The Merchant Navy: The Fourth Arm of the Fighting Services
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Mar 1942, p. 326-339
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Randles, Arthur, Speaker
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Speeches
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Some facts about the Merchant Navy. The speaker's background in Ocean Steamship traffic. The need for secrecy as regards the movements of ships. The speaker's function as defined by Order-in-Council. The welfare of the Merchant Seamen. The need for some place for the seamen to go, when in Canadian ports. The fact that most of our Allied seamen come from countries overrun by the foe. Caring for the sick and ship-wrecked men in our ports. The work of the Navy League of Canada, the I.O.D.E., the Salvation Army, the Catholic Women's League, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Women's Naval Auxiliaries, etc. Finding these men some comfort ashore. The result as the Allied Merchant Seamen's Clubs in various ports, operated by the Navy League Divisions and financed from the Dominion Council in Toronto. Clubs in full operation in Halifax, Saint John, N.B., Sydney, Montreal, and Louisburg. Some figures to illustrate the need for such clubs. What is and has been contributed. What is still needed. The increase in the ordeals at sea as the war goes on. The provision of Merchant Seamen's Manning Pools. Purpose of the pools. A demonstration of the necessity of the Manning Pools. The training of Merchant Seamen. Qualifications required of seamen, and of engineers. The three types of seamen in Canada. Measures for the protection of Canadian seamen while serving at sea, whether on a Canadian ship or otherwise. The demands for more qualified seamen from Canada. The speaker's obligation to evolve an entirely new method whereby progressive training could be given, taking advantage of and utilizing certain existing facilities, as well as creating new ones. Details of the schools and programmes devised.
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19 Mar 1942
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English
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THE MERCHANT NAVY: THE FOURTH ARM OF THE FIGHTING SERVICES
AN ADDRESS BY ARTHUR RANDLES
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson.
Thursday, March 19, 1942

[Prior to the formal opening of the meeting, the President extended a warm greeting on behalf of The Empire Club to the large number of ladies who were present, and a bouquet of roses was presented to Mrs. Arthur Randles by Mrs. C. R. Sanderson.]

MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Ladies and Gentlemen: We continue today that series of addresses by outstanding men who are occupying chief positions in different phases of our war effort, by having as our guest-speaker, Mr. Arthur Randles, who will speak to us about "The Merchant Navy". Each and every one of us knows that the striking force is at its best when all the different arms are so synchronized that the army, the navy, and the air force, are all enabled to strike together. But that synchronization depends not merely on co-ordination, it depends also on the adequate provision of supplies. We all know that, at this very moment, our long hoped for action in several fields of war is delayed by the extreme difficulties o f getting the supplies to the right spot at the right time. The Merchant Navy is the artery through which those supplies, the very life-blood of our striking forces, flows. The Empire Club and its ladies are, therefore, today particularly fortunate in having the opportunity of hearing Mr. Randles address us, his subject being "The Merchant Navy".--Mr. Randles.

MR. ARTHUR RANDLES: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen :I have prepared, I hope, an interesting speech on a most important subject and I am afraid I am not going to do it full justice; but I will do my best to bring to you some facts about The Merchant Navy of which you are probably not aware.

Although I have been connected with Ocean Steamship traffic all my business life--a period of nearly thirty-five years--I, myself, did not realize the ramifications of the job that was imposed upon me when the Minister of Transport asked me to become Director of Merchant Seamen. As that title suggests, it is purely the Seamen or the Human Element of The Merchant Navy with which it is my duty to deal. Therefore, I will confine my talk to that subject, which, I think, will be extensive enough for the time at my disposal. Besides, it is not permitted to speak of ships, nor is it my function to do so, even if the censors allowed. Ships, their names or whereabouts, should quite rightly not be spoken of or even identified in this present conflict. I would like to say here that, even with the restrictions imposed, there is still too much publicity given to the movement of ships,--hence the reason for the most excellent series of posters which all of you must have seen, so admirably done by the Department of Publicity, with such captions as: "He Spoke--This Happened", or "Careless Talk--Costs Lives". This secrecy is quite necessary but there is no secret about the dangers and the hazards that the men themselves are undergoing and, if I may, I will deal with that subject as I go along.

My function was defined by Order-in-Council, of which I will read a paragraph

"That the merchant marine, on which our sea-borne commerce depends, is, under present conditions, virtually an arm of our fighting services, and the provision of merchant seamen, their training, care and protection is essential to the proper conduct of the war, and vitally necessary to the keeping open of the sea-lanes on which the successful outcome of the present conflict so largely depends".

And further the Order goes on to say:

"That a special branch of the Department of Transport be established for the recruiting and training of officers and men for the Canadian Merchant Navy".

I think I can probably deal with my subject better by dividing it into three parts, like the proverbial sermon 1, Welfare of Merchant Seamen; 2, Merchant Seamen's Manning Pools; 3, The Training of Merchant Seamen. First, the Welfare of Merchant Seamen. I am going to devote the major part of my address to this subject, because this is the branch where the help of the public is most needed. It was found at the outbreak of war that seamen of all nationalities, when in Canadian ports, were sadly in need of some place to go, some place where they could rest in a comfortable bed, eat in comfort, have a bath, secure entertainment, and,--may I mention it here,--get a glass of bear, legally.

You can imagine their conditions at the other end of the voyage, with the black-outs, the frequent bombings, English seamen learning their homes had gone and that their families were dispersed-most of our Allied seamen who are playing an equal part come from countries overrun by the foe. It is pitiful to talk to some of these fellows who wonder what has happened to their wives and families in Norway, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and so on. On this side of the Atlantic there is a measure of peace but the facilities for enjoying it are inadequate. Here in Canada there were in all the ports, I think, sailors' homes or hostels which had been long established, but War, with its vastly increased problems, overtaxed their capacity. In one of the most important ports of all, there was not even a vestige of such an organization.

Sick and ship-wrecked men in our ports had also to be thought of, so that they too would not be overlooked and would receive special care over and above the regular care provided by the excellent official facilities already in operation.

Although the seaman now carries a badge, called the Merchant Navy Badge, he still wears civilian clothes and is not inclined, because of his civilian attire, probably most shabby, to use the Clubs and other facilities so generously provided for the other arms of the fighting forces. It is very difficult for a man of 21 or so, although a very good seaman doing his part, to rub shoulders with a soldier, when he is not in uniform.

Therefore, some club or institution in each port was necessary, and I thought the men of the fighting services were entitled to have their own show. We also had to have an outlet to control the constant supply of comforts, such as woollen clothing, candies, cigarettes, and reading matter, so that they could be distributed to meet the needs of all.

Finally, a way out was found and the means discovered to deal with that angle of the situation. But, in speaking of the particular medium that we found,--I mean the Navy League of Canada,--I do not want to fail to emphasize the importance of the work and to thank the other important bodies for doing so much for the Merchant Seamen. I mean the I.O.D.E., the Salvation Army, the Catholic Women's League, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Women's Naval Auxiliaries, and so on.

Well, as I said, the major part of the situation confronting us was how, first of all, to give the seamen some comfort ashore. I got into touch immediately with Mr. David L. Gibson, our dear friend and a member of your Club, who heads the Navy League in Canada.

The Navy League of Canada, at the outbreak of the war, had some beautiful premises in one port that were needed for some other purpose. The Navy League lost them and the Merchant Seamen had nowhere to go in that particular port. However, the compensation received and other funds procured, incidentally $80,000 in United States money from the British War Relief Society of the United States,-an evidence of the usual generosity of our friends and Allies across the border,-solved the financial difficulty.

I suggested at the time to the Navy League of Canada, through Mr. Gibson and his Council, that, as the League had already established an interest in merchant seamen, probably they could extend themselves and help me solve my problem in other ports, and they gladly assumed the responsibility of establishing institutions in all the ports where we jointly agreed it was necessary.

In recognition, it was arranged that the Navy League would be permitted by the Government to participate with other Auxiliary War Services in the next joint appeal to the public for funds. Unfortunately, that appeal is not to be made, as Mr. Thorson, the Minister of National War Services, recently announced it would be inadvisable to make an appeal to the public for a large sum of money when money is more needed for the War Loan and War Savings Certificates. However, the Government has decided, in some measure, to underwrite the war effort of the various societies involved.

Well, I went a long way around to come to it, but I think this preliminary explanation was necessary.

As a result of these arrangements made last year, we have now Allied Merchant Seamen's Clubs in various ports. They are all operated by the Navy League Divisions, but are financed from the Dominion Council in Toronto. There are now Clubs in full operation in Halifax; Saint John, N.B.; two Clubs in Sydney; two Clubs in Montreal (one of the latter especially reserved for officers); and another Club for officers is being developed at Halifax. There is also a new Club operating in Louisburg.

I think I can demonstrate why the Clubs were so badly needed, by quoting a few figures covering the services of one of them for the month of January. The Club at Halifax, with a capacity of 450 beds and 1500 to 2000 meals a day, provided nearly 9,000 seamen with beds for a night; served nearly 35,000 meals; gave concerts, film shows and entertainment for six or seven thousand others; and performed a host of other services for seamen's welfare. For instance, in one month they gave initial care to nearly 400 men who had been picked tit) after ship-wreck. The ladies will be interested to learn that two of the rescued "seamen" were women.

As I said at the outset, the moving spirit behind the Navy League activities, the man who made my task so light, is my friend, Mr. Gibson. I am glad to see him at the table today. I had an opportunity of thanking him in public once before, but I am glad to do so again.

Ladies in Canada are working industriously for the various organizations who supply comforts to the various forces, including the Merchant Navy, as is evidenced by the most magnificent contributions from the I.O.D.E., the Salvation Army, the Y.W.C.A., the Catholic Women's League, the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Navy Women's League. It is astonishing the number of comforts these ladies contribute. But we can use more. There are a great many men involved and, as the war goes on, the ordeals at sea increase. Contributions come in increasing volume from one and all. For instance, one Social Club in Toronto held a dance and made up a sum of $200 for the benefit of the Merchant Seamen. Another Ladies' Club asked me how to dispose of $7,000 for the same purpose. I gave some suggestions to the ladies to which, as yet, they haven't given effect. The Art Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, recently held in Montreal, was for the benefit of the Allied Merchant Seamen. What the proceeds were, I don't know, but it must have been a very substantial sum. A unique form of service that came to my notice was devised by the fur dealers of Montreal. They collect old furs and line vests or waistcoats with them and the work of cutting and sewing is all done by the workers in the fur trade of that city, who each give four hours a week free, a service for which I think they should be commended.

I had a letter the other day from a poor woman in Northern Ontario. She had sent two parcels of clothing which she probably needed herself. She had a relative in the Merchant Navy and, having read in the newspapers the story of the distress of these men, had sent these two parcels, which I passed on.

Our Allies have not been forgotten and in the Allied Merchant Seamen's Club in Halifax a room has been set apart for each nationality, where the seamen of that nation can rest together, speak their own language, and read their own papers and so on and so forth.

I can't leave the subject of comforts for the merchant seamen without acknowledging publicly the prominent part played by the Royal Canadian Navy, not only in contributing to these comforts through Naval auxiliaries, but also (more important still to my way of thinking) in rendering irreplaceable services through its officers at all ports, in receiving, storing, and distributing to ships as they arrive, clothing and comforts as they may be needed. This enables all ships to be contacted and covered.

While all this is being done there is more and more needed. The need for comforts can be ascertained by those interested, if they will call Mr. Gibson. The needs are too numerous to enumerate. I do want you to bear in mind that, as the war goes on, the ordeals at sea increase; the enemy is almost on our doorstep and the seamen's morale must be maintained. It is only when they reach a Canadian port that they can cast aside care and anxiety. They come in with the strain of having month after month undergone incessant danger and hardship, and, sitting in our comfortable homes, we ought to give thought to these heroes. If we keep on thinking, probably some of the additional needed comforts will be contributed.

Now, I should like to go on to the other phases of my subject, on which I will be somewhat briefer. The question of the welfare of merchant seamen is the subject nearest to my heart, and I am glad it is my duty to look after it. This opportunity of addressing this distinguished Club and of transmitting my words to my unseen listeners, gives me the first chance of letting this important problem be widely known.

You will remember, when I enumerated my duties, I said that the second one was the provision or formation of Merchant Seamen's Manning Pools. You probably know what Manning Pools are. I think it is an Air Force expression. These establishments for Merchant Seamen are erected and maintained by the Dominion Government at selected ports in Canada. The pools admit experienced officers and seamen who are there provided with board, lodging, and pay, according to their rank, while awaiting appointments to ships. Our seamen in Canada are drawn from many quarters of this extensive Dominion, and, so long as there was no adequate place of assembly at the ports, men couldn't be found when they were needed. There are numerous deficiencies in crew from one cause and another-sickness and death-and a ship can't sail unless it is fully manned. Therefore steps of an energetic nature have to be taken to keep a reserve of men available and thus avoid delay in sailing the vessels, all of which, of course, are loaded with valuable and most important war cargoes urgently needed abroad.

I said that only experienced officers and seamen can be admitted to a Manning Pool to share those privileges, including board, lodging, and pay, but the short time the Pools have been in operation has already demonstrated their necessity. Shipwrecked seamen, or those who need a week or two of rest before going back into the turmoil of the Atlantic, may enter the Pools. We also house men waiting the manning of the ships.

As I said, before the introduction of Manning Pools, experienced unemployed Canadian seamen often walked up and down the docks of our ports, probably a thousand miles from home, and nobody knew where they were, nobody could contact them, and they couldn't be marshalled together when they were needed. Now, we have cured that, I think.

If we take care of the seamen of other nations in our Manning Pools, they naturally defray the cost of any services extended, though for many reasons they prefer to take care of their own men. There is the question of language difficulty, the different rates of pay, and so on. However, it is established that all seamen shall be treated equally well. They are all running the same risks and they are all giving equality of service.

I don't think I can be more specific as to the work and scope of the Manning Pools. As I have already said, I can assure you their operation is an extremely important effort in the prosecution of the war.

I come to the third part of my job. That is the training of Merchant Seamen. It is, perhaps, not widely known that the profession of a Seaman is one requiring the highest qualifications and, incidentally, it is a profession which doesn't always bring an adequate reward. The steamship business is probably the one business that is international in competition and rates and wages are governed thereby. During wartime, however, the earning power of seamen is very much better, but, despite its lack of prizes, the sea as a profession, continues to attract the bold and adventurous youth, which is at it should be.

I spoke of the qualifications of seamen. To secure the lowest certificate of rank as a Navigating Officer, a man serves four years at sea. Then he must come back home, stay ashore, and study a variety of subjects including trigonometry. This enables him to sit for examination for the purpose of receiving his Second Mate certificate. When he passes he must go to sea again for a period, and then ashore, some more study, another examination, and then he becomes a First Mate. Again he goes to sea, passes through the same procedure, comes back to study again, takes another examination to secure his Master's (Foreign-going) Certificate, then an Extra Master's Certificate. By the time he is so qualified he is technically capable of taking command of any ship afloat, even the Queen Mary, but he has to wait a good many years before he gets to that time.

The Engineer on a ship has a much harder task to qualify, because, according to most international regulations, he must have served many months ashore in a machine shop. He has to qualify in even stiffer mathematics right from the lowest rank up to the highest. Even to reach the rank of Able Seaman, in the true sense of the word, a man requires three years' sea service.

Canada, while producing three types of seamen, is not actually a maritime nation. War conditions have demonstrated that, to man our ships, some facilities for training men from the bottom step up would have to be provided.

Our three types of seamen in Canada are: First, the men who man the lake vessels; secondly, those in Coastal Service; and finally, the Deep-sea or Foreign-going seamen. Each of these categories has a different kind of service and, unfortunately, they are not interchangeable, although it is quite true a man serving on the lakes would qualify for the second or third category quicker than a greenhorn.

Nevertheless, there are a great many Canadians at sea, not only on ships flying the Canadian flag but also on vessels of other flags, principally on ships of United Kingdom registry, and it is my job to try to keep in touch with them and try to find out where they are and make sure they are looked after.

For instance, the Government has devised extensive measures for the protection of Canadian seamen while serving at sea, whether on a Canadian ship or otherwise. These provisions provide scales of compensation for injury and for loss of effects, a scale of pensions to widows and dependents, and an allowance to be paid should seamen be unfortunate enough to be taken prisoners of war. We have a number of Canadian seamen who are prisoners of war and their dependents are now being taken care of by the Canadian Government.

The demands for more and more qualified seamen from Canada, not only to man our own ships but also to assist in the manning of others, are becoming increasingly more numerous and, therefore, in an effort to produce trained men, I was obliged to evolve an entirely new method whereby progressive training could be given, taking advantage of and utilizing certain existing facilities, as well as creating new ones. Under this programme it is made possible for men with qualifying sea experience to receive instruction at existing Nautical Schools to enable them to sit for examination for Officers rank, where we have our greatest shortage. Such selected men will receive pay and lodging and, therefore, it will be no sacrifice for them to stay ashore for a couple of months to qualify as officers. It will improve their own status and we need them badly. Men with necessary qualifications, therefore, receive free tuition, and will be admitted to Manning Pools to enable them to receive board and lodging, or will be granted an adequate subsistance allowance if no Manning Pool is adjacent to the school of instruction.

To procure young men without any sea experience--and after all, we have to start at the beginning-two schools were devised. The first is a Marine Engineering Instructional School, located in this Province, where young men receive instruction in engine room and stoke-hold duties. As a matter of fact, the first class has graduated and been placed in a Manning Pool, and are now ready for ships needing such men.

The second school is a little more extensive in scope. It is a Sea Training School, located on the East Coast, which is presently being completed. Suitable candidates will be selected and I hope to draw from the Sea Cadet organizations throughout the Dominion. These boys will be placed in school where they will receive an intensive and comprehensive course of seamanship, exactly similar to that given in Sea Training Schools operated in the United Kingdom, which will qualify them to go to sea as Ordinary Seamen. These Ordinary Seamen will pass from the school to the Manning Pool, and from there employment at sea will be arranged.

I am further studying the possibility of boys with better education being admitted to this School, with a view to placing them at sea as Cadets or Apprentices.

At both these schools, board and lodging will be provided during tuition, as well as remuneration at $21 a month for a single man and $50 a month for a man with dependents.

I think my time is going and I am trying to compress into a few sentences what I have to say.

I have told you of the extensive measures taken to protect the Merchant Seamen. These are facts which I have assembled and summarized in public for the first time. There are others that I cannot now state. The opportunity you have given to me of presenting this subject before such a distinguished body as this, as well as the opportunity of having my speech broadcast, will, I hope, give more general knowledge on the question of the Merchant Seamen, who are, as I said at the beginning, the fourth arm of the Fighting Services. They are those of whom the Psalmist says: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep".

I thank you for listening to me so patiently and I hope that I have done the Merchant Seamen some good by bringing their case, even so inadequately, to your notice. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Ladies and Gentlemen: While Mr. Randles was talking to us, there came back to my mind an experience of the last war, when I happened to be in charge of an Infantry working party that was loaned to the Engineers for tunnelling purposes. Miners were doing the actual cutting, but this party of mine had to carry out in sand bags the rock and the dirt that was being dug from the tunnels that were pushed out towards the German front line from our own. There was a main tunnel-branches off it--sub-branches--branches again--and right at the far end, for the first time in my life, I listened to a microphone. Listening to it I could hear "Pick-Pick-Pick-Pick"--and I said to the Engineer officer in charge, "Is that the Germans digging?" "Yes". I asked, "Doesn't it scare you?" He answered, "It doesn't scare us as long as we hear him. It is when he stops digging that the trouble starts". Apparently as soon as either side stopped digging, the other side also stopped, and then began a hectic tamping up with an explosive followed by a so-called "blow" by one side or the other. This happened at least once every twenty-four hours.

The Engineer officer in charge was on continuous duty for ten clays, just taking cat-naps when he could. Ten days of intense responsibility, often with men buried and having to be dug out by themselves and the remainder of their miners, with danger of gas as well as falling earth. I wasn't surprised to learn that when his turn of ten days was completed, he had twenty days leave, with a free pass covering all France, and with a motor bicycle and gasoline. There were three Engineers working in shifts like that of ten days on, twenty days off.

I think that the job that the Merchant Navy is doing today must be somewhat comparable with that tunnelling job. The men of the Merchant Navy are civilians doing their own peace time job under the tensest war conditions, with bravery that is unexcelled, with inadequate self-defence, often with inadequate defence even in convoy, and yet returning to their job, time and time again, despite disaster. Even if we sustain the appeal which Mr. Randles has presented to us today, the provision of a few of the ordinary material comforts of life, which we ourselves have in such abundance, is a pitiably trivial recognition of what these men are doing and facing.

Canada is fortunate that it has at the head of its Merchant Navy a man who has had a lifetime of experience in shipping organization. Canada is fortunate that Mr. Randles should be on loan to the Dominion Government from the Cunard White Star Line, in order to accept the responsibility for the administration of this vital life-line which is doing so much toward helping to win the war. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, in your name I say to Mr. Randles, that we thank him sincerely for sparing time out of an over-full, crowded, busy life, to tell us something about this Fourth Arm of our Fighting Services. (Applause.)

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The Merchant Navy: The Fourth Arm of the Fighting Services


Some facts about the Merchant Navy. The speaker's background in Ocean Steamship traffic. The need for secrecy as regards the movements of ships. The speaker's function as defined by Order-in-Council. The welfare of the Merchant Seamen. The need for some place for the seamen to go, when in Canadian ports. The fact that most of our Allied seamen come from countries overrun by the foe. Caring for the sick and ship-wrecked men in our ports. The work of the Navy League of Canada, the I.O.D.E., the Salvation Army, the Catholic Women's League, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Women's Naval Auxiliaries, etc. Finding these men some comfort ashore. The result as the Allied Merchant Seamen's Clubs in various ports, operated by the Navy League Divisions and financed from the Dominion Council in Toronto. Clubs in full operation in Halifax, Saint John, N.B., Sydney, Montreal, and Louisburg. Some figures to illustrate the need for such clubs. What is and has been contributed. What is still needed. The increase in the ordeals at sea as the war goes on. The provision of Merchant Seamen's Manning Pools. Purpose of the pools. A demonstration of the necessity of the Manning Pools. The training of Merchant Seamen. Qualifications required of seamen, and of engineers. The three types of seamen in Canada. Measures for the protection of Canadian seamen while serving at sea, whether on a Canadian ship or otherwise. The demands for more qualified seamen from Canada. The speaker's obligation to evolve an entirely new method whereby progressive training could be given, taking advantage of and utilizing certain existing facilities, as well as creating new ones. Details of the schools and programmes devised.