Canada's Contribution in Men to the Imperial Navy
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 5 Oct 1916, p. 205-209
Guinness, Capt. Hon. Rupert, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The speaker's object today to get the audience interested in his mission to get men for the Royal Navy. Why Great Britain is recruiting for the Navy from the Dominion. Some personal background and history of the speaker. The kind of men wanted. Difficulties involved in recruiting and training. A description of a battleship. Some traditions of service in the Royal Navy. A final appeal.
Date of Original
5 Oct 1916
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto October 5, 1916

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--My object today is to get your people interested in my mission, which is to get men for the Royal Navy. It seems odd that we should come this distance to get men, but you must realize that every man in England is under discipline today, either a soldier or sailor, or because he cannot be spared from the munitions factory. Therefore, where are we to get men to man the ships that are now coming off the stocks? We can only do it by robbing the army, and by doing that we are not helping the Allies unless we can get men who have had no previous training. Therefore the Admiralty, seeing that difficulty, sent me out here, and very generously the Canadian Government made an offer which is today in force-that men can be enlisted as a part of and as a force in the Canadian Organization--the Royal Canadian Foreign Reserve and those men, as soon as they are enlisted and as soon as ships can take them, are going to their English depots where they will be trained. There are three such depots in England, and a very short training will suffice to see them on our battleships. I am proud to be here, because I, am the senior naval veteran, and this badge I am wearing shows that I am an A. D. C. to the King; that honour has been given me as the senior Royal Naval Reservist. I presume we were given that because the blanches of the service of which we are the senior officers have not been found wanting. The men of my force were all landsmen, many of them bank clerks. Every class of men you can think of would be represented in that force, and though many of the men of my original force were lost at Antwerp the same sort of men had been tried again; people who have enlisted since the war and are now serving, and evidently with success. The thing I am most proud of after my eleven years' service as a naval officer is that the landsmen really could be made use of, and very rapidly, when they get on to the ship. They were quite happy; in fact we had most flattering speeches from no less a person than from Admiral Jellicoe, who said he did not want anything better than our men if they had to increase the personnel of the fleet. That is the same sort of men that I am here today to get. It is enough for me that the officers and admirals of the fleet say that they are good enough; and therefore they sent me here, and hence I want you to help me to get them. I need your help, because we have not got an awful lot of time; they want 2,000 men by the end of the year. Of course it is from the whole of Canada, but when you realize how far even you who live so close to the lake are from the sea, and how difficult it is to get into the mind of the ordinary man what a battleship is like, what the condition of service is, when one realizes what a vast proportion of the population has already gone to serve in this great struggle for civilization, one is appalled at the short time. Therefore I want every one of you, as far as you possibly can, to help me. Commodore Jarvis is going to organize the recruiting, and I ask you to help him in every way you can, and not least by trying to make people realize what the navy is, not only what it does. Describe a battleship if you can. Realize it as near as you can. You may see a long way off a low shape--apparently low--and you approach it gradually, and as you come nearer it stands up until you are alongside of it, and then you find it is as tall as the very building we are in now, if not taller, out of the sea, and yet it is as long as you saw before. That great gray mass has inside it a thousand men or more, living in wonderfully sanitary conditions, which they must live under or they would not live at all; and inside that mass is the machinery by which you can propel that heavy mass to travel at 20 to 30 miles an hour, carrying vast guns that will throw projectiles containing tons of metal at least 12 to 18 miles. It can do that while the ship is in motion, and though she may seem fast she takes up the motion of the ocean and that does not make it any easier for the gunner to get his object, and yet it has been done. I believe we have sunk a battleship 18 miles distant--practically out of sight. One cannot appreciate the enormous distances at which those battles are fought; but I want everyone of you listening to me today to do your best to educate the community-you who have been constantly devoting your whole attention to the army as the necessary spear-head, but now you must look to the shaft that carries that spear-head; and as a matter of fact that shaft grows; it has doubled itself since the outbreak of war-and in its growing it is necessary to have more men to man those ships. The personnel is already doubled before I left England, and it is continually increasing by the natural process of more ships being put in the water, to say nothing of the inevitable losses not only in battle but by the inevitable wear and tear of 300,000 men living in war conditions in those vast machines that are operating.

Now, gentlemen, get into your heads that, we want men, healthy, enthusiastic men, whether they have or have not seen the sea before. They are to serve in the Canadian forces; they are to be sent immediately to the depots in England; and they are to be nearly as physically fit as the army requires; but we want them as keen and as enthusiastic, and men who will learn rapidly. Gentlemen, help us to get that before the mass of the people quickly. Your country is enormous, and it is impossible to have officers in every town and village, and this work can be done only by you who can help to bring home to the people the need for a picked fleet.

Then again, it is well that you should realize that these great ships reveal great traditions of the past. It is shrouded in mystery. Every sailor at 8 o'clock in the morning when the beautiful grace is said, stands still while the flag is hoisted, and every officer salutes, because they say that that is a tradition that has come down from pre-Reformation time when Mass was said on the quarter-deck. So even now, today every officer and man as he comes to the quarterdeck salutes, for by the practice of hundreds of years the habit had become so strong to salute the crucifix that stood on the quarter-decka strong tradition that could last so long. Yet you have another body of history in the crews of those ships. They are not all blue-jackets; they are not all one force; but the regiment of soldiers raised, I think, in 1680 still serves in those ships. You have the Royal Marines; and though the Royal Marine Artillery practically do the same work on the day of battle as the blue-jacket, yet you have that great tradition going on. What is it? It is that in those days merchant vessels were converted to fight the King's battles, and soldiers were put in them to stiffen the fighting quality and the work of the guns. In those days, you sent soldiers into your ships, and the men who worked and sailed the ships were civilian sailors, as it were. There is no difference. You come back practically to the beginning of military history as we know it today. Those men are there; they represent their traditions to this day. The merchants are soldiers and sailors too, but it represents the day when you had to have a stiffening of soldiers, when you had no professional sailors in the sense of professional Royal Navy sailor; and that is going on to this day. It is a wonderful tradition. It is one that, as far as I can see, must appeal strongly to anyone, because there in those ships you have the very latest science. No engine of war is missing there. Surely it is an education in itself; and in appealing to the Empire Club I need hardly say that if you can send from Canada 2,000 to 5,000 men while the war lasts, or as long as the necessities of the case should be, it will surely help to strengthen the bonds of Empire. You have a difficult problem before you in settling what you will do. You were on the point of doing it before the war, but you have got to do it for yourselves. I am not here to give you advice. But will not those men who have served in the fleet help you to form your opinion as to what you should do in having a navy of your own? They will give a training and colour to public opinion. But we cannot get those men without your help today. It is not a a Canadian force; it is an Empire force, it is a force that will fight in those battleships to defend the Empire.

In conclusion I want to remind you that Canada's strength is being felt in Europe today; but I want to appeal to you to do all you can with Canada's strength, and help to maintain that navy by which alone Canada's strength was able to get as far as Europe.

A hearty vote of thanks was moved by Lieut.-Col. Merritt and seconded by Mr. Aemilius Jarvis.

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Canada's Contribution in Men to the Imperial Navy

The speaker's object today to get the audience interested in his mission to get men for the Royal Navy. Why Great Britain is recruiting for the Navy from the Dominion. Some personal background and history of the speaker. The kind of men wanted. Difficulties involved in recruiting and training. A description of a battleship. Some traditions of service in the Royal Navy. A final appeal.