- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Feb 1944, p. 310-321
- Burgin, Right Honourable E. Leslie, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Some of Mr. Winston Churchill's words. Plans for victory. Some instances of plans that went astray. A brief review of war events. The plans for 1944 which include not only the improvement and strengthening at every point in the vast armed encirclement of allied transport, but the attack and the destruction at every point within the circle of enemy transport. Speed as the dominant note in the plans. Unity and a comprehensive relation between one plan and the next, between each and all together, between the separate plans and the master plan. The Empire as one, the United Nations all working together under a Supreme Commander-in-Chief, backed by the combined strength and determination of all in every part of the United Nations, going forward into the unknown of the coming spring with pulses beating more firmly, eyes brighter, hopes higher, and bending backs with a will to exploit the Allied military, naval and air advantage to the full. Making the supreme effort.
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- 24 Feb 1944
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THE PLANS UNFOLD
AN ADDRESS BY RIGHT HONOURABLE E. LESLIE BURGIN, P.C., LL.D., M.P.
Chairman: The President, Mr. W. Eason Humphreys.
Thursday, February 24, 1944
MR. HUMPHREYS: To convert railways, inland transport, ports, and docks, the generation and distribution of electricity, from a peace footing to a war footing, to contemplate measures necessary should the east coast ports of Britain be rendered unavailable, were only a part of many pre-war responsibilities assigned to our guest, the Right Honourable E. Leslie Burgin, P.C., LL.D., M.P.
It was Dr. Burgin who played so important a part in the collection of strategic materials and the making of preparations for national defence.
It was he who, in the spring of 1939, became Britain's first Minister of Supply, organizing the then new department, giving it official existence through the processes of Parliament.
Famous men were on Dr. Burgin's Supply Council--Lord Woolton, Sir Andrew Duncan, Lord Catto, Col. Llewellin and others.
As Board of Trade Minister and, subsequently, Minister of Transport, our guest travelled widely, not only in the United Kingdom, but many times to Canada, the United States, Northern Africa, Cairo, France, Belgium, Holland, and the Scandinavias.
Unfortunately, time does not permit the telling of Dr. Burgin's many scholastic accomplishments, nor of the national and international service he has rendered. Only a few of these can be mentioned:
Our guest is a Doctor of Laws, University of London, as well as a member of the Senate of that University; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; a Governor of several public schools, member of the Council of the Law Society, a former principal of the Law Society's School of Law, a member of the International Law -Association, and Chairman of the Arbitration Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Leslie Burgin has been present in the House of Commons on all great occasions, besides taking part in the Inner Councils of Britain.
Therefore, few men are better qualified to discuss the subject chosen for today's address: "The Plan Unfolds". Gentlemen: The Right Honourable E. Leslie Burgin, P.C., LL.D., M.P.
MR. BURGIN: Mr. Chairman, Members and Guests of The Empire Club: A distinguished Prime Minister of Great Britain, a known lover of music, was once asked what music he liked the best. He replied, quite simply, "I know nothing finer than the music of welcome." I think he was right. And so I begin by thanking you all today for the warmth of the welcome which you have been good enough to give me once again in this great city of Toronto.
I left London some six weeks ago. I have been to the Pacific Coast. I have made some dozen or more addresses in the cities of the West and count myself especially fortunate to be here in the heart of Ontario today.
Mr. Winston Churchill's War Review in the British House of Commons, made on Tuesday in this week, is the first that I have not myself listened to from my place on the floor of the House. As usual, it was stirring tonic 'call. A majestic review of events and a staggering assemblage of facts, figures and arguments which will bear study and examination for all time.
It is in the light of that great pronouncement that I choose as my topic today "The Plans Unfold"--simple plain words which contain a wealth of meaning to us all and to all in range of my voice, and the words, "Sea, Land and Air," the names of all the United Nations, and as a title at the head of the plans there is written this phrase: "Our sacrifice to keep and gain freedom from tyranny." The plans reflect my Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill's, words. Mr. Churchill's own words cannot be bettered.
We all agreed at Teheran the thing above all others to which we are bound in solemn pact and that is to fall upon the Hun by land, sea and air with all the strength that is in us during the coming spring and summer.
The plans unfold. They do indeed. We are privileged to live in an age of tremendous achievement. Great events happen in our time, and we are on the threshold of even greater. We must however be realists. Victory, like anything else that is worth while, will not come by itself. Victory must be earned, and won; earned by us all and won by us all. And that is why plans for victory have been made. The plans unfold, and on the bundle of plans there is inscribed the name of almost every country of the world.
Plans do not always unfolk. If you open a roll of plans or maps, they sometimes defeat your purpose, and with a snap roll themselves up again into the very space from which you have tried to spread them out. And plans have another habit. They do not always work as their authors intended. Let me remind you of some instances of plans that have gone astray.
Did not Napoleon plan to capture Russia in 1815? Did not Napoleon's imitators plan to capture Russia in 1942, and again in 1943? Did not the Kaiser talk of the "contemptible little army"? Did not Hitler intend to win the Battle of Britain? Do you remember that delightful story of the W.A.A.F. cook at one of the aerodromes on the Kentish coast, when asked to describe her most exciting experience as a cook on an aerodrome? "Yes, sir, when pieces of falling German aeroplanes kept tumbling into the frying pan!" Wt Ls not Stalingrad to have been captured? Can you not hear that strident voice from Berlin saying, time and time again, "and make sure, captured it will be." How loud was the cry of Sieg Heil that followed that boast.
Centuries ago a British captain of a man-of-war--at that time a sailing ship--spied an enemy ship in the Channel with something very curious about its mast. There was a broom attached to it, and the signal of the Dutch captain was that he was going to sweep the British from the sea. That too, if I read my history aright, was a plan that did not work as its author intended.
We are talking of plans for war, and not for peace. Do you know the difference? Let me remind you of the station master on the London, Midland and Scottish Rail way, back in the Old Country, who said, "The difference is very simple. In peace time you put the freight train into a siding and let the passenger train through. In war time you put the passenger train into the siding and let the freight train through." How very true! How often and no doubt how justifiably often--the passenger finds himself in the siding and is permitted to watch the passage of the weighty supplies of war.
Before these plans for 1944 unfold, they had to be made. They were made in Washington, in Casablanca, in London, in Cairo, in Moscow, and in Teheran. What giants our leaders are! Regardless of age, of distance, of change of climate, of differences in standards of civilization, these giants leading the United Nations traverse oceans, defy heat and cold, defy fatigue, and meet at places of their choice. They are accompanied by their Chiefs of Staff, and their experts, and decisions, not merely of general principle, but worked out so as to be capable of becoming immediately effective, are taken on the spot, and the 1944 plans are destined to bring the immense rising tide of Allied power increasingly to bear upon the anatomy of the enemy peoples. That is the task to bring the German Army and the Luftwaffe to battle--it matters little where--it is important to engage, to reduce and to defeat them.
Our greatest chagrin at the outbreak of the war in 1939 was the difficulty of British might reaching the enemy at all. Geography stood in the way. Poland was fighting for her life. British vessels could not get to her aid. There were no bases from which bombers and fighters could operate. There was no British army that could reach Poland by land. So, neither by sea, nor land nor air, could aid be brought or strength be wielded against the enemy, and for long that position remained. Attrition is a very slow weapon-pressure at the circumference takes long to reach the heart. How completely the scales have turned! Now there need not be an hour (except when London fog or British weather intervenes) when Germany is not subjected, herself and her satellite powers, to complete and total air bombardment. There is not hour when any of the occupied countries cease from worrying the lives out of the occupying power. The Navies of the United Nations ceaselessly plough the seas. All Africa having been freed, and the Mediterranean reopened, the Suez Canal put beyond danger, the Eighth and Fifth Armies, in bitter fighting, are making their way toward Rome. The glorious Russian armies hourly more closely approach the old frontiers, and in the Far East the Japanese are being driven from island to island, and on the mainland China fights on. The Allies bring supplies over the mountains to her aid. All these forces converge, and the plans for 1944 bring the measure of convergence closer, bring the tightening of the circle nearer, increase the pressure, hasten the pace, quicken the blow, and intensify the weight of attack. We have all been intensely heartened by the sober record of achievements detailed by Mr. Churchill to the British House of Commons this very week.
Let us look on some of these matters more closely. What heroism there is being performed, from the North Cape to the Pyrrenees, from the depths of Poland to the Atlantic Ocean, by men, women and children of the occupied peoples. What a lovely story from Denmark, of the crowd that waited for Rommel, and then, refusing to disperse, were asked by the German Police Force in occupied Denmark, "And what are you waiting for now?" The triumphant answer was, "For General Montgomery--For he always is close on the heels of Rommel!"
Do you not like the cartoon of the elderly gentleman of the English aristocracy, at the foot of the baronial stairs, addressing his butler. "Jeeves, every year since 1895 I have prophesied there would be trouble in the Balkans in the forth coming spring, and I rarely have been wrong." Certainly, the noble lord may count, if he is still addressing Jeeves in the same manner, that there will be trouble in the Balkans this forthcoming spring! And the gallantry of armies, navies and air forces is matchless--passes all frontiers, knows no distinction of nationality. The driver of a jeep, one of the first in the streets of Salerno, told me in London a few weeks ago how he and his three companions came down one of the hair-pin mountain roads of Italy in the Salerno neighbourhood. They were spotted by the German gunners as their jeep reached each corner and turn of the mountain road. They were going downhill, and by watching their time, the gunners always got the range on the corner of the road just as the jeep had left it. And so, in fits and starts, the came down the mountain-the gunners each time a lap behind. And in telling me the story, the jeep driver said, "Sir, if I had turned round and driven uphill again, I believe those gunners would have run out of ammunition."
But even so, with all this mighty advance from the East, Russia is still a long way from the true frontiers of Germany. She is a long way from the frontiers of Roumania, and attrition, as I have already reminded you, is a slow method. Let us never forget that the great mobility of the Russian army which has been such a marked feature of her campaigns, has been provided in large measure by American, Canadian and English trucks. The convoys to Murmansk have done wonderful service in the fitful hours of the Arctic winter daylight, whilst the work of the railway and road-builders in the Persian Gulf and in particular from Teheran to the Caspian, has been beyond praise. In spite of the immense difficulties and of every type of handicap, Russia has been, is being, and will continue to be supplied with bulk supplies by the Northern sea route, and by the Southern land approach. All, I may remind you, a reflection of sea power and of the immense importance of the dominant role played by His Majesty's navies from the homeland and from the Dominion of Canada. I pause to pay a simple tribute to the Contribution of Canada. It fell to me as Minister of Supply to receive the Canadian deputation in 1939 and to place the first orders with you.
You have given of your best in men, women, ships, weapons, stores, food and finance and your part in the great Empire Air Training Scheme can never adequately be measured in words.
It is no fault of yours if your weather conditions, clear skies and parallel railroad tracks, roads and rivers rather flatter the young men's skill at aerial navigation and mean that we have to add "dirty weather navigation" to your most excellent training.
The plans for 1944 include, not only the improvement and strengthening at every point in this vast armed encirclement of allied transport, but the attack and the destruction at every point within the circle of enemy transport. The Axis countries have left little mercantile marine. Not much can be moved in safety, even by coastal routes, whilst her railways, roads, canals, docks and harbours are being progressively "hamburged". I like the story of the briefing of the train-busting pilots who were sent across the English Channel to bomb trains in the north of France. Says the officer: "Where do you pilots bomb the trains?" Reply: "Wherever we can find them." "Do you do it in the open?" "What do you mean, in the open?" "Do you mean to tell me you do not choose the place?" "Ah," said an Australian pilot, "You mean bomb them on a bridge and get both train and bridge in one go!" "No," said the briefing officer, "I mean bomb the train at a tunnel so that you not only damage the train but the line as well." And the Australian pilot came back that day with a smile from ear to ear, for, carrying out his master's instructions he had bowled a googly into the tunnel, once he had seen the train go into, and in order to make certain, had gone round the other end and lobbed another into the other entrance, thus blocking not merely the engine, but the entire train, and immuring the whole in the most workmanlike fashion.
Now the dominant note in the plans is speed--the cadence, tempo, timing, is everything. Rhythm is one aspect of life. The air, as we know, is full of waves, and wireless is but the reflection of their frequency. Yes, speed for civilization is bleeding. Human resistance has limits. A continental winter, with little food, with almost no heat, with insufficient clothing to keep out the rigours of the weather, saps vitality, and one element, the resistance of the occupied peoples risks becoming a diminishing factor unless the time of their liberation is speeded up and advanced.
There was, nearly twenty centuries ago, a famous appeal, "Come over into Macedonia and help us!" How oft, how bitterly, is that cry repeated today, also alas from Macedonia with the added injunction, "But come quickly!"
And so the plans unfold. And here, in the first ten weeks of 1944, as the days in Europe begin to give almost the promise of spring, when campaigning seasons are obviously rapidly approaching, we witness the preparations for the ever quickening waging of the war in the West. The rush for the enemy's main strongholds is about to take place. When Red Indians in the olden days attacked a white man's camp or fort, they slowly surrounded the place, silently took up positions, crawled their way forward to strategic places, and then, at a given signal, rushed all together from all the, four corners at once on the luckless stockade and all was over.
Something of the same kind is being staged, but on a greater scale than ever before. The magnitude of it all cannot be measured in words. It is all embracing and almost world wide.
The attack this time is not on a single camp, a single stockade, a single fort, but on the entire country of the German enemy, the centre, the breeding place, the brain and heart of the whole cause of the war. The United Nations have surrounded their foes. They have silently taken up their positions, they have advanced and are advancing to their strategic places.
All is getting ready and the shout will one day be heard intended to spur on the attack and at the same dread moment provide the signal for the letting loose of all the martial forces-sea, land and air, which, taken together, will ensure the utter destruction of the armies of Hitler, his clique, and his associates and his followers.
What a scene! What moments in which to be privileged to exist
In all great events the onlooker plays an important part. The crowd is as much a part of an international football match as the players.
But this is no sporting event. There is no game where good play meets the reward of a cheering multitude of friend and foe alike. This is no occasion where there is a referee and where there are touch judges on the sidelines. This is stark, dread war of machines and chemistry, on scales beyond all precedent, each side endeavouring to blast the other from the face of the earth.
We hold our breath as we see the contestants strip for action. Our minds hardly dare dwell on the extent of the sacrifices which are being made hourly and which are about to be made on ever greater scales.
There is not a single one of us here who has not some near and intimate relative and friend involved. Armageddon. It is no less.
But side by side with these terrific and ever quickening preparations, we find by enquiry at headquarters that good news of what is happening is pouring in from other parts of the world. Look at the air attack on Germany. Look at Russia's advances and successes, look at the Pacific, look at Italy and Yugoslavia and above all look at the ceaseless waging of guerilla war by the occupied peoples of Europe.
And what were the German boasts? Planes that would drive the Allies from the air; tanks that would crush and defeat armies on land; U-boats that would scour the seas and prevent communications; and shock-troops who would defy all defences or resistance. It is in your recollection that these were the German boasts, and where, I ask you, are the boasts of yesteryear? His planes, at one time in such dread superiority, have been crashed in their thousands, have been chased and raced across the sky, have been stung by our Mosquitoes, and pounded to bits by Lancasters, Stirlings, Halifaxes, and by the great American Flying Fortresses and Liberators.
There are many left, of course. It is by no means over. No one pretends that for a moment, indeed the sharpness of enemy reprisals will certainly decrease as the Allied poundings itself is magnified, but the sting of the Stuka, the jeer of the Ju. 88, the drone of the Dormer, and the mischief of the Messerschmitt, have all been measured by the flying men of the United Nations, who have once again shewn themselves the salt of the earth. Can you think of anything finer in the history of human endeavour than the work of the air pilots, air crews and ground staffs.
The U-boat, that death-dealing devilry, has been hunted and depth-charged, driven from the depths to the surface, and there spotted and plotted by the shore-to-shore service of Coastal and other Commands. And how great is our debt for the use of the Azores! Ask anyone who has been in an Atlantic convoy. A stimulating experience.
Whilst the German infantry, fine troops certainly and well trained, brave as lions as they always were, have been found individually to be no match for the trained troops of the Empire--whether from Britain or overseas. I cite the 51st Highland Division as a conspicuous example--it is but one of many that I could as easily give.
So, one by one, the German trumps have been called, played and over trumped.
Their strength, still very formidable indeed, is necessarily on the wane. I remind you that the German army is the pride of the German people and until that army is defeated Germany will not collapse. I remind you of Sikorski's statement. The one way back to Poland is through a defeated Germany. I paraphrase the only way back to Freedom is through a defeated Axis. The Allies' strength is gathering momentum at every turn, and is on the up-grade. I should not like to be an A.R.P. worker in a German city of any size this winter. I can think of nothing comparable to the intensive rain of blockbusters that a modern R.A.F. outing appears to involve, and no fireman, however well equipped, can look with indifference on burning phosphorus. No, my friends, it is not a nice winter and will not be a nice spring nor a nice summer for the enemy.
But after all, why should it be? Did they hesitate to plunge the world into this boiling cauldron? Who was it who bombed Warsaw, Rotterdam, Belgrade, London, Coventry, Plymouth?
The plans unfold. They do indeed, and what plans they are! They are all-embracing. They reach to the uttermost ends of the earth. They extend to Japan as they do to Germany and all her satellite powers, her allies, whether willing or unwilling. They gather speed. They spell utter defeat. They are aimed at unconditional surrender. They will be content with nothing less. Remember Lenin's three rules of war: (1) Be not deceived by a victory, repeat it; (2) Consolidate and follow up every successful attack and repeat; (3) Destroy the enemy utterly.
As in every well prepared set of plans the draughtman's roll of plans will refer to the same composite enterprise. There will be a unity. There will be a comprehensive relation between one plan and the next, between each and all together, between the separate plans and the master plan.
So it is with the plans for 1944. These plans involve unity. The Empire as one, the United Nations all working together under a Supreme Commander-in-Chief, backed by the combined strength and determination of all in every part of the United Nations, we go forward into the unknown of the coming spring with our pulses beating more firmly, our eyes brighter, our hopes higher, and we bend our backs with a will because we are determined to exploit the Allied military, naval and air advantage to the full, sometimes forwards break through the opposing backs and play about passing to one another. We are going right through, and intend to shoot at the goal in front of us. It is not for us to speculate as to time all this will require, nor to answer the question, what is the duration of the duration? Enough if we individually and collectively put all our strength in the task. Then, God helping, victory will not be denied. We pledge ourselves to make that supreme effort, not either to faint or grow weary, but to keep right on to the end of the road.
I think perhaps I might conclude with the finest wartime prayer with which I am familiar: "May right overcome might. May truth overcome the lie. May love overcome all things."