§ LORD STRATHNAIRN
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1307 Whether it is the intention of the Government to employ any of Her Majesty's Indian forces in co-operation with the English troops for the defence of Suakim, or in operations out of it; and whether they do not consider such troops, by reason of their acclimatization, peculiarly adapted for the operations proposed? The noble and gallant Lord said: It is due to your Lordships that I should explain why I withdrew, on the 11th instant, my Question as to the Soudan. The reason was, my Lords, that when I sent in the Question for insertion in the Notice Paper of the House of Lords, I was entirely ignorant of my noble Friend's (the Marquess of Salisbury's) intended and important Motion on the same subject the next day. But when I heard it, I felt at once that it would not be fair to my noble Friend that my solitary query should take precedence of, and perhaps embarrass his Motion on a State question, supported by his superior talents and position. I therefore withdrew my Question. It is only just to myself to repeat what I intended to say, that I was actuated, in asking this Question, by no other motives than the desire for the success of British policy in Egypt. And it will be in the memory of my noble Friend (Earl Granville) that, in the first stage of the Egyptian Question, I made two suggestions of a military character which proved that desire, and for which my noble Friend, with his usual courtesy, thanked me. And, in the same sense, I introduced, in my intended Question of the 11th instant, the strategical advantages of the strong military occupation and fortification of Suakim, and of the concentration there of English troops from Suez, and of Indian troops from Aden, and of Her Majesty's ships of war for moral as well as for service effect, all of which has since been acknowledged by Her Majesty's Government by acting on the suggestion, except the concentration of Indian troops from Aden. And lastly, my Lords, with the same object and for the good of the Service, I ask this Question as to the employment of Her Majesty's Indian troops with British troops. One of the great advantages of England's possession of India is the rapid concentration of her excellent Indian troops, born in sun, and trained in sun, for any military operations in the East, or in a tropical 1308 climate. The importance of the employment of Indian troops can only he appreciated by officers whose experience shows them that to neglect this precaution is to court a disaster. And, in support of this opinion, I beg to quote a few facts acquired by a command in the field in India, acting on my own belief, and, what was far better, the best medical advice on this matter, which I have always so much respected. For, my Lords, there never existed a more devoted or talented Department than the Medical Department on the regimental system, and I share the regrets of the Army at its disappearance from the Service. To save from sun the English troops of the Central Indian Field Force, I made all the marches from sunset to sunrise in executing the strategical movement I was ordered to perform from Bombay to Calpee, which I was to take, a strong fort on a high rock on the Jumna, near its junction with the Ganges, and give my hand to Lord Clyde's Army in its operations in Rohilkund. I sent on the tents to the halting places the previous day by Native engineers and Native fatigue parties, who pitched the tents for the force. So that the English troops, after marching all night in the cool, rested during the heat of the day under canvas, with numerous exceptions, such as my force being engaged during the day in general actions, actions and sieges, when they were necessarily exposed to the full power of the sun. But I shall exemplify, by a few facts, the sufferings which they had to endure from fighting in the sun. In the general action of Koonch, between Jhansi and Gwalior, with the Gwalior Army, perfectly drilled by selected British officers, I had sent a company—I could not send more on account of the weakness of my force—of the then 71st Highland Light Infantry to make a feint, under the shade of a small wood, to protect them from the sun, with orders only to let themselves be occasionally seen, in order that the enemy might think they were a large body. But, in neglect of my orders, the men were posted in the open in the full power of the sun, which caused 12 men to fall down dead in the ranks. Another time, after the taking of Koonch, I received information from the political officer that the enemy were going to take possession of the right bank of the 1309 Jumna, close to its junction with the Granges, and to forestall them I made forced marches to the Jumna, leaving three companies of the same regiment, the 71st, to bring on the baggage and tents. But the tents had been thoroughly wetted in a storm, and were so heavy that the bullocks soon tired and could not move the carts, and the English soldiers, all day in the hot sun, were prostrated, many of them senseless from severe sunstroke, on the road. The enemy were hovering all round, and I had to sent out a strong detachment of Native soldiers to bring the English soldiers in on carts. In the operations round and against Calpee and its inextricable network of ravines, I had sent a spy into that fortress to obtain information of the enemy's movements. He came to me at midnight, and informed me that the Gwalior Contingent and other mutinous Horse Artillery and Cavalry regiments, under the Queen of Jhansi and Rao Sahib—commanding the rebel troops in and near Calpee, brother to Nana Sahib, the beginner of the Mutiny, and the per-pretrator of the Cawnpore atrocities—were to make a feint against my left, in order to make me weaken my right and strengthen my left, and then rush out with their whole force in some thousands from the ravines in which they were concealed and fall on my weakened right. I took my precautions accordingly, and strengthened my right. I had received a few days before an intercepted correspondence from the Queen of Jhansi and Rao Sahib containing circular orders that the rebel troops were never to attack the English before 8 o'clock in the morning, as the sun from that hour onwards was the most intense and fatal to them, as proved by the fact that the English were much reduced in strength by sunstroke, and that the hospitals were full of these cases. In coincidence with this circular, and in confirmation of the spy's report, two days afterwards the enemy, at 8 o'clock in the morning, headed by the Queen of Jhansi and Rao Sahib, and in the order I have described, descended from the rock of Calpee to make their feint on my left, on which they made a fierce attack, to conceal their real attack on my right. This was followed immediately by the mutinous regiments in red jackets swarming in great force from 1310 the ravines, and falling on my right with great impetuosity. A desperate general action ensued, and the enemy were beaten in every direction and Calpee taken the next morning. But the number of soldiers struck with sunstroke in action from the summer heat proved what English troops suffer from sunstroke in its worst form, particularly skirmishers. It was most painful to see these good soldiers throwing down their rifles, some, in mad fits, jumping in the air shrieking with laughter; others, in melancholy fits, crying and throwing themselves on the ground; all this in the heat of action. The intense heat this day also gave me sunstroke, but in a much less serious form—the same as I had at Koonch and previously, when the headquarters' surgeon, as a precaution for the future, directed a "bheestie," a water carrier, to follow me in action and apply cold water when required. The sunstroke only paralyzed me from the shoulder downwards, causing me to fall off my horse. But I did not leave the field. The cold water and restoratives soon brought me round. Finally, my Lords, Sir R. Arnott, senior medical officer of the force—a first-rate surgeon, made a K.C.B. for his excellent medical services in the field, a model of that good medical regimental system, now, alas! abolished for an inefficient and unpopular one—wrote me an official letter, stating that if I did not take Calpee in 14 days, he would not guarantee that the whole force, from the Commander downwards, would not be totally prostrated. But Calpee was taken in 10 days by my gallant and devoted troops, English and Native. I mention these details to show the dangerous effects of the sun on English troops in tropical heat. I summarize, my Lords, these remarks, which relate to the military aspect of the question in the Soudan, and I now pass with great regret to the military and political causes of the late disastrous events in that part of the world. I say great regret, because for the sake of that frank truth, Pempire du fait, which alone prevents the recurrence of former events, by the knowledge of their causes; that for every reason, political as well as military, nothing could be more unwise in its conceptions and dangerous in its consequences than the failure of the Government to make use of the power which they declared they possessed in 1311 the despatch of my noble Friend (Earl Granville) of January 4, of this year, that—The responsibility which for the time rests on England obliges Her Majesty's Government to insist on the adoption of the policy they recommend, and that it will be necessary that those Ministers and Governors who do not follow this course should cease to hold their offices."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884), p. 176.]It is true that these instructions were written after the defeat that befell that brave, but unfortunate officer, Hicks Pasha, and his Army; but the causes which existed in Egypt and induced Her Majesty's Government to write these instructions existed as far back as the 28th of March, 1883, when General Hicks started on his disastrous expedition, which ended in the destruction of himself and his forces at Kasghil, near Obeid, the headquarters of the Mahdi in Kordofan, with the loss of several Krupp guns, which may now be used against our own troops. The last of my thoughts is to blame the issue of those instructions. On the contrary, I believe not only were they justifiable, but fully called for by the state of Egypt, and the responsibility of England for that state. All I regret is, that, knowing they possessed those powers, Her Majesty's Government should not have made use of them, and frankly told the Egyptian Government, in the words of the despatch of my noble Friend, "that they must insist on the adoption of the policy they recommend;" and that the projected expedition of General Hicks into the Soudan could not, must not, be executed. It is inconceivable, my Lords, that the causes which proved not only the improbability, but the impossibility, of the success of the expedition which was so apparent, should not have been known and appreciated by Her Majesty's Government. The Commander of the expedition, General Hicks, was a brave, and, I believe, deserving officer, and with the best intentions, who had seen a good deal of service in India; but there was nothing in his statements of services which would justify his selection, if he were selected by any person other than the Khedive, for this most difficult and arduous command—far more difficult from the religious sympathies of the soldiers he was to lead with the fanatical, gallant, and warlike tribes, whom he was to attack in the Soudan. Be- 1312 sides, the nerve and military qualities of the Egyptian soldiers whom he was to lead, as proverbially known throughout the East, are, as the Marquess of Hartington frankly said, of "light calibre;" and, moreover, so far from possessing esprit de corps, their feelings were humiliated by their recent defeat by English troops in the Egyptian Expedition; and the thought that they were now to march against their co-religionists, bigoted Mussulmans, of whose courage and warlike qualities they had only had too many proofs, was not an encouraging one, when they had acted against them or with them as allies. These Egyptian soldiers could not look back upon past annals of military fame, for, though well equipped and paid, and acting for their Suzerain, the Sultan, and in alliance, as strict Mussulmans, with their brother Mohammedans in the Russo-Turkish War, whose successes, gallantry, devotion, and discipline under privations of every sort had won for them the esteem of a universal public and military opinion, they failed in every respect in the field, although commanded by an Egyptian Prince of the Khedivial House, and were sent home. All these dispiriting causes were aggravated by the large arrears of pay due to the Egyptian soldiers, some of two years' standing; and they had neither commissariat nor field hospitals. Even the want of 5,000 men and the failing of water in the onward march to Kasghil, although the Government and Sir Evelyn Baring were in constant communication by telegraph with him, never suggested to the Government the necessity of recalling an expedition which had been planned and executed under the influence of a total disregard of its insurmountable obstacles, ruinous consequences, and in misprision of every principle of the art of war.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, when the noble and gallant Lord began putting his Question, it appeared to me that, being a military matter, it would have been more properly addressed to my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War, but there was a certain political flavour at the end of the noble and gallant Lord's speech on arguments which I have heard upon two occasions in this House this Session. The noble and gallant Lord has given an interesting account of a campaign in India in which 1313 Native troops rendered very great service, and in which a gallant and distinguished General shared; but there was one incident which he did not choose to tell your Lordships, and it was that that gallant General was struck down three times by sunstroke, and yet he was not in the least discouraged by his physical sufferings, but successfully struggled on to the end of the campaign.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I have always been told that the noble and gallant Lord himself was struck down three times by sunstroke.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I was alluding to the noble and gallant Lord, and I can assure him that it was most creditable to him. With reference to the Question, it is only necessary for me to state that I do not think the employment of Indian troops is necessary, owing to the very weighty considerations, both political and military, with regard to the employment of such troops in the Soudan. But there is one very strong reason against it, which stands by itself—namely, that it would take more than double the time to send them than to send the force which the Government believes to be quite sufficient for the purpose.