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McNeill/Tulloch Commission of Enquiry

This presentation 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:-


Evidence, page 59

FOURTEENTH DAY. - Monday, 2nd April.

COMMISSARY-GENERAL FILDER, examined.

When were you appointed Commissary-General with this army?
- When it was first determined to send an expeditionary force to the East in February, 1854.
Did you take charge of the duties of the Department from that time?
- Yes, from the commencement.
When did you sail from England?
- Early in April.
Did any part of the expedition sail at that time?
- Some of it preceded me.
Are you aware whether any arrangement had been made prior to that time for securing supplies?
- An officer had been sent on for that purpose.
For what purpose was he sent?
- To arrange for the reception of the troops, and provide supplies.
Where was he sent to?
- Constantinople; he also took over all the barracks, &c, at Scutari.
Did he procure any land transport?
- Not more than was sufficient for local purposes at Scutari.
Were any special instructions given to you by the authorities at home prior to joining?
- No special instructions.
When did you first begin to provide land transport for the army?
- As soon as it was known that the army was to proceed beyond Constantinople I sent out people to endeavour to obtain transport on hire.
Did you succeed in obtaining what you required?
- No, I found it utterly impracticable.
In what parts of the country were inquiries made?
- In Roumelia and Bulgaria, also in Asia Minor, where I had hoped to have been able to engage or hire some of the numerous pack animals engaged in the trade between Trebizond and Persia.
What did you then do?
- I immediately began to purchase pack animals, and urged Lord Raglan to make a requisition on Omer Pasha, who had the whole resources of Roumelia and Bulgaria at his disposal, for 3000 waggons.
Those I understand to be bullock waggons?
- Yes, arabas, on hire.
Did you obtain those waggons?
- When the army began to arrive, he sent at different times a considerable number, in all, probably, upwards of 1,500.
Had you by that time succeeded in purchasing any considerable number of pack animals?
- Yes.
About what number?
- For all purposes about 5,300, purchased either on contracts entered into by me or by military officers sent out for the purpose, accompanied by Commissariat officers.
Was the amount of transport you had then collected sufficient to enable the army to move?
- The army might have moved; but I should not have felt at ease without the full number of 3000 waggons. Before that number was completed, it had been resolved to change the scene of operations.
What is an araba calculated to carry?
- 700 pounds for a pair of bullocks.
The resolution to change the scene of operations put a stop, I presume, to the further collection of transport?
- Yes.
When the army embarked for the Crimea what orders did you receive in respect to land transport?
- I could only get accommodation for a very limited quantity, all the rest was left behind.
For what quantity did you obtain accommodation?
- I could only bring

Evidence, page 60

70 carts and 70 mules. Two vessels were placed at my disposal. With Lord Raglan's concurrence, it was resolved, that part of the accommodation in those vessels should be appropriated for the conveyance of cattle for slaughter. In consequence, however, of some confusion at the time of embarkation, from causes of which I have not been able to obtain a satisfactory explanation, the whole number of transport animals that might have been shipped were not brought. Perhaps as many as 120 with their carts and equipments might have been shipped.
When you purchased the pack animals in Bulgaria, how were they distributed?
- The regimental establishments of bat horses, and 1st Reserve ammunition horses were supplied, and the remainder were available for Commissariat use.
Did you suffer inconvenience on the march from Old Fort in consequence of deficiency of transport?
- No, none; the troops having seized between 70 and 80 arabas, I was enabled with that assistance to carry the provisions for the men, replenishing the supply from the transports at the mouths of the different rivers we passed on the march. The troops carried only one day's rations in the havresacks. The French landed without any transport, excepting a portion of their ambulance train, but their troops carried six days' provisions on their persons.
Were any of the public bat horses attached to regiments then brought over?
- No, none; this, however, is not a matter connected with the Commissariat.
Did the French soldiers carry their knapsacks in addition to their rations?
- Yes.
Was the transport you had then collected sufficient for the wants of the army before Sebastopol?
- Yes, including the 70 mule carts before-mentioned, I had imported, in about a fortnight, into the Crimea 226 mules, and carts complete, besides 266 pack animals; I had also about 200 hired arabas of the country. This was a much greater amount of transport than was required for this army in its present position for Commissariat purposes.
Up to what date did you find your transport sufficient for your purposes?
- Up to about the middle of November; it would have been sufficient for all Commissariat purposes, including the transport of forage, had it not been partly appropriated to purposes of siege transport.
Do you consider siege transport as separate from Commissariat transport, and not included in it?
- Yes, certainly.
Have you ever received instructions to provide siege transport?
- I received orders from Lord Raglan in Bulgaria to purchase some buffalos for that purpose; and I consider reserve ammunition animals specially applicable to siege purposes when the army is stationery.
You received no other special directions to provide animals for siege transport?
- No; but in the circumstances, having more transport that was absolutely necessary for Commissariat purposes, a portion of it was applied to siege purposes, all the available means with the army being appropriated to the services most urgent at the moment.
Up to what date were any of your transport animals employed for seige [sic] purposes?
- Including the transport employed in carrying small arm ammunition after the battle of Inkerman up to the 9th or 10th November, to the best of my recollection, from which date the whole were available for Commissariat purposes.
At what time had your land transport suffered considerable diminution from casualties?
- It had begun to suffer about the 14th November, or after the storm.
What was the cause?
- Bad roads, exposure, and fatigue.
Had the animals been sufficiently foraged?
- Always: in preference to all others they were regularly fed.
What state were the roads in at that time?
- They were bad about the 10th, but shortly after the 14th they became altogether impassable for carts, and I was obliged to convert all the draught animals into pack animals, by which their transport power was at once reduced to one-third of its former amount.
Under these circumstances were you in a condition to convey sufficient

Evidence, page 61

provisions for the men in front?
- Yes: but they did not arrive with regularity in the camp.
Up to what date were you able to convey with your own transport sufficient provisions to the front?
- Up to about the end of November or beginning of December.
At what date did you cease to carry up forage to the cavalry?
- When the roads to their camp became impassable for carriages.
Can you state about what date that happened?
- I think that about the 13th November, or immediately after the storm of the 14th, the roads having become impassable for carriages, the cavalry began to send for their own forage.
Can you state at what date the Light Cavalry Brigade went to the front?
- Cannot state with precision; but it must have been about the beginning of November.
Were you aware of the intention to move them to the front?
- I received no official communication, but I was aware of the fact.
Did you intimate that you would be unable to carry up forage for them?
- I did so in conversation; but when the roads became impassable for carriages, the Commissariat officer with the brigade formally intimated in writing that the Commissariat could not supply forage on that ground in the then state of the roads.
Under what circumstances did it become necessary to employ the troops in carrying up provisions to the front?
- About the 25th November, finding that the transport animals were giving way, I sent a steamer to Constantinople to bring 350 from the Reserve Commissariat Depôt there.
How many transport animals had you in reserve?
- About 2,200; but the steamer unexpectedly requiring repairs did not return for three weeks. Had she returned in the ordinary time, it would not have been necessary to employ the troops in carrying their own rations to the front. She did not return till the 16th December, and about the 18th or 19th the troops ceased to come down for their rations, except that some regiments of the Light Division continued to send down men off duty with a view to having a reserve depôt of provisions in their camp, and the practice has not since been renewed, except in the case of the Light Division referred to.
Could you say how many men were sent down for provisions, and how often?
- The practice was very partial and limited. Two of the divisions, the 1st and 3rd, never sent any at all. The 2nd sent parties four times, amounting in all to 800 men, the average strength of the division at that time being 4,900. The 4th Division sent parties three times, of the strength of which I am unable to speak. The Light Division only sent men between the 11th and 19th December, but how frequently I am unable to say. Excepting always the men sent to form the reserve depôts before mentioned.
To what amount was your transport reduced when at the lowest?
- I cannot answer that question from memory, but will endeavour to ascertain. The officer who was in charge of the depôt at that time has returned to England on sick leave.
Did you continue after the 16th December to draw on your reserves?
- Yes: but the casualties were nearly as numerous as the importations.
Were all these casualties ascertained deaths?
- No, by no means; a large proportion of the animals became for the time non-effective, many of which are now fast recovering, others were deserted by the drivers when separated from the convoy on their way to the camp. Of these which were deserted some died, and some were supposed to be stolen.
Were the circumstances such as to account for those desertions?
- Certainly. The extreme exposure and fatigue to which the drivers were subjected in the then state of the roads and weather was such as men could hardly endure.
Did you make any purchase of cattle in addition to your reserve?
- In the Crimea the Commissariat officers purchased all the horses and mules that could be obtained and were in any way suitable to the service, in all perhaps from 100 to 150, and about 247 fine mules, which had been purchased on my requisition, were received from Spain and Malta.
Have you been satisfied with the amount of transport at your disposal since those mules arrived?
- There has not been enough for all purposes

Evidence, page 62

especially for the transport of fuel, because the greater part of the recently imported mules have been appropriated to carrying up the huts by order of Lord Raglan; but as the officers continue to send for their own forage, the transport has sufficed to carry up everything else included in the rations of the troops. Fuel for the trenches and the hospitals has, however, been carried up by the Commissariat.
About what date did these Spanish mules arrive?
- I should think about the middle of January.
It has been stated that the cavalry horses were at one time employed to carry provisions to the front; was that in consequence of a deficiency of commissariat transport?
- Yes: owing to the fact that casualties took place as rapidly as reinforcements could be brought up.
Can you state or ascertain how long the cavalry were so employed?
- I am not able to state from memory, but will ascertain.
Can you state what number of cavalry horses were so employed daily during this time?
- At the commencement I think they amounted to 240 laden horses, each led by a mounted dragoon, and latterly to only 60 to 80 laden.
What was the load they carried?
- One bag of biscuit each, weighing 112 pounds.
Were any of the loaded horses, so far as you know, led by dragoons on foot?
- No: I know of no such case.
There were men also employed to carry provisions to the front besides those formerly referred to, was that also in consequence of deficiency of transport?
- That was at a later period, and not for the daily issues to the troops, but for the purpose of forming a depôt at head-quarters.
Had no depôt up to that time been formed in front?
- Yes; I had made some progress in forming a depôt there before the roads became impassable, but the diversion of commissariat transport to other than commissariat purposes, such as for the conveyance of siege stores from the commencement of the operations, and also for the conveyance of small arms' ammunition after the battle of Inkermann prevented me from carrying out this measure to the extent contemplated.
So long as the roads were passable for carriages did you encounter any difficulty in regard to transport?
- None whatever. I had positively more transport than the French army, and relatively to the number of troops nearly double, but the road to their harbour has always been passable for carriages, and the road from hence to the camp was for a considerable time in such a state that even pack animals could not always perform the journey in one day. When the roads were good the animals went and returned the same day, but when they became bad, the animals did not get back till the afternoon of the second day.
Was the employment of the Cavalry to carry provisions to the front ordered at your suggestion?
- I do not recollect whether the original order was issued at my suggestion or not, but when the number of horses sent began to fall off, I urged the continuance of the service.
Have you had all the facilities you required for importing the necessary number of transport animals?
- I have no doubt that all the facilities were afforded which the other exigencies of the service would permit, but it sometimes happened that the vessels in which transport animals were to be brought were detained landing sick at Scutari before they were available for my purposes. It has happened, also, that when I wanted a transport for that purpose I could not obtain one.
Could you at all times, if you had obtained the transport, have fed it?
- It must always be a matter of great difficulty, particularly in the winter, to supply a large number of animals when the country is not open to us, and everything has to be brought by sea; and I do not feel satisfied if I could have imported a sufficient number of animals to complete the transport establishment that I could at that season have fed them.
Have you now sufficient transport for all your purposes?
- The transport was some time ago transferred to the Land Transport Corps, when I handed over the commissariat animals they would have been sufficient for all commissariat purposes, if none of them had been appropriated to other services.
At the time that the deficiency of transport occurred here there were, it is understood a large number of regimental and private bat horses left at Varna

Evidence, page 63

belonging to the corps here; are you aware of any reason why these were not brought over in order to relieve the deficiency of transport?
- This does not belong to my Department, but I believe it was owing to the transports being required to bring over more French troops.
When did you commence making arrangements for the supply of fresh meat to the army?
- In the month of May I made a large contract in Constantinople for 2,500 head per month up to the 11th of November, each animal to weight, on an average, 275 pounds, the contractor being bound to supply the cattle wherever the army might be in Bulgaria, as far as the Danube.
Was that contract fulfilled?
- Two and a half months of the contract was unexpired when the army left Bulgaria.
Did you make any other contract for the supply of fresh meat?
- Yes, I made a contract with Messrs. Whittall and Co. for 2000 head at Smyrna in April, which, by a subsequent arrangement became deliverable at Constantinople in June; I entered into a contract with Messrs. Hanson and Co. for 2000 head, which remained in depôt till December, maintained during a part of the period at the expense of the contractors. There were also 3000 head of the Bulgarian cattle beyond what could be received over at Varna within the period of the contract, and which were ordered round to Constantinople, to be delivered to the Commissariat there. With these, and about 900 head remaining over from other contracts, there were available in depôt at the beginning of the winter about 8000 head of cattle.
Were you able, during the time the army was in Bulgaria, to supply them with fresh meat?
- Yes, they might have been supplied exclusively with fresh meat; but a certain portion of salt meat was taken as a precaution, and used occasionally.
Since the army has been in the Crimea how have they been supplied with fresh meat?
- For the first month considerable supplies were obtained in the Crimea, and part of the cattle contracted for were brought from Bulgaria. During the first month or six weeks, therefore, the troops were well supplied with fresh meat, and had not, I suppose, salt meat rations more than twice a week. After that time the country here was closed to us, and the supply at Eupatoria being exhausted, it became necessary to import cattle from Constantinople. Handed in returns of the whole amount of fresh meat issued since the army has been dependent on the cattle imported.[Appendix, p. 55.] The service of this supply was subject to many and serious interruptions from storms and the inclemency of the weather throughout the winter.
What are your present prospects in regard to the supply of fresh meat?
- I have 3000 head of cattle still available, besides 1,500 monthly from Mr. Whittall for this and the next month, 1000 head deliverable this month at Sizipoli, 1000 at Sinope, also deliverable this month, 1000 at Samsoon for three months from the 15th April, and 1000 per month at Baltjik, commencing in May, besides 3000 sheep per month from Sampsoon.
What number of steamers are at present at your disposal for the importation of cattle?
- Six.
What number of cattle can you land weekly with this amount of transport?
- Not more than 3,600 per month, which will not enable me to supply fresh meat rations more frequently than on alternate days, the average weight of the cattle lately imported not having exceeded 150 to 200 pounds.
Where do you look to for your future supplies?
- Samsoon and the Danube.
Have you any apprehension of being unable to obtain a supply of cattle at that rate?
- None for the present year; but unless Bessarabia should be open to us, difficulties may occur at a future time.
Have you made any arrangements for the supply of soft bread to the troops?
- Arrangements have been made for obtaining bread twice a week by steamer from Constantinople as an experiment.
How are you off in respect to the supply of vegetables?
- The troops have latterly had very large supplies, nearly 700,000 pounds were issued to them last month.
There have been complaints of the deficiency of vegetables during the winter how did this happen?
- Throughout the winter there were large purchases made of fresh vegetables, which were shipped at Government risk, at various ports, and of which a large proportion turned out upon arrival to be spoilt.

Evidence, page 64

Could you furnish an account of the quantity?
- Mr. Drake can.
Have you recently made any contracts for vegetables?
- Yes: large quantities have been imported under those contracts at the risk of the contractor, and these have arrived in good order.
There have been great complaints of the deficiency of forage for the cavalry horses, especially of the Light Brigade; have you anything to state on this subject?
- There was a deficiency of forage from the 22nd to the 30th November in consequence of our having lost twenty days' supply of hay in the hurricane of the 14th.
The Light Brigade of Cavalry also experienced a deficiency when it was encamped in front, at which period, in consequence of the state of the roads, it was quite impossible to carry the forage to the front in carts. The transport attached to the brigade, which had been sufficient for the conveyance of their forage to camp when they were nearer to Balaklava, was insufficient for that purpose when they had moved to a distance, and the roads became impassable for carriages, I could not spare additional animals to make good the deficiency. If the roads had been passable for carts, the transport attached to the brigade would have been sufficient.
During the time referred to were the Heavy Cavalry Brigade ever without grain?
- Not to my knowledge: there may have been a day or two after the hurricane when a sufficient quantity could not be landed from the ships, the crews being employed in securing the vessels which were drifting about the harbour.
If the Light Cavalry Brigade had sent down their horses as the Heavy Brigade did, could they, notwithstanding the greater distance, have obtained supplies of grain whenever it was issued to the other brigade?
- Yes, certainly. I have never been without ample supplies of forage corn.
If the Light Brigade did not get the same rations for their horses as the heavy, it would appear then to have been because they would not, or could not, send their horses for it?
- Yes, certainly.
Was there any time when you had neither hay nor chopped straw in Balaklava?
- There was a deficiency after the hurricane, but we were never without either hay or chopped straw in the harbour, to the best of my knowledge; there may not have been enough at that time to issue full rations to the cavalry and artillery horses, but I do not think I was ever without one or the other.
You say that you had always hay or chopped straw in the harbour; were you always in a condition to issue it?
- No, not always, the state of the weather and the other demands for the men-of-war's boats, on which we were dependent for the means of landing forage, and the absence of magazines or sheds, together with the small extent of wharfage, made it sometimes impossible to land the supplies which we had afloat in the harbour.
Were there many occasions on which persons coming down for hay or straw went back without?
- There must have been, as there were no magazines on shore. But Mr. Drake can give better information on this subject, and the cause.
Have you at any time borrowed forage from the French?
- On one occasion the arrival of my own supplies from Constantinople having been retarded by contrary winds, I accepted the loan of a cargo of chopped straw, which was less than one day's supply. This was repaid shortly afterwards in kind. General Canrobert had offered Lord Raglan three cargoes of chopped straw some time after the hurricane, at the end of November, but I was not then in want of that kind of forage. Subsequently, when I wanted it, on the occasion first mentioned, the French could not, without some inconvenience, spare more than one cargo. That one cargo is the only assistance of any kind whatever that I have ever asked for or received from the French administration.


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