CANADA AND HER DEFENCE FORCES
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR-GENERAL GEORGE R. PEARKES, V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, November 29, 1945
MR. THOMPSON: We today welcome to our platform, one of Canada's distinguished soldiers, in fact, one of her most outstanding military men.
Prior to World War I, our guest of honour made a good beginning by joining the R.C.M.P. Then at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, he enlisted as a private in the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles, receiving his commission in the Ypres salient. On the Somme in 1916, he won the Military Cross; at Passchendale in 1917, he was awarded the Victoria Cross; and at Amiens in 1918, the Distinguished Service Order. In recognition of his services he has been honoured by His Majesty the King with the title of Commander of the Bath.
Following World War I, our speaker remained with the permanent force, holding various appointments, finally being promoted to the rank of District Officer Commanding Military District Number 13 at Calgary, which post he held at the outbreak of war in 1939.
At the commencement of World War 2, he was placed in command of the Second Infantry 'Brigade, later assuming command of the First Canadian Division, which he retained until the Japanese entered the war against the United Nations when he was recalled to Canada to organize the defence of the Pacific Coast.
Although he retired from military service this year, he ryas not content to rest on his laurels and offered himself as a candidate in the Federal Election last June, where he was successful in winning the seat of Nanaimo, B. C. for the Progressive Conservatives. It was to be expected that a man of such exceptional qualities would be heard from as soon as he took his seat in the House of Commons and this is the case; he is the champion of the National Policy of adequate defence. '
It is with extreme pleasure that I present to you, Major General George R. Pearkes, V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., who will address us on the subject "Canada and Her Defence Forces".
MAJOR-GENERAL PEARKES: Mr. Chairman; Distinguished Guests, Gentlemen: I esteem it a great privilege that you should have invited me to speak to The Empire Club of Canada today on the subject of "Canada and Her Defence Forces".
I know we have just finished the war. Perhaps we are all war weary, but it might be well for us just to pause in the every day life of our country to think of the future. I do want to suggest one or two thought-provoking ideas which I hope you will ponder over in your leisure moments in the time to come.
At the present time our Defence Departments are fully occupied in repatriating the soldiers, sailors and airmen from overseas and demobilizing those that they have brought back from Europe and from the Far Eastern theatre, so that they may occupy their appointed place in civilian life. The repatriation policy has been one which the Government of Canada set out as soon as V-E Day was declared with slight modifications. Originally, the Government decided that those who had given the longest and hardest service should be the first to be repatriated, and in order to implement that policy they devised a point system whereby two points were allotted for service in Canada, and one point for service overseas.
Well, experience has shown that that did not reach the desired end, because there was too much weight given in the point system to service in Canada and very little, if any, additional consideration was given to those men who had actually fought on the field of battle, because one point was allotted to men who served overseas, and overseas included service in England and did not make any distinction between service in England and service in an actual theatre of operations.
However, the policy has worked out to the extent that quite a large number of men of all services have now been brought back to Canada, and many men who went from Ontario are today arriving back in their home cities. With the exception of the Force which is required to serve with the Army of Occupation in Germany, the majority of our Canadian soldiers will be back in Canada by the spring. But it is unfortunate that some of those men who were through all the hard fighting in Sicily and in Italy and in Northwest Europe are still retained in the theatre of operations, when men who have seen less service are returned to Canada ahead of those who have actually given the longest and hardest service.
As far as the demobilization of the men who have returned to Canada is concerned; those men are being absorbed into civilian life as far as industry can take care of them, and those young men who went overseas straight from school are, before they become established, being given the opportunity of taking various courses at universities and in vocational training in order that they may be equipped to take their place in the industrial life of this country.
I know that here in Toronto, exceptional efforts are being made in order to give the young men of the Services an opportunity to learn a trade so that they may have no difficulty in finding gainful employment when they have become equipped with the necessary technical knowledge.
I would like to ask your earnest consideration and sympathy for those troops who must remain in Europe this winter and for an indefinite period of time. By agreement, Canada was allotted a proportion of the Army of Occupation. I believe that we have agreed to detail some 20,000 to 25,000 men to help in that all-important task of establishing law and order in Germany, and in seeing that a right form of government is established there and in providing to the people of the conquered countries the food and supplies which are necessary to prevent them from literal starvation during this winter. Somebody has to do that task. If it is not well done then the sacrifices which have been made by our fighting men will be brought to naught. We have only got to think of what happened after the last war to realize that Germany was then given an opportunity to raise a secret army which when expanded developed into the armed forces that she used so effectively in 1939, 1940 and 1941. She must not be permitted to do that again. Therefore, all of us must bear our share in ensuring that she does not have those opportunities.
After the last war Great Britain maintained an Army of Occupation on the Rhine of limited numbers, covering a limited section of the territory for some ten years. However long she will have to keep an army of occupation this time will depend entirely upon circumstances, but I do not believe that we should ask the Old Country to bear all the burden and we who are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, which we call the British Empire, should also be prepared to bear that burden, no matter how hard and irksome the task may be.
But I do ask for your consideration of the actual men who are doing that Canadian duty. A very small proportion of them have volunteered for that task. The majority of the Canadian Occupational Force is composed of men who volunteered for general service and who went over to Europe and some of whom took part in the heavy fighting after V-E Day, and others who arrived after the actual landings had taken place, but they have been detailed for this very difficult task of the Army of Occupation and it is a task not removed from danger by any manner or means.
You will have read what Field Marshal Montgomery said about the danger of epidemics sweeping across Europe this winter and thereby causing the death of millions, and the Army of Occupation is exposed to those dangers. They are existing on reduced ratioms and they have very few of the comforts of life. They are living in areas which have been destroyed by our bombardment and in areas to which it is extremely difficult to transport any fuel which may be mined from the Ruhr or else imported into Europe, because the transportation systems of Europe and Germany have been completely shattered by the action of our forces during the war and it is for those reasons that I ask for special consideration by everybody in Canada of the Canadian troops who still are carrying out Canada's share of the task of the Army of Occupation.
While that Army of Occupation with its attendant Air Force is still overseas and while we are waiting for a decision as to what our defence forces of the future should be, all three Services, the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, have recruited interim forces which will be prepared' for the time being to supply such re-enforcements as may be required for the Army of Occupation, and will be prepared for the defence of Canada if necessary; or to meet any commitments which we are asked to carry out by the United Nations. But there is essentially an interim force waiting until such time as a decision is reached by the Government as to the type of defence forces which Canada requires in the postwar period.
I would like to ask you to bear with me while I throw out a few thoughts regarding the type of defences that we may require in the years to come. What I say are entirely my own ideas, and I am not speaking for any group or particular party. I am merely giving you my ideas, based upon such experience of the past and such reading as I may have done.
The first thing I would like you to ponder over is the effect of the new weapons which have been introduced into warfare during the last year of the war. Those new weapons have proved their dreadful effectiveness, with the result that I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that we are entering into a new era of warfare, a scientific era, a change far greater than the change which took place in the methods of warfare by the invention of gunpowder. Gunpowder was introduced centuries ago, and its effect upon the armies of those old days was very, very great, but today the effect of the new scientific inventions has been launched upon us and takes almost full effect the moment that those weapons have proved their effectiveness. It has completely changed--what shall I say?--the atmosphere of the last quarter of a century because during that period in the latter stages of the last war, when we thought of trenches and barbed wire, and in the early stages of this war, the defensive weapons had superiority over the offensive weapons, but the weapons of offense today know no answer in weapons of defence at the present moment.
So the pendulum has swung so all the advantages lie with that power which should decide to launch an offensive. No adequate defence at the present moment exists to the latest inventions of Science.
I refer you to such inventions as the rocket bomb, the radio-controlled aircraft, the jet-propulsioned aircraft aid, last and most effective of all the new weapons, the atomic bomb, which has a potent destructive ability beyond the wildest nightmares of human imagination.
Now, that weapon, the atomic bomb, was not produced as the result of the imagination of some devilish maniac, but it was produced after years of study of scientists who were working in the interests of their own country in order that they might bring victory to the United Nations, or at least shorten the war.
The principles of a terrifying energy from matter were well known to scientists before the war and many processes were explored during the early stages of the war. Finally, they decided to concentrate their efforts upon one particular process and that process proved successful in the early months of this summer when used against Japan. But it doesn't follow that the other processes which were discarded temporarily may not also be developed. It is quite conceivable that totally different methods of converting matter into energy may be discovered and when one pauses to think that at 'the present time the energy released from uranium is only to the utilization of one-tenth of one per cent of the bulk of the matter employed, one hesitates to think of the effect. It is impossible for us to conceive the effect of some other process being developed which might utilize even five per cent of the energy that might be developed from the bulk of the matter used from some other material.
Now, these inventions that I have mentioned have, as I said, been the work of scientists who have been mobilized during the past five years and have carried out their work at the front, in laboratories, in factories, and in shops and in universities, and they have been directing their efforts mainly to the development of a limited number of weapons and equipment on a relatively narrow project, but they have accumulated a vast amount of experience in the course of their studies.
I do suggest that if we have the real interests of the security of the world at heart that the broad dissemination of information is really a sounder foundation for the security of the future than any policy of restriction in the hope that other nations will not be able to acquire the same information or similar information to what our scientists have acquired, because there are innumerable cases in which there has been independent discovery of the same truth and much of the matter which we now hold is jointly held by other nations.
But I do feel that it is most desirable that there should be no interruption in the relationships which have existed between the scientists and the military experts during this war and that research on military problems must continue. We must not delay until the decision has been reached regarding the actual pattern of the postwar formations that we intend to have for our armed forces.
However, soldiers, sailors and airmen cannot be expected to be experts in all fields. Research as far as improvement of existing arms and equipment should, I think, rightly be left in the hands of the military scientists, but when it comes to a question of long range research, working upon the application of the newest scientific discoveries to the needs of the armed forces, then I believe that that should be left in the hands of the civilian scientists who are better equipped for that particular work and who are employed in the universities and in industry. Both kinds, that is the experts with regard to existing equipment and the long range experts, should work in close liaison now and it should continue right from the very present time on.
I have referred to these new inventions. Whether it is possible to find an answer to these all powerful offensive weapons at the moment, I do not know, but there is an answer which we must explore and that is the prevention of wars in the future, and I am quite certain that I am voicing the opinion of everybody in this room, of every citizen of Canada, that those who are employed in the task of trying to find a formula which will prevent wars of the future have our earnest prayers for their success.
This spring the United Nations representatives met at San Francisco, with the idea-of exploring the first steps which were to be taken with the idea of finding a means of preventing wars of the future. I think their approach was quite different to that which was used when the Delegates attended the conference of the League of Nations which was assembled immediately after the last war. The idealism of those days has been sadly tempered in the last few months by fear and by realism.
While I wish every success to this new organization, we must face the fact that at present it is immature and that some say it has been stillborn, by the proof of the effectiveness of the atomic bomb which had not been launched, you will remember, when the delegates assembled at San Francisco.
But if there is one thing which we all realize at the present time, it is that the great powers of this world must co-operate in a manner which is devoid of all shame. If there is doubt and uncertainty, no real cooperation, we shall only find one or other of those great powers will he forced into launching perhaps what we might call World War III. And those great powers are the only powers which are capable of launching such a war within the next decade.
I believe that the Conference which has been recently held between President Truman, Mr. Atlee and Mr. MacKenzie King, endeavoured to solve this problem of co-operation, honest co-operation, between Great Britain, the United States and Russia, and the problem that they had to solve was whether they would make an all-out gesture of friendship to Russia or whether they would let Russia paddle her own canoe. And they have turned over to, shall we call it, the San Francisco Conference, the Conference of the United Nations, the first real problem that that conference has had to settle and that is what is to be done regarding the atomic bomb?
I had thought of reading to you the paper which was prepared by those three statesmen, but I am afraid that times does not permit, and I should suggest that you study it if you have the opportunity, in your leisure.
I want to hurry on to the position of this Dominion of Canada of ours at the present time. I am afraid that the stark fact remains that if those great powers are the only, powers which are' capable of launching the world into World War III, either by their individual action or by getting some lesser states to co-operate with one of them who will not agree to the decisions reached by the majority, that Canada would then become the Belgium or the Poland of World War III.
You may think of any, combination of those powers that you like and I am afraid that you are forced to that inevitable conclusion, that if World War III came within the next decade that the decisions of that war would be fought out on Canadian territory.
Therefore, from the point of view of self-interest, and the point of view of fear, we are prompted to direct our efforts to the prevention of war just as much as we are prompted to do so from the higher ideals which we hold.
What might be the nature of such a catastrophe if it ever came? Judging from the experience of the last twelve months I think we might say that the invasion would be launched by air and quite possibly the first attack would be carried out with a very great weight of bombs of the most destructive nature and that this attack would be begun in the utmost secrecy, that it would be followed very quickly by air-borne troops in order to cinch the action taken by the bombers.
I therefore suggest that when we are considering the defence forces of Canada for the future that our problem has been completely transformed from what it was in the days before this war. As long as I have been connected with the Armed Forces of Canada we have thought in terms of sending an expeditionary force away from our shores in order to help the Empire in one of her battles. You have only got to think of the South African War, the First Great War, and the Expeditionary Force that we sent overseas in 1939 and 1940.
Thanks to our extremely friendly relations with the United States, thanks to the wide oceans which have washed our shores on the east and the west, we have been able to live in comparative immunity from attack, and all the defences that Canada needed were a few obsolete fortresses at Halifax and at Esquimault in British Columbia, in order to guard the dry docks and to give safe assembly points for the forces which we were sending overseas or the convoys which were to supply those forces and the forces of the Empire.
That happy condition has changed. The oceans exist no longer as far as warfare is concerned. We are no longer protected by two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific, but we are faced with three isolated approaches upon which it is extremely difficult to get early information, namely, the Atlantic, the Pacific and our third ocean, the Arctic Ocean. They are no longer protections, but they are secretive approaches for a hostile enemy.
The problem is entirely new and I feel that we have got to reorientate all our ideas of the past and we have got to approach this new problem with flexible ideas and with a very open mind and that we have to call in to this system all those who are charged with the responsibility of protecting this country, the best brains from industry and professional and the university life of Canada. We can no longer think in terms of units parading through the streets of our cities, headed by brass bands. We have got to be realistic in this matter, and while there may be and while there is value in tradition, we cannot adhere to the time-worn formation of the past which were devised for an entirely different problem to the one with which we are faced at the present moment.
I would suggest that the very first thing we have to consider is an effective, intelligent service which would give us warning of the designs of a seemingly friendly country and the assembly of her air fleet. Then we must carry out an unremitting research as to the devices which will make surprise less likely.
We were rather pleased with the radar development during this war. We boasted that our radar would be able to pick up a squadron of enemy aircraft 200 miles away. What is 200 miles with aircraft now flying at the speed of over 400 miles an hour?' We have got to extend the range of effectiveness of the radar equipment, not to 200 miles, but to a thousand miles. We have got to devise means of intercepting the enemy, the counter bombardment research, you might call it, so that the bombers cannot get through, so that the bombers may be destroyed, if possible, over the ocean and then we shall have to concentrate, I think our defence forces around the known points of our industry and the important centers of our population, and those defence forces will have to consider the defence of the locality in which they are quartered or stationed and remember that the first attack is almost certain to come from the air.
So you may find that some of your historic Ontario Infantry Battalions might be well advised to take over an anti-aircraft role, with the idea of protecting Toronto, rather than with the idea of going on some expedition far away.
I believe that another point in our defence schemes of the future will have to be that of what was known in this war as civil defence, and there may have to be study carried out by all kinds of organizations along the lines which were carried out by the Civil Defence organizations throughout the Dominion during this war.
Then, because this danger may approach us from unexpected directions, probably not following the channels of population, I think that those forces of Canada which are permanently enrolled, the Permanent Force, will have to be on the frontiers of Canada. They may be up in the Arctic, or they may be on the extreme eastern coast or the extreme western coast, in order that they may be at the ready, in order to give early warnings so that the civilian forces, usually referred to before the war as the Militia, may have time to assemble in order to prepare for the defence of their own cities.
And you may have to give up in the future thoughts of the Musical Ride by the Royal Canadian Dragoons at your Royal Winter Show, and you may find that those men will have to be stationed in more isolated quarters.
So far as plans have been developed, at the present time the indication is that the Permanent Navy will consist of 10,000 men, with a small fleet of cruisers and an aircraft carrier and a few destroyers on both coasts; that the Permanent Air Force will consist of some 15,000 to 20,000 men, divided up among some ten Squadrons; that the future Permanent Army of Canada is to consist of some 20,000 to 25,000 men. We have a Brigade group more or less acting as a field force.
That means that Canada is going to be asked by the present administration to provide standing defence forces, regularly employed, of some 40,000 to 55,000 men, but the present administration has given no indication other than to say they will be given good rates of pay, no indication as to how that number of men are again to be found in Canada, and it is well to face up to the fact that when this war broke out the Permanent Force, the army of Canada consisted of less than 5,000 Officers and men, and if you are going to enlarge that over night to 20,000 or 25,000 men, then I think there is careful consideration has got to be employed as to how you are actually going to get the numbers that you say that you require.
I don't think there will be great difficulty regarding getting the numbers for the Permanent Air Force and perhaps a Permanent Navy. Those Services are* more attractive, perhaps, than the service in the army in time of peace. I do believe that very serious consideration will have to be given by the Government if they are sincere and wholehearted in their proposal that there should be a Permanent Army of 20,000 to 25,000 men. They will have to consider how they are going to raise that force. Whether they can do that entirely by voluntary nature or not, I don't know, but whatever the Permanent Force may be in the future, I do urge most strongly that it be linked very, very closely with the economic and industrial and professional life of this country. The doctors that work in the hospitals, the engineers that go out on construction work, the signallers that work in the communications companies, because the great drawback of the Permanent Force at the outbreak of this war was the fact it had lived the life of a hermit. It had been cloistered and was entirely removed from the industrial and professional life of the country and that was bad for the Armed Forces, it was extremely bad for the Permanent Force, and if the Permanent Force of the future is to play its proper role in the future defence of Canada, then it has got to be brought into the closest contact with the life of the country, because the defences of Canada cannot be separated from the life of Canada. It is the very life of Canada that the defences are defending and the people who are connected with the economic situation in Canada will have to take a very definite interest in the protection of their interests.
Now, I think my time is just up and I will therefore close by saying that while I have perhaps suggested thoughts which are unpleasant that we have got to face up to the realities of the situation, and that I join with every one in this room in fervently praying that the forebodings that I have suggested never occur, and that a solution will be found to the age old problem of trying to find some other way of settling international differences, than by exposing the lives of our finest and youngest citizens.