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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 77

NINETEENTH DAY. - Wednesday, April 11th.

MAJOR MACKENZIE, Assistant Quartermaster-General, stationed at Balaklava, examined.

Has been here since 6th December. The nature of his duties has been in carrying out the instructions of the Quartermaster-General; the issue of the warm clothing, and the embarkation of the sick, and disembarkation of the troops, &c. Received instructions from the Quartermaster-General to use his own discretion to the fullest extent in countersigning the requisitions, although they might not be in proper form. The stores were in charge of Mr. Archer, of the Commissariat, through whom they were issued upon requisitions countersigned by him (Major Mackenzie). This was a special arrangement made to facilitate the issues. No inconvenience has arisen from it, but, on the contrary, great advantage to the public service. When clothing for the troops arrives, the invoice is sent to the Quartermaster-General, who orders the distribution of the clothing to the different regiments in proportion to the strength; in these cases no requisition is required, but in any emergency, or when there is a deficiency in a regiment, which has not been supplied by an order from the Quartermaster-General, a requisition is made. When he took charge at Balaklava there was what may be called a general emergency, and the requisitions presented to him for counter-signature were instantly complied with, as far as the stores admitted of it. States with confidence, that since he has been in charge at Balaklava no requisition has been refused, or even delayed, because of any mere informality. It was a part of his duty to forward draughts, and sick returning from Scutari, and he was specially instructed to take care that no man so arriving proceeded to the front without being supplied with two blankets and winter clothing. Those instructions were fully carried out, and after the 6th December no man arriving at Balaklava proceeded to the front without being supplied with those articles. The 39th Regiment arrived on the 1st of January. The whole regiment was fully supplied at Balaklava with their blankets and winter clothing before they went to the front. What is described as winter clothing consists of two jerseys, two pairs of drawers, two pairs of socks, two pairs of mitts, and a comforter. The whole regiment was supplied with those articles. This winter clothing was specially sent out by the Government, and was issued gratis. Sheepskin coats, fur caps, and long boots were subsequently issued gratis; but what the regiment was supplied with, partly on board ship and partly on disembarkation, was the winter clothing before referred to. There was then also here an additional suit of winter clothing for the 39th, which was not issued because it was not required. The winter clothing issued to the troops generally consisted of the two suits formerly described. It has frequently happened that when he was anxious to land stores, he has been told by the commander of the vessel that they could not be got at because other portions of the cargo were over them. This refers especially to clothing. It was no part of his duty to superintend or assist in the landing of the clothing, or even to go on board, but his anxiety to get it on shore led him to go on board. He cannot state from personal observation whether these assertions of the masters of transports were well founded. The landing of the stores was conducted by the officers employed for that purpose, under the orders of the agent for transports. One of the difficulties he encountered arose from a deficiency of well-manned boats. There was at that time a great demand for boats to embark sick, and disembark troops. The want of sufficient wharfage and storage were additional difficulties. There was then no vacant house in Balaklava that would have served as a store, but nine huts were put up to supply the deficiency about the

Evidence, page 78

15th of January. Is of opinion, that to have sent down men from the front to receive the warm clothing for their regiments on board the ships that brought out the clothing would not have facilitated their issue to the troops. First, the inclemency of the weather, by which the things would have been wetted; secondly, the difficulty in obtaining boats sufficient to embark the men and stores, and the delay in consequence of the stowage and difficulty in getting at the stores. Submits herewith some suggestions with the view of facilitating the issue of warm clothing and rations in future.


Memorandum.

The established system of requisitions does not work well with an army in the field. The numerous checks which have been hitherto required in many instances completely stopping the immediate and necessary supply.

When an officer commanding a regiment wishes for a supply of any article, camp equipment, clothing, &c., the number of hands through which it must pass fairly baffles him, as one ignorant or inattentive officer in the appointed channel vitiates the requisition entirely, and it may happen from delay that the article applied for, though in store at the time the requisition was first made, is, when asked for, expended.

Were officers commanding regiments enabled to apply direct to the Quartermaster-General, this evil would be obviated, and might possibly be arranged thus: an officer of the department to be specially appointed for the duty of all issues, making a daily and weekly report of particulars to the Quartermaster-General.

He must have states of the different regiments, every requisition to show the quantity of the article applied for in possession, and date of last issues.

Independent of a book kept for requisitions granted, there should be one with a certain portion of it allotted to each regiment, made out in such a way that any one could see at a glance, whether any unusual expenditure had taken place, and whether commanding officers had exercised a due vigilance as to the care and renewal of the different articles.

The ration returns at present require two signatures, and an additional one monthly, besides check-tickets for the articles at different stores. Were only one signature required, and, if possible, only one store, the service would be much benefited, both as regards time and saving of man and beast.

In cases of emergency, a staff officer's signature to be attended to at once. The staff officer being held responsible, not the Commissariat. In fact as a general principle staff officers and commanding officers' signatures should be acknowledged by all issues; the officer making the requisition reporting as soon as possible what he has done.

Staff and commissariat officers should make a point of always giving a personal interview when asked for, no matter who the individual may be, and endeavour as far as possible to assist all applicants, instead of saying "this is not my Department", and consequently much impeding the general good.

A staff officer should not only be acquainted with the details of his own Department, but should have a general knowledge of all Departments, in order to be enabled to facilitate the whole routine of the service.



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