Home About Sources Topics Background

Crimean texts

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
table of
(pp i-xxix)
(pp xxix-xxx)
(p xxxi-xxxii)
Introduction Lord Lucan Lord Cardigan General Airey Colonel Gordon Commissary General Filder
p. xx p. xxi p. xxii p. xxiii p. xxiv p. xxv p. xxvi p. xxvii p. xxviii p. xxix

[Page xx of the Report]


 Mr. Filder referred to his letter addressed to Mr. Peel (which was laid before both Houses of Parliament), as containing the particular passages of the Report of which he chiefly complained (p. 356).
 He objected to the tone and spirit of the whole Report, as well as to the more precise charges contained in it, and contended that it was not justified by the actual facts (p. 357).
 He also complained that no inquiries were made of himself on either of the two examinations which he attended, or of his officers when examined, which could have shown them where the Commissioners thought there had been neglect or omission, or could have given them an opportunity of clearing up any misapprehension which might exist in the minds of the Commissioners (pp. 357, 362).
 Further, that the Commissioners had not taken into account the particular difficulties of his position; and that their Report, even as a statement of facts, was a misrepresentation in many parts, and exaggeration in others (p. 357).
 In support of these positions, Mr. Filder set forth the nature of the duties of the Commissariat Department while in his charge, and the means which he had of performing them (pp. 357-8).
 In illustration of the difficulties of his position, he referred to the insufficient establishment both of officers and employés (pp. 358, 377); the uncertainty of the position of the army during the winter (pp. 358-73); the consequences of the storm of 14th of November, 1854; the effects of the wants of a road (pp. 359); and of the want of sea transport (p. 360).
 He contended that the real question to be considered, with reference to his conduct as Commissary-General, was this:-
 Whether he could, from the middle of November 1854, to the end of February 1855, have increased the number of transport animals in the Crimea, and whether when he had got them there, he could have obtained from any quarter sufficient forage to supply them with food" (pp. 363, 383).
 He said that on this question of transport depended the consideration of various other matters of very great importance, which had been made the subject of charges against him (p. 360); he instanced the supply of fresh meat (pp. 360-1-2), and of fuel (p. 363).
 He showed, in detail, what had taken place with reference to the supply of forage from England (pp. 364-5-6-7-8-9, 370-1; 381-2; 388; Questions 1,981-1,996; 390-1-8; 2,016-19, 35, 41; p. 406); and contended that the authorities there had omitted to comply with his repeated requisitions, and that by no exertions of his own, or of the commissariat officers acting under his direction, could the deficiency have been remedied from local resources (p. 372-3).
 He referred to some other charges, relating rather to the peculiar quality or nature of the supplies given out, than to any deficiency; and as to which he said that, "the Commissioners seemed to have been more misinformed, and ...

[Page xxi of the Report]

... more ready to arrive at conclusions, than as to any other matters on which they had grounded their charges against him" (p. 373):-
  1. Vegetable food - p. 373-4.
  2. Lime juice - pp. 374-5.
  3. Fresh bread - pp. 375-6.
  4. Tea - pp. 381-2.
  5. Green coffee - pp. 382-2, 386-7.
  6. Rice - p. 382.
 We have thought it right, in the first instance, to give this outline of Mr. Filder's address to the Board, in order that the statement of his complaint might appear in the form in which he submitted it to us. But we have found it convenient in our Report to observe the arrangement which he has adopted in his letter to Mr. Peel.
 We now, therefore, proceed to give our opinions in that order on the several matters on which he has there adverted.


 Under this head, the Commissioners observe, with regard to -

Report I, p. 4.
Biscuit. - That "the ration of biscuit having, on the 15th October 1854, been increased by General Order to 1 1/3 lb., in consideration of the severe labour to which the troops were subjected, it was reduced on the 7th November to 1 lb. on the express ground of the 'supply of biscuit being insufficient to furnish the increased ration lately authorized".
 On this, Mr. Filder remarks, -
P. 62.
in the Crimea.
"The established ration for all troops in the field was not reduced, but the extra allowance was discontinued. It was a matter of notoriety, that 1 1/3 lb. of biscuit was more than the men could eat, and that they sold, or gave away, a part of what they received, to the French troops who frequented our lines; this was before the storm or any deficiencies had occurred. My motive for recommending the discontinuance, under such circumstances, of the extra allowance, was, that its issue impeded the progress of the depôt which I was then forming in the front.
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 6."Had the extra quantity of biscuit issued to the troops in camp, been allowed to accumulate in depôt there, the animals which, during the winter, were occupied in transporting that article, might have been employed in carrying up other supplies, which were then so much needed; the extra quantity issued very greatly exceeded all the deficiencies of biscuit which occurred throughout the winter."
 In this view of the case, we consider that Mr. Filder was justified in recommending the discontinuance of the extra allowance.

[Page xxii of the Report]

 The Commissioners further observe, with regard to -

Report I, p. 4.
Salt Meat. - "From the returns handed to us by the Commissary-General, and from his statements, it appears that, although the commissariat had at that time in store sufficient for several days' consumption, there was still (in consequence of some mistake, it is stated, on the part of the commissariat officer at Constantinople) cause for considerable anxiety lest the whole army should be left without salt meat, at a time when no other articles of food were available, except biscuit, rum, and the ordinary groceries. The arrival of a vessel with a supply of salt meat, before that which had been obtained from the navy was issued, relieved the Commissary-General from the anxiety which he had previously felt on the subject."
 On this, Mr. Filder remarks: -
Proceedings, Question, 1,927-1,933."That although some apprehension on the subject of a short supply existed in his mind, no positive deficiency ever occurred in the commissariat stores: that the lowest number of days for which he had supplies of salt meat on hand, was eight or nine; and that the circumstance of his having had even so short a supply as that, arose partly from the loan he had made of that article to the navy, partly from the detention of the vessels by contrary winds."
 He further remarked, that -
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 6."The Commissioners have omitted to state what is shown by the evidence annexed to their Report (p. 158), that the salt meat received from the navy only replaced the quantity which had been supplied from the commissariat stores for seamen and marines serving on shore. This supply from the navy was not, therefore, a loan, but a restitution of a loan."


 Under this head, the Commissioners state, that -
Commissioners' Report, p. 5."In the Crimea, during the greater part of November and December, and also in a great measure during January and a part of February, the soldier was confined exclusively to biscuit in addition to his salt meat."
Appendix to
Report, p. 13.
The returns quoted in margin, show that there were issued to the troops in the month of -
November340,818lbs.of vegetables
Also, in the months of -
November79,059lbs.of rice.

[Page xxiii of the Report]

 It appears, therefore, that the statements of the Commissioners are by no means borne out.
 We may here add, with respect to the remarks of the Commissioners on the subject of Vegetable Food (p. 8), that we entirely concur in the view of the Commissary-General, that his department is not responsible for the particular articles of diet which constitute the ration of the men; his duty is only to furnish it according to the order of the General commanding.

FRESH MEAT (p. 8).





 It appears to the Board that the insufficient supply of fresh meat arose from various causes, but primarily from the want of sea transport, which want Commissary-General Filder appears to have used every exertion to remedy.
 The number of transports at the disposal of the commissariat was diminished during the month of December by the circumstance of two of the most efficient cattle vessels being then under repair, and useless.
P. 362.The supply of fresh meat during the same month was rendered less than it otherwise would have been, owing to the commissariat officer at Eupatoria having sent back empty two transports dispatched to that place for a supply of cattle, he having given over the cattle he had in charge there to the French and Turks, who had arrived without any supplies of fresh meat, or the means of providing any.
 Mr. Filder says on this subject:-
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 16."I was at all times fully alive to the importance of providing fresh meat, for the use of the troops, and employed to the utmost all the suitable vessels I could obtain (see paper annexed, marked D), but I consider sailing vessels to be unsuitable for the service in winter, particularly in the Black Sea. Of all the cattle which were forwarded in sailing transports from Varna at the end of October and beginning of November, more than one-third were lost, even on board steamers, which were not fitted up as cattle-vessels, the casualties were very great. To have continued the use, therefore, of sailing vessels, would have been to destroy the supplies of the army, and must have led to a deficiency; for in winter it would have been impracticable to obtain large supplies of cattle from the interior of Turkey to replace such losses."
 With reference to the observation of the Commissioners, that -
 "Slaughtered meat might at that season of the year have been carried without much loss," and their opinion that "fresh meat in much larger quantities might have been, and ought to have been, supplied to the army", -
 Mr. Filder says -
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 17."Slaughtered meat was sent by the cattle-vessels during the winter, in addition to their cargoes of live cattle, notwithstanding that the plan, in a climate where the variations of temperature are so extreme, was attended with much loss. It was possible for the Commissioners to have inquired into the manner in which this important service had been conducted by ...

[Page xxiv of the Report]

... the commissariat, and they would have discovered that their suggestion had been anticipated by our practice."
 "The Commissioners cannot, it is presumed, mean that slaughtered meat should have been forwarded in sailing transports, as vessels of that class were often, in winter, nearly a month in performing the voyage from the mainland."
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 8.Mr. Filder also says -
 "The average quantity of fresh meat supplied by the commissariat during the five winter months, from November to March, was nearly 10 lbs. per man per month, exclusive of that furnished for the troops on board hospital-ships in harbour, the aggregate force being 158,517 men, and the quantity of fresh meat issued by the commissariat 1,525,949 lbs."
 The issues in December fell greatly below the average, that is, to 6½ lbs. per man, in consequence of the cattle-vessels, which had been damaged in the hurricane, being still under repair during that month.
 That the healthy did not receive the ration which these figures would indicate, was unfortunately owing to the large numbers of sick, who, in some divisions, received full rations of fresh meat daily, in others, five days a-week, thus curtailing the rations of the rest of the troops."
P. 9.

LIME-JUICE (p. 9).

 The Commissioners in their Report state -
 "That from the 10th of December the Lime-juice brought by the "Esk" was lying in the Commissariat stores at Balaklava, and none of it was issued till the first week in February, an interval during which the sufferings of the army from scurvy were probably at their height."
P. 374.It appears by the evidence before us, that there is some contradiction as to the date of the arrival of the "Esk".
Proceedings, p. 375.The Commissary-General stated that that vessel did not arrive until the 19th of December, in which he is confirmed by Mr. Archer. However this may be, it appears clear that the casks of lime-juice in the "Esk" were landed and delivered into the commissariat stores on the 20th of December; that information of this arrival was given to the Purveyor of Hospitals, who appears to have actually removed some of it away from the beach while it was being taken out of the vessel.
Proceedings, p. 375.The Medical Department was therefore duly apprised of this supply, and Lord Raglan also appears to have been duly informed that there was lime-juice in store, but the issue of it as a regular ration to the troops generally was not authorized until the general order of the 31st of January, 1855.
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 10.Steps were promptly taken to procure supplies from Malta and Sicily, and as soon as they were procured, the issues were regularly maintained; therefore, in respect to this matter, no blame seems to attach to the Commissary-General.
P. 11.

FRESH BREAD (p. 11).

Pp. 356, 375.Mr. Filder complains that the Commissioners have charged him with an indisposition to make the attempt of baking fresh bread.

[Page xxv of the Report]

Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 11.He replies to this, and in our opinion satisfactorily, by bringing forward his purchase of three months' supply of flour for the purpose of baking bread, but contends that, as bread requires 50 per cent. more of transport for its conveyance than biscuit, "it would have been impossible in the then state of the roads, and the transport, to have found the means of carrying it up to the camp".
 A floating mill and bakery which he had applied for did not arrive from England till the 12th of May.
 In proportion as the state of the sea transport improved, bread was brought from Constantinople sufficient for an issue twice a-week.
 When, on the arrival of the floating bakery, its capabilities were found insufficient, and the construction of ovens was commenced, the means existed of baking so as to allow of an issue to the troops on three days in the week.
Letter to Mr. Peel, p. 11.The different organization of the French army is sufficient to explain the circumstance of their being more regularly supplied with fresh bread than was the case with the English.
Appendix, p. 21.The Quartermaster-General's letter of March 21, 1855, to the Commissioners, points out the difficulties which at present exist in the British service with regard to employing soldiers as bakers.


Pp. 386-7.
Mr. Filder was in no degree responsible for the coffee not being roasted; it was sent out in a green state by the Treasury, and it was no part of Mr. Filder's duty, nor was he ordered to cause it to be roasted previously to its being delivered to the troops.
 No complaint was made on the subject till the end of November.
 Mr. Filder stated that a Military Board decided on issuing coffee as a ration to the troops, and that the Board knew that it was sold to the men in a green state. He added -
Letter to Mr.
Peel, p. 13.
Lord Raglan's
General Orders,
June 26, 1854.
"Subsequently a small quantity of roasted coffee was sent out from England as an experiment, upon which I was desired to report; but although ordered in July, it did not reach the army till towards the end of September, when we were on the march from Kalamita Bay to Sebastopol; and as soon as I learnt that it was approved of, I recommended that coffee should be sent out roasted, but none arrived till about the 24th of January, from which date green coffee ceased to be issued to the troops."
P. 381.With respect to the suggestion of the Commissioners that tea should have been issued to the troops instead of coffee, on account of the difficulties attending the roasting of the latter, owing to the scarcity of fuel, it is obvious that fuel would have been equally required for making the tea; and as much tea appears to have been issued during the months of January and February as was consistent with maintaining a supply necessary for the use of the sick.

FUEL (p. 14.).

Memorandum A, appended to Mr. Filder's letter.It appears that, on the 1st August, the Commissary-General brought this subject to the notice of Lord Raglan, and a depôt of fuel, viz. wood and ...

[Page xxvi of the Report]

... charcoal, was formed at Scutari. Early in November 800,000 rations of charcoal ordered by Lord Raglan, arrived at Balaklava, and the issue to the troops commenced on the 8th of December.
Proceedings, p. 863.In the course of that month a large quantity arrived. Mr. Filder states there never was at any time after the beginning of November a want of fuel at Balaklava; the only difficulty was to find the means of conveying it to the front.
 Mr. Filder having thus actually formed a depôt of fuel at Scutari, under the impression that the army might winter there in barracks, having also sought instructions relative to the formation of a similar depôt at Varna, supposing the army might winter in the Principalities, and having, moreover, taken prompt measures to supply the troops in the Crimea, when the local resources were on the point of exhaustion, cannot, in our opinion, be justly charged with any want of foresight or exertion in this respect.
Pp. 23-6.


 The insufficiency of land transport appears to have been the principal cause of most of the sufferings experienced by the army, and this insufficiency appears to have been occasioned by the want of means of supporting more animals.
 As relates to Mr. Filder, therefore, in his position of Commissary-General, the question is, in our opinion, correctly stated by him to be -
Proceedings, p. 383."Whether he is to blame for the deficiency of forage, to which, step by step, all other deficiencies were mainly attributable, as limiting the number of transport animals that could be maintained in the Crimea, and whether he availed himself of all the sea transport which he could obtain for the conveyance of forage and live cattle."
 Mr. Filder stated, at the outset of his case, and we think correctly, that, -
Proceedings, pp. 363-4."If it was expected that he should provide transport for the conveyance of indefinite quantities of huts, timber, buffalo-robes, warm clothing, &c., it must be obvious that it would have been wholly impracticable, even had there been no difficulty with respect to forage. The additional transport power could only have been procured by long previous preparation, the time for which was never allowed him."
Proceedings, pp. 364-407.
Question 2,166.
Proceedings, pp. 364-5.
He showed, that even for the most ordinary commissariat purposes, no more sea transport was available than that which he actually used. And he, in our opinion, satisfactorily accounted for the circumstance adverted to by the Commissioners, that the Land Transport was, for a few days, reduced to an effective number of 333 pack-horses and mules, and 12 camels.
Proceedings, p. 365.With regard to forage, Mr. Filder stated that -
 "As the deficiency of fodder for the animals of the army in the Crimea during the winter of October 1854-5, had been made the chief ground of accusation against him in respect of his management of supplies, it became necessary for his vindication, more especially since the appearance of Sir C. Trevelyan's statement, to enter into a fuller explanation with regard to this head than he thought necessary with the other charges."

[Page xxvii of the Report]

 He stated that -
Proceedings, p. 365."So early as the time at which an expectation was entertained that the army would advance to the Danube, I made a contract for about 3,500 tons of hay, to be delivered loose at different places in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, and I also desired the commissariat officer there to form a depôt of chopped straw, in case the army should return and occupy cantonments in Turkey during the winter. I took these steps as a precaution, notwithstanding that supplies of chopped straw, the usual forage of the country, can be obtained to almost any amount along the shores of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmora, and these arrangements would have been adequate to the object in view, had the army been cantoned in these districts."
 It appears that on the 13th September, when the fleet was crossing the Black Sea to the Crimea, Mr. Filder wrote to the Treasury, requesting that 2,000 tons of hay might be sent from England; and he stated that -
Proceedings, p. 365-6."By every subsequent mail, or nearly so, from the time of our arrival before Sebastopol, throughout the months of October, November, and December, and up to the 22nd January, I represented, in either official or private letters, addressed to Sir Charles Trevelyan, that it would be possible to convey by sea sufficient quantities of unpressed hay and straw to meet the consumption of the army, or, if it were possible, that we could not land or issue sufficient quantities of forage in that shape, and that we should, consequently, be dependent upon supplies of pressed hay from England, the quantity of that article which could be procured from Constantinople being quite inadequate to our wants. One or other, and sometimes all, of these topics were mentioned by almost every mail."
 "On the 13th November I transmitted an estimate of supplies required to be forwarded from England for the service of the army in the East, during a period of three months, in which the supply of hay is stated at 5,820, 314 lbs. or 2,600 tons, or 866 tons per month.
 "On the receipt by me, after I had transmitted abovementioned, of an intimation from the Treasury by letter, dated 9th November, that shipments of hay would only be made at the rate of 357 tons per month, I immediately informed Sir C. Trevelyan by letter, dated 27th November, that this quantity would not suffice, and that I should require 580 tons per month for the artillery, cavalry, and commissariat animals alone; and by the next mail, that is, on the 8th December, I wrote to say, that in consequence of Lord Raglan having ordered full rations of forage to be issued for all the baggage animals of the army, I should want the whole of the hay estimated for, or 866 tons per month. So little attention did this meet with, that, in fact even the 357 tons per month was not sent; the total quantity shipped and forwarded, during the two months of October and November, not having exceeded 270 tons, that is to say, by the -

[Page xxviii of the Report]

Treasury Statement, p. 11.The following passage in the Treasury Statement is confirmatory of the latter portion of this statement by Mr. Filder:-
 "The shipments of hay actually made from England up to the end of January were as follows:-
1854.In June and July1,203,800 lbs. = 637 tons in 5 vessels.
 In August and September1,023,300 lbs. = 457 tons in 6 vessels.
 In November599,300 lbs. = 267 tons in 3 vessels.
 In December1,417,600 lbs. = 357 tons in 7 vessels.
 With regard to the 587 tons shipped in June and July, Mr. Filder said -
Proceedings, p. 369."That quantity was originally sent out, partly by the Admiralty to complete the horse transports, and partly on my requisition to replace the quantity I had expected to receive from the horse transports, but which I never got. I got but very little from the horse transports."
 He added:
 "Supposing all that had been sent out from England from the commencement, that is, from June, or 944 tons, had been available, it would have left me deficient 1,006 tons of my requisition of 13th September, and I only got, or there was shipped on account of that 1,006 tons, according to Sir C. Trevelyan's own statement, up to the 1st or the 5th December, 268 tons."
Proceedings, p. 370.With regard to the 633 tons shipped in December, Mr. Filder stated that he did not get them til February. He said -
Proceedings, p. 370."I never received, up to the end of January, more than 510,000lbs., or 228 tons. To have done it properly, the shipments ought to have been consecutive and immediate; and allowance should have been made for the time occupied in the voyage."
See Appendix.It therefore appears to us, that Mr. Filder used all the means in his power to communicate to the Treasury the absolute necessity of sending supplies of forage to the army from England; and that he made known the wants of the army in that particular by a constant series of letters, in which the requirements of the commissariat were clearly set forth in pressing and urgent language.
Proceedings, p. 370.And we are disposed to concur with Mr. Filder in thinking, that "if the authorities in England are to judge of the expediency of complying with the requisitions of a Commissary-General in charge of the supply of an army in the field, founded on his personal knowledge derived on the spot, of his wants and resources, it seems clear that the responsibility of that officer must be at an end."
 In concluding our observations on the case of Commissary-General Filder, we think it desirable to advert to certain passages of the Commissioners' first Report, in which it is stated that they do not mean to infer, from their notice of arrangements which appeared to them to be defective, that that officer, or the officers of his department, failed to make any exertion of which they were capable, to provide for the exigencies of the public service, and that it is but ...

[Page xxix of the Report]

... just to direct attention to the unusual nature of the duties required of them under the following adverse circumstances:-
  1. The army occupied, as it were, a barren island.
  2. The Department was without a sufficient number of hands.
  3. A great disaster was occasioned by tempest.
  4. There were constant difficulties in landing the vast supplies required for a large army, owing to the peculiarities of Balaklava harbour; and,
  5. They advert to the breaking up of the road to the front, and the impossibility of sparing from their military duties a sufficient number of men to make it practicable to commissariat carts.
Report I, p. 21.On this trying state of things the Commissioners remark, with direct allusion to Mr. Filder's management, that "a man of comprehensive views might probably have risen superior to these disadvantages, and created an organization suited to the circumstances."
 It is difficult, however, to believe that any man of even the highest inventive resources and administrative capacity, could have effectually provided beforehand for daily and ever-increasing demands, many of which, extending as they did, infinitely beyond the limits of all previous commissariat administration, were not, and, from their very nature, could not, be foreseen.
 It was a great aggravation of these evils, that the question of where the army was to winter could be decided, and made known to Mr. Filder till only a very few days before the weather broke, and his difficulties had commenced.
 It is in evidence that he used every means to obtain the earliest information on this point, with the express view of making timely arrangements.
 On the whole, therefore, we are of opinion, that Commissary-General Filder's conduct in the management of his Department, was not, and is not, justly liable to the unfavourable animadversion, either express or implied, which is conveyed in the Report of the Commissioners; and we humbly submit to Your Majesty that he does not appear to us to be justly responsible, as regards the supplies, for the unsatisfactory state of Your Majesty's army in the Crimea during the winter of 1854-5.

p. xx p. xxi p. xxii p. xxiii p. xxiv p. xxv p. xxvi p. xxvii p. xxviii p. xxix
Introduction Lord Lucan Lord Cardigan General Airey Colonel Gordon Commissary General Filder
Title page
table of
(pp i-xxix)
(pp xxix-xxx)
(p xxxi-xxxii)
of Index

Home About Sources Topics Background