- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 31 Oct 1940, p. 158-166
- D'Egville, Sir Howard, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The British Empire and of what it consists. The speaker's conviction that in this war not one single portion of the Empire will be lost. Some words about the Empire from Dr. Cody when he was Minister of Education. Every conception of the Empire based upon freedom. No compromise between what the Empire stands for, and what the German idea of domination means. The notion that the causes of this war are economic and the speaker's response to that. The direction of Germany policy. The vital theatre of war as it has shifted to the Middle East. Reckoning with the fine military and air forces of the British Empire, not concentrated in Egypt. The British Fleet doing all it can to establish maritime supremacy. How the Fleet has prevented the invasion of England, as it has done in the past. The position of the North American continent. The British Fleet standing between Hitler and the North American continent. Canada as a link of supreme importance between the United States and the United Kingdom. Some concluding words from Mr. Churchill.
- Date of Original
- 31 Oct 1940
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE WAR AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR CANADA AND THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY SIR HOWARD D'EGVILLE, K.B.E., LL.D.
Chairman: The President, The Honourable G. Howard Ferguson.
Thursday, October 31, 1940
A Joint Meeting of the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club was held in the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, on Thursday, October 31, 1940.
THE HONOURABLE G. HOWARD FERGUSON: Gentlemen: I have a very pleasant duty to perform to-ay, that is to present to you one who is by no means unknown in. Canada, having visited here and visited the City of Toronto on former occasions, as far back as 1913, I think. I have had the pleasure of being able to regard him as a very personal friend. During the time I was in England his high offices were at the service of Canada House, in fact at the service of all the Dominion representatives. As perhaps you know, Sir Howard d'Egville was the founder of the Empire Parliamentary Association, away back before the Great War. The function or purpose of the organization has been carried out very faithfully and I think it has served an excellent purpose. The idea was to promote contact, create uniformity of standards and ideals and methods amongst members of the Parliaments of the Empire, and particularly to develop personal relations and to exchange information. Sir Howard presided over the organization in that magnificent and historic old spot Westminster Palace Hall, built as you know, in the time of Rufus. Also, the place where a number of people have been executed, is just in front of his door.
In connection with his work, Sir Howard has been a great success, throughout all the Dominions, in creating branches of his organization and carrying on the work for which the organization was originally founded. He is the host of all Dominion Members from the overseas Dominions that come to Great Britain and you always feel that it gives him a great deal of pleasure to introduce those who come from overseas, not only to his palatial headquarters, that historic old hall, but to Members of the British Parliament.
It gave me the greatest pleasure in the world when Sir Howard kindly accepted our invitation to discuss with us briefly the war and its implications, not only in Great Britain but in the Dominions as well, and particularly in Canada. I have now the very great pleasure indeed of asking him to talk to us for a few moments. (Applause.)
SIR HOWARD D'EGVILLE, K.B.E., LL.D: Mr. Ferguson and Gentlemen of the Empire and the Canadian Clubs: I understand that though the invitation was from the Empire Club, I am especially honoured and privileged today to address a joint meeting of both the Empire Club and the Canadian Club.
My old friend, Mr. Ferguson, shortly after my arrival in Canada, was good enough to say that he would like me to address the Empire Club during' my visit. I therefore feel a little bit like the man, who having been called upon by the Chairman to speak, held forth for a considerable length of time and at the end of about an hour people were beginning to get fidgety. However, the only sign of his being likely to stop occurred when a gentleman approached
SIR HOWARD D'EGVILLE, K.B.E., LL.D: Mr. Ferguhim, carrying a big stick, who said, "Do not mind me! I am not looking for you, I am looking for the man who called on you to speak." So, I hope, Gentlemen, that when you are disappointed, as I am of raid you will be today, you will vent your wrath upon the broad shoulders of my friend, Mr. Ferguson.
Now, Mr. Ferguson has referred to the headquarters of our Empire Parliamentary Association over which I preside in Westminster Hall. There I have the privilege of receiving Legislators from every part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it is especially suitable that in the birthplace of parliamentary government we should have the honour of receiving the Members of the newer Parliaments when they come to visit us in the Old Land, for you have to remember that parliamentary institutions are incomparably the greatest gift which the English people have presented to the civilization of the world. Many nations of Europe have learned of recent years the bitter lesson that freedom not rooted in history has no power of resistance to the material hardships and civil dissensions of which tyrannies are bred. The liberty enshrined today in the parliamentary institutions of the British Empire has been seasoned by the storms of a thousand years, and that is why celebrations in connection with Parliament and with our freedom-loving Kings have been always celebrated in the oldest shrine of liberty in the world, beneath the medieval rafters of Westminster Hall. I am sorry to have to tell you that just recently the Nazi barbarians dropped one of their messages not very far from the historic hall, which had the effect of blowing out all the windows of the offices of the Empire Parliamentary Association. It was some consolation to know that they had, at least, respect for the British week-end, because this disaster occurred on a Friday evening, and by Monday I am glad to say the windows were all in again, and we were performing our normal duty. One of the effects of this air outrage was that in the statue of Richard, the Lion-Hearted, which is just around the corner from the entrance to our rooms, the sword which Richard carries in his hand was bent but it was not broken. I think that is symbolical. Though the strength and determination of the population of London may perhaps sometimes be occasionally bent, I can assure you it will never be broken. (Applause.) I can assure you that in that far away, blacked-out city, your lion-hearted friends will be holding the fort. Now, Gentlemen, I have chosen the title "Canada and the Empire" because I am thoroughly convinced that you people of Canada are firmly determined to remain within the British Empire. (Applause.)
Now, of what does that Empire actually consist? It consists of a number of practically independent sister nations-the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and so on; of colonies which are practically or almost self-governing; the great Empire of India, which is not self-governing; and Colonies and Protectorates such as East and West Africa, the West Indies and various other parts of the earth's surface. It is so large that sometimes when thinking of the, British Empire I am reminded of the question that was put to a small boy in an examination paper, as follows: "Where are elephants found?" Not knowing the precise answer, he replied, "The elephant is such a large beast that it is very seldom lost."
One Empire being so large and being so scattered, is not so easy to defend, but in this Great War not one single portion of that Empire will be lost. (Applause.)
Now, sometimes one feels that one ought to make some excuse for the use of the word "Empire", although I hardly think it is necessary to an audience of the Empire Club. I should, however, like to call attention to a most interesting observation that was once made in an address to some of our Members in the Parliament at home by your distinguished President of the University of Toronto, Dr. Cody, when, I think, he was Minister of Education. He said, in referring to the use of the word "Empire"
"In Blackstone's Commentaries, you find these words, 'The Legislature uses Empire to assert that our King is sovereign and independent within these his Dominions.' Why should not we have a definite use of the term Empire? It does not mean that we are an organization out to dominate the world, to restrain the development of others, but it is a declaration that within our own Dominion we claim freedom and independence from outside interference. And that, in my humble opinion, justifies abundantly the use of the fine old term that stirs our very hearts, 'the British Empire'."
Now, as you know, that Empire, and every conception of it, is based upon freedom. It consists of those who have attained the powers of self-government and those who are being assisted to reach that status, and between the conception of the British Empire of order, freedom and the reign of law, and the German idea of domination, suppression, and the so-called new world order which means universal tyranny and the reign of the gangster and the Gestapo-between those ideals there can and will be no compromise. (Applause.)
I know it is frequently suggested by those of a somewhat defeatist tendency that the causes of this war are economic. That, I think, is a misleading statement. You know, of course, that the German people had access to the markets of the British Empire. The limitations of their trade with us were limitations imposed by their own system of exchange. Therefore, the economic argument is only very partially true.
But what is true is that German policy has been directed, ever since the Hitler regime came into power, toward the domination of countries possessing the materials necessary for war, because war has been the basis of German policy. That distinguished statesman, Dr. Goebbels, said at the Leipzig Fair, in 1936, "The basic materials of modern industrialism are coal, cotton, copper, iron, oil and rubber." These also happen to be the basic materials of war industry. In all but coal and iron, Germany is deficient. Therefore, now she is turning her attention to attack those countries likely to improve her oil supply. By bringing Japan into the Axis she hopes to secure rubber, as well as oil, from British Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies and so on. Having failed in the attack on the British Isles and seeing there is no hope of securing a decision there, and let me remind you, had invasion succeeded, darkness would have fallen upon the remnant of free Europe, upon Africa, and upon the whole of the Arab world, apart altogether from the influence, which I will deal with in a moment, upon North America--Germany having failed in this objective is now attacking those countries in order to secure the resources for war and in order to secure those strategic positions by means of which she believes she can bring the British Empire to its knees.
The vital theatre of war, then, has shifted to the Middle East. The attempt now is to dominate Jugoslavia and Bulgaria and Greece, and so control the Straits and the Aegean Sea, that ultimately Turkey may be outflanked and Germany may secure the oil supply of Iran and the Arab countries. By attacking Egypt and the Soudan, the Axis Powers mean to undermine the power of the British Empire in Asia and in Africa and eventually to control the world.
But they have to reckon with the fine military and air forces of the British Empire, now concentrated in Egypt, and above and behind all they have to reckon with the sea power of the British Fleet.
It is interesting to recall that in the Battle of the Nile in 1798, it was British sea power which destroyed the communications between France and Napoleon's army in Egypt. There has often, throughout history, been considerable misconception of sea power. During the Crimean War this was illustrated by a joke in Punch, which asked the question, "What is the difference between the Fleet in the Baltic and the Fleet in the Black Sea?", the answer being, "The Fleet in the Baltic was expected to do everything and it did nothing; the Fleet in the Black Sea was expected to do nothing and it did it."
But, as a matter of fact, the Fleet at that time did, and the Fleet now is doing, everything that was required in order to establish maritime supremacy. The Fleet alone enabled the war to be carried on at all. The Fleet has prevented the invasion of England in these days in the same way that the Fleet prevented the invasion of England in the Napoleonic era.
That great American writer on naval affairs, the famous author of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Captain Mahan, wrote of the British Fleet in those days, referring to the victories of Napoleon, "Those far distant storm-swept ships stood between him and the Empire of the world."
Gentlemen, what is the position of the North American continent? Hitler, by guns and bombs and by incendiarism, has murdered and screamed his way to the domination of Germany and later, almost to the domination of Europe. What stands between him and the North American continent? It is the British Fleet.
I have lately been in the United States where I have had the privilege of meeting some distinguished public men and I must say that I think more and more that it is beginning to be recognized by many thoughtful people that the Monroe Doctrine depends upon the maintenance of British sea power. That thought was given expression the other clay by your distinguished Attorney-General, whom I am glad to see with us today. (Applause.)
It is true, of course, that the Air Forces of the Empire, the magnificent Air Forces, have prevented, in a large measure, an attempt at invasion of our shores and they have carried the war unremittingly into the enemy's territories, thereby showing chat no really vital damage has been done to our aircraft production or to our aerodromes, but behind all has been the constant day and night vigilance of the British Fleet, keeping open our lines of communication, enabling huge masses of men to be transported from one country to another and keeping the merchant shipping under the British flag. Indeed, it is a most striking fact that after a year of unlimited U-boat warfare and intensified mine attack, the British merchant fleet, the merchant fleet under the British flag, is larger than when we began the war. (Applause.) By building, by purchases and by capture, we have added over two million gross tons to the merchant navy, and large additions, of course, have escaped from captive countries. Our shipping losses have been great, but I would remind you that the peak figures are less than the highest figure of the tonnage sunk in the last war by submarine attack alone. The menace must not be underestimated, but even if the British had not acquired the use of enormous quantities of neutral shipping and had not replaced losses by new standard ships at a rapidly increasing pace, the present rate of sinking would have to be in operation several years, not months, before Britain would be brought to starvation.
The British people, as you know, are now in the front line of the battle. The civilians have been undergoing great and terrible trials but they are facing them with an undaunted spirit. The war, however, will not be won without great sacrifices on the part of all nations of the British Commonwealth. To bring that war to a conclusion we will have to take our forces into the enemy's territory and that will require, as you know, large additions to our man-power.
Canada is a country having decisive importance upon this world conflict. I cannot say how much the people of the British Isles appreciate the great efforts which you are making in a military way, in the air and at sea, toward the co-operative war effort so essential to victory just before I left our shores, the First Lord of the Admiralty told me of the great thrill it had given him to go out to meet the Canadian destroyers thereby illustrating this close co-operation upon the high seas between your great country and ours.
Canada is indeed a link of supreme importance, apart from the actual war effort, between the United States and the United Kingdom. A Canadian writer has very truly said, "When we are asked to choose between the British Empire and the United States of America, let us choose both of them"; and this recent agreement of a defensive character between the United Kingdom and the United States and the Dominion of Canada is of the greatest possible significance.
I had the honour of being present recently at "an Eastern Canadian port" and of seeing the destroyers from the United States handed over to the Canadian Navy, and it was an experience which I shall never forget. It seems to me that these new methods of co-operation contain the germs of a great idea which with future developments will carry us through the present period of pain and tribulation and dark clays of tragedy to the dawn of long and better days to come. In this great coming together, Gentlemen, of our liberty-loving nations, mostly speaking a common tongue and with a common tradition behind them, you may see something of what Hitler has accomplished. In the words of our great war leader, Mr. Churchill, "He has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe, and until the old world and the new can join hands to rebuild the Temple of man's freedom and man's honour upon foundations which will not soon or easily be overthrown." (Applause.)
Mr. A. R. COURTICF (President of the Canadian Club): Gentlemen, I am sure we have all been very interested in this comprehensive address and especially in having an English gentleman's appraisal of the present position of the North American continent and of Canada's privileged position within the freedom of the British Empire. Sir Howard's description of Canada as a country of decisive importance in this struggle, I think, should impress us with the sacrifice that must be made and our responsibility in assuring that our contribution to victory measures up to our opportunities.
Sir Howard, on behalf of the Empire and the Canadian Clubs, may I first commend you for the good work that you are doing for the Empire and also thank you most sincerely for your very able address. (Applause.)