The Unsinkable Commonwealth
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Jul 1967, p. 41-73


Description
Creator:
Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Speaker
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Royal Canadian Military Institute.
A toast to Her Majesty's Forces by John W. Griffin. A toast to Canada by Colonel B.J. Legge.
A review of some aspects of the history of the Commonwealth. Some personal anecdotes and reminiscences of the speaker with regard to the Commonwealth. Canada's role in the Commonwealth. The position of the Commonwealth as a whole in the world today. The future of the Commonwealth. Conclusion of four quotations about the Commonwealth.
Date of Original:
11 Jul 1967
Subject(s):
Language of Item:
English
Copyright Statement:
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Contact
Empire Club of Canada
Email
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
CENTENNIAL DINNER
JULY 11, 1967
The Unsinkable Commonwealth
AN ADDRESS By Earl Mountbatten of Burma
CHAIRMAN, Immediate Past President, R. Bredin Stapells, Q.c.
JOINT MEETING ROYAL CANADIAN MILITARY INSTITUTE THE EMPIRE CLUB OF CANADA
TOAST TO HER MAJESTY'S FORCES by John W. Griffin

MR. GRIFFIN:

Twice in the lifetime of many in this room high hopes have surged throughout the world that war would be abolished and universal peace lave the earth. The "war to end wars" itself ended-in 1918 and ushered in 20 years of disillusionment, destruction and the demise of the League of Nations. It was thought, a generation later in 1945, that the big bombs dropped on Hiroshima were so awful a portent of disaster that war could never be risked again. Since then two major conflicts have taken place in the Far East, one concluded and one current. When Pope Paul VI addressed the United Nations he made a plea for "No more war, war never again". The following months have seen a vast increase in the intensity of war in Vietnam and brought Israel's lightning victory.

Perhaps the obvious moral was best stated by one of the early Americans who said the classic words, "Put your trust in God but keep your powder dry." More cur rently we might say, "Work for universal peace with good will and firm conviction but maintain strong professional armed forces." As any Egyptian will tell you, God help the country that doesn't.

We in Canada owe an enormous debt to our own Canadian forces and to the British forces which spawned them and guarded us for so long. They have never been our oppressors, always our protectors. This has been especially true of the navy, which most Canadians have never even seen. When one looks over the military history of modern times one inevitably concludes that the greatest, the most influential, force has been not the Grand Army of Napoleon, not the two War Machines of contemporary Germany but the British Royal Navy. Because in the century that followed Trafalgar its mastery of the seas was not only not challenged but scarcely even doubted. Canada (and the United States) were able to grow and mature in absolute security. The sea is not a barrier but a highway and a sea frontier is a danger unless protected. We were so protected.

Naturally I do not wish to ignore or minimize the glorious history of our armies or the matchless valour of the new air forces but in the presence of a great admiral and with honest conviction I pay tribute especially to the naval arm.

It is, I dare say, trite to quote Kipling but I can't refrain from recalling to you his words: Its Tommy this and Tommy that And throw the blighter out But its saviour of 'is country When the guns begin to shout.

Let us not, even in our minds, throw the blighter, or the matelot or the airman out in time of peace. Let us remember that in the world of today it is too late to prepare after war has started.

TOAST TO CANADA by Colonel B. J. Legge, E.D., Q.C.

COL. LEGGE:

When Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States he had strict routines, but these were disturbed by a caller in the middle of the night demand ing to speak to the President about a matter of life and death.

He reluctantly took the call and a voice said: "Mr. President, I hate to trouble you but the Collector of Customs in New York has just died and I am his deputy."

The President asked, "Couldn't this amazing piece of intelligence have waited to be announced in the morning?" The voice was saddened: "Mr. President, you don't seem to understand. The Customs Collector of New York has just died, I am his deputy and I would like to take his place."

The President snapped: "If you can fix it up with the undertaker, it will certainly be just fine and dandy with me."

In a sense, Canada is like the Customs Collector. A century has passed and in our strange cargo of fallacies, something new must take its place. Centuries are not chapter-endings and we don't trade old centuries for new. Canada's past is her present and on these two her future will be built. Usually Canadians themselves have only been mildly interested in the forms of patriotism and indeed, one Canadian critic talks about our great Centennial river of ooze, but I will not float on such a river.

For me, when the Royal Canadian Military Institute and The Empire Club of Canada dine together with their ladies, it is an exciting event. It is even more exhilarating because we are Canadians amongst Canadians and Commonwealth people amongst Commonwealth people.

Canada is British--Canada is American--Canada is French but Canada is also Canadian. Canada is in the tradition of the United Empire Loyalists and a member of three Commonwealths.

Canada is The Commonwealth. According to a famous writer, The Commonwealth is the only organization in the world which brings together rich nations and poor nations, white nations and coloured nations, nations reflecting almost every colour of the political spectrum, a quarter of the people on the earth; and brings them together in at least the framework of equality, of family, of some measure of mutual concern.

Even the United Nations, which is now described by its enemies as "the gang on 42nd Street", does not achieve this particular atmosphere.

Only the fettered spirit of apartheid has taken itself out of the Commonwealth -and that with Canadian encouragement.

Canada is of the French Commonwealth. On the first of July, Her Majesty the Queen said in Ottawa: "Since Champlain founded his habitation at Quebec--and planted rose bushes around it--this air has been sweetened with the French tongue and French culture and sharpened with French intelligence and French resources." Every Canadian school boy knows this truth and will quip: "Champlain's the name, and exploring's the game."

In 1967 there is a return of France to North America, which does not mean that Quebec is returning to France. Quebec is proud of an inheritance of French culture, proud of having preserved the French identity for 200 years, and proud of the "Quiet Revolution" which has culminated in the miracle, the verve and beauty of EXPO 67.

Sometimes our efforts at understanding take an odd turn. A Montreal lifeguard stood idly by while a girl struggled helplessly in the water. A spectator urged him to do something. "I can't swim," he told the astonished spectator. "Well, how on earth did you get this job?" he asked. The lifeguard replied, "I'm completely bilingual."

If accepted in the spirit "that a minority does not have equal rights, but better than equal rights", then Canada will be easily understood and accepted as part of a French Commonwealth with citizens whose mother-tongue is French.

Canada is also of the American Commonwealth in geography, in economics, in emigration and in friendship. In the last century bitter boundary disputes led to the frightening American jingoism, "Fifty-four forty or fight", and later on in Ontario, Goldwin Smith campaigned for reunification of the English-speaking peoples and annexation with the United States. Later on in 1911, the American Speaker, Champ Clark, hoped "to see the day when the American flag will float over every square foot of the British North American possessions."

Despite its. alliance with and its apprehension of the American Commonwealth, Canada has remained distinctly Canadian. Lest we get carried away with our Canadianism, we should remember the Scottish prayer,

O Lord, we beseech thee, if it be possible, Enable us to be worthy of the high esteem in which we so rightly hold ourselves.

To each of us Canada is many things. Canada is Muskoka and Montreal, Tuktoyaktuk in the Arctic and the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Canada is learning and bravery.

It is the discoveries of Sir William Osler and Dr. Wilder Penfield. It is Vimy Ridge, Salerno and the attack on Caen. Canada is the Victoria Cross and the discovery of insulin. Canada is the Royal 22nd Regiment and the Mounted Police.

Canada is the Centennial Project of every province and every village. Canada is hockey, Rocket Richard and Connie Smythe. It is Eaton's and Simpson's and the Hudson's Bay Company. It is the universities of Laval, Queen's and Toronto. It is the Trans-Canada Highway, the Place Ville Marie and the Toronto City Hall.

Canada is the Montreal of Gabrielle Roy, the novels of Morley Callaghan, the poems of Pauline Johnson and Irving Layton; the photographs of Karsh and Cavouk, the paintings of the Group of Seven and the music of Healy Willan. Canada is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation--debts and all.

Canada is the French Missions to the Indians and the Anglican to the Eskimos. Canada is the Jesuits and the Salvation Army. It is the Colombo Plan, the Alouette Satellite, the Military Tattoo and the National Ballet.

Canada is the homes and farms of all its people. Canada is the fishermen of the Atlantic, the habitants of Quebec and the refugees from Europe. Canada is children and pioneers, Finnish choirs and Estonian gymnasts. Canada is campaigns for the Red Cross, the Red Feather, and Save the Children everywhere.

Canada is the family compact and the uprising of Louis Riel. Canada is Mitch Hepburn, Maurice Duplessis, Joey Smallwood and Dief the Chief. Canada is the Old Originals of 1914 and the tough sergeants of all Canada's wars.

Canada is His Excellency General Georges Vanier, full of years, clothed in valour, replete with kindness and dignity and learning, and full of compassion for all mankind. Canada is Elizabeth 11, the gracious Head of the Commonwealth and above all, the beloved Queen of Canada. Ladies and Gentlemen. On this great occasion, I ask you to celebrate the One Hundreth Birthday of our own Country, and I ask you to drink with me a toast "To Canada".

MR. STAPELLS:

A week ago Saturday, Canada was led into her second century by her Queen in a giddy birthday party. Our Centennial has been celebrated in many ways during this year, and it is right that The Empire Club of Canada should take part by following its tradition of welcoming to our forum the most notable of speakers.

The Club's Centennial Dinner, in which our good friends of the Royal Canadian Military Institute join us, is honoured tonight by the presence of a descendant of Charlemagne and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a great grandson of Queen Victoria, great nephew of the Tsaritsa Maria of Russia, cousin of the last Queen of Spain, brother of Queen Louise of Sweden and Princess Alice of Greece and uncle of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. In a word, we welcome here tonight as our guests of honour, royalty . . . Admiral-of-the-Fleet, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Prince Louis of Battenberg, who is accompanied by his lovely and gracious daughter, Lady Patricia.

But I am introducing you to the family and not the man. The man is a naval person, an Admiral-of-theFleet and First Sea Lord, by heritage and by hard work and not by "polishing up the handle of the big front door". In accomplishment, he is the innovator in naval affairs and the moulder of combined operations which made possible the Normandy landings in the last war, the success which led to his appointment as Supreme Commander, South East Asia. His title is an obvious reflection of the victorious Burma Campaign which, upon his arrival, ceased to be the "forgotten war".

In Broadlands, his home near Romsey, there is an impressive display of model ships which Lord Mountbatten has commanded. But among those ships, it is H.M.S. Kelly for which he has a special affection. As war threatened in the summer of 1939, he took command of the spanking new Kelly, and he told his hand-picked company of 240 men as they came on board:

"None of us will take off our clothes or sling our hammocks, or turn in for the next three days and nights until the job is finished. Then we'll send Hitler a signal saying 'The Kelly's ready--you can start your war."

He organized the relatively peaceful transfer of the British Raj in 1947--a seemingly impossible task. Walter Lippmann wrote of this feat -

"Mountbatten has done a service to all mankind by showing what a statesman can do, not with force and money, but with lucidity, resolution and sincerity."

While Lord Mountbatten has been associated with many worthy causes, there are three societies which particularly foster Commonwealth relations and of which he is the Grand President: The British Commonwealth ExService League, The Royal Life Saving Society and The Royal Overseas League. The Royal Life Saving Society, in which I have a particular interest, is fashioning, under his leadership, a model of how the Commonwealth can develop; independent but responsible national societies combine to make a stronger Grand Society.

I now introduce you to a prince among princes, a man among men, one of the truly great personages of our time, Admiral-of-the-Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter, our Queen's most excellent Privy Councillor who will address this Centennial Dinner on "The Unsinkable Commonwealth".

LORD MOUNTBATTEN:

I feel extremely honoured to have been invited to address the Empire Club of Canada on the Commonwealth.

I have chosen as the title of my address "The Unsinkable Commonwealth" because although it has been shot at quite a lot, especially in recent times, the Com monwealth, like any of Her Majesty's ships has an excellent "Damage Control Organization" which seems to be able not only to repair the damage of this gunfire but to steer the ship on a course which will take her further away from attack into more peaceful and profitable waters.

I feel it would be appropriate to begin my speech with a review of some aspects of the history of the Commonwealth.

Those two great sailors of the 16th century, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Walter Raleigh, established temporarily the first British Colonies--in Virginia.

The first really successful colony was established at Jamestown in Virginia by Christopher Newport in 1607 on behalf of what was to become the Virginian Company.

It is also recorded that in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert proclaimed the annexation of Newfoundland though he did not leave settlers there at that time.

Settlement in what came to be called the 'old Colonies' has been pretty continuous in Canada since the 17th century, in Australia since the 18th century and in New Zealand since the 19th century.

Nor must we forget the 13 North American colonies had extensive British settlements at the time they embarked for better, or dare I say for worse, on an independent political course nearly 200 years ago.

British settlers in the West Indies originally outnumbered the indigenous Carib population in some of the islands. It was only the importation of slave labour from Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Asiatic labour in the 19th which created a large non-European majority in the Caribbean area.

In Canada, Australia and New Zealand the indigenous population declined in numbers following the arrival of the European settlers. In each case the basic cause would seem to have been the disruption of their social structure with the consequent collapse of morale making them more liable to the new diseases which the settlers brought with them. In each case the population has begun to rise again. In New Zealand the increase in the Maori population began as far back as the turn of the century and the number of Maoris is now probably greater than it was when settlement began. Maoris of course enjoy equality in all respects with other New Zealand citizens. The Australian Aborigines, with their stone age culture, have been faced with much greater problems in coming to terms with European civilization. The drop in their numbers was catastrophic and it is only in recent years that they have begun to rise again, largely as the result of greater government and public concern for their welfare. Here in Canada the situation of the indigenous people who are full citizens is improving slowly but surely. You also have some 12,000 Eskimos in the north of whom the world is getting to know more and more today largely through their fascinating soapstone carvings. In most other territories the indigenous populations were very much in the majority and in fact in most cases were conquered such as in India.

I have been deeply honoured to have been made Honorary Chief by representatives of Blackfoot, Piegan, Sarcee and Stony Indians on 6th July at Calgary, with the title "Chief Sea Warrior". I am all the more gratified as my daughter, Patricia, was with me and she is herself part Red Indian, being a direct descendant through her Mother of Princess Pocahontas who married an Englishman called Rolfe 350 years ago. So I feel I have now made an honest Injun of her and can call her "Papoose Patricia"!

Mr. Churchill, as he then was, and President Roosevelt, were extremely good friends. They rather enjoyed pulling others' legs. Our Prime Minister sent me over to Washington in June 1942 to explain to the President that it would not be feasible for the Allies to carry out a successful invasion of France before the spring of 1944. This was of course very unwelcome news to the Americans who were keen to open a second front right away, but we offered as a compromise solution that there should be a landing in North Africa in 1943.

While staying in the White House I heard of a joke which the President was preparing to perpetrate on Mr. Churchill. He had come across one of those middle-aged crusading women one so often meets in the States. This lady's particular crusade was that the British should quit India. Knowing that Mr. Churchill was violently opposed to this idea the President thought it would be amusing to arrange a leg haul. I understand that this took place after I had left. The lady was asked to a small luncheon just with the President, the Prime Minister and perhaps half a dozen of the staff. Everyone except Mr. Churchill was in the know.

After the first course our crusading lady could not contain herself any longer and attacked him by saying: "Mr. Prime Minister, what do you intend to do about those wretched Indians?" Winston was taken aback for a moment and then looked at her and said: "Madam, to which Indians do you refer? Do you by chance refer to the second greatest nation on earth which under benign and beneficent British rule have multiplied and prospered exceedingly; or do you by chance refer to the unfortunate Indians of the North American Continent which under the present Administration have become practically extinct?" However, many territories were not held against the wishes of their inhabitants. Malta elected to join the British Empire 160 years ago and has been very sad at the gradual withdrawal of the British Fleet and garrison. Gibraltar will, I am sure, vote overwhelmingly to remain British. Hong Kong is very anxious to remain British. Even in Fiji, I discovered during my last visit there, the indigenous Fijians are most anxious not to be given independence for fear that would mean that the Indian population which has grown from the original indentured workmen brought in by the British, would gain control through having a majority of the votes.

At all events there is one dependence we can feel fairly certain will not wish to be given independence and that is Pitcairn Island which is only two square miles and has a population of 88. The last island to be annexed by the United Kingdom was Rockall in the Atlantic as recently as 1955. There is no fear of Rockall wanting independence for it was and remains uninhabited although the Union Jack has been planted on it. It is perhaps worth recalling that Singapore Island was entirely uninhabited when Stamford Raffles came to wake it into a base. The Malays and Chinese who have now got their independence were brought in by the British.

I was involved personally in the last substantial addition to the Commonwealth which occurred in 1946 when I negotiated with the Raja of Sarawak, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, to hand over his country to the British Crown and it became a British Colony. What made the situation rather delicate for me was that his nephew and heir was an Intelligence Officer on my staff at the time (in 1946 when I was Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia) and protested violently at what I was negotiating between his Uncle and the British Government. He reminded me that his great grandfather had come to Sarawak as a Midshipman and had been elected Raja by the Dayaks. However, Sarawak is now part of Malaysia.

Eire became the Republic of Ireland formally seceding from the Commonwealth in 1949. The British Parliament passed the Ireland Act which recognized that the Republic of Ireland had ceased to be part of His Majesty's Dominions, but provided that it should not be regarded as a foreign country nor should its citizens be regarded as aliens. A typically Irish solution.

In fact I have a place in Eire, Classibawn Castle in County Sligo, and I and my family could not be treated with greater friendship by the Irish. My son-in-law's grandmother was the Marchionness of Sligo who died not long ago at the age of 98. Shortly before the second election for which Mr. De Valera stood Lady Sligo asked her head gardener: "Do you think Mr. De Valera will be re-elected?" He replied: "Of course he will, your Ladyship, after all it was the poor who got him elected last time, and there are many more poor now."

When my housekeeper's son became 18 she told me she was sending him into the Army. I asked what Regiment and she said: "The Irish Guards, of course; there's no finer Regiment!"

Up to the end of the war the British Commonwealth had remained pretty static. The old Commonwealth countries--Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and of course the United Kingdom itself--were the only independent countries. Fate picked upon me to start the fundamental change in the Commonwealth in 1947 when as last Viceroy I was responsible for partioning India and giving independence to India and Pakistan.

There are some 50 Commonwealth territories and a good half have now got their independence, the stop press news on the total being 26: at least it was that last month. It leaves about as many again who have not yet got their independence. Some, as I have already pointed out, will never want it; others will gradually be getting it.

Whether or not the eventual destiny of any particular British territory is to become independent as a separate State, its political development is carefully devised over a period of years to prepare it for whatever may be its appropriate form of self-determination. An element of effective self-government is generally introduced into the Colonial Administration at an early stage and then gradually extended over the years. At the earliest stages of development there may be direct administration by British officials aided by advisory councils. The first Legislature probably consists of senior Government officials with a minority of local people nominated by the Governor. Later an elected element is introduced and this is increased until it forms a majority and eventually replaces completely the official and nominated element.

Meantime, parallel changes are introduced in the Executive which at first is wholly official. Nominated nonofficial members are introduced, then elected members from the Legislature. The elected members gradually take over responsibility for Government Departments. Later, as Ministers, they are given a majority in the Executive. Finally, the last officials are withdrawn leaving a wholly elected Executive responsible to a wholly elected Legislature--that is, full internal self-government.

During internal self-government, the Governor (and through him the British Government) continues to be responsible for the conduct of certain matters -usually Defence and Foreign Relations -but Ministers are increasingly associated with these subjects to prepare them for taking over complete responsibility on the attainment of independence. Parallel developments take place in Local Government and in the Public Services where, with assistance from the United Kingdom in education and training, first the lower and then the higher grades of the Administrative Services are progressively filled with locally recruited people. The British Civil Servants working in the Dependency, act, of course, as servants of its Administration, which means, to an increasing degree, as servants of an Executive responsible to a Legislature representing the local inhabitants. Of course it is essential that there should be enough literate and adequately educated people in the country to learn how to take over government. It is also necessary to have a sufficient number of graduates of universities in law, medicine, science and also to have properly trained officers of the armed forces.

I have of course a personal interest in India since I was the last Viceroy appointed to transfer power. The Honourable East India Company was formed early in the 17th century and was active from the beginning of that century establishing a number of posts including the most important one in Madras in 1639. Even when a part of India came direct to the British Crown as was the case when Bombay formed part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married King Charles II in 1662 it was duly transferred to the East India Company (in 1668). The Company was known colloquially as "John Company". It raised its own armies and indeed they had their own navy, and they appointed their own Governors General. Robert Clive was among the foremost of those who developed India for the Company.

Warren Hastings was appointed as first Governor General of Bengal in 1774 with supervisory powers over the Presidencies of Bombay and Madras. The first Viceroy was Viscount Canning appointed in 1858. When the Marquis of Hastings was Governor General of India he wrote in his journal on 17th May 1818 the following:

"A time not very remote will arrive when England will, on sound principles of policy, wish to relinquish the domination which she has gradually unintentionally assumed over this country (India), and from which she cannot at present recede. In that hour it would be the proudest boast and most delightful reflection that she had used her sovereignty towards enlightening her temporary subjects, so as to enable the native communities to walk alone in the paths of justice, and to maintain with probity towards their benefactor that commercial intercourse in which we should then find a solid interest."

It is true this was written in a private journal but it shows how the Governor General in India was thinking nearly 150 years ago.

However, when Macaulay was Secretary of the Board of Control for India he made the following statement in the House of Commons on 10th July 1833:

"The destinies of our Indian Empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a State which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not; but never would I attempt to avert or retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history."

In 1858 the Government of India Act placed British India under the direct government of the Crown. Incredible as it may seem it is a fact that Mrs. Salt, the last widow of an officer of the old Honourable East India Company died only a month ago. In 1877 on Disraeli's inspiration Queen Victoria was proclaimed as Empress of India, a title held by her four successors up to 1947.

As our armies conquered parts of India, so the local ruling Prince was either deposed and his family prevented from succeeding him, or a treaty was made with him whereby he and his heirs could continue to rule under British paramount power. In the former category there were finally two-thirds of the territorial area and threequarters of the population in India. This area was known as British India and divided into Presidencies and Provinces ruled by British Governors. In the second category were the 565 Indian Princely States ruled either by Hindu Maharajahs or Muslim Nawabs. These two parts of India were administered really separately.

British India was ruled by the Governor General in Council. He could pass laws which were immediately enforced throughout British India. The Government of India was under him and had their own offices in the capital, originally in Calcutta and after 1912 in New Delhi.

The 565 Rulers of Indian States were all in treaty relations with the Queen Empress/or later the King Emperor. They were dealt with by the Crown Representative for executing the functions of paramountcy. He had a large office known as the Political Department in the capital, under whom there were officials known as the Residents living in all the big States. The smallest States were grouped together under one Resident. He lived in a fine big official house known as The Residency, whereas the Governor of a Presidency or Province lived in a big house known as Government House.

In theory these two top appointments were quite separate, but what happened in practice was that the same man was appointed both as Governor General of British India and as Crown Representative for Native or Princely India. The man who held these two positions was known as the Viceroy.

So it was in the person of the Viceroy that the overall government of India was co-ordinated. When he passed any law as the Governor General in Council for British India he would inform his Political Department and they would tell their various Residents to require their various Rulers to pass similar laws in their own states.

This is a somewhat oversimplified explanation of how the two separate parts of India were governed up to 1947. It provided one of my worst headaches when I was responsible for transferring power. Whereas the proposals for transferring power in British India were carefully discussed with me in Whitehall before I went out, curiously enough no discussion took place on how to deal with the Indian Princely States. All I was told was that the Indian princes would have paramountcy retroceded and would in theory then become independent and could make up their own minds what they wanted to do in the future. Clearly this situation could produce real chaos and bloodshed all over India if not properly gripped at the time of the transfer of power. I solved this particular problem by persuading the future Governments of Independent India and Pakistan to agree that they would allow the various Princes to accede to one country or the other on the basis of accepting their rule on external affairs, communications and defence.

The Commonwealth has always fascinated me. I had the great good fortune when I was only 19 years old to be invited by the Prince of Wales to accompany him in the Battle Cruiser Renown on his tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and the West Indies in 1920. In 1921 and 1922 I went as his ADC, again in the Renown, to India, Burma, Ceylon, Singapore, Malaya and Hong Kong. During these tours we spent many weeks ashore touring by train and motor-car every part of the countries we visited. I kept elaborate diaries with all my impressions and really tried to find out all I could about each of these countries.

On one occasion when I was staying with President Eisenhower at the White house he was complaining about the bad relationship between India and the United States.

I suggested to the President that he should pay a personal visit to India when I was sure he would have a very good reception. He told me that the Secretary of State, Mr. Foster Duties, had advised against this as he said he would have a bad reception. I promised him that he would not only get a good reception but I would arrange a special invitation for him to be issued by the Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru.

Eisenhower accepted my suggestion. He received the invitation and went to India and as everybody knows the visit was a great success.

President Eisenhower wrote to me from Delhi to tell me of the success of his visit and then added something to this effect:

"This morning I received an honorary degree from Delhi University. In the little robing room there was a large marble slab and in letters of gold it proclaimed that you had proposed to Edwina in this office on 14th February 1922. This was, of course, a great astonishment to me; what made it even more curious was that I was wearing a pair of socks you had given me for Christmas!"

In fact, of course, Delhi University had been the temporary Viceregal Lodge while the big Viceroy's House was being built at Delhi and in 1922 when I was on the Prince of Wales' staff we stayed in the temporary Viceregal Lodge. It was here that I proposed to my wife who was on a visit to the Viceroy.

Twenty-five years later the buildings belonged to Delhi University which was then celebrating its Silver Jubilee and I was the Chancellor. It was while giving the Chancellor's convocation address that I mentioned the fact that I had become engaged to my wife in the University. You can imagine what a particularly warm feeling both my wife and I had for India where we had become engaged.

I unfortunately missed the Prince of Wales' Canadian trip which was his first one and took place in 1919 just before he had extended his invitation to me. There is a special hymn called "God Bless the Prince of Wales" which was sung all over Canada on the occasion of His Royal Highness's visit. The principal lines are as follows:

"Among our ancient mountains and from our lovely vales, oh let the prayer re-echo,

God Bless the Prince of Wales."

However, in the Western Provinces of Canada they sang their own version which was as follows:

"Among our lovely mountains and from our lovely vales, oh let the prairie echo,

God Bless the Prince of Wales."

However I have been able to make up for that by having visited Canada probably more than any other country in the Commonwealth since those days.

Canada has always fascinated me. As you know it is not only by far the largest country in the Commonwealth but of course it is the second largest country in the world. It has been customary in the old Commonwealth countries to speak of Britain as the Mother country, and she is accepted as the single parent, the children being apparently immaculately conceived. However Canada was not immaculately conceived for she also had a father, France. The possible entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community will bring with it a whole host of problems for the Commonwealth. But I would draw attention to one aspect of this; it will bring the parents of Canada closer together, once the Father figure of the General will accept a rapproachement with the elegantly draped Britannia. He won't find any mini-skirt there.

I have made some enquiries into the language problem in Canada and I find that roughly 131/z million people speak English, 33/4 million speak French, 21/2 million are bi-lingual in both languages and apparently about 1/4 million speak neither English nor French--and how they made out in Canada I can't imagine.

Then there is the factor of having the United States as Canada's only territorial neighbour. Inevitably Canada has strong economic and defence associations with the United States. Indeed as we all well know she enjoys and has always enjoyed the most extensive undefended border with her neighbouring State that has ever been known in the history of the world. Canadian industry is heavily dependent on American investment. Quantities of tourists pass in both directions over the frontier. In these circumstances it is a real tribute to the strength of the national personality and character of Canada that she has so successfully resisted the pull of the vast dynamic population of the United States and has maintained her national identity intact.

Canada has been outstandingly helpful to the new Commonwealth countries as they have emerged into independence in the West Indies, in Asia and in Africa. She has been generous in extending material aid and other forms of assistance to them. Lord Casey, that great Australian, who is the Governor General of Australia, is on record as saying that "on some foreign policy issues Canada has shown greater sympathy for their views than have the other old Commonwealth members. She has been active in meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers, in Conferences of the Parliamentary Association and of other Commonwealth bodies. She has also played her part in the day to day Commonwealth consultations that take place in the United Nations, at international Economic Conferences and in diplomatic posts throughout the world."

Lord Casey goes on to say, "Although Australia is a strong Commonwealth country and is uncritically loyal to the Crown, she may be said to have taken the Common wealth for granted and has not done a great deal of thinking about it. There are no chairs of Commonwealth Relations in any Australian university, whereas there are at least two in Canada. The Balfour Declaration at the Imperial Conference in 1926 that the old Commonwealth countries were autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any respect of their domestic or external affairs, did not greatly excite Australia. Nor did the statute of Westminster in 1931, by which British legislation ceased to have effect in the old Commonwealth countries."

The old Commonwealth countries drew gradually and naturally into complete independence.

Canada's emergence as a nation really followed the risings in upper and lower Canada of 1837-1838, followed by Lord Durham's Report in 1839 in which he recom mended the granting of responsible Government which was subsequently achieved. In 1867 the British North America Act was passed by the British Parliament which united the Provinces under the name of Canada. What was Upper Canada became Ontario, and Lower Canada became Quebec. It is this great Act which is being commemorated in your Centenary Celebrations. Since then Manitoba entered the Canfederation in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873. Great Britain gave over Rupert's land in the north western territory in 1870 and the Arctic Archipelago in 1880. And it was as recently as 1949 that Newfoundland and Labrador entered the Confederation as the tenth Province.

Canada has indeed made great progress and although numerically her population can never compete with the great Asian Commonwealth countries, in every other sense she is the leading country, outside Great Britain herself, within the Commonwealth.

Let us look at the position of the Commonwealth as a whole in the world of today. The countries of the Commonwealth represent a quarter of the world's population, occupy a quarter of the world's land surface, and do a quarter of the world's trade. Lord Casey, in the book he published four years ago, The Future of the Commonwealth, refers to these facts as follows:

"The world has never known in all its history a more exciting or potentially rewarding set of facts than these. If we can't make these add up to something worth while we will get a very black mark indeed from future generations. If we fail, it will be the world's worst example of a self-inflicted wound.

The facts reflect the great influence the Commonwealth could have in the world if its members were able to achieve greater cohesion, particularly in the international field.

There is a general understanding that each member country has a duty to consult the others and a right to be consulted by the others on any matter of defence or foreign policy that is under consideration and might have an effect on the others. However there is no formal commitment to do so, and although the general understanding is usually observed, there are many instances in which consultation is no more than nominal. There is no obligation to do, or not to do, any particular thing even if it does adversely affect other Commonwealth members. There are no immutable rules, no sanctions for non-observance, no individual or collective obligations. The Commonwealth has never had a constitution or formal written agreement. Nothing of this sort was necessary in the old days and is not possible now.

But what is necessary is a series of practical actions designed to enable peoples of different racial origins to get to understand each other well enough to agree on the amount of mutual co-operation necessary for survival. The countries of the Commonwealth already have a considerable basis of common tradition in common trading practices, respect for law and order, the need for honest and capable civil services, personal liberty, education, a more or less common language and nationality, and much else. But not even all this is enough to offset the passionate insistence on complete individual autonomy that makes the Commonwealth at present no more than a loose association of completely independent states.

The United Kingdom has laid down the blue prints of good administration for a quarter of the world's population- democratic government, the rule of law, freedom of the individual and all that goes with these essentials which will fertilise a large proportion of mankind for generations, for which, I hope you agree, she deserves very great credit.

But how will this great leavening mature in the future? Will this great contribution, this great seeding be recognised? Will it mature to the world's advantage in the future? Will the association that Britain has created survive to the world's advantage? It will not be enough for the British Empire and Commonwealth to be regarded in the years to come in the same way as the Roman Empire is now regarded. Will Britain's great accomplishment survive in a new form as an influence of good in the world of the future?"

Of course, steps have been taken to try and improve matters. The establishment in 1965 of a Commonwealth Secretariat to serve the Commonwealth collectively re flected the new character of the association. An outstanding man, Mr. Arnold Smith, a great Canadian, whom I much admire, has been appointed as the first Secretary General. The first Prime Ministers' Meeting serviced by the Secretariat, held at Lagos in January 1966 to consider the Rhodesian situation, was also the first such meeting to be held outside the United Kingdom.

The first co-operative aid scheme for developing countries--the Colombo Plan--was, in its origin, a Commonwealth project. It had its inception at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' Conference held at Colombo in January 1950. Ten years later the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting in 1960 decided on the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan (SCAAP). Nearly L 80M of financial aid was disbursed by SCAAP in 1965--the last year for which figures are available.

The Canada/Caribbean Conference held in Ottawa in July 1966 agreed on further measures of co-operation between the Commonwealth countries in this area. Canada announced a five-year aid programme for Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean, substantially increasing the present rate of aid to a minimum of 65 million Canadian dollars for the period.

A meeting of Senior Commonwealth officials opened in Nairobi on 24th May this year to consider ways of promoting Commonwealth trade and possibilities of joint Commonwealth development projects. Britain has contributed strongly to this co-operative effort. Over 80% of all the economic aid the British Government gives goes to other Commonwealth countries. British Government bilateral, financial and technical aid to independent Commonwealth countries rose from under £52M in 1957-58 to E 166M in 1965-66.

Commonwealth co-operation is particularly strong in the field of education. The first Commonwealth Education Conference held at Oxford in 1959 inaugurated the Com monwealth Scholarship and Fellowship plan, to enable a thousand Commonwealth students of high intellectual promise to study at any one time in Commonwealth countries other than their own. From 1966 Britain is providing a hundred medical Fellowships as an additional contribution to the plan. The next Education Conference is to be held in Nigeria in this November 1967. 1 myself have played a small part in this by establishing the Nehru Memorial Trust in London which pays for post-graduate Nehru Scholars to come from India and do work in the British universities. This scheme is going strong and proving very successful.

The 1964 Prime Ministers' meeting decided that an initiative similar to that taken in education should be undertaken in the field of medicine and public health. Measures for this purpose were decided upon at a Commonwealth Medical Conference held at Edinburgh in the following year and progress is to be reviewed at a further conference in Uganda in 1968.

Scientific co-operation within the Commonwealth remains close and continues. It is carried on by the scientific offices in London of the individual Commonwealth coun tries, by general scientific and specialist conferences and through the interchange of scientists. A very successful Royal Society Conference of Commonwealth scientists was held in April 1967 at Merton College, Oxford. As a recently elected Fellow of the Royal Society I was greatly honoured by being invited to address this conference but alas I had to be in hospital on this date and was unable to accept.

Three years ago I founded the National Electronics Research Council and became its Chairman. It has now been promoted by the Minister of Technology to be the National Electronics Council with wider responsibilities, but I am still the Chairman. One of our principal projects is known as the "Selective Dissemination of Information". We got a £ 160,000 grant from the British Government for the trial period of this project. A thousand Research Workers will take part in the pilot scheme, of which 200 will come from the Commonwealth including, I hope, about 60 from Canada. I gave a lecture on this project to a considerable number of Canadian Research Workers in Ottawa last year. I was gratified to find the interest which was shown; and the response.

I recently visited Paris and had the honour of receiving a gold medal from the Society pour L'Encouragement de I'Invention et la Recherche. This gave me the opportunity of an informal discussion with some of the French scientists and I asked them if they suffered in France from the same brain drain that we were suffering from in the United Kingdom where the United States appear to be enticing away most of our best scientific research workers offering them higher pay to work in the United States.

One of the French scientists replied as follows: "Non, monsieur, et cela pour trois raisons:

Notre langue Notre cuisine Nos femmes."

This April the British and Australian Governments agreed to a joint project to build a large 150-inch optical telescope in New South Wales.

Another major example is the recently completed comprehensive telephone cable system, costing £ 60M, and linking Britain to Singapore via Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The final section, the South East Asia Commonwealth cable (SEACOM) was opened by the Queen in March 1967. The system as a whole contains over 17,000 nautical miles of submarine telephone cable.

Personally I feel convinced that one of the greatest binding forces in the Commonwealth can be found in the various Commonwealth societies which are not Govern ment sponsored but are voluntary organizations. I am the Grand President of three of these; the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League, The Royal Life Saving Society and the Royal Overseas League.

The principal Ex-Service Associations of almost all the Commonwealth countries are affiliated to the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League which has been in existence for 43 years. I have visited Ex-Service Associations in 27 Commonwealth countries and we hold a conference every three years. They have been held in London, they have been held in Canberra, they have been held twice since the war in Ottawa and the next one will be held in Jamaica. We have instituted a B.C.E.L. Welfare Fund to which every Commonwealth country is contributing according to their means and from which they will receive according to their needs. The most generous gesture of all came from the Royal Canadian Legion which set the pace which other countries are now doing their best to follow. I was able to launch the appeal at a dinner of businessmen in Montreal last year followed by my addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Canadian Legion who gave the fund most generous support. Canada has done a great deal for the Ex-Servicemen of the Commonwealth. She has sent the Secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion to Nigeria and helped them reorganize themselves, and she is now helping in the various Caribbean territories.

The Royal Life Saving Society was founded 76 years ago. It consists of four great autonomous branches -the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealandto which are affiliated smaller Commonwealth territories. Last year we gave 330,000 awards for proficiency in life saving. It is a very live concern here in Canada where General Guy Simonds is the President and your own President of the Empire Club, Bredin Stapells, is the very active Deputy President. I attended the Annual General Meeting of The Royal Life Saving Society Canada in Montreal last year, and was most impressed.

The Royal Overseas League is active all over the Commonwealth and I have visited many branches. Only today I had the pleasure of again visiting your fine club headquarters in Toronto. The Royal Overseas League holds an annual Commonwealth Musical Festival for young Commonwealth students and gives prizes. The 1967 one has just been completed in London, and as usual, was a great success.

I am also a Vice President of the Royal Commonwealth Society which does splendid work all over the Commonwealth.

Nor must I forget to mention the St. John Ambulance Brigade of which for many years my wife was the Superintendent-in-Chief. Of the one-quarter million members more than half are in the Overseas Countries of the Commonwealth. The St. John Ambulance Brigade is particularly strong in Canada where a bursary was founded in memory of my wife.

But these in themselves are not enough.

To remain a force for good in the world and indeed to increase our influence and prestige greater efforts are required.

I have noticed the tendency in the different Commonwealth countries I so often visit to look to the United Kingdom to make the sole effort. As the original Mother country she certainly has duties to perform in this connection. But she is an old lady and has a young and vigorous family. No child is more mature, more vigorous and more able to help than Canada. Thus we are always delighted when we see the splendid efforts being made by Canada to strengthen the Commonwealth. This magnificent dinner to-night is merely one example of what Canada does.

The other Commonwealth countries probably receive as much encouragement from being helped by a Sister as by the Mother and, indeed, in the case of those who were at one time occupied in a military way by the British I think countries like Canada have greater opportunity than the old occupying power. And yet I must say that there is astonishingly good feeling between the different countries of the Commonwealth who have been given their independence and have remained within the Commonwealth.

I remember on a visit to Mexico in 1963 at a luncheon party given at the Indian Embassy the Indian Ambassador stood up and made a very charming speech expressing the great goodwill that the Indians felt towards the British and particularly to my late wife and myself. The British Ambassador in Mexico at that time was an Australian. The Mexican Foreign Secretary sitting next to his wife remarked to her that if he had not heard with his own ears the Indian Ambassador express this strong admiration and friendship for the country that once occupied them he would never have believed it.

I would like to end this speech by four quotations. The first is from my great friend Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who not very long before his death, in fact in September 1962, said:

"The real value of the Commonwealth is its extreme flexibility, which enables people from the four corners of the earth to gather together in a friendly way to discuss matters frankly and yet be able to come to some broad conclusions.

I think this type of asociation, the new type-new, I mean, since the Commonwealth developed so -is a very good type and far better than the associations which limit the way of each country, and that is why the Commonwealth has succeeded in spite of differing opinions.

It is an extraordinarily good thing that people from America, Europe, from Asia and Africa, and Australia, come together with their different problems, different outlooks and express them frankly and yet come to more or less common conclusions. It is because of its flexibility that it carries on successfully. Rigid things tend to break up when there are vital differences. So I think the Commonwealth does play an important part not only within itself but in the world."

Soon after Mr. Harold Wilson became the British Prime Minister, in fact on 16th November 1964, he said: "The Commonwealth has a unique role to play in the world of social conflict. It is the greatest multi-racial free association in the world. It expresses within itself the traditions of the past, the strength of the present, the hope for the future. It can give a lead in the United Nations based on its own unchallenged quality, the quality of adaptability and responsiveness to change, because that is what has made the Commonwealth what it is."

As recently as last October our Foreign Secretary, Mr. George Brown, said:

"We must never underestimate the importance of this multi-racial group which includes nations at every stage of economic development, and which embraces a quarter of the world's population. It is making a great contribution to the solution of those menacing problems which centre on race and the gap between the poor and the rich of the world. We have trials and tribulations, but the Commonwealth is a tremendous source of strength to all its members, and features more largely than we allow for in other nations' thinking."

Lastly, may I quote what your own Prime Minister, Mr. Lester Pearson, said twenty years ago in January 1947 about the future development of the Commonwealth:

"The policy of the British Government with regard to the dependent territories under our administration is clear. We believe that the peoples of these territories should proceed to self-government and independence as rapidly as possible. We have considered, and do consider, these territories with their own characteristics and distinct traditions and way of life, though they were for the time being under the administration of the British Government. There is much more to this process than proclamations of independence. The British Government have given the greatest care and attention to the creation of a competent civil service in each territory, to the establishment of impartial courts of law, and to the setting up of representative parliaments. The emergence of these countries as free and independent nations is the logical and practical outcome of this consistent policy of preparation and training."

I am sure you will agree that your Prime Minister's prophecy has been very well fulfilled and is still in the course of being fulfilled. This fulfilment will figure largely in a television serial of my life and times which will be completed in a year's time.

The title of this speech is "The Unsinkable Commonwealth". To carry the analogy further, if the Commonwealth is an unsinkable ship this is because the ship her self is constantly undergoing changes, being refitted and modernized, in such a way as to make her more and more unsinkable.

And talking of ships, my personal contribution to the outward and visible symbol of unity among the Commonwealth Navies has been to advocate that in addition to flying their National Flag in the bows of their ships, they should fly a Commonwealth White Ensign at the stern. This consists basically of the flag of St. George, white with a red cross, but has the National Flag of the country concerned in the upper comer. Let us not forget that it is at sea that the forces of the Commonwealth most frequently meet. I am therefore glad that as well as Australia and New Zealand, the Navies of the other Commonwealth countries, such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Jamaica, Trinidad, Ceylon, Ghana and Nigeria fly this White Ensign.

Finally, let me say, Canada does so much to make the Commonwealth real, worthwhile and unsinkable that it has been a very special pleasure to pay a tribute to her magnificent contribution. May I congratulate the Empire Club of Canada very much for all that they do to help make the Commonwealth strong. And, may I thank you very much indeed for all your kindness and hospitality.

Thanks of the meeting were expressed by Graham M. Gore.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit




My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.










The Unsinkable Commonwealth


A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Royal Canadian Military Institute.
A toast to Her Majesty's Forces by John W. Griffin. A toast to Canada by Colonel B.J. Legge.
A review of some aspects of the history of the Commonwealth. Some personal anecdotes and reminiscences of the speaker with regard to the Commonwealth. Canada's role in the Commonwealth. The position of the Commonwealth as a whole in the world today. The future of the Commonwealth. Conclusion of four quotations about the Commonwealth.