CANADA'S DEFENCE FORCE--ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD CONFLICT
AN ADDRESS BY
MAJOR-GENERAL C. F. CONSTANTINE, D.S.O.
Chairman: First Vice-President, Mr. E. F. Thompson.
Thursday, April 16, 1942
MR. E. F. THOMPSON: Gentlemen of The Empire Club, Members of the Greater Toronto War Service Council, and our Honoured Guests: Owing to a last minute unavoidable absence of our President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson, I have been given the great honour of introducing our Guest-speaker today.
As you know, a campaign is presently under way to strengthen the Reserve Forces of Canada, and, with a view to giving an impetus to the movement, The Empire Club has prevailed upon the Officer Commanding this Military District to give us something of the setup.
Our speaker, Major-General C. F. Constantine, was born in Winnipeg and educated at Upper Canada College, in Toronto, and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He entered the Permanent Force in 1905, and, in the Great War, rose to the command of an Artillery Brigade, winning the D.S.O. and bar and the Legion of Honour. Since the war he has held many important military posts, including O.C. of the Royal Canadian Artillery, Commandant at R.M.C., Adjutant General, and District Officer Commanding in Districts seven, six, three, and two.
The subject of today's address is "Canada's Defense Force", and it is now my privilege and pleasure to present to you our Guest-speaker, Major-General C. F. Constantine, D.S.O. (Applause.)
MAJOR-GENERAL C. F. CONSTANTINE: Mr. President, Honoured Guests, and Gentlemen: I feel very flattered and honoured at having been asked to speak to you today, particularly at this particular time when we are trying to bring the Reserve Army up to strength.
I trust that the title of this short talk may not have led you to expect a deeply studied thesis or a long excursion into the realms of strategy or the details of tactics. The tactics I might have tackled, but strategy, so far as this war is concerned, is far beyond the sphere of anyone who has not a definite knowledge of all the factors concerning time, distance, rate of production, naval power, air power, supplies of all sorts, means of transportation, and manpower. Without knowledge of authentic detail of these and other vital matters, the answer is, at best, a guess, or might as well be drawn out of a hat. The chances of being right are equal.
The true answers to our questions of today will be read by our children's children in history books twenty-five or more years from now.
Our job today is to provide money, munitions, and men, and to hold high morale, in order that those who know best how and where to use them, may have them in the proper times and places and quantities to give us final and complete victory.
Before I go any farther, I should like to make it amply clear that anything I may say is my personal opinion only and in no way reflects Departmental policy, and that my remarks have not been inspired by any special knowledge which some might think I possess in my official position. My knowledge of the events which are taking place around the world is derived from exactly the same sources as yours, namely, the press and the radio. My job here is purely to implement and administer the pronounced policy of the Government, in so far as the Department of National Defence is concerned.
Now, Canada has taken part in many wars. I need only mention a few of them. Since the struggle of Wolfe and Montcalm, which I don't intend to include, we have fought with our present Allies and very good friends across our southern border, shaken hands, and settled down side by side in peace and mutual respect. We defeated those misguided bands known as Fenians, who attacked us. We fought within our own boundaries in 1870 and 1885. We sent men to the Nile in the Soudanese Wars, and we sent contingents to South Africa, and you all know our contribution to the last Great War in Europe. It cannot be said that Canada is new to war or has failed to take up arms effectively when required. Such is our tradition.
At this time there can be no doubt that we are again required to live up to the record of the past, to the very utmost of our ability. Canada has always had a Reserve Army, from the days when citizens turned out for one or two days a year with their own guns, brought their own powder and ball, and often their own food. It was a simple organization without any need of complex administration, but it did work and it produced fighting men when required. In other words, when the country was threatened, the men turned out to defend their homes.
This stage gave way to an organization which was known as the Canadian Militia, which trained periodically according to a set scheme of training approved by the responsible Minister.
This stage culminated with the beginning of the last war. It produced the men and officers who made up that grand First Division from which grew the Canadian Corps.
Following the last war, the world was engaged in recovery and in solving the problems created by war. People lulled themselves into a state of indifference to things military. They thought there could be no more wars. Money was badly needed for so many things of an urgent nature that none was available for the maintenance and training of an army. For lack of money the training strengths of the reorganized and newly created units were kept to a bare minimum. New and up-to-date equipment was lacking, for financial reasons. The public were apathetic towards war preparations and were fully occupied in the pursuits of peace. The Militia was kept alive by a comparative few who believed that war was bound to occur again at some future date.
The attitude of the general public towards military preparedness during that period is well described by Kipling in his poem "Tommy", written before the last war, in which he says:
"Oh! its Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' Tommy go away;
But, it's thank you, Mister Atkins, when the Band begins to play."
I may say these same bands were largely maintained by the officers of the regiments concerned.
About this time the Militia was reorganized by changing units about to give a proper distribution of troops by arms. On taking stock, it had been found that there was a preponderance of infantry and a shortage of other arms. Gradually it was being felt that all was not well in the world and that possibly there might be need for troops. The Militia played their part and trained conscientiously to the best of their ability. Officers pooled their pay, as did the men, to some extent, for the benefit of their units. The actual organization called for six divisions and a mounted division, but units were at low strengths. The permanent staff and permanent force amounted to only about 4500 of all ranks, who carried the administration, and, to a very large extent, the instruction of the NonPermanent Force.
Now, Canada was not alone in her dream of peace. The Democracies were earnestly striving and hoping to keep the world at peace in spite of sinister indications and rumblings that were commencing. In the hope of maintaining peace, Great Britain had let down her naval strength to a dangerously low ebb. Her never large army was down to a point where it could just furnish reliefs for its units abroad. Her territorial army-the counterpart of our militia--was not up to strength. Such was the picture when Hitler called out his hordes of Huns, armed to the teeth with all the latest implements of war, on sea, on land, and in the air.
War had come. In the first line stood Great Britain. The younger members of the Commonwealth were not farther behind than the second line at best.
True to its tradition, Canada at once took up arms and mobilized a division by calling out the component units from various parts of Canada. These were formed into brigades of infantry, regiments of artillery, and the other necessary units which go to make up a division, and training started at once.
I may say, Gentlemen, I think it was marvellous, the speed with which some of these units got together and started training-much quicker than any of us expected, and all due to the conscientious efforts and work of their officers, who had been working at these things for a long time.
In a short time this division proceeded overseas as a first instalment of what was to follow and complete its training. It has now grown to approximately the equivalent in numbers of what we had in the last war, and it is expanding. It has been superbly trained and is in the finest of condition and ready to take on the enemy at any time.
This force must be kept up to strength with trained reinforcements. We have got to face the fact that casualties occur in battle. Reinforcements must be forthcoming, and they must be young, strong men, capable of standing the terrific pace and strains of modern war. We have had ample demonstration of that in the older chaps who have been coming back, crocked up. They can't stand the pace.
Let us look at our resources and commitments, considering manpower alone. In the last war our Navy was but a fraction of what it is now; it has to be kept up in manpower, and it is growing. In 1914-1918 there was no R.C.A.F. Look at it today--a large organization, doing a wonderful job. It, too, has to be kept up to strength if it is to remain the effective force that it now is. Canada's war industry is many, many times what it was the last time. Men and women in thousands and thousands are required, not only to keep the production up, but also to increase it.
Manpower is the primary problem, if all these vital requirements are to be filled. In the last war, in the Army alone, some 630,000 men were required from start to finish to keep the Canadian Corps strong and efficient. We have overseas at present approximately the equivalent of the Corps daily strength returns. You will see in the press that it is to be expanded.
Is our increase in population since the last war going to meet the increased needs over the last war? It will only if every man and many women are employed in an economical way in active service, in reserve service, or in the production of all things needful for our own requirements and those of our Allies, to ensure our ultimate, complete victory.
The principles of strategy do not change. Tactical employment of troops does change with the nature of the weapons and the employment of new types of arms. To compare the pace of the fighting of today with that of the last war is to liken the modern high-powered truck to the old farm wagon with its strong plodding horses. The air and mechanized equipment have speeded things up to an extent unbelievable to the soldiers of the last war. Even those working with these things all the time find it frightfully hard to recognize this, as compared with the last war. The side that has the preponderance in these things together with the necessary strength at sea will win. The sea, the air, and the land, must be in proper proportions in any operations of the United Nations, and these things must work together like parts of a well-designed and well cared-for machine.
Look at the map today and see what countries are now under the heel of the enemy and recall how long it took him with his mechanized forces and highly trained personnel to bring them there. Put your finger on the Islands of Japan and note how far the Jap has gone since Christmas. Can any spot on earth feel confident that it is beyond the reach of these pirates and their friends unless they are checked, held, and thoroughly beaten?
In war, victory comes only when the enemy's main forces in the field are found and beaten. As long as his main forces remain intact be is undefeated and capable of fighting again. The means of defeating an enemy are completely equipped and thoroughly trained troops, amply supplied with trained reinforcements and the other essentials of food, replacements, and ammunition.
Canada's active army is out on such a job alongside its sister nations of the Commonwealth and our good Allies. Canada must literally produce the goods in quantity and quality, and train the men to use them. The day of calling up men to bring their own guns and grub with them to stand off an enemy is long past. The day when putting a man in a uniform, and teaching him to shoot a rifle or a muzzle-loading field piece or to sit on a horse with sword and lance, and calling him a soldier, is also a matter of history.
The soldier of today must be very highly trained, thoroughly self-reliant, and confident in himself and his weapons. Here are the weapons that an infantry soldier must be capable of using effectively: rifle, bayonet, bomb, Lewis gun, Bren and other light automatics commonly known as "Tommy guns", machine gun, anti-tank rifle, 2 inch mortar, 3 inch mortar, rifle grenade, smoke bomb, and revolver for certain personnel. In addition, he must be able to protect himself against gas and know how to read a map and find his way across country. A rather tall order for Tommy Atkins, but, if he hasn't got it, he just doesn't come across. He must know all this and his minor tactics as well. A large proportion must be drivers and mechanics capable of driving fighting and other vehicles and keeping them running and repaired under all sorts of conditions. About ninety per cent of the men in the armoured units must be competent mechanics of some sort. A stalled tank is no use in battle, and, when it stops, the odds are that it will be wrecked by gun-fire or bombs. The same applies to all other armoured fighting vehicles.
Men are being trained here in special training schools and technical schools. They range in trades from rough blacksmiths and carpenters up to the highest skilled electrical and instrument mechanics. In Toronto alone there are several hundred young men, working literally day and night, in technical schools, learning the ground work of various trades before they pass on to higher training establishments.
The system is roughly this: John Jones enlists for general service and goes to the Depot, where he is clothed, inoculated, documented, dentally examined, and then does elementary drill until it is time for him to go to the Basic Training Centre. At this training centre, he is carefully examined by special officers, who determine his ability and decide where that ability can be best used. This is where he gets his basic training. It takes eight weeks.
As a matter of interest, I think I may tell you, we are finding a certain number of recruits who are illiterate, or very nearly so, and that, in this part of the country. Other parts of the country we can imagine. To take care of them, we are setting up special training schools to give them the necessary education as quickly as possible, to make them good and efficient soldiers.
When this eight weeks' training period is passed, he goes to the Advanced Training Centre, according to the arm for which he has been selected, and, after eight weeks there, he goes to a trained soldier company, where he continues training and hardening until required as a reinforcement, or is sent to a new mobilizing unit.
Just a word on this hardening. A man not absolutely in the pink of condition can't stand the gaff. To give an idea of what a hard man can do: he ought to be able to do about twenty miles a day on his flat feet and then fight. I was told that. Last summer I happened to mention to one of my Commanders in Borden that one thing that people overseas did was ten miles on their feet in two hours. I was a bit skeptical, the Commander said I was crazy, but he tried it. He did his ten miles in an hour and fifty-five minutes and the men were yelling for more pace at the end of it. I wouldn't like to do it myself without a couple of weeks of training. That is what we mean by hardened troops. Anybody who can't do that sort of thing just doesn't get there, that is all. Wherever possible we put them in trucks and busses and roll them there, for speed, but yet they have got to march at times.
I mention all this just to show how necessary it is to have a constant steady flow of recruits coming in. It is essential that all men do their basic and advanced training in the fighting training centres, except, of course, some individuals in very highly specialized units. These have to do basic training only.
So much for the requirements of the Active Army. Now, what is going to be left for the defenses of this country against an attack?
There are the fixed coast defences, consisting of fortresses covering harbours and supported by certain mobile coast defence troops, and the Reserve Army. I think that, considering what we have read of Hong Kong, Java, and Singapore, and now the very serious view Australia takes of its situation, and what it is doing, it would be very well if our Reserve Army were as strong and as well trained as possible. It is added insurance and a further safeguard to our own safety.
To this end provision has been made to train the Reserve Army at full strength. In each district a brigade group of all arms has been arranged for. These are self-contained units, capable of moving to a threatened point, on short notice, to fight. They are the first backing of our coast defence forces, should the necessity arise. 1 say "necessity", for it is not expected that these troops will be moved except in the case of dire need and emergency--in fact, invasion or expected invasion.
These brigade groups have their own full time skeleton staffs for training purposes. The units of the Reserve Army not selected for these brigade groups form a further force which could be called upon, if necessary.
The following are eligible for these services
(a) Young men 17 or 18 years of age in Category A, B, or C, for training until 19, when they become eligible for voluntary enlistment in the Active Army;
(b) All men 17 to 50 in Category C;
(c) Single men 36 to 50 in Category A, B, or C; (d) Married men 31 to 50 in Category A, B, or C. Single men 19 to 35 in categories A or B, and married men 19 to 30 years of age in categories A or B, are not eligible for the Reserve Army.
The training period for Reserve Units for the fiscal year 1942-43 will be 40 days, consisting of: 15 days at camp; 45 evenings (equivalent to 15 days) at local head quarters; 10 clays on outdoor training (either one or two days exercises). In addition, officers, N.C.O.'s, and specialists, will be authorized to train for an additional 15 days (equivalent to 45 evenings) or a total of 55 days.
These men are needed now--next month may be too late. Every effort will be made to make the training interesting and progressive. It is the intention to have only enough drill, as such, to have a quick army movement of troops and the understanding of what is required on receipt of orders. The rest will be instruction in the use, handling, and care, of weapons and equipment, and such lectures and exercises as are necessary to round out the training.
I may say that the Department of National Defence lays a great deal of stress on the raising to strength of these troops and the giving them some useful amount of training.
May I, in closing, Gentlemen, again quote Mr. Kipling to you, as a fitting windup for a talk of this sort? In 1914 Kipling wrote, "For All We Have and Are"
"Once more we hear the word That sickened earth of old--
'No law except the sword, Unsheathed and uncontrolled'.
Once more it knits mankind, Once more the nations go, To meet and break and bind A crazed and driven foe.
No easy hope or lies Shall bring us to our goal, But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There's but one task for all, For each one life to give; Who stands if freedom fall? Who dies if England live?"
MR. E. F. THOMPSON: We have with us today the Honourable Dr. H. A. Bruce, who has very kindly consented to say a word of thanks to Major-General Constantine.
HONOURABLE H. A. BRUCE: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: I am sure you would wish me to express your appreciation for the very admirable address to which we have just listened. I may say that it pleased me particularly, because I noticed that there was not a word wasted in the presentation. I have recently had to take exception to the length of speeches in another place, and I am glad to know that the distinguished and gallant officer has supported me in the effort that he has made today to give this audience a very concise and complete account of what is expected of us in this district at this time. His address has been very illuminating and I am sure will be very beneficial to us all.
As Commandant of the Royal Military College at Kingston, he did splendid work for Canada, and has helped to train up a great many young men who are today serving in their country's cause overseas. I am sure we all owe a debt of gratitude to General Constantine for the able and efficient way in which he is administering Military District Number 2, and, in order to live up to my precept, I will conclude by extending to you, Sir, a very hearty vote of thanks for your admirable address today.
MR. E. F. THOMPSON: Thank you, Dr. Bruce, and thank you, General Constantine.