THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he contemplates establishing a registered telegraphic address for each battalion or unit of our forces in South Africa; and if so, whether the scheme will be brought into operation at an early date. Your Lordships are aware, many of you from personal experience, of the great expense involved in sending telegrams to those who are at the front in South Africa. Each word costs 4s., and it is very difficult to make out a telegram to any friend at the front costing less than £2 for the address alone. It must be obvious that, under these circumstances, it is impossible for poor people to use the telegraph as a means of communication with our soldiers in South Africa; but if a system such as I have suggested in my question were adopted, no doubt many who have hitherto been unable to use the telegraph would be enabled, owing to the reduced cost, to avail themselves of it. I believe that if the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War is able to adopt a system of registered telegraphic addresses, it will be possible to address a telegram to a private soldier at the front in two words—one giving his regimental number and the other the registered telegraphic address of his regiment. I am assuming that the words "Cape Colony" or "South Africa" would be included in the word representing the 899 registered telegraphic address. If, further, there was a code word to signify "in hospital," it would be possible to address a message in three words to a wounded officer or soldier. I am quite sure that if the noble Marquess can see his way to adopt a plan such as I have indicated it will be greatly appreciated by the people of this country and by the soldiers who are fighting so bravely for us in South Africa. I would merely add that I hope, if any scheme is introduced, it will be as comprehensive as possible, and will include our Colonial contingents.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, my noble friend made this suggestion to me some weeks ago, and it certainly struck me as a most reasonable one. I was sure that all the Departments concerned would gladly co-operate in order to give facilities to persons in this country desiring to communicate with their friends in the field force in South Africa. I lost no time in communicating with the Post Office on the subject. The Post Office has considered it in conjunction with the Eastern Telegraph Company; a list of code words has been framed, and has been sent out to South Africa, and, I think, must have arrived there two or three days ago. As soon as the telegraphic authorities at the Cape have informed us, as they no doubt will do by telegraph, that they are able to accept the code, the new arrangement will come into force, and will be made known by the Post Office here. The procedure that will be followed will be this:—The senders of telegrams will continue to address them as they have hitherto done, giving the name of the person to whom the message is addressed and the full title of his regiment; but the telegraph authorities will translate that of their own motion into the code word. That will have the effect in the case, for example, of a regiment which has a long title of substituting for such long title a single word. The difference between the suggestion of my noble friend and the arrangement proposed to be carried out is merely this—that the translation of the address into the code word will be made, not by the person who sends the telegram, but by the telegraph authorities who transmit it to the Cape. I think that is certainly an improvement. As to the further suggestion that code words should 900 be introduced as the equivalents of such expressions as "in hospital," I shall be glad to have it considered, but it did not form part of the original proposition.
THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
I beg to thank the noble Marquess for the extremely satisfactory answer he has been I able to give to my question; only I do not quite understand how under the scheme the sender is to know how much he will have to pay. I should have thought it would have been better to publish the code at every post office. I hope the press will take notice of the scheme and make it as public as possible, so that everyone concerned will understand how it will be put in force.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Instructions will be issued by the post office on the subject. When the sender delivers his message at the post office he will find that he is charged for the full title of the regiment as if it was condensed into one word.