§ EARL CARRINGTON
My Lords, I rise to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the fact that wounded and invalided colonial soldiers who have been brought from South Africa to this country by the Government to recruit their health, are being sent back to their respective colonies as steerage passengers in mail steamers; and to ask whether some more suitable accommodation cannot be provided for them. Early in October last 170 wounded and invalided colonial soldiers arrived in England from South Africa, having been sent home—I am speaking under correction—in order to relieve the pressure on the military hospitals out there. They were men of all sorts and conditions—squatters, graziers, mining agents, bank clerks, dentists, riding masters, and the sons of Government officials. On October 11th the Government sent back to Australia in the Royal Mail steamship "Ormuz," of the Orient line, ten of these wounded and invalided Colonial Volunteers. When they got on board they found that the accommodation was not what they had been given reason to expect, and they sent to me, as honorary secretary of the Temporary Loan Fund for Wounded and Invalided Colonial Soldiers in London, the following letter—
§ "R.M.S. 'Ormuz,'
§ "October 13, 1900.
§ "SIR,—On the expiration of our furlough we reported at the Colonial depot at Shorn-cliffe, and arranged to return to Australia. We were all distinctly led to understand that the War Office would arrange second class passages home for us, as the Canadians were receiving such. On our arrival at the ship we were met by a non-commissioned officer, who informed us, for the first time, that we were to travel steerage, thus depriving us of an opportunity of arranging ourselves for second class; in fact, one of us had at the office expressed his willingness to pay the difference, if it were needed, and was told that 'everything was arranged as he wished.' Many of us were invalided to England, mostly after enteric, and need special dieting. In England, through the magnificent hospitality of the public in this direction, we managed to obtain it; but here we have to eat food which is healthy and good for a strong man, but hardly suited for a weak stomach. There was no medical examination prior to our departure to see if we could manage the ordinary fare. 327 Undoubtedly we shall feel this in the Red Sea. By cable to Gibraltar or Marseilles it could be arranged for the special dieting of us in the second saloon, our sleeping accommodation being quite comfortable. We hardly consider it right to be expected to diet in a way which is certainly not suitable after enteric fever."
This letter was signed by a corporal and two troopers of the New South Wales Mounted Infantry, two men of the Western Australia Mounted Infantry, two men of the Victoria Mounted Rifles, two men of the Australian Horse, and one man of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles. As secretary of the Fund I at once telegraphed to Messrs. Anderson and Anderson, representing the Orient Company, as follows —
Kindly put invalided Colonials on special dietary and comforts of second saloon. Responsible for all expenses.
By return I received this letter from Messrs Anderson and Anderson, viz.—
My Lord,—We have telegraphed to the commander of the 'Ormuz' at Gibraltar that the colonial troopers on board the steamer, for whom third-class passage was ordered by the Admiralty, are to mess and rank as second-class passengers. It will be necessary for the men to retain their third-class sleeping berths, as all the second saloon cabins are let. The difference between the third-class fare and the lowest second saloon fare is £17 3s., but, as we wish to treat the Colonial Volunteers in a liberal manner, we shall be happy to halve this amount, and to accept £8 10s. per man in settlement.
The Orient Company have very generously supplied all the men who have gone back in their ships with second-class bedding in the third-class berths. I also received the following letter, signed by the ten men—
On our arrival at Gibraltar we were welcomed with the pleasing news that the desired change had been effected with regard to our travelling, and we now wish to convey our thanks. After twelve months campaigning we naturally are not so fit as when we started, but owing to your very kind interest we will now have six weeks comfortable and enjoyable travelling to recruit.
On 10th November I received a telegram from Sergeant Williams, of the Australian Horse, in which he said—
On behalf of Australians on board 'Ortono' please accept my very warmest thanks. Being treated excellently.
One of the men of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles (O. A. Duffy) wrote—
On board the 'Omrah' we are treated very well indeed. The sleeping accommodation is
third class, but as we enjoy all the privileges of the second saloon, with the use of the smoke-room and deck, we find no cause for complaint.
Three other Orient vessels have left since then with colonials, and have been personally inspected by Sergeant McDonald, of Kitchener's Horse, and honorary secretary of the Lord Mayor's Fund, who reported that everything lad been done for the comfort of the men. The last contingent that went out left, I think, on Saturday. Amongst them was Sergeant Legg, who belongs to one of the best Australian families. I knew the family very well when I was Governor of New South Wales. Sergeant Legg was, with Sergeant McDonald, presented to the Queen at Windsor Castle, and received Her Majesty's gracious thanks for the way he had fought for his country. He is one of six brothers, all of whom volunteered, and one of whom, I believe, has been killed. Though extremely unwell, he would have been sent back as a steerage passenger had it not been for another private fund, out of which he was provided with a separate cabin and other comforts. So much for the Orient Line. I then communicated with the Allan and Dominion Lines, and received a letter from the managers of the latter, in which they say—
We have pleasure in informing your Lordships that we have carried in our steamers recently several contingents of wounded and invalided men of the Royal Canadians from Liverpool to Quebec. We have made special provision for them, and have supplied them with superior third class accommodation, giving them, in most respects, second saloon privileges, and we are advised in each case that this arrangement has given perfect satisfaction.
That is to say, third-class accommodation was provided for them by the Government, but through the generosity of the Dominion Line, they have been supplied with second-class accommodation. The Allan Line have shown similar generous treatment. They write—
Although paying the lowest rate of passage money, we have placed the invalided Canadian soldiers in special compartments where they have been quite equal to the second-class passengers. We also gave instructions that they were to have cigarettes, tobacco, and a reasonable amount of malt liquor without charge. We assure your Lord ship that we shall continue this treatment to all parties of returning Canadiansl who are entrusted to the Allan Line of conveyance.
I thought it my duty to bring the subject before the House of Lords at the earliest opportunity, because I was perfectly certain that it would not give satisfaction to the House, any more than to the nation at large, to know that these gallant men were sent home, a distance of 12,500 miles, packed like herrings in a barrel, with steerage diet, while they were far from being in a strong state of health I would like to ask what would be said in Australia if, when these men arrived at Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney, the thousands of their fellow-countrymen assembled to welcome them, saw them crawl, under-fed and overcrowded, out of the steerage of one of the Royal Mail steamers. I submit that the amelioration of the conditions of their voyage should not have been left to private charity and the generosity of the steamship companies, but should have been undertaken by the Imperial Government, which has availed itself of their services. I believe this is simply and entirely a case of mismanagement, and I have a confident hope that the Government will put an end at once to this state of things.
* THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD RAGLAN)
I am sorry to have to disagree with the noble Earl in his view of this question. The expression "steerage" is a somewhat unfortunate one, for I have to point out to the House that the men have a third class passage on board these steamers. Every man has a bunk in a cabin, and the dietary is plentiful and varied. I am informed that the third-class passage on these steamers is extremely comfortable. These men have been brought homo as invalids from South Africa in order to relieve the pressure on the base hospitals and the convalescent homes in South Africa. Wherever possible the men have been sent straight from South Africa to their homes, but where this course was not possible they have been brought to England. The men are not really invalids; in far the greater majority of cases they have recovered their health and strength, and if they have not entirely recovered they are, at least, far advanced towards convalescence, and therefore it is no great hardship to ask them to travel third-class. Where a man is considered to be in a delicate state of health and needing more attention and perhaps more luxury, he is 330 provided with a second-class passage. If these men, on account of their superior social position, are to be given a second-class passage, the same reason would apply to the men of many other corps, such as the Imperial Yeomanry and the City Imperial Volunteers. There are men in the ranks of the Army of a superior social position, and it is impossible for anything to be taken into consideration except the rank of the men in the Army. The men, therefore, for whom the noble Earl has pleaded have been sent home in the class of rank to which they are entitled; and I do not see any reason for an alteration.
* LORD MONKSWELL
My Lords, I must say that I am profoundly disappointed at the tone of the reply of the noble Lord to the question of the noble Earl behind me. It does appear to me that something should be done when the War Office discover that there has been a failure to consider, what at all events our colonial troops themselves regard as; their absolute needs in the matter of health I feel that we should not be doing our duty if we did not dissociate ourselves entirely from the view taken by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for War. The provision for these colonial soldiers, ought not to be left to private charity. To look after these men is the duty of Her Majesty's Government, and if some care had not been taken of them the neglect would have amounted to a public scandal in the minds of the people of Australia.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I regret that the answer of the noble Lord was not more sympathetic. The noble Earl did not raise the point as to there being any objection to these men travelling third class. He does not object to their occupying third-class bunks, and is quite willing to admit that the food given to the third-class passengers in these ships is admirably suited for men who are, in a strong state of health. He did not at all assert that they did not receive sufficient, food. What my noble friend contended for was that they should receive the particular food and comforts necessary for their weak state of health, because at the best they are but convalescents. They would not have received the special comforts and the special forms of food had it not been for the 331 efforts of the association of which my noble friend is president. I should like to take this opportunity of inviting the Government to turn their attention generally to the manner in which our troops, colonial and otherwise, are being-brought back from the seat of war. I daresay there will not be a great deal of complaint from the men themselves. They will be so glad to be getting home that they will be willing to put up with any hardships or discomforts, provided they are landed once more on their own shores. Ten days ago I went on board one of the recent transports, the "Hawarden Castle," which brought home the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Household Cavalry, a battery of Horse Artillery, and other troops. What was the condition of that vessel? The "Hawarden Castle" is not a new ship, neither is she a large one as vessels go nowadays; but there were, in round numbers, 1,300 men on board, packed, to use the noble Earl's expression, like herrings in a barrel. What do your Lordships imagine was the boat accommodation for these men in case of accident? Avowedly there was accommodation for 400 to 500 only. In the course of the boat drill, which was very properly carried on from time to time, provision was made so as to allow the married men to go on board the boats first, because there was not room for the larger proportion of men on board. The condensers of the ship broke down in the course of the voyage, and the men had to fall back on the supplies of mineral water on board. The electric lighting apparatus also broke down, and for ten days the only way of obtaining light was by means of small candles. In my judgment this is not a very creditable state of things. I am sure that it only needs the attention of the authorities to be turned to a state of things like this to ensure that there shall not be a repetition of what took place on board this ship on other ships carrying colonial and British soldiers. The things complained of by my noble friend are not fit things to be left to the charity of private individuals. There has, however, been too much disposition on the part of the Government throughout the last twelve months to take full ad vantage of every subscription which has been supplied by the public. The proper care of our soldiers in time of war should be a matter for Government expenditure, and the duty should not be 332 left to private individuals. I am sorry that the noble Lord's first answer to a question in this House was not one showing greater sympathy with our wounded and invalided colonial soldiers.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
The Under Secretary for War seemed, in his reply, to admit a great deal of the case submitted by my noble friend. I refer to the statement he made to the effect that where there was an apparent need for special treatment in the case of invalided soldiers they were given second-class accommodation. That is the point on which my noble friend wishes to rest his case. No doubt the troops as a whole were prepared to rough it in time of war, but when their health is seriously impaired by hardships and exposure there is a need created not only for some exceptional treatment, but for better accommodation. This is all that my noble friend has urged on the Government. I think, moreover, that the medical officers should be encouraged to ascertain the true position of affairs, and to invite representations in this direction, so that our soldiers should not be placed in a position of appearing to be over-particular. Everyone knows that this is not the spirit of our soldiers, colonial or otherwise. They are anxious to bear themselves in the way that genuine soldiers should, and they are slow to let it appear as if they are not easily pleased. I think the House is indebted to my noble friend for bringing the subject forward, and I feel that careful precautions ought to be taken to see that none of these men are deprived of special comforts or consideration if in any sense they can be considered deserving of them.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of Lansdowne)
I entreat the House to believe that noble Lords opposite do not enjoy a monopoly of sympathy with those gallant soldiers, or of the desire that they should be treated, not only in the most considerate manner possible, but with every degree of comfort procurable when they are returned to the countries of their origin. I thought that the noble Lord (Lord Monkswell) somewhat misrepresented—no doubt unintentionally—what fell from my noble friend the Under Secretary, who was far, indeed, from admitting that the War 333 Office pleaded guilty to failure in this case.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
He made no admission because there was no failure to admit. Though we are at one in desiring that this question should be treated in a proper manner, I regret that the noble Earl who introduced the subject should have described the case in a somewhat highly-coloured way, and in the misleading language which he employed in the course of his speech. He imported a great deal of prejudice into the argument by constantly referring to the word "steerage." No doubt in the minds of ordinary people steerage passage suggests something of the extremely sordid and squalid kind we have seen described in the novels written perhaps forty or fifty years ago. Things have changed a great deal since then. These men were not given by any means the lowest scale of accommodation on board. They were given what is known as superior third-class accommodation. I remember having occasion to look into the matter, and I think I am right in saying that there are two classes below the class in which the colonial soldiers travelled; and it is quite unfair to describe them as having been "packed like herrings in a barrel." It is a great pity that the noble Earl should use language of that kind. In the letter which the noble Earl read, the writer admitted very frankly that the sleeping accommodation was good. How is that consistent with being "packed like herrings"? The noble Earl must know that such hyperbolical statements are mischievous and unfair to all concerned. The diet was complained of, not because it was insufficient, unwholesome, or bad, but because it was not suitable to some of the men who were recovering from enteric. That is a fair point, and I think it is conceivable that some of the men may have 334 required special medical comforts which ought to have been given to them. Having some knowledge of this subject, I can assure the House that this matter has not been dealt with in the callous spirit which the noble Earl attributes to the War Office. While I was still connected with that department, this question was thoroughly gone into by the Quartermaster General—Sir C. Mansfield Clarke—a most thoughtful and painstaking officer, who reported to me that the accommodation secured for the colonial troops was excellent, and infinitely better than that which would have been given on an ordinary trooper. Lord Tweedmouth raised the general question, which is, of course, a very much larger one, and I do not propose to go into it. But I do not wish this discussion to close without pro-protesting against the highly-coloured language used by the noble Earl, and against the assumption that my noble friend the Under Secretary had admitted that there had been any failure or neglect on the part of the War Office.
* LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I should like to say a word on this subject. I have no doubt that there have been some shortcomings with regard to the accommodation provided, as was inevitable having regard to the very large number of men who had to be provided for. If that is so, it is well that the matter should be brought to the attention of the Government; and I am sure that in future there will be no cause to complain. I myself have heard that in some instances the accommodation was not such as was expected by the colonial troops; but, on the whole, the men certainly did express satisfaction.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I must express deep regret that the first public utterances of the Under Secretary for War—a soldier himself, and the bearer of an honoured name—should have been of so unsympathetic a character. The noble Marquess has drawn a great distinction between steerage and third-class; but though I have travelled a great deal about the world I have never heard of such a distinction. This "superior third-class accommodation" is a new thing to me. If the men had some superior treatment, it was due to the generosity of the steamship companies.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Earl must forgive my rising to correct him. There are three classes of third-class accommodation perfectly well defined. The men were given the best of the three at the outset, and not be-cause of any pressure brought by the noble Earl or anyone else.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I am certainly learning something. But it remains true, and you cannot get out of it, that the wounded and invalided Australians were sent back third-class or in the steerage; and that, I consider, is not proper treatment for the men who have been fighting for their country. The Under Secretary said that the men were extremely comfortable, and were not invalids.
* LORD RAGLAN
I said that these gallant men were technically invalids, but that they were fully restored to health and strength.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I only wish that the noble Lord had seen the men for himself. I will give the House one instance. A Victorian, name Carey, who is at the present moment an inmate of Lady Carrington's Convalescent Home, and who was ordered to travel in this "superior steerage," had a temperature of 104deg. I telegraphed at once to the Agent-General, and the man was allowed to remain. I am afraid to say what would have happened to him if he had returned. There were other men who were in great pain, and some who had been shot in the head, and some who were recovering from enteric. Not a few were so weak that they could hardly get about. The noble Lord said that second-class passages had been provided for some of the men. For how many?
* LORD RAGLAN
If it were considered that a man required special attention, he was given a second-class passage.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs began his speech with one very self-evident proposition. He said that we on this side did not enjoy a monopoly of sympathy for these gallant men. We have never claimed that monopoly; and I was particularly careful to say that I believed the fault was to be attributed to departmental mismanage- 336 ment and not to the Government. It has been far from my intention to use misleading language; but I am so disappointed with the answer given to my Question, and I know that it will have such a bad effect in the colonies, that I shall move on an early day—"That this House disapproves of the arrangements made by Her Majesty's Government in sending back invalided and wounded colonial soldiers"; and I shall certainly take the sense of the House on the motion.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I only wish to intervene in this debate for the purpose of putting one question to Her Majesty's Government, which, if the answer is satisfactory, will help to clear up the point at issue. Was any medical examination made by the War Office before these men embarked, so as to ascertain if there were any invalids in the condition described by my noble friend behind me? If not, then I really think there is a case against the War Office on that head.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
These men were all despatched from the depôt at Shorncliffe, and it seems to me fair to assume that they were medically examined before they were allowed to leave. But the point is one on which I think the noble Lord is entitled to a categorical answer, and if he will repeat the question we shall be prepared to answer it.
§ LORD STANMORE
I am not sure whether our gallant colonial troops will thank the noble earl for the advocacy which he has put forward on their behalf. To require special treatment for the sick is one thing; but to complain that the colonial soldiers were provided with third-class passages is quite another thing. The colonial troops would hardly thank the noble lord for demanding that they should have totally different treatment from that which Her Majesty's Regular soldiers and Volunteers and Yeomanry receive.
* LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
I must say that, in my opinion, there ought to have been no necessity for supplementing from private sources, or from any other than public funds, what was required for the proper accommoda- 337 tion of colonial forces returning to their homes. Whatever may have happened in the past, I am sure that the Government will see that there shall be no ground for complaint in the future.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Five of the clock, till tomorrow, half-past Ten of the clock.