HL Deb 09 May 1905 vol 145 cc1268-9

My Lords, I desire to ask the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a Question on a matter of considerable interest and importance—namely, whether he can give the House any information as to the alleged irregularities in regard to the coaling and provisioning of the Russian fleet in territorial waters of the French Far Eastern colonies.


My Lords, I am indebted to the French Embassy for the information which enables me to reply to the Question of the noble Earl. The facts as described to me are as follows: When the French Government became aware that the Russian squadron was within Kamranh Bay a representation was at once made at St. Petersburg, with the result that instructions were sent from St. Petersburg by telegram to Admiral Rozhdestvensky desiring him to leave that harbour, and he did so at once. Subsequently the Russian squadron was reported to have arrived at another harbour upon the French coast of Indo-China, a place known, I believe, as Hon-kohe Bay. Admiral de Jonquières, the admiral in command of the French squadron, was sent to this place to report, and reported that the Russian squadron was, in effect, off Hon-kohe Bay, but not within territorial waters. It appears, however, that the Governor of French Indo-China, who had received special instructions from his Government that he was to take all possible steps to secure respect for the neutrality of French waters, thereupon sent the French Resident at the town nearest Hon-kohe with directions to invite the Russian squadron to proceed on its journey. This official received from the Russian admiral an assurance that the squadron would sail from Hon-kohe on May 3rd. I am not able to say whether its departure actually took place on that date. The only other point which I may perhaps mention is this. It has been stated that while the Russian squadron was within the waters of Kamranh Bay it received assistance from various French officials on the spot. I understand that Kamranh Bay is an extremely remote and out - of - the - way place, and that there are no French officials there; there are, I believe, two French residents altogether on the shores of the bay, and they are civilians holding concessions from the French Government, and not officials at all.