§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
My Lords, the second question I wish to put to Her Majesty's Government is, as to who is the responsible Naval Officer in the Harbour and Roadstead of Balaklava? The town and harbour of Balaklava is one of the most important positions our army could possibly hold; and it is important that our army in the Crimea, whose safety depends upon the state and condition of another department of the service (the Commissariat), should be placed, as regards that other department, in such a position as to be able to meet any difficulties which may arise. I have been induced to-day to take notice of the state and condition of the port of Balaklava, in consequence of the afflicting circumstances which followed the gale of the 14th of November. It is unnecessary for me to describe to your Lordships the state of things which then existed, and which, I believe, has been, generally speaking, faithfully reported. The whole of the circumstances attending that tremendous storm, which inflicted such severe loss upon our shipping and that of our allies, have been before your Lordships. Among these losses was one, the circumstances attending which were of a very peculiar character, in, consequence of that ship having gone out from England to Balaklava with almost every necessary for the relief and sustenance of our army—our seamen as well as our soldiers. In addition to her cargo, I understand she contained ammunition to a large amount, and it is well known that that ship perished in the gale. Now, my Lords, it is a bold thing for any one to assert, who was not on the spot, that that ship might have been saved; but I think I am justified in asserting my firm conviction, 737 that if the regulations of the port of Balaklava had been such as they ought to have been, that ship would have been saved. Now, what were the circumstances under which this ship was lost? It has been spoken of in Parliament, and my noble Friend opposite has said, that he had himself sent out for the purpose of making an inquiry into its loss. I believe that I can pretty nearly tell the answer which will be made to the question. It has been stated that that ship was not commanded in the manner that she ought to have been; and I believe also, from statements made to me, and from assurances from my own acquaintance, that the Government were advised as to the want of ability on the part of the officer who commanded that vessel. But the point I wish particularly to allude to is an evidence of the truth of that statement, which also bears much on the condition of the harbour of Balaklava. When she arrived at the port of Balaklava, it is perfectly clear and well understood, that in entering she was taken in with such velocity and in such an unseamanlike manner, that in bringing up she lost her bower anchors. Whether the cables were what, in technical terms, is called "clinched" (or secured to the mast), or not, is a matter of some dispute; but, at all events, she ran her cables out in consequence of the inability of the officer to bring her properly into the port. But what was done by the officer who had charge of Balaklava? She was forced to leave that port and anchor outside with such anchors as she had left, which at the utmost could only have been one sheet-anchor, the others being only such as were used in warping. It is not stated precisely whether she had any of those anchors or none at all; but how is it that, with men-of-war lying there, a ship of such value was not supplied with an anchor, or was not directed to make an offing and lie to till such time as the necessary preparations were made to receive her? The whole transaction is one that shows, first of all, the greatest want of seamanship on the part of the commanding officer; and, secondly, great neglect on the part of the officer at Balaklava. Now, my Lords, I am going to make use of a statement inserted in a newspaper in this country which is acknowledged as an authority in all cases, and the reports of which have been given with such perfect accuracy that I do not think Her Majesty's Government 738 will be able to "pooh, pooh" it. I will read a statement made in a report of the transactions which have taken place in the Crimea and the Black Sea; and I do not think that Her Majesty's Government will be able to say that it is a mere newspaper report, and not to be relied upon, as being without authority. But, even if they do say so, my object will be equally gained. I shall be glad to find, in putting the question with which I shall conclude, that the officer who is charged with the management at Balaklava Harbour is not liable to the charges made here. I shall take the liberty of very shortly reading one or two extracts from a report in the Times newspaper of the 18th of this month. I am not going to read the whole story; the reporter says:—Will it be credited that, with all our naval officers in Balaklava with nothing else to do—with our embarras des richesses of captains, commanders, and lieutenants—there is no more care taken for the vessels in Balaklava than if they were colliers in a gale off Newcastle? Ships come in and anchor where they like, do what they like, go out when they like, and are permitted to perform whatever vagaries they like, in accordance with the old rule of 'higgledy piggledy, rough and tumble,' combined with 'happy-go-lucky.'And in another place he adds—It is now more than two months since British vessels have crowded into this port, and yet there is not the slightest sign of anything like system in the mooring of the vessels. Without any regard to whether a vessel will stay a long or short time—whether it is a man-of-war or transport—whether it carries ammunition or grain—they are lying pêle-mêle. The consequence is, that the entrance or departure of every single vessel deranges the whole squadron. This circumstance may be attended with considerable danger, particularly if, as was the case yesterday, a strong breeze is blowing into the harbour. The Cleopatra screw steamer, with troops, the Belgravia, 105 transport, with stores, and three other smaller transports, came in the one after the other in close succession, running, of course, foul, now of a bowsprit, now of a yard, and causing a great deal of trouble and some damage, which, with a little care, should be all avoided. But most of the vessels come in without knowing anything of the port, and are obliged to anchor as best they can.So much for the state of the port. Now, what I have to say is, that nothing could be more easy than for the officer having authority, and understanding his business, to have arranged the details and to have put things into proper order in his own mind first of all, and then to have used sufficient energy and activity in carrying out his own views. I ask, why it is that there is not this description of officer in the port of Balaklava? Who is the responsi- 739 ble officer there? and why is it that Her Majesty's officers placed in that quarter are not capable of conducting the affairs of the harbour in a proper manner? I do not mean to say that the Government of this country are answerable for the small details of everything that takes place in arrangements of that kind, but I will say they are entirely answerable for the officers placed there, and they should take care that they are officers of such ability as to be able to conduct the affairs of the country in that respect in a proper manner, There is no doubt the officer in question would have had no difficulty in finding men and officers for the purpose of carrying out any such arrangements, so as to secure order and regularity when ships are coming in or going out—to establish, in point of fact, a sort of police, to give their directions as to the course any particular vessel was to pursue—where she should be made to anchor, and all necessary warping arrangements. All these arrangements should be entirely finished and completed, and a certain fixed plan laid down in order to carry them into effect. Now, look at what the French have done. It really appears to me that the French are our betters in matters of detail, and more capable of carrying out minor arrangements. I must trouble your Lordships with another extract, for it does appear to me that the management with regard to the ships evinces such a state of absence of mind and carelessness on the part of those who have duties to perform as is absolutely surprising. Is it not astonishing that after they had such terrible disasters, that when a calm succeeded the storm, no opportunity should have been taken to collect the débris of every sort which floated upon the shore? Now, this reporter goes on to state—Indeed, our cavalry is at present employed in feeding itself. It is all they have to do. The men are sent down with their horses from the camp to the waterside every day, and carry back their fodder and rations. It is perfectly disgraceful to the authorities, whoever they may be, to see on this, the twelfth day after the gale, trusses of compressed hay floating about and rotting in every direction in the harbour, while our horses are dying of sheer inanition. Scandalous neglect and indifference to the interests of the public service arc chargeable somewhere or another in this matter. The compressed hay would have kept sweet for many days had it been fished out even within the week after it floated out of the wrecks, and the slight impregnation of the outer portion by salt water would not have rendered it at all distasteful to the horses. But, no: we are all 'Jolly Miller wights' out here, and care for nobody or nothing, 740 and so the fodder floated and bobbed about, stranded on the fringe of unutterable abominations and corruptions by the beach, floated off again, and rotted and stank, and stinks and rots, while the animals are half starving. In the same way the immense amount of timber which washed about the harbour and on the coast outside, and which would have answered for hutting all the army, and for fuel, was permitted to drift out again the other day when the freshet set in to the head of the habour after the rains, and when the wind blew off the shore, and very little of it was saved, though woe betide the luckless wretch who may be found by the provost marshal walking off with a piece of wood for his hut without an order.Upon the face of that statement alone the state of things appears to be of a serious character. I am confident, I may say, that the Government of this country and my noble Friends opposite, will take every means in their power to put the regulations with respect to the harbour and roadstead of Balaklava on a better footing. I have no sort of fear whatever for the ships in the port or roadstead, if they be properly handled. Some time ago I was told that nobody could go into the Black Sea in winter; but I expressed my conviction that the blockade in the Black Sea could be supported in winter if proper precautions were taken. I have no desire to reflect on the conduct of officers of my own profession; I know them too well to do that; but I trust for the future, if any circumstances should arise of a character to give warning of a gale, that the ships, instead of being "caught" on a lee-shore—which is a state in such circumstances to be of all things avoided, according to naval maxims—should be out twenty miles in the offing. This would give them the means of escape; for such is the formation of the land of the Crimea, that they could run where they liked, and have the opportunity of getting under some part of the land, where they might lie to in smooth water. The dangerous gale is that which blows from the south-west, and if the commanders of vessels take warning in time, and get to sea, there can be no question at all that steamships—and, I should say, sailing vessels too—would be safe if properly- handled. I have made these remarks from a regard for the state and condition of our forces in the Crimea. I consider the port of Balaklava is the present basis of our operations, and upon its state and the condition of the roadstead depend, will not say our success, but the means of properly supporting our troops; for it is the place where they look to receive all their sustenance, and to which, in time of 741 real difficulty, they must also look for aid and assistance.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
I certainly am extremely glad that this question has been mooted in Parliament, and especially that the noble Earl, a member of the naval profession, has been the individual to attract public attention to a question of such paramount—I might almost say of such vital—interest. I cannot admit that all that has been said and written is absolutely to the letter correct; nevertheless, there have evidently been cases of neglect and want of foresight and attention to matters of real importance to the welfare of the army and the fleet, which I think may be corrected by the pressure now administered by Parliament, coming in aid of the remonstrances made by myself and others. Before I proceed to answer the question, the noble Earl will forgive me if I express some regret that he should have brought forward what he has called the disqualifications of the captain of the Prince steamer. I can assure my noble Friend that this is by no means an established fact; and considering that the individual—whether qualified or disqualified—has perished with the ship, I do regret that anything should be said in reference to him—at any rate until the question has been thoroughly investigated. The noble Earl should have remembered that I told the House on a former occasion, I thought it fair to wait the result of an inquiry, which, I stated, was to be originated. My noble Friend should also recollect, when he complains of other ships, which were wrecked and damaged in the storm to which he alludes, that it was not a storm of the ordinary character prevailing in that sea, or affording sufficient warning to get out of the way of danger. My noble Friend ought to bear in mind that this was a storm which came on without any warning, and was, in fact, a hurricane of the most violent description. I do not mean to say that greater care might not have been taken, but, at the same time, much allowance ought to be made for such accidents. My noble Friend says, with great fairness, that he does net charge against the Government any neglect in respect to minor details; but he says that the Government is responsible for the appointment of fit and able officers. I readily agree in that proposition; and if every noble Lord, and every hon. and right hon. Gentleman, and every one in and out of the two Houses of Parliament, 742 would deal with the Government in the same spirit of candour, I certainly should have no cause of complaint. Undoubtedly it is our bounden duty to see our orders carried out by proper instruments, and the details must be left to them; but to say that the fact of some officers in the Crimea not having a change of linen is the fault of the Secretary for War, that is carrying the responsibility of Government into minutiæ which I am afraid it would be perfectly impossible for any Minister to attend to. I repeat that it is the bounden duty of the Government to appoint fitting instruments and to remove those that are not fit. I think I can satisfy my noble Friend that, as regards the Prince, there is no case of neglect on the part of the Government. I am asked by my noble Friend who is the responsible officer in the port and roadstead of Balaklava? In the first place, front the period of the flank march to Balaklava to the 17th of October, Sir Edmund Lyons was the responsible officer, and the noble Earl will admit that one more experienced and able is not to be found in Her Majesty's service. On the 17th of October he left for the purpose of attacking Fort Constantine. Since then he has been otherwise engaged in the public service, and has not resumed his position at Balaklava; but a captain in Her Majesty's Service—I will not say equal, but little inferior to Sir E. Lyons—was the person who succeeded to him, Captain Dacres, of the Sanspareil. He, therefore, was the responsible officer until he was invalided, shortly after the storm of the 14th of November—viz. somewhere about the 16th or 17th of November. I am not absolutely certain who succeeded him, but I have reason to believe it was Captain Drummond, of the Retribution, a very able and efficient officer. In addition to these officers, the commander of the Vesuvius has held the appointment of beach-master. Admiral Boxer, who had the command of the transport service between the Bosphorus and Balaklava, has been ordered out to Balaklava to undertake duties there, and Admiral Stopford will succeed him in his former office. I have now given an answer to my noble Friend's question as to who were the responsible parties in the port of Balaklava at the respective periods named, and if he thinks we have not appointed efficient officers, it will be, of course, his duty to comment on the conduct of the Government. I can only re- 743 gret that there appears, according to the statement which my noble Friend has quoted—assuming it not to be exaggerated—a want of organisation in the port of Balaklava, and I have felt it my duty to call on Lord Raglan to make immediate inquiry into this alleged gross neglect, and report upon it to the proper department. I shall also give him similar directions to inquire as to the loss of the Prince, and orders will also be sent out by the Admiralty to the naval authorities to ascertain where the culpability, if any, exists, and to prevent, if possible, such disasters from occurring in future.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, he did not rise to offer any observations on the points particularly touched upon by his noble and gallant Friend, but to call their Lordships' attention to what had been stated in reference to the steam-ship the Prince. It had been represented that the whole of the warm clothing and medical stores were conveyed in that vessel, but that the medical stores were placed in the bottom of the hold with all the other stores above them, so that the medical stores being wanted at Scutari they could not be got at for landing without first removing the heavy articles, and, this being found impossible, it was necessary to take them on to Balaklava. Now that of itself showed great mismanagement on the part of the persons charged with the stowing of that vessel, and he thought it would be well that there should be some persons appointed who should be particularly responsible for the stowage of all vessels in the public service. But what he particularly wanted to suggest to the noble Duke was this, that every cargo sent out to the Crimea should be an assorted cargo, and that in no case should there be put on board of one vessel the whole of the stores of the same description; because, in the event of the vessel being lost, the whole bulk of the stores of one description would be lost likewise, and the army be left utterly destitute of that particular kind of stores. I think it essential that it should be adopted as an uniform principle, that every cargo should be perfect in itself, and should be an assorted cargo, containing a portion of each class of articles, however small; and then, if you lost one ship, you would suffer comparatively little, because the several ships, in a manner, insured each other, making up each others' deficiencies.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he 744 had not seen the statement to which the noble Earl referred, and certainly was not aware that any newspaper or individual had ever stated that the whole of the medical stores and warm clothing were on board the steamer Prince. But this be could assure the noble Earl, that if any such statement had been made, no statement more incorrect was ever put forth, because every ship or transport conveying stores, with the exception of those that carried the battering train, had invariably carried out an assorted cargo. Thus, for example, in the case of the very vessel whose unfortunate loss they had had so much reason to deplore: the Prince carried out a regiment of soldiers; it carried out besides a considerable quantity of ammunition; it carried out also a large amount of medical stores and warm clothing. So far from all the medical stores, however, having been placed on board that vessel, it was in fact the fifth or sixth consignment of such stores which had been sent out, and it certainly was not the last. Again, so far from all the warm clothing for the troops having been placed in that one ship, he rejoiced to say that nothing could be further from the fact. The Prince carried out a considerable quantity of warm clothing, which was lost; but since then various ships had arrived out with warm clothing, and a considerable number of the troops had obtained this comfort. The Jura arrived almost immediately after the loss of the Prince, with a considerable quantity of warm clothing on board, and he believed there was hardly a ship which had left this country for the Crimea during some time past which had not carried out warm clothing of some description or another; and especial care had been taken never to send out in the same ship the whole of the articles of one description, so as to avoid the risk of losing the entire stock. Thus houses for covering the troops and stores also had been sent out on board several different ships. This principle of assorted cargoes led to difficulty in the case of those enormous ships to which the noble Earl has referred. He says, the medical stores were placed at the bottom of the Prince. I believe that that, unfortunately, is too true; because if these enormous ships do not happen to load at one port, there is great difficulty in arranging the cargo, and the Prince after taking in these stores went to Woolwich and Portsmouth to embark other stores. He did not mean to say that they could 745 not, perhaps, make a different arrangement by providing that the whole of the stores should be taken in at one port of embarkation—such Portsmouth; and that, at whatever expense or inconvenience, the medical stores sent should be placed at the top, rather than at the bottom of the cargo. He did not say that these things might not be done; but great allowance ought to be made on account of the difficulty attending these arrangements, considering the immense quantity—thousands and thousands of tons—of every article necessary to be sent out. He believed the statement was correct with regard to the Prince, that the medical stores were at the bottom of the cargo; but the other statement with respect to the Prince was incorrect, for she carried stores of all kinds.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
observed, that merchants loaded their ships at the port where the cargo was ready, and stowed it away according to the different places at which it was to be delivered. He believed that in the Thames and at other ports great confusion had arisen in loading the Government vessels, from different portions of the cargo being sent, and the persons in charge thereof each insisting on that portion under his care being stowed away immediately. All that would be remedied if, at the ports where Government ships were likely to be laden, there were placed trustworthy officers under the orders of the Government, to whom notice was given, when the cargo was about to arrive, of what it would consist, and where it was going—such officers being responsible for the stowage of the ship.
§ LORD ABINGER
suggested whether it would not be possible to establish at Balaklava some corps for the delivery of goods, as he knew that officers had great difficulty in getting at the articles which were sent out? He believed the baggage of the army had arrived at the Crimea, but up to the present moment had not been distributed, being somewhere in a ship in the harbour, nobody knew where. It was obviously important that there should be some organisation for the reception and delivery of the baggage, and that baggage waggons should be ready to take it away to the different regiments, so as to have it distributed without delay.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
wished to say that he had already made an arrangement of the nature and for the end suggested, though whether it had been successful or not he was unable to state. 746 About four or five months ago, finding that the Commissariat would not be able to manage this department satisfactorily, he applied to his right hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Fremantle), the Chairman of the Board of Customs, to select sixteen or eighteen landing waiters, who should undertake the conduct of this duty. They had been accordingly appointed and sent out, being made a branch of the Commissariat, in the hope that, by their aid, confusion and inaccuracies in the baggage department might be obviated. How far the arrangement had effected this object he could not undertake to say, but he should not omit to make inquiry on this head also.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.