AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
The Governor-General of Canada.
Chairman: The President, Major F. L. Clouse.
Thursday, October 3rd, 1946
MAJOR CLOUSE: Your Excellency, your Worship, our distinguished guests including those from Christie Street Military Hospital, all of whom served under Field Marshal Alexander, Gentlemen of the Canadian Club, of the Empire Club of Canada, and our audience of the air: It is a very outstanding day in the annals of our clubs when we are honored with presence of our Governor General. And this is an occasion of particular significance as His Excellency, Field Marshal the Viscount Alexander of Tunis, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., C.S.I., D.S.O., M.C., who is not only the patron and honorary president of the Empire Club of Canada but is also the patron of the Canadian Club, has graciously consented to address us.
We honor you, Sir, as the representative in Canada of His Majesty. And we also honor you, Sir, as an Officer holding supreme rank in the Army and one, who has fulfilled so ably those many difficult military assignments, the success of which has contributed so largely to the victory of our Allied Fighting Forces in the wars.
In Canada, Sir, you will find a nation loyal to the British Crown and to Christian democracy. And in this Dominion you will find no organizations of citizens more Idyally inspired and working more assiduously to strengthen the bonds of unity within the Empire than the gentlemen you see before you.
Your Excellency, it is my privilege and my pleasure to introduce to you this audience as well as our audience of the air.
Will you, Sir, be pleased to address us.
HIS EXCELLENCY, VISCOUNT ALEXANDER: Mr. Chairman, Your Worship and Gentlemen: Let me first begin by thanking you for the very kind way in which you have received me. I am particularly happy to be here with you today as this enjoyable occasion allows me to fulfill an engagement which you were kind enough to extend to me over a year ago.
I also feel honoured to follow in the footsteps of those of my predecessors who have had the privilege of addressing you whilst they held office. But above all, I am happy to have this opportunity to meet so many of you and to add fresh names to my great list of Canadian friends.
In speaking to the members of both the Empire and Canadian Clubs, I think the fact that you are holding a joint meeting is evidence of a solidarity of views regarding the importance of Canada's position in the Commonwealth of Nations which cannot be better expressed than in the words of your own motto, "Canada and a United Empire."
I have now been in Canada for just six months, during which time I have been able to visit every Province of the Dominion. As regards to the Yukon and the North West Territories, I shall visit them next summer and I plan to see as much of them as time will allow and weather permit.
Since I landed in Canada on April 10th of this year I have travelled right across the country, both by rail and by air, both ways, from coast to coast, so I think I can claim that I have seen something of your life and activities.
Of the basic industries of this great country, I have visited mines, logging camps, sawmills, cotton mills, cement works, pulp and paper mills, fruit farms and fox farms. I have seen the great fishing grounds and the canning factories, and in fact I have caught my own fish and canned them, and I hope my friends in England to whom I have sent the fruits of my sporting experiences will enjoy them as much as I have done.
I have also visited farms in the prairies and seen the wheat handled and loaded onto the ships which have carried it to the Old Country where it is so greatly needed.
Of course I must admit that I have as yet seen only a little of the industrial life of Canada, and what I have seen--is perhaps the best, but first impressions are generally pretty good and my first impressions are just that--pretty good.
I have been much impressed by the mechanical efficiency by which you deal with the rich resources at your disposal, and by the high standard of skill of the individual workers who handle this mechanical equipment.
It is for this reason, amongst many others, that I am much in favour of visits by responsible men from the British Isles to this country, because I believe that they can do well to come here and study your methods, because they have a great deal to learn from you.
In some fields, no doubt visits to Great Britain from this country would also prove profitable. This interchange between Canada and the Old Country can do nothing but good in exchanging ideas and developing trade.
As I see it, already a great deal has been done in this country to develop and exploit its natural wealth, yet there is little doubt that vast potential riches still remain to be discovered and exploited. Indications point to an ever increasing use of plastics in the modern world, and as I understand it: the basic foundation of plastics it cellulose. If this be so, then the forest industry will tend to become more and more important and no doubt greater use will be found for such wood as jack pine and small stuff which has so far not been considered very valuable.
This holds out tremendous possibilities for the future of forestry when we consider that there are already something like 4500 different uses for wood products that can be found.
Also, from what I learn, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there is a great future for the mining industry in this country where a large expanse of territory in the north still awaits survey and research. With modern means at our disposal this vast area must sooner or later yield us its secrets.
What a marvellous opportunity for adventure and discovery this holds out to us. But whatever line of development is undertaken we must encourage imagination, enterprise and initiative, or, in other words, the old pioneer spirit which has made this country what it is today.
Of course you will appreciate that in a short talk of this nature time does not permit me to do more than suggest a few ideas which have occurred to me as a result of my first impressions in your country. I will now pass on to another subject.
During my addresses to a number of Canadian Clubs I have told them something of the war, and I have found this to be of interest to my audience because so many have had sons or near relatives in the fighting overseas and indeed many of them have themselves served in the different theatres of operations during the war.
So, if you will allow me a little time, I should like to include you among the other clubs I have addressed and tell you something of the war which is not known to the general public at large and to a very few of those who were actually fighting our battles at the time.
Now, for example, the campaign in the Western Desert in 1942 which was opened by the Battle of Alamein was not only to relieve a Nazi threat to Egypt--it was much more ambitious than that it was to eliminate Rommell together with his African Corps and Italian contingent from the Western Desert so that we could join forces with General Eisenhower who was going to land in North Africa, some two thousand miles away. The grand strategy at that time was to gain possession of the whole of the North African shore from Cairo to Casablanca so as to open up the Mediterranean to our shipping, and to get bases from which we could threaten the whole of Southern Europe or, in the words of Mr. Winston Churchill, put us in a position to attack the soft underbelly of the Axis.
Six months after the victory at Alamein we had joined up with General Eisenhower in Tunisia, swept the Axis out of Africa, and were in possession of the whole of the North African shores from. Alexandria to Gibralter, with all the ports and airfields at our disposal, and with a choice of invasion targets from the Aegean Sea to the Gulf of Lyons.
Two months later we invaded Sicily. Now, the selection of Sicily as our target was this: To establish a good jumping off point for the invasion of Southern Europe which would give us the choice of three things
An invasion of the Balkans, an attack on the South of France, or an assault on the Italian mainland.
Well, as you know, Sicily was overrun in thirty-eight days, and Italy was then selected as our next target, for three main reasons:
First, to put Italy out of the war.
Secondly, to gain possession of the Foggia airfields from where we could base the large and growing fleet of Anglo-American heavy bombers for attacks on the Ploesti oil fields and other targets the Axis held in Europe. The Ploesti oil fields were vital to Hitler's war effort. You will remember or know that the Ploesti oil fields are in Rumania.
And, thirdly, to bring the German Army to battle. For, as Winston Churchill said in 1943, "We can't sit by and let the Russians do all the fighting."
Well, Gentlemen, all these objects were achieved by the successful Italian campaign which in 32 months of its duration brought to battle fifty odd German Divisions and cost the German Army 536,000 casualties, in killed, wounded and prisoners, and ended in the mass surrender of a million German soldiers and the collapse of the Nazis in Europe.
Now, it was in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns that your own soldiers, sailors and airmen were destined to play such a gallant and distinguished part. Time does not permit me to mention all the great battles they fought and won, and in any case the magnificent record of the Canadians in the Mediterranean is well known to you. But in passing, may I say that the most outstanding battles which the Canadians fought and won after the successful operations in Sicily, were first, Ortona, which wrested from the enemy a key point in his winter line. This was soon followed by the famous battle of Ponte Corvo, which opened the road to Rome and that was again followed shortly after by the great battle which took place outside Rimini, which breached the Gothic line and put the 8th Army in the Valley of the Po where the final great battles of the war were fought to a successful conclusion.
Now, during the Italian campaign, I had something like twenty-four different nationalities under my Command, and it may interest you or, if it fails to interest you it may amuse you, if I give you a list. Now, among the Imperial and Allied formations--I say "formations"--that is from Brigade group, up to something much bigger, I had the following: British Corps, a Canadian Corps, a New Zealand Division, a South African Division, three Indian Divisions, a Polish Corps, a Palestinian Brigade, and a Greek Brigade. All these formed the 8th British Army.
Our Allies had an American Corps, which included a Negro Division, and a Japanese Combat Regiment; a French Corps, which included Algerians, Morrocans, Senegalese, Tunisians, and, of course, Free French.
And lastly, a Brazilian Division, and those went to make up the American Fifth Army.
But besides those, I had the specialized units, the administrative units-Newfoundlanders, Belgians, Basuto, Swazi, Bechuana, Seychellori, Mauritian, Rodrigan Islanders, Carribean, Cyprist, Cingalese, Syro-Lebanese, and later, when the fighting was over, a Yugo-Slav detachment, and last but no means least, six Italian groupings, which were in fact miniature Divisions.
Now, Gentlemen, there indeed is a representative number of the United Nations.
When the story of this war is told, one thing will stand out, I think. That is the high state of perfection which was achieved in cooperation between all the three fighting services of the combined nations. It proved not only a battle winning, but a war winning factor.
This blueprint for victory which we learned on the battlefields of Europe must not be forgotten or thrown aside in peace, or we will do so at our peril. In the present and uneasy state the world is going through today, cooperation is more than ever vital. I believe that it is the one thing which can save peace and safeguard our security.
Now, this frightful struggle from which we have emerged and from which we have, with God's blessing, emerged successfully, has shown us one thing. It has shown us who our friends are and that friendship must not only be maintained but strengthened in the interests of us both.
Owing to your unique geographical position, Canada stands as a bridge between the British Empire and those friends of whom I speak, a bridge which connects the old world with the new.
And here lies the way to a willing partnership of the English speaking peoples which will form a rallying point for all those who wish the free and democratic way of life, for I am convinced that in such a partnership lies the greatest factor fox the future peace of the world and for the happiness of our own people.