him.


I certainly will not depart from the judicious course which both the noble Lords have taken of avoiding any political discussion in the absence of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary; but perhaps I may be allowed to associate myself completely with what they have both stated with regard to our admiration of the manner in which this battle has been conducted. It is extremely satisfactory to note the admirable strategy with which General Grenfell conducted this operation, the manner in which he was supported by Colonel Kitchener and Colonel Wood-house, and a special and additional circumstance of satisfaction is the good conduct of the Egyptian troops under his command.


The only additional information which I can give your Lordships is as to the number of killed and wounded. Of 17 killed, one was a British soldier, and the 131 wounded include Brigade-Major Hunter, of the Lancashire Regiment, and Lieutenant Cotton, of the Shropshire Light Infantry (the latter severely wounded), and four British soldiers. A reconnaissance at day-break on August 4th showed the Dervish force to be completely broken up, the few fighting-men remaining being pursued by cavalry. General Grenfell adds that only one Emir, and that an unimportant one, remains alive.