Liverpool Mercury March 16th 1860
100 SICK AND DYING SOLDIERS IN THE WORKHOUSE
The splendid ship GREAT TASMANIA belonging to James BAINES and Co's Black Ball Line, has arrived in the Mersey from Calcutta, bringing about 1,000 troops, men discharged on the termination of the Indian campaign, on them refusing to be transferred from the East India Company's service to that of the Government.
Of the 1000 shipped, 60 died on the voyage, last evening about 100 of the survivors were transferred from the ship, by cars and spring carts to the Liverpool Workhouse, in a distressing condition, some are not expected to last the night, their emaciated state contrasted strangely to the condition of the troops who arrived in Liverpool from the Crimea. They were suffering mainly from dysentery and scurvy, induced by a great extent through the lack of provisions and proper accommodation during the voyage, as soon as some of the men felt at liberty to speak they were severe and unanimous in their complaints of the treatment in which, they, the saviours of India, had, received at the hands of the British Government.
The ship was chartered by the government to carry troops at £7 per head for the passage alone, the government taking responsibility for their provisions on the ship. Even the emaciated and dying invalids at the workhouse, some reduced to skeletons, have not long since possessed fine physical frames and endowed with considerable intelligence, taking them as a fair example of the human freight on the ship, one may credit their statements that when they left Calcutta the 1000 soldiers where as fine a body of able young men as could possibly be collected under the circumstances.
One of their greatest grievances during their dreary four month voyage was the short supply of hammocks, they had bedding sufficient for the voyage, but were compelled to part with their property before leaving the tender at Calcutta as they were told by their superior officers that hammocks and abundant bedding would be supplied on the ship, to their disappointment there were in most messes 6-8 hammocks to 10 men, men had been lying on bare boards without the slightest extra covering, due to exposure and lack of meat, much of their suffering is due. Different plans have been adopted with regard to the watches during the voyage, some of the men declared that they had been kept a whole week, night and day, on the upper deck exposed to all kinds of weather, and only suffered to go below for meals under pain of deprivation, punishment, or prison, if found below at any other time. But, worse even from the want of hammocks and clothing was the quality of the food with which the ship was provided, for breakfast and tea they had tea and biscuits, the biscuits described as more like sand, they could have been locked up in Calcutta for 20yrs. For dinner every alternate day they had beef which was wretched, so much so that it was condemned by a committee of officers and thrown over board. Then a total absence of preserved vegetable food aggravated the evil, and the lime juice was as bad and as worthless as the provisions.
The result of all this and much more was that the ship became a floating hospital and had 400-500 sick men on board, among whom, the doctor who did his best with the means at his disposal was almost helpless. One man was found dead in a car on its arrival at the workhouse last night, the case will be reported to the coroner who will no doubt hold an inquest. The government has been communicated with by telegraph, an inspector has arrived from London to inquire into the matter.
Liverpool Mercury March 17th 1860
SICK AND DYING SOLDIERS IN THE WORKHOUSE
Yesterday forenoon, the invalid soldiers were removed from their temporary berths in the workhouse to regular, able-bodied divisions, or wards, were they received every attention from Mr CARR the governor, first-class provisions were ordered, beef, mutton and vegetables with new milk, porter, brandy, sherry and lime juice. The warmth and change of diet had rallied many of the sufferers, but still the majority appeared emaciated and it is feared several of the unfortunate men will not recover. During the day about 40 more sick men were received from the ship in the workhouse, at least 140 are now under the care of the parochial authorities.
The whole of the men were still unanimous in the condemnation of the provisions and accommodation provided for them on the ship. The pork was "eatable" but the beef was "horribly bad", the biscuits, "old mouldy and full of maggots". On touching at St Helena fresh water was obtained but in consequence of the price being 17s-6d per ton, a sufficient quantity was not taken on board, so that the men were soon placed on short allowance, which continued till they reached the Mersey. They also stated there was a scarcity of lime juice, and that distributed was of inferior quality. Most of the soldiers belong to the 3rd Bengal and the 3rd Madras European regiments
At the workhouse there are four deaths, the unfortunate men being, Thomas COLEMAN, Thomas BEACHEY, James PYETT and PHILLIPS, whilst at the Deadhouse at the Princes Dock are three bodies which were removed from the ship on Thursday, Thomas HOLT aged 24, John MURPHY aged 25 and William MATTHEWS aged 34.
Counter-statements have been made to those given by the soldiers, to the effect that when the troops embarked at Calcutta many of them were in a state of utter prostration from the effects of drink and they were so much diseased that death must have soon ensued, even under the most favourable circumstances. It is also stated that each man going on board was provided with a hammock but the soldiers were frequently detected by the crew throwing their bedding over board.
Surgeon Major MUIR of the Liverpool staff, who made an inquiry into the whole painful circumstances yesterday, has, it is said, forwarded an Official Report to the Government.
Nearly the whole of the soldiers who arrived by the Great Tasmania yesterday were landed at the north landing stage. A considerable number of those who were well re-enlisted in the army, whilst others took up their quarters in different parts of the town.
An inquest will be held today on the bodies in the workhouse. It ought to be repeated that whoever is to blame for the state of the men, the owners of the ship are in no way responsible, as the stores were found by the government.
Liverpool Mercury March 20th 1860
THE SICKNESS AND MORTALITY ON BOARD THE GREAT TASMANIA
INVESTIGATION BEFORE THE CORONER
The Inquiry was resumed yesterday, the following gentlemen sworn in on the Jury, Messers Thomas GIBSON [Foreman], Samuel RICHARDSON, Edward GRUNDY, Thomas SYERS, Thomas W. SHAW, Thomas P. WALKER, Watson PECK, William TUSSELL, BOTHWICK, Hugh OWEN, Edward HARTLEY and John TILLEY. Mr LAWFORD, Solicitor of London appeared for the India Council, Mr ASPINALL, Barrister, instructed by Messers LOWNDES, BATESON and LOWNDES, represented the officers in command of the troops, Mr FORSHAW watched the proceedings on behalf of the captain and owners of the Great Tasmania.
Mr GIBSON [Foreman] on behalf of his brother jurymen suggested the inquiry take place in the boardroom of the workhouse, which would be more convenient for the invalid soldiers, instead of removing them by cab to the town, the coroner stated he had made arrangements to proceed with the investigation at St George's Hall, but, before they adjourned Mr BARING, Under secretary of State for India, wished to address a few words to the jury.
He said, he had come down from London on the part of the Secretary of State, to see that the men in hospital were properly attended to, which he was happy to say was the case, to the greatest possible extent, he had gone through many hospitals and had never seen one in a better state than the one at the workhouse, or men more satisfied with the treatment they had received. He also assured them that the Secretary of State wished that the case should be completely and fully investigated and he had directed the solicitor for the India Office [Mr LAWFORD] to afford any assistance in getting information which the coroner and jury might require in the investigation. It appeared to him the provisions on board the ship should be surveyed by competent parties, for that purpose he proposed to instruct the emigration agent here to hold that survey as soon as possible.
The inquiry was then adjourned to the Nisi Prius Court at St George's Hall George CARR, governor of the workhouse was first called. - He said, on Thursday evening between 6 and 10pm 102 soldiers arrived at the workhouse, some in cabs, the great majority in spring-carts, there was no tarpaulin over them, on hearing this he sent 60 coverlets from the workhouse to the north landing stage. One of the men was found dead lying in the cart, his name, Thomas BEACH, he was almost naked and wasted away. He did not see a single man who was capable of getting into the wards without assistance, the great majority were carried. The whole of the men were deficient in clothing, cold, and crying out for fire, a great number only wearing summer clothing suitable for hot climates. On Friday morning it was reported to him that two more men had died during the night, William COLEMAN and James PYETT, on the 17th John PHILLIPS died, and this morning it was reported two more had died during the night, John PURCELL and William BIRD. The whole of the men appeared to be suffering from dysentery, scurvy and general exhaustion, all the remainder are not convalescent, several are in a dangerous state. In the case of the man BEACH he was without shoes or stockings the whole of his clothes weighed only 1lb 5ozs. The great majority came in open carts, and although it was raining at the time were without covering, except for the rugs I sent, a gentleman from Mr RATHBONE'S applied for rugs he was anxious the men should be well treated. I was told only 60 men were coming or I would have sent more rugs. The men were loud in their complaints of the want of food and water as well as exposure to the weather during their voyage. To Mr LAWFORD, every attention has been paid to the men, Mr RATHBONE'S instructions through the agent are, that everything shall be done regardless of expense for the recovery of the men.
Henry GOSCHEN was next sworn, he said, I am lieutenant of the 3rd Bengal European Regiment, I embarked on the Great Tasmania in Calcutta on the 9th November to sail for Liverpool, draughts from nearly every regiment in the service embarked at the same time, there were altogether 985 men including 20 officers, 17 women and 21 children, composed as follows, Engineers 4 men, 1 woman. 1 child, 1st Light cavalry, 19 men, 1 woman, 2 children, 2nd Light cavalry, 7 men, 3rd Light cavalry, 12 men, 4th Light cavalry, 6 men, Bengal Artillery 30 men, 4 women, 4 children, 2nd Bengal Fusiliers, 6 men, 3rd Bengal Europeans 18 officers, 437 men, 1 woman, 2 children, 4th Bengal Europeans 2men, 1 woman, 1 child, 5th Bengal Europeans 201 men, 9 women, 10 children, 3rd Madras Europeans, 191 men and 1 child, Governor General's Band, 1 man, in addition to this number was the surgeon of the ship and the dispenser of medicines, there were no other medical men on the ship. I went out to India overland three and a half years ago in a regiment consisting of 1000 men, there are a surgeon and two assistant surgeons, but on board ship I don't know the regulations in that respect. On the whole the men were sickly when they embarked, with excesses, and previous to embarkation they were lying for a fortnight at the depot at Chinserah, during that time there was one continual scene of drunkenness, on several occasions they were unable to parade., they sold their clothes and everything they could lay hold of to buy liquor, every inducement was held out to them by the Sergeant Major who had charge of the canteen to drink as much as they could hold, he made an enormous profit and so it was in his interests to sell as much as he could. It was almost impossible for the commanding officer to put a stop to these things and it continued till embarkation, when it was with great difficulty that the men where got on board.
I cannot say who contracted with the Government for victualling the ship, Messers HARTIN and Co supplied some of the provisions.. Committees formed of officers and medical officers inspected the provisions at Calcutta, none of these officers came home on the ship. We did not see any of the provisions till we opened them to use, about a fortnight after sailing a cask of beer was discovered too bad, the pork was good., the cask of beer was condemned by the officers and surgeon, on different occasions both beer and beef was condemned. On the 29th December a committee was called to examine the state of the biscuits, 36,000 lbs of biscuits were condemned, nearly all thrown over board, a portion kept for ballast. In consequence of this we put into St Helena on the 22nd January for a fresh supply, sufficient to last till the end of the voyage or a couple of days before. Fresh provisions were obtained for the sick in hospital at this time there were 38 patients and 54 out-patients, the great number not in hospital were scurvy cases. When we left St Helena we had a sufficient supply of fresh water and lime juice, in fact, there was never a question about the lime juice, the only deficiency was with the biscuits and water.
On the 4th February we found a leakage in the water casks and were obliged to make a reduction in the issue of fresh water which applied to both officers and men., we closed the tank on deck at night. On the 10th February we had constant calms and unfavourable weather, and it was thought advisable to make further reductions the allowance was reduced to one fourth for cooking purposes, on the 16th February further reductions were made, the tank being left closed till 8am, and the men told to drink as little as possible during the day. The allowance to the officers was reduced at the same time, only a pint of water was allowed to wash per day, and the early tea and coffee allowance was reduced. On the 22nd February the allowance of meat was reduced from 16oz to 12oz, and an equivalent 2oz of flour and 2oz lard was issued. On the 6th March the issued of beer and grog was stopped and a dram of wine was substituted from the hospital stores, which lasted till 2 days before our arrival when the wine was stopped, in consequence of 10 bottles of wine being stolen from in front of the officer's face. The first deaths on board occurred on the 15th November when two men died another on the following night, the last deaths occurred on the 15th March, when the bodies were taken to the Liverpool Deadhouse, the total number of deaths were 52, one of these was through falling overboard. There were seven cholera cases, the remainder due to dysentery, several of the men were habitual drunkards and their constitutions were unable to rally being worn out with drink. I am not aware that we fell short of anything necessary to the patients, we had plenty of lime juice which lasted the whole voyage, it was weak but there was plenty of it. The witness then read a report on the provisions, the vinegar was bad, the lime juice diluted, the pickles and prepared vegetables sodden, and pulpy, omitting an offensive odour, the anti-scorbutic were not calculated to prevent scurvy. The general conduct of the men on the voyage was very good, there was no drunkenness except on Christmas day, The contract for carrying the troops was £6 per head. The witness here remarked that the statement made by some of the men that they were kept on watch for a week together and not allowed to go below except at mealtimes was totally unfounded.
I consider that the men were more sickly than is usual for troops a 1000 strong. We did not bring the canteen officer along who forced liquor on the men they had no means of obtaining drink on the voyage, those who were habitual drunkards would suffer from the want of liquor. None of the officers were laid up with sickness, one had a slight dose of dysentery. The crew of the vessel were supplied with the same rations as the troops. One of the seamen died on the voyage but was ill before we sailed. The descent men kept their warm clothes before we left India, but most sold all they possessed to buy liquor. The government pay ceased on embarkation. I do not think the food had anything to do with the deaths, the pork was good all the way. A large proportion of the troops were refused enlistment for China due to their mutinous conduct.
To Mr ASPINALL - There were 1010 hammocks taken on the ship, we refused 77 as there were too many, every man was supplied with one, from month to month they kept disappearing and must have gone overboard. Everything was done that could be done by the officers to keep the men in health, there were three officers on duty every day. The arrangements for taking the men from the ship to the workhouse were under Mr RATHBONE on behalf of the Government.
To Mr FORSHAW - I and the officers were quite satisfied with the equipment of the ship and her officers and crew. There were several thousands of gallons of water on board when we arrived in port, the stoppage was merely a precautionary measure, I heard no complaints about the water from anyone on board.
Patrick MC CANN one of the sick soldiers who arrived on the Great Tasmania, identified the bodies of MATTHEWS, HOLT and MURPHY, now lying in the dead house at the Princes Dock. Witness stated, the biscuits were bad from the time they left Calcutta, the pork passable, the beef, "terribly bad" the peas hard so the cook could not cook with them, the pickles bad. There was no beer or grog for some days, no bedding or warm clothing was supplied to the men when they embarked, the detachment to which he belonged had not had clothing from the government since December 1858, he applied for clothing or compensation before he embarked but was refused. His discharge was dated, 9th November 1859. To Mr ASPINALL - I was supplied with a hammock, but a week after leaving Calcutta I heard some of the men complain of the want of hammocks, I never saw any thrown overboard. I belong to the 3rd Madras European Regiment. The officers exerted themselves to the best of their power for the men, in my opinion the ship was overcrowded.
To Mr FORSHAW - There was no complaints of the captain, officers or crew.
To Mr ASPINALL - The soldiers were dissatisfied with the government before starting, they did not like to be handed over with the elephants [laughter]. Committees assembled but every man did his duty till the last, I believe the crew were supplied with the same rations. When in India I always drank my pay, I knew men who died who never drank at all, 10 men died in my regiment, only 3 were hard drinkers. Witness stated he provided himself with private clothing otherwise he would have been dead, he had a regimental blanket, two jumpers were supplied to each man on leaving Calcutta but as they were made of canvas and white, Holland they were no use in the cold. The Government only gave a hammock, a pillow and mattress, no covering was given, the soldiers sold their blankets in India thinking they would be supplied with clothing on board. Some conversation took place concerning inspection of the ship's stores, it was arranged that Dr INMAN. Lieut PRIOR, Lieut BOURCHIER and Mr BROWN provision merchant should make the necessary survey and report to the court.
George BRADFORD, invalid soldier was then sworn - He said, I was a corporal belonging to the 3rd European Bengal Regiment, I have not yet got my discharge but am entitled to it. I left India on the Great Tasmania, and was in perfectly good health when I left Calcutta, I was very well off for clothing and had every reason to find fault with the stores, complaints began about a week to 10 days after we sailed. The salt beef was bad and emitted a bad smell, the biscuits we also bad and full of maggots, the peas so bad they were condemned. I was corporal of a mess with nine men, only the corporal and one man got a hammock, they afterwards stole from one another, I had no place to hang my hammock and had to place it anywhere I could get. I reported the state of things to the officer on duty many times but no remedy was afforded and was situated this way the whole of the voyage. I had no occasion to report the matter to the surgeon till the scurvy came on me a month ago, I was not in hospital but a surgeon attended whenever I had chance to go. I had lime juice given to me and every attention from the doctors, the water was on short rations 3 to 4 weeks before reaching Liverpool. There may have been enough provisions had the biscuits and beef not been condemned.
To Mr FORSHAW - My mess was near to the main hatchway, I complained to the orderly sergeant and the adjutant from time to time, the names of the men in my mess without hammocks and hooks were, James KINSALEY, William GILLESPIE, John MC POLAN, Thomas AIKEN, William MC CLELLAND and VAUGHAN the others I do not recollect, none of them had hammocks till they stole them from their comrades, it was a mutual case of stealing, they did not do it for a "lark" but for comfort, there might have been 79 men in my division, and they took hammocks whenever they could get them. My duty as corporal was to see that the provisions were equally divided.
Witness, I was supplied with lime juice but it would have been better if I had got more, if a complaint was made to an orderly sergeant was not attended to it was our duty to complain to the adjutant.
Inquest adjourned till today.
Liverpool Mercury March 22nd 1860
THE SICKNESS AND MORTALITY ON BOARD THE GREAT TASMANIA
INVESTIGATION BEFORE THE CORONER
Adjourned inquest resumed yesterday
Dr GEE recalled, the cases in the workhouse are not of long standing as a rule, most cases began on getting on board ship. Had the food been good they would not have been so serious, 10% were ill before they left Calcutta, 3 or 4 suffering from ague and fever recovered in a few days after embarking. Had proper food been provided men wouldn't have been so bad, had no doubt the food had commenced the illnesses.
To Mr ASPINALL, the men under his charge were suffering from scurvy which did not appear to have been caused by previous intemperance but more from bad food and accommodation. Want of food and clothing would add to the morbid agency at work
Mr GIBSON, foreman of the jury here stated, one of his brother jurymen had boiled some of the peas for 7hrs, but they were as hard as ever.
Dr GEE came to the conclusion that the amount of scurvy depended on the conditions he had named, living a hard life would be a predisposing of disease, and exercise would have benefited the men.
Mr ASPINALL produced a report made by the Government authorities in Calcutta respecting the measurement of the Great Tasmania, showing she had accommodation for 1000 men.
Lieut PRIOR, Government Emigration officer at this port next examined, he stated that yesterday in company of Lieut BOURCHIER, Dr INMAN, and Mr BROWN of the firm CEARNS and BROWN, Provision merchants, made an examination of the stores on the Great Tasmania. He handed a report saying that after careful examination they had come to the conclusion that the bread, flour, beef, peas, sugar, and tea were bad, the rice indifferent. The pork, lime juice and pickles were unexceptionable.
To Mr LAWFORD, examined three casks of beef, one in pickle which emitted a smell something like the hides at the docks. It had been good in its time but might have been pickled for 4yrs.
The Foreman said he had examined a cask of pickles and found it bad, he then asked Lieut PRIOR whether the official authorities at Calcutta should have discovered the bad state of the food, the question was not allowed to be put. Mr GIBSON then remarked he held in his hand a report from the authorities in Calcutta stating that the provisions etc were good.
Lieut BOURCHIER. R.N, assistant emigration officer deposed that he assisted Lieut PRIOR in the survey of the stores and concurred with the report and the opinion of Lieut PRIOR.
To Mr FORSHAW, the Great Tasmania only carried government emigrants once before, she was then limited to 400. But if carrying private emigrants she would carry as many as she would be legally allowed, giving a measurement of 15 superficial feet on the upper deck and 18feet between decks. Emigrants are always examined before starting and no sick person is permitted on board. Mr BROWN, provision merchant was next called, he nearly agreed with the report of Lieut PRIOR and BOURCHIER. The beef had on it the marks of PHILLIPS of London, and no doubt packed by them for
Government four years and sent out to India. Immediately after the Crimean War the Government adopted iron-hoop casks, these appear to be some of the first of that class introduced. The pork was packed for the Government by HOGAN RONEY and MCDONALD of Limerick. There were 17 barrels of flour on board which were bad and weevilly. The bread was never fit for food for troops. Opened a tank of sugar and found at least 12inches of molasses over it, the pickles and lime juice not as good as would be expected on a return voyage from Calcutta. Witness here produced some specimens of food brought from the ship, they all emitted an offensive odour and did not appear fit for human food. A person in court remarked, the specimens were, "horrible rubbish."
Mr BROWN, in answer to questions said, the soldiers were treated as a lower class than private emigrants with regard to provisions, the government would not have put the beef he had inspected on board in this country, it was near as good as that condemned at Deptford. He believed it was unfit food four months ago. Two casks without pickle might have been fit when shipped at Calcutta if they could not get better. The rice remaining on board was 100 bags of 17,000lbs in fair condition, the biscuits obtained at St Helena were also in fair condition.
Dr Thomas INMAN who examined the stores with the previous witnesses in his report stated that the beef was bad, pork and tea good, the rice fair. The sugar was sound but very gross abounding in molasses, the pickles fair, the flour was bad it had lost all cohesion and was full of the excrement of insects, there was no insect life, but the biscuits abounded with insects, the diameter of a pig's bristle and an inch long and beetles, they were disgusting and useless, the biscuits obtained at St Helena were good. The peas were bad on boiling them for 3hrs they were still hard. The hospital was good but only had 30 beds and there was no signs of invigorating medicines. He did not think the lime juice was diluted with water, it contained vegetable matter, its aroma was good and taste proper, it had been vitiated by age only and age destroys its anti-scorbutic qualities it became a grave defect, he did not believe it was good when it was shipped, in his opinion a period of 2 yrs would destroy its anti-scorbutic qualities. He did not think the intemperate habits of the men would produce scurvy 3mths after sailing.
Mr J. PRYTHARCH, resident surgeon at the workhouse, next called, on the evening of the 15th he attended to John PHILLIPS, who was suffering from extreme weakness, with a continued discharge from the bowels. and died at 4 the next day. He made a post mortem examination on the body and found that death resulted from scurvy and ulceration of the bowels, brought on by exhaustion, deceased must have been suffering from scurvy for at least a month. The liver kidneys and brain were healthy and lungs slightly congested. The food described would bring on ulceration of the bowel and scurvy, the healthy state of the liver and lungs showed that the deceased was not guilty of intemperance as to injure his health.. He examined five of the deceased and found their livers healthy and no marks of intemperance.
To Mr ASPINALL - None of the troops had made any complaints against Dr FERNANDEZ.
Mr CARR, governor of the workhouse stated, that all the men in his charge spoke highly of attention bestowed on them by Dr FERNANDEZ.
Mr Francis AYRTON, surgeon made a post mortem on the body of one of the soldiers in the dead house at the Princes Dock, the deceased was emaciated and had a sallow appearance, with marks of scurvy on his legs and gums, the viscera was healthy and death was caused by scurvy. The bad provision described he thought would produce the disease, there was no appearance of continued intemperance about the man. Drink would debilitate the body and predispose it for disease with improper food. Bad ventilation would be as likely to bring on the disease.
Capt Alexander POND of the 3rd Bengal European Regiment, in charge of the troops sent home on the Great Tasmania next examined - he had been with the regiment since it was raised in 1853, but had been in the service 16yrs. The men had signed their discharges but they had not been delivered to them. 487 men brought down from Gwallor from his own regiment, they left on the 22nd August reaching Chinserah on the 21st October.. They had a very severe march down the country having left Gwallor in the height of the rains, from Gwallor to Agra the road was very bad, they had to walk sometimes ankle deep in mud and water, passing small rivers the men up to their waists in water, by the time they reached Agra, distance 67 miles, they had 30 cases of dysentery, three men were left in hospital. Two men died before reaching Chinserah, and a large proportion of the men were suffering from dysentery and diarrhoea, a number went on board the ship sick. Witness had nothing to do with victualling the vessel he was to command the men, he had nothing to do with clothing the troops other than seeing his own men had their bits. The Government furnished the stores he knew this from the charter party given to him the day they embarked. Dr FERNANDEZ who was assisted by a dispenser had sole medical charge. About the 20th a cask of beef and ale were condemned and thrown overboard, witness corroborated the badness of the biscuits, but when the men complained they were given those of good quality, when the good failed he ordered a survey of all that was on board, it took 10days, when he found the enormous quantity bad he told Capt GARDYNE the commander of the ship that he must put into St Helena to produce fresh bread. Arrived St Helena on the 22nd, supplied with soft biscuits, went ashore and asked Colonel BEATTY Commandant of St Helena for a days supply of provisions, he said, this was impossible as it would starve the island, he asked for vegetables and was told the price of cabbage was 6d each and if Col BEATTY would get them for the ship it would be 2s-6d each, the whole produce of the island would not give a days vegetable food.
A great deal of sickness occurred between Calcutta and St Helena with much mortality, Dr FERNANDEZ was unremitting in his attentions to the sick, no man could be more so. The officers did not have the same food as the men the greatest good will prevailed between the officers and the soldiers. The biscuits furnished at Calcutta were bad, the beef appeared to him to be good but it was old, finer pork he never tasted in his life. On arriving in port the sick were sent ashore, Mr DAVIES a gentleman from Mr RATHBONE'S took charge of arrangements
To Mr ASPINALL, He had shipped some thousands of troops to England but had never saw such about as the men had before leaving Chinserah. Except in the case of invalids sent home it was not usual for the Government to supply men with blankets and warm clothing. He had seen a careful, soldier with three or four suits of clothing, he never told the men they would be supplied with bedding and warm clothing when they got on board, he told them they would each get a hammock and two jumpers, he was certain each man got a hammock and a hook according to its number. The objectionable beef was thrown over board, whatever bad beef was on board it wasn't served to the men, pork was substituted for the beef for 8-10days before their arrival. Fatigue parties were told off every day to attend to the sick, corporal punishment was never resorted to on the passage. He never saw men behave better shipboard, he stopped a big fellow's beer for 30days for kicking a sergeant.
To the Jury, there was not a single complaint made to me about the want of hammocks until the weather got it, there was no doubt the hammocks were thrown overboard daily by the men at the beginning of the voyage. Before they embarked the troops were so disorganised that if supplied with warm clothing they would have sold everything. They were all robbing each other at the barracks at Chinserah.
A Juryman, do you think it right that men in an unhealthy state and without warm clothing should be allowed to come to England in that state?
Witness, If you ask me out of the jury box I will give my opinion.
Juryman, Why, prisoners would not be subject to such treatment.
Witness, I did not think that some of the condemned beef was bad, no officer is appointed at Calcutta to see that the men going on board had sufficient clothing, either got by himself or the Government. If the Government had been told that the men had disposed of their clothing, the answer would have been they must want. He did not know why no examination had been made at Calcutta of the men's clothing
The coroner, had received an anonymous letter from London of three pages, he would not read it but might ask questions on it. Mr FORSHAW and Mr ASPINALL thought it should be thrown in the fire, it was eventually handed to a legal gentleman, some of the jury thought they should be allowed to peruse it. Mr ASPINALL after reading it said, the author was a blackquard and his statements did not affect any person connected to the ship.
Mr T. M. MACKAY, one of the firm of James BAINES and Co, said that the Great Tasmania had been much engaged in the conveyance of troops, she was sent to the Crimea as a transport taking 1300 men without a casualty and came back as a transport with 400 men. She had also taken troops off Corfu and Balaklava, afterwards she went to Mauritius with 850 men 49 women, 63 children and 35 officers, there were 5 deaths. From the Mauritius she went to Bombay with 750 troops without a casualty. The vessel had the usual Government superintendence and survey with regard to her ventilation on all occasions.
Samuel W. DAVIES, shipping clerk to Messers RATHBONE, the Liverpool agents to the Secretary of State for India gave evidence as to the removal of the invalid soldiers from the ship to the workhouse, he had directions from Mr RATHBONE to pay every attention to the comfort of the men and a telegram from the India office, stating, no expense was to be spared. An inspector, a police officer and a hospital sergeant on board ship gave evidence on the promptitude paid by Messers RATHBONE on the removal of the invalids from the ship to the workhouse and their treatment received on landing.
Here, a paper was handed to the jury suggesting that a sergeant who arrived from India on the Great Tasmania be sent for, the paper was traced to one of the jury, the legal gentlemen and coroner passed some strong remarks on the impropriety of any juryman communicating with any person who was likely to be called as a witness. Capt POND stated that the sergeant in question might have something to say against him as he had ordered him to be put in irons in the Mersey for ill-treatment of a woman. The Coroner then ordered a messenger to go in search for the sergeant.
Capt GARDYNE of the Great Tasmania stated that the contract for the conveyance of the troops was at £6 per head, for which, space, water and fuel had only to be provided. Shipped a sufficient quantity of good water at Calcutta for the voyage, every attention was paid to the sick by Capt POND, he never saw so much attention in his life, the bread was picked when it was found bad, every man had a hammock, there were two hooks to each hammock,, whatever quantity of bad beef was on board the men got none of it, the crew were served with the same food as the soldiers during the last 2mths of the voyage.
To Mr FORSHAW, we took 140,000 gals of water on at Calcutta, never heard a complaint about the water. The ship was measured at Calcutta to take 1,280 men, but only carried 1,000.
To the Jury, he was afraid that a lot of the bread first sent ashore at Calcutta was sent back again.
Sergeant BUTLIER, the soldier sent for came forward and complained that his wife and child had not been served with the rations prescribed in the dietary scale, that the latter ought to have had a pint of milk and both mother and child ought to have been served with fresh rations. Dr FERNANDEZ said that a drachm of wine was given every day to the man's wife from the hospital stores, and the child could not take a pint of milk a day with advantage to its health .
After some statements by the sergeant condemning the treatment he received, Dr FERNANDEZ was recalled and stated that there was a fair supply of medicine for an average number of sick. He differed from Capt GARDYNE as to the ventilation on the vessel, his sergeant, who was present, nearly lost his life through the bad ventilation, this was owing to the number of sick on board and the great number of men who always stayed below.
Capt POND said, the ventilation was purer than he expected to find it.
This being the whole of the evidence.
Mr ASPINALL, appearing for the regimental officers addressed the court, the public mind has been greatly excited by the stories some of them true, but the greater part untrue, to which a great credence had been given. He condemned the newspapers especially of Liverpool for publishing statements, some persons connected to the inquiry had given credit to, their object was to extend their publications,. The whole circumstances tended to confer to every person connected to the management of the troops. There might be blame somewhere but his clients who were placed in a painful position had done their duty, the bad provisions, he contended, had little to do with the condition of the troops, for they had evidence the bad food wasn't served to the troops. He accounted for the sickness and mortality being due to intemperate habits and debilitating state of the men before embarkation. There were no grounds for imputation upon the conduct of the regimental officers or officers on board ship, indeed every man did his duty under the circumstances in which they were placed. It is therefore cruel for newspaper writers or others to indulge in the slightest charge against gentlemen whose feelings have been harrowed for months together on the passage home, consider the depressing circumstances by which the troops were surrounded, it was only by the most creditable exertions of the officers who had brought them to England.
Mr LAWFORD, said he represented no one, the Government had no other object but the elucidation of truth, and he would trust the coroner and jury to carry out that object.
Mr FORSHAW, who represented the Captain and the owners of the Great Tasmania, coincided with the general remarks made by Mr ASPINALL, all his clients had to do was to see that the ship was tight, staunch and strong, and that she maintained the character hitherto borne. From all the evidence he had heard he could not arrive at a strong conclusion as to the very great sickness and mortality that took place on the ship, but he maintained it was not due to the ventilation, the history of the vessel spoke for itself, they had an excellent ship with good captain and crew.
The Coroner then addressed the jury, stating, he could not conceal he felt great anxiety summing up this important case as his remarks may influence them in their verdict, he could truthfully say that in the 20yrs he had served as a coroner he had never met with a case more deplorable than the one before them, their duty was to bring a verdict according to the evidence alone. The jury on commencement of the case he thought were guilty of irregularity, due to ignorance, it would have been better if they had abstained from questioning any of the soldiers in the workhouse. Referring in some length into the circumstances under which the troops left India, the coroner said, in his opinion the captain and crew of the ship had done everything expected of them and there was no charge against them, also there was not the slightest imputation upon the owners of the vessel. The regiment officers, so far as he could judge were completely exonerated of blame, soldiers were notorious for having a "spree" before embarking on a voyage, but, there should have been an inspection before they boarded to see that they had clothing and necessities for the voyage home. It had been proved that an engagement had been made by the Council of India to have the soldiers carried to England for a certain amount, the jury must decide was this carried out and according to the evidence such was the case. The Government was to provide the necessary stores for the voyage, the jury must decide if they were supplied, if not, it would be for them to take the blame, the jury would have to say whether everything necessary had been done by the Government of India, if not, who was to blame.
The jury retired at 8.30pm, after 2hrs consultation they returned the following verdict :-
"That Thomas BEACH died from natural causes, and his death was accelerated by necessary removal to the workhouse."
In the case of the other six they found that they, "died from scurvy, brought on by bad food and exposure to cold on board ship."
The jury further found, "That the provisions supplied by the Government as stores for the use of troops, were bad and unfit for human food, with the exception of the tea, pork, pickles and rice. That there was an entire absence of disinfectants, and that the lime juice had lost its medicinal properties when put on board. That the officers who signed the "General Inspection Report" are the culpable parties so far as the quality of the stores are concerned. That the captain and officers of the ship are entirely free from blame and the ship's contract was satisfactorily fulfilled. That the military officers and surgeon did their best in the circumstances in which they were placed, to promote the health of the men under their charge."
The foreman also made the following presentment on behalf of the jury, "The jury think it an imperative duty to urge upon the Government the necessity of a change in the system of military inspection and supply of clothing before the soldiers leave India or any other foreign country, whether they are still in the service or have had their discharge and are receiving government passage home, as shall prevent men in the future arriving in England in cold weather so insufficiently clothed as the men who arrived by the Great Tasmania"
Liverpool Mercury, March 27th, 1860
The Great Tasmania, visit of Mr Charles DICKENS to the Liverpool Workhouse
On Saturday last, Mr Charles DICKENS visited at the Liverpool Workhouse the invalid soldiers who arrived from India in the Great Tasmania. Mr DICKENS remained for about two hours, and during that time engaged in conversation with several of the unfortunate men, in whose statements he appeared to take great interest. This is the second visit of this popular writer to Liverpool within the last month
Another soldier named Daniel CURTIN, died on Saturday night. The poor fellow who was a native of Cork, was reduced almost to a skeleton previous to his admission to the workhouse. A few more deaths are likely to occur, but the majority of the men are gradually recovering, and some of them will be able to leave town in a day or two. The whole of them are loud in their expressions of gratitude for the kind treatment they received from the workhouse officials.
Funeral of the deceased soldiers by the ship Great Tasmania
Died March 15th, Thomas HOLT, aged 25, John MURPHY, aged 25, William MATTHEWS, aged 28, all died shipboard in the river.
Died March 15th, Thomas BEACH, aged 26, died on the way to the workhouse.
Died March 16th, William COLEMAN, aged 27, James PYETT, aged 25, John PHILLIPS, aged 24, all died in the workhouse
Died March 18th, John PURCELL, aged 26, died at the workhouse
Died March 19th, William BIRD, aged 27, died in the workhouse
Died March 22nd, Patrick LEARY, aged 24, died in the workhouse
These men were all interred in consecrated ground in the Toxteth Cemetery, Smithdown Lane, and the burial service was read by Rev Mr M'ALLSTER, the chaplain in a most impressive manner. The funeral expenses were paid by Messers RATHBONE, agents to Mr BARING, the Under Secretary of Sate for India, who placed the arrangements for the funeral under the management of Mr W. R. CREWS, 29 South John St, clerk to the coroner.
The governor of the workhouse gave the following certificate :-
I hereby certify that the bodies of the above named soldiers, were buried in good hard wood coffins lined with flannel, and a flannel shroud over each body. In a respectable manner, by William R. CROWS, Clerk to the Coroner.
George CARR, March 19th, 1860.
Charles Dicken's, "The Uncommercial traveller"
Account of the visit he paid to the sick wards of the hospital, Liverpool, in which lay the unfortunate soldiers, who were the victims of bad food and insufficient clothing on board the Great Tasmania.
Dickens says ;-
"We went into a large ward containing some twenty or five-and-twenty beds. We went into several such wards, one after another. I find it very difficult to indicate what a shocking sight I saw in them, without frightening the reader from the perusal of these lines, and defeating my object of making it known. "O the sunken eyes that turned to me as I walked between the rows of beds, or worst still, that glazedly looked at the white ceiling, and saw nothing and cared for nothing! . Here he lay the skeleton of a man, so lightly covered with a thin unwholesome skin, that not a bone in the anatomy was clothed, and I could clasp the arm below the elbow, in my finger and thumb. Here lay a man with a black scurvy eating his legs away, his gums gone, and his teeth all gaunt and bare. This bed was empty, because gangrene had set in, and the patient had died but yesterday.. That bed was a hopeless one, because its occupant was sinking fast, and could only be roused to turn the poor pinched mask of face upon the pillow, with a feeble moan. The awful thinness of the fallen cheeks, the awful brightness of the deep set eyes, the lips of lead, the hands of ivory, the recumbent human images lying in the shadow of death, with a kind of solemn twilight on them, like the sixty who had died aboard the ship and were lying at the bottom of the sea, O Pangloss, God forgive you!
"In one bed lay a man whose life had been saved [as it was hoped] by deep incisions in the feet and legs. While I was speaking to him a nurse came up to change the poultices which the operation rendered necessary, and I had an instinctive feeling that it was not well to turn away, merely to spare myself. He was sorely wasted and keenly susceptible, but the efforts he made to subdue any expression of impatience or suffering were quite heroic. It was easy to see, in the shrinking of the figure, and the drawing of the bed clothes over the head, how acute the endurance was, and It made me shrink too, as if I were in pain, but when the new bandages were on, and the poor feet were composed again, he made an apology for himself [though he had not uttered a word] and said plaintively, "I am so tender and weak, you see sir!" Neither from him nor any other sufferer of the whole ghastly number did I hear a complaint. Of thankfulness of present solicitude and care, I heard much, of complaint, not a word.
"I think I should have recognised in the dismalest skeleton there the ghost of a soldier. Something of the old air was still latent in the palest shadow of life, that I talked to. One emaciated creature, in the strictest literality worn to the bone, lay stretched on his back, looking so like death that I asked one of the doctors if he were not dying or dead ? A few kind words from the doctor in his ear, and he opened his eyes and smiled, looked, in a moment, as if he would make a salute, if he could. "We shall pull him through, please God" said the doctor. "Plase God surr, tis the sleep I want surr, tis the breathin, makes the nights so long" "He is a careful fellow this you must know" said the doctor cheerfully, "It was raining hard when they put him in the open cart to bring him here, and he had the presence of mind to ask to have a sovereign taken out of his pocket that he had there, and a cab engaged, probably it saved his life" The patient rattled out the skeleton of a laugh, and said, proud of the story, "Deed surr an open cart was a comical means o bringin a dyin man here, and a clever way to kill him" You might have sworn to him for a soldier when he said it.
"One thing had perplexed me very much in going from bed to bed, a very significant and cruel thing. I could find no man but one. He had attracted my notice by having got up and dressed himself in his soldier's jacket and trousers, with the intention of sitting by the fire, but he had found himself too weak, and had crept back to his bed and laid himself down on the outside of it. I could have pronounced him, alone, to be a young man aged by famine and sickness. As we were standing by the Irish soldier's bed, I mentioned my perplexity to the doctor. He took a board with an inscription on it from the head of the Irishman's bed, and aced me what age I supposed that man to be ? I had observed him with attention while talking to him, and answered confidently, "Fifty" The doctor with a pitying glance at the patient who had dropped into a stupor again, put the board back, and said, "Twenty-four"
"All the arrangements of the wards were excellent, they could not have been more humane, sympathising, gentle, attentive or wholesome. The owners of the ship, too, had done all they could, liberally. There were bright fires in every room, and the convalescent men were sitting around them, reading various papers and periodicals. I took the liberty of inviting my official friend Panloss to look at those convalescent men, and to tell me whether their faces and bearing were or were not, generally, the faces and bearing of steady, respectable soldiers ? The master of the workhouse overhearing me, said that he had, had a pretty large experience of troops, and that better conducted men than these he had never had to do with. There were always [he added] as we saw them. And of our visitors [I add] they knew nothing whatever, except that we were there"
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