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Report of the Board of General Officers

This presentation of the report (sometimes referred to as the Chelsea Board, or the "Whitewash" Board)is based on transcripts by Megan Stevens, and includes the page numbers of the original publication in order to maintain the validity of page references. It is arranged in the following sections:-

Title page
and
table of
contents
First
Report
(pp i-xxix)
Second
Report
(pp xxix-xxx)
Preliminary
Meeting
(p xxxi-xxxii)
Minutes
(parts
only)
Appendices
(parts
only)
Introduction Lord Lucan Lord Cardigan General Airey Colonel Gordon Commissary General Filder
p. ix p. x p. xi p. xii p. xiii p. xiv p. xv

[Page ix of the Report]

MAJOR-GENERAL SIR RICHARD AIREY'S CASE.

 Sir Richard Airey said:-
  
P. 251."With regard to the passages which I regard as containing matters of animadversion, they are intermixed with other passages involving no animadversion, so that it would be difficult to point out the exact sentence, or parts and bits of sentences of which I complain; but I can say it is the whole of the London Report, down to the end of the 6th line of the 37th page, and to that part I invite inquiry."
  
Pp. 230, 231.At the commencement of his address, Sir Richard Airey commented on the circumstances under which the evidence was taken by the Commissioners, and contended that those circumstances rendered it dangerous to draw conclusions from that evidence, and scarcely possible to assign a value to a report founded thereon.
  
 He set forth at length various reasons for entertaining this opinion, which reasons will be found in the proceedings (pp. 230-1-2-4-5; 252; 261; 337-8-9).
  
 He stated that the evidence, as printed by the Commissioners, varied in some material particulars from the evidence, as given by some of the officers in the Crimea (pp. 259-267, Questions 1,244 to 1,257; p. 280, Questions 1,272 to 1,278; p. 300). And in his closing address he said, "I had intended to impugn the Report, by showing that the conclusions therein contained would have been prevented by that very testimony, which, though not printed with the rest of the evidence, was, in truth, actually given before the Commissioners; and I had intended, I confess, to invite the attention of the Board to the circumstances under which the displacement of the evidence had occurred. From this second portion of my case I am debarred by the absence of Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch" (p. 337).
  
 He called the attention of the Board to the precise limits of the Quartermaster-General's Department, and the nature of its duties (pp. 235-6-7-9; 253-4-5; 335-6; 341), and proceeded to give an explanation n those matters, which, falling within the range of the Quartermaster-General's Department, had made the subject of observation by the Commissioners (p. 235), and contended that there was no ground whatever for the animadversions upon his Department which are contained in the Report (p. 337).
  
 With a view to a clear statement of the result of our inquiry into the correctness of those animadversions, we now proceed to report on each of the matters commented on by the Commissioners, in the order in which they have taken them.
  
P. 23,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Separation from knapsacks."
  
 As regards the separation of the men from their knapsacks on landing in the Crimea, it appears to the Board that this was a matter entirely within the Department of the Adjutant-General, who, under the orders of the General Commanding, could alone see the measure carried into execution; but Sir Richard Airey having stated his readiness to give any information in his power, has said that when the force recovered its communication with the sea, active ...

[Page x of the Report]

... measures were taken for restoring them; and it is in evidence (Questions 1,214-1,218) that in consequence of the physical weakness of the men who embarked at Varna, a discretionary power as to landing with or without knapsacks was given to officers commanding regiments, and that most of them availed themselves of that power to lighten the men's burdens.
  


Question 1,229
p. 226.
Compare Colonel
Gordon's evidence,
p. 348.
It also appears that no blame is attributable to the Quartermaster-General's Department, although much delay was occasioned in recovering knapsacks from the transports, in consequence of various obstacles over which that Department had no control. It may, however, be observed that the packs contained very little that could have added to the comfort of the men, a proportion of the men's necessaries having been left in the squad-bags at Scutari.
  
P. 24,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Issues of Warm Clothing from England."
  
P. 341.Sir Richard Airey has stated that the Quartermaster-General's Department had no stores, no storehouses, no storekeepers, no issuers, nor means of landing transport, none, in fact, of the machinery necessary for receiving stores, or for keeping them, or for transporting or delivering them to the men, and that the only duty of the Department, in relation to the issue of stores, was that of determining the proportions in which they should be shared by the troops.
  
 It appears to us material to observe that although the term Quartermaster-General's Stores seems to have been applied by the Commissioners to all stores for which the Quartermaster-General made requisition, the responsibility of that officer must be understood to be limited to the duty of making requisitions for certain stores, and not to their safe custody, stowage, or even issue. - See Colonel Wetherall's evidence, p. 269.
  
 We now proceed to give our opinion as to the manner in which the Quartermaster-General performed the duties of his Department.
  
P. 30,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Distribution of Warm Clothing"
  
 Sir Richard Airey complained of the following statement: -
  
 "The arrangements relating to the issue of the supplies from the Quartermaster-General's stores appear to have been of questionable expedience."
  


P. 254.
Sir Richard Airey thinks it is made to appear, inferentially, that this supposed want of care in the working of the Department may have been the occasion, not of mere inconvenience and trouble, but of some of those dreadful privations to which the soldier was subjected in the winter of 1854 and 1855, and that although there always was a supply of warm clothing in the harbour of Balaklava, official formality or mismanagement stood up as a barrier between the soldiers and his supplies.
  
P. 256-7.
P. 289.
Quests. 1,320-25.




P. 31, Commissioners' Report.
Warm clothing being an extra issue, very unusual in the service, the principle adopted by the Quartermaster-General as to the apportionment of it appears to have been a very judicious one, viz., that of sending orders that the regiments should apply for it according to their strength, for which purpose ...

[Page xi of the Report]

... Sir Richard Airey placed an officer (Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie) at Balaklava, who appears to have performed his duties most efficiently; but the cause of those supplies not reaching the men for a considerable time after the orders were given was owing to the deficiency of transport, a fact fully admitted by the Commissioners.
  
Rugs and Blankets."Rugs and Blankets."
  
P. 26,
Commissioners'
Report.
Sir Richard Airey complained (p. 259) of the passages in the Commissioners' Report, referred to in the margin; he said, -
  
 "It is there made to appear that the blankets fell short, and that the men were kept without warm clothing, because it occurred to no one to give the 8,000 rugs which were lying in store."
  
P. 26,
Commissioners'
Report.
With regard to rugs the Commissioners state, -
  
 "These rugs were nearly as well calculated as blankets to keep out the cold, and were perhaps better suited to resist wet, yet, when the supply of blankets fell short, it does not appear to have occurred to anyone that the rugs were available as a substitute."
  
P. 272.The statement is distinctly contradicted by Colonel Wetherall, in the following words: -
  
 "It was a yellow, half cotton, half worsted rug, and, though the Commissioners state that they were nearly as well calculated to resist wet as blankets, no one else in the Crimea thought so, and that was the very reason why they were never used, because they did not resist wet."
  
P. 272.Colonel Wetherall further stated, that -
  
 "The rugs were always placed under the same category as blankets, and requisitions were frequently altered to blankets or rugs, and that if a regiment asked for blankets, and they were not available, and rugs were, the regiment had permission to take rugs."
  
P. 309-10.
Appendix to
Commissioners'
Report, p. 89.
This statement appears to be completely borne out by the evidence of Mr. Boyd, the Storekeeper, and the returns of issues.
  



P. 260.
With regard to "blankets", they were one of the articles which were issued on requisitions made in the usual form, and approved by the Quartermaster-General, and it appears that these requisitions were approved of greatly in advance of the power of regiments receiving the same to draw the blankets, owing to the want of means of transport. Colonel Cobbe (p. 279, Commissioners' Report) says, that the requisitions of warm clothing or blankets were always in advance of the means of transport at his disposal.
  
 Colonel Wetherall, in his evidence given to the Commissioners in the Crimea, informed them that:-
  
 "In the month of December alone, no less than 22,740 blankets were issued by the Department, though only 17,323 were carried away."
  
 

[Page xii of the Report]

  
Compare
pp. 267-8,
Quests.
1,245-57.
This portion of Colonel Wetherall's evidence was omitted by the Commissioners in their Report, but was laid before us by Sir Richard Airey (p. 259).
  
 "Great-Coats"
  
 The Commissioners' remarks of which Sir Richard Airey complained, on the subject of great-coats, commence at p. 27, Commissioners' Report.
  
P. 258.It appears that Lord Raglan, in the due exercise of his dispensing power, substituted for the complicated War Office form of requisition for great-coats, the following form:-
  
 
"Required for the Regiment
"Quartermaster-General's Office ____________________________
  
See Appendix.

P. 283.
And a tabular statement laid before the Board, and hereto annexed, shows that orders had been issued, up to January 20th, for 6,577 great-coats, of which only 3, 049 had been drawn: and it is stated by Colonel Wetherall in his evidence, that every man had at that time been supplied with a sheepskin coat.
  

Commissioners' Report, p. 277, Question 19.
The only reference made by Colonels of regiments, in their replies to the Commissioners (respecting great-coats) was that made by Colonel Douglas, 79th Regiment, who states that on making requisition for 300 coats, it was promptly complied with.
  
P. 28,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Watch-coats, Coatees, Trowsers, Shoes."
  


P. 269.
In regard to the apportionment of these articles it appears to us, from the evidence of Colonel Wetherall, the officer who superintended their apportionment, that every means were taken to issue to the troops such of them as were actually in store, or available for use. But all the coatees were found to be too small for the men by reason of the great quantity of under-clothing worn by them. The shoes were also much too small for all purposes of service in the field.
  
P. 196,
Appendix to
Commissioners'
Report.
This statement, with respect to boots and shoes, is borne out by the proceedings of a "Board of Survey on the unfitness of ammunition boots issued to the men", held in the 19th Regiment on the 8th of January 1855.
  
P. 32,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Tents"
  
P. 246.With reference to tents, it appears that Sir Richard Airey, on the 28th of November 1854, sent home a large requisition in consequence of the destruction of tents and hospital marquees in the storm of the 14th of November, but that requisition, addressed to the Board of Ordnance, although sent direct to England under most pressing circumstances, was not complied with until May 1855.
  
 Therefore the Quartermaster-General's Department is completely exonerated from all blame on this head.
  
Commissioners'
Report,
pp. 26 and 27.
"Paillasses."
  
 The vessels above referred to, which arrived about the middle and end ...

[Page xiii of the Report]

... of November, had also brought 21,450 paillasses to protect the soldier from the moistness of the ground, of which, however, 10,000 were lost in the 'Prince'. It was intended that they should be stuffed with hay or straw, but at that time these were deficient in the camp, and no effort seems to have been made to provide a substitute, though wood from the opposite coast might probably have been procured, if proper measures had been taken for that purpose. Had even the paillasse sack, together with one of the rugs in store been issued, it would have afforded the soldier some protection from the moisture of the ground, till a better bed could be procured for him. None of the paillasses, however, were issued to the troops, and of a subsequent supply of 6,000 only about one-half were used for the hospitals; the whole of the rest remained in store.
  
 "It was not necessary that there should be a paillasse for each man, and, indeed a tent could not have contained that number; one to every two men would have been sufficient, for nearly one-half were out on duty at night, and even in the end of November the number in store would have afforded that proportion."
  
P. 260.In answer to the observations of the Commissioners, imputing blame to the Quartermaster-General's Department for the non-issue of paillasses, and which might have been used by the men as a protection from the moisture of the ground, Sir Richard Airey contended that a coarse linen paillasse cover to lay down upon the wet ground would have been of no use whatever, and that no man would have taken the trouble to walk down to Balaklava to have obtained any number of them.
  
 Moreover, there were the same difficulties in moving the paillasses to the front as in the case of the blankets and other clothing.
  
P. 283.It is also in evidence that there was no hay or straw to stuff them with, and no wool, or the means of rendering it available, if procured as a substitute, as suggested by the Commissioners.
  
 Sir Richard Airey's statement on this head is corroborated by the evidence of Colonel Wetherall (p. 283) and Mr. Watson (p. 334), and confirms us in our opinion that the paillasses could not have been made serviceable in the mode recommended by the Commissioners.
  
P. 33,
Commissioners'
Report.
"Huts."
  
P. 242.


P. 241.
With regard to the subject of hutting, it appears that the Quartermaster-General's Department completely fulfilled their duty, by ordering huts at an early period from Constantinople, viz. 8th November 1854, but the conveyance of the material to the front for hutting the men formed no part of the Quartermaster-General's duty, as, at that period, that duty rested with the Commissariat Department.
  

P. 301.
It appears that from the first supply of planks and scantling, which arrived from Constantinople on November 25, 1854, to the second supply, which arrived on January 21, 1855, the Land Transport was insufficient to carry up to the front even the subsistence for the men, much less was it possible for them to transport a heavy weight of planks and scantling.
  
P. 83.It appears, therefore, that the Quartermaster-General's Department is relieved from all responsibility on this head.

[Page xiv of the Report]

The responsibility of the Quartermaster-General's Department was confined to making a requisition for such materials as could be made available for the purpose, and as early as October (before it was known where the army were going to winter), a communication was made to the principal agent for transports, Captain Christie, to obtain all the spare sails, spars, and tarpaulins.
  
P. 188,
Evidence
before the
Commissioners.
P. 247.
On its being decided that the army was to winter in the Crimea, the Quartermaster-General states, in answer to the Commissioners, that he procured 200 Turks as labourers, and all the timber and planks necessary from Sinope and Constantinople.
  
 But it does not appear that any timber or planks were distributed in the Crimea before the middle of November or end of December, or that any means of transport were available for that purpose.
  
P. 36.So far as the Report of the Commissioners may be supposed to animadvert upon the Quartermaster-General's Department, in regard to the want of "promptitude or ingenuity in devising 'temporary shelter' for the horses", and the employment of canvas for that purpose, we are of opinion that the evidence of -
  • P. 147.
  • P. 301.
  • P. 306.
  • P. 318.
  • P. 331.
  • P. 332.
  • Admiral Sir E. Lyons, R.N.,
  • Major Keane, R.E.
  • Admiral Sir J. Dundas, R.N.
  • Colonel Chapman, R.E.
  • Major Hackett, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General,
  • Captain Derryman, R.N.,
 completely refute the statements of the Commissioners.
  
 Before we close our observations on the case of Sir Richard Airey, we think it important to refer to the subject of the road from Balaklava, a matter which so pre-eminently falls within the range of the Quartermaster-General's duties, and about which so much has been said.
  
 Sir Richard Airey has considered it sufficient for his vindication to quote the words of the Commissioners in their own Report, as satisfactorily explaining, so far at least as his own department was concerned, the causes of the defects, and the difficulty which existed in remedying them.
  
Commissioners'
Report, p. 18.
"The want of a road from Balaklava to the front, passable for commissariat carts, greatly increased the difficulty of supplying the army after the middle of November; but the officers commanding divisions sho were examined upon the subject are unanimous in their opinion that it would have been impossible to employ a sufficient number of men to make the road, and at the same time to carry on the military operations in which the army was engaged."
  
 To this passage may be added the admission of the Commissioners, that hired labour could not be obtained, and the demand for the services of the troops in the trenches, and for other military duties, was such that they could not be spared for other purposes. (Commissioners' Report, p. 33.)
  
 On a careful review of the imputations, whether express or implied, against the Quartermaster-General's Department in the Crimea, of which Sir Richard Airey complained, -

[Page xv of the Report]

We are of opinion that, in the performance of their several duties, neither that officer, nor any of those who served under him, are justly chargeable with mismanagement or neglect; but that, on the contrary, they used their best exertions to promote, as far as depended upon them, the welfare of the army.
  
 That their endeavours failed in their object, cannot fairly be matter of charge against a department, which, although ostensibly responsible for the performance of duties of the very first importance to an army in the field, is yet left unprovided with any means at its disposal of carrying out its own arrangements, and thus becomes entirely dependent on the precarious aid of other departments, which, on this particular service, were over-taxed far beyond their strength and resources.
  
 Formerly the Quartermaster-General's Department was on a very different footing in this respect; the greater part of a staff-corps of infantry, composed entirely of artificers, and commanded by officers specially trained, or selected with a view to staff employment, was attached to the Quartermaster-General's Department, and its services were at all times available for the performance of duties which could not otherwise be provided for.
  
P. 188.It is in evidence that in the Crimea the Quartermaster-General endeavoured to obtain the assistance of the Royal Engineers for erecting huts for the cavalry, but that none could be spared, as the operations of the siege occupied the entire strength of that corps.
  
P. 375.It is also stated in evidence, that in the Crimea the French army had a "Corps d'Arts et Métiers" disposable for the construction of field overs, &c., at a period of great suffering, when not a man of the British army could be obtained for a like purpose.
  

p. ix p. x p. xi p. xii p. xiii p. xiv p. xv
Introduction Lord Lucan Lord Cardigan General Airey Colonel Gordon Commissary General Filder
Title page
and
table of
contents
First
Report
(pp i-xxix)
Second
Report
(pp xxix-xxx)
Preliminary
Meeting
(p xxxi-xxxii)
Minutes
(parts
only)
Appendices
(parts
only)
Analysis
of Index
(not
available)

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