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THE SICK AND WOUNDED IN SOUTH…

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THE SICK AND WOUNDED IN SOUTH AFRICA. WITH a desire to look at the matter in a judicial spirit, and with the utmost sympathy for the gallant soldiers who have been exposed to the hardships of war, it is nevertheless a little difficult to derive such clear ideas as one would wish from the debate on Mr Burdett-Coutt's allegations concerning the treatment of the sick and wounded in South Africa. It must, of course, be recognised that the hon. gentleman preferred his com- plaint in the utmost good faith, that he be- lieved honestly every word he wrote and said, but a great deal depends upon the way in which he looked at the matter. Sir Howard Vincent was of the opinion that Mr Burdett-Coutts had seen everything in South Africa "through the very darkest spectacles." Again, Mr Burdett-Coutts' allegations may be capable of confirmation right up to the hilt, but on the occasion of the debate in the House of Commons it can scarcely be said that there was as much corroboration forth- coming as would have enabled one of Her Majesty's judges to say the case was proved. It is noteworthy that all authorities hesitate to attach the blame to any particular individual or department. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman said he thought blame was due somewhere, but he declined altogether, with the knowledge before him, to apportion it." Mr Burdett-Coutts did not lay the blame on any individual, and said his own personal opinion was that the fault lay not here, but in South Africa. Others blamed the Govern- ment, but there was a general indisposition to fasten censure upon any particular source. So far there is not much evidence to go upon, and anything like a complete judgment must be suspended until we have the result of the official inquiry which is to be made with regard to the whole subject of these allegations. The difficulty of forming a final opinion on the debajte was increased by the position in which the Government were placed of having to prove a negative. This is a task which is always difficult, and frequently impossible, but still it was clear, from the remarks I with which Mr. Wyndham opened the discussion, what the defence is. To a certain and lamentable extent," said Mr Wyndham, "it was true that our wounded and our sick at Bloemfontein had in this campaign, as in other campaigns, been exposed to terrible hardships, the full extent of which was not perhaps altogether gauged by those who had not seen war; but at the same time the hardships were'inevitable, and everything possible had been done to meet the circum- stances of the case." The question at issue is, therefore, this-were there in any consider- able degree hardships which might have been avoided 1 It is very certain that many things happened which are to be regretted, but all the, evidence which is forthcoming is conflict- ing on the point as to whether they could have -been prevented by reasonable care. Some of the sick and wounded say that they were treated with exceptional care, and others that their condition was pretty much as described by Mr Burdett-Coutts. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman remarked that for one man who died from wounds, two died from disease, but that is pretty much the case with all wars. As Sir William Howard Russell said Heaven lets loose all its plagues on those who shed men's blood, even in the holiest cause." Fever, dysentery, sunstroke, and other evils, generally including the dreaded cholera, follow in the train of armies, and cause more deaths than the bullets and shells of the enemy. Such plagues are inseparable from war. Whatever may be the foundation of Mr Burdett-Coutts' complaint, he has proved that which we knew already, that war is a frightful evil in any circum- stances.

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