Commissions Report

In January 1856, the report compiled by Sir John Mr Neill and Colonel Tulloch into the failings of senior officers to supply adequate food and shelter, when supplies were available to them, was completed. It was presented to the Minister and Parliament, then made public. It showed gross mismanagement, although it did not lay blame on any particular officers. The high officers mentioned resented the implications of the report, therefore in the House of Lords they attacked the Government for published them. Those officers were Lord Lucan (who had been given the command of a Regiment), Lord Cardigan, Inspector of Cavalry, Sir Richard Airey, Quartermaster-General, and Colonel Gordon, Deputy Quartermaster-General. Although the general opinion of the House of Commons was that the officers were to blame. The report put the Prime Minister in a very delicate position, because the Army was theoretically responsible to the Crown. Lord Palmerston was questioned in a House of Commons debate about his verdict on the work of McNeill and Tulloch, he was full of praise for them. The Queen had been mislead by the War Minister, Lord Panmure, as he had told her that McNeill and Tulloch had been sent to investigate the Commissariat, a civilian department who supplied the army. But a few days later they had been given additional powers to investigate why supplies issued had not reached the army. Lord Palmerston received a letter of complaint from the Queen, as she stated that the officers found themselves accused, without being able to answer or to be allowed to have the opportunity to defend themselves. A suggestion made by Sir James Graham met the approval of the Queen, that military commission should be appointed to look into the matter. (Letter from Queen Victoria to Lord Palmerston)

A Board of General Officers was appointed to investigate accusations made against certain officers in the report. It was held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in April 1856. None of the senior officers who sat on the Board at Chelsea had served in the Crimea. It seems Lord Panmure had been very clever in his instructions to McNeill and Tulloch as the generals had been very willing to sign statements against the civilians in the Commissariat, which also reflected on their mistakes. The Board of Enquiry gave the Generals the chance to defend themselves. In the end the Board found them innocent of all accusations and put the blame on the civilians in the Treasury. It was as if Sir John McNeil and Colonel Tulloch were on trial themselves as to the accuracy of their report. The Report of the Chelsea Board published in July 1856 ‘whitewashed’ all the officers mentioned in the report.

Many prominent men of business over the country drew up appreciative addresses, which were presented to Sir John McNeil and Colonel Tulloch, thanking them for their great services, and expressing sympathy with them in the slight to which they had been subjected.

In February 1857 it was suggested by Lord Palmerston in Parliament that acknowledgement of their special services be made to the two commissioners. Through Lord Panmure a gift of one thousand pounds was offered to each of them, the both refused the offer.

Sir John McNeil was offered a barony or a membership of the Privy Council. He chose the latter, which entitled him to be addressed as Right Honourable. Colonel Tulloch was created KCB.

Peace and Homecoming ….


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