THE GREAT WAR
AN ADDRESS By HON. W. H. HEARST, K.C., M.P.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto October 19, 1916
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I am not going to attempt anything in the way of a speech, but will simply try to tell you some of the things I saw and the impressions I received in connection with the great struggle in which we are now engaged, on my recent visit to England and France.
I desire to say at the outset that all I saw and heard while away increased my admiration for the British people and my appreciation of their bull-dog determination, perseverance and pluck; but it also increased, if that were possible, my admiration for the officers and men of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
As a Canadian I was delighted and proud to find the splendid reputation our Canadian soldiers have made everywhere for themselves and for Canada. Their reputation for valour and efficiency is not surpassed, yes, I can safely say is not equalled, by any troops engaged in the present war, and not only the British people, but our Allies and our enemies as well, bear testimony to the splendid fighting qualities, the resourcefulness and courage of our Canadian soldiers.
When the British Guards were entrusted with the task of leading the recent great offensive on the Somme, they asked to have Canadians associated with them, the highest tribute our men could receive.
Public men and citizens generally in the old land are unbounded in their praise of the conduct, character, physical and fighting qualities of the Canadians. Lloyd George, in discussing with me the other day what Canada had done, grew eloquent as he described the clear eyes, the splendid carriage, determined manner and swinging step of the Canadians that meant victory. He said that seventy-five per cent. of the Canadians he had seen were fit for the Guards. He spoke in enthusiastic terms of the splendid work Canadians--had done in the battle line and said that in the two most crucial engagements of the war Canadians had saved the day and that under the most trying circumstances, and against weapons never before used in warfare. His closing statement to me was, "I cannot find words to pay sufficient tribute to their conduct generally."
But not only have our fighting men done nobly, our doctors, our nurses, our engineers, our lumber men, our contractors, and Canadians from all walks of life who have taken part in this war have made reputations for their professions and callings and have advertised Canada and what Canadians can do to England and the world.
The doctors from this country, who are giving their services to the great cause, have made a name for the Canadian medical profession throughout the world, and our Canadian nurses are entitled to equal, if not even greater credit and praise. The British people are loud in their praise of what our doctors and nurses have accomplished, and of the manner in which our hospitals are conducted in England and France, and both the English and the French are glad to copy our system and methods. As an example of what medical skill and science has done in this work I might point out that I was informed on good authority that there had only been one death from typhoid fever among all the troops that have gone overseas from Canada, and that was a case in which the soldier had refused to be inoculated. We have only to compare this with the record of other wars to understand what medical science is doing for our men in this, struggle.
Canada is particularly to the front in special work for the restoration of men who have been broken down from the effects of wounds or sickness, or who are suffering from shock. I visited hospitals doing this special work at Monkshorton, Ramsgate, and elsewhere, and it is simply marvellous what is being done at these institutions to fit men for the strain of active service again, and where that is not possible to make them as fit as possible for other walks of life.
I visited dozens of Canadian hospitals in England and a number in France. Every one of these hospitals had splendid medical and nursing staffs and every possible arrangement was provided for the comfort and welfare of the patients, and what I want to make as emphatic as possible is that the friends of our brave wounded fellows can rest satisfied that everything medical skill and nursing can do for their loved ones is being done. Not only do our sick and wounded receive the best care and treatment that can be afforded by ordinary hospitals, but where special troubles arise, such as impaired sight or hearing, they are sent to hospitals equipped for treatment of troubles of these kinds, where they receive the attention of the best nursing and medical experts procurable.
Then, we have our Convalescent Homes, to which soldiers are sent when they are able to leave the regular hospitals. Some of the finest country homes in England have been turned over for this purpose. I visited a number of these where the lady of the house herself was acting as matron and directing and conducting the establishment with skill and ability and, in every case that came under my attention, displaying the greatest possible concern for the welfare, comfort and happiness of the patients. And everywhere I found these English ladies, English nurses and their assistants, loud in their praise of the patience, fortitude and gentlemanly conduct of our men. The invariable story I heard from these English women was, "Your Canadian soldiers are such splendid fellows, they never murmur nor complain, no matter how great the suffering may be," and the further tribute that they are always gentlemen.
I visited thousands of Canadians in hospitals in different parts of England and wherever possible asked the men privately how they were being looked after and if there was anything they wanted, and I never once received a complaint; and no matter how serious the wound, or how great the suffering I invariably found the men in good spirits and without a murmur.
As an example of the splendid spirit these fellows display, I might mention one case I found at Beechborough. The poor fellow had lost both legs, the sight of one eye and had a deep bullet wound in the forehead between his eyes. It seemed to be impossible that a bullet could strike a man in the forehead as this man had been struck and not prove fatal. The doctors informed me that the bone in a man's forehead is pretty heavy, and had saved this fellow's life. Notwithstanding his terrible maimed condition and the suffering through which he had passed, he was the jolliest man in the whole hospital and in fact was the life of his ward. I asked him how he received his wounds. He replied that he had had both his legs shot off and was lying on the ground when a German came along and thought he was not moving fast enough and gave him a bullet in his head, expecting to finish him, but he fooled them after all.
All the hospitals I saw, both in England and France, were comfortably and well equipped, and every provision possible under the circumstances made for the convenience of the patients. I am sure you will pardon me if I say a word about the Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington, a hospital built and maintained by you gentlemen and the other generous people of the Province of Ontario. I can say without boasting or fear of contradiction that the building, equipment and general arrangement of this hospital are not surpassed by any hospital in England, and I believe that the work being done there is as good as the best. A committee of experts visited England and France for the purpose of inspecting and reporting on War hospitals, and out of the hundreds visited chose this hospital as the one best adapted for the purposes for which it was used, and Ontario's hospital is now being adopted as a model for others. This hospital and its excellent staff of highly educated doctors and nurses, many of whom come from your own city, have not only done much for the sick and wounded, but have also done much to advertise Ontario in that part of England, and I also desire to add that if you could see, as I have seen, the comforts, help and blessing this institution affords to thousands of our wounded heroes, you would never regret the contribution you have made to it through the Ontario War Tax.
When the war broke out I felt everything we could do for our men, and particularly the privates who might be wounded or become sick, should be done, and I instructed Ontario's Agent-General in London to see that the men from Ontario in English hospitals were visited and their wants supplied so far as possible. Major Clark, well known to some of you, was assigned to this work, and Major Clark today is known and loved in every hospital in England where men from Ontario are patients, for his sympathy and kindly acts and ministrations; and in the London Office we have on file thousands of letters from relatives of men visited by Major Clark, thanking him for his assistance and attention, and I want the people of Ontario who have sons or friends overseas to know and understand that the Ontario Office in London is at your disposal to render any service or assistance that may be required, and particularly to look after any men that are sick or wounded. Last year through the Ontario Office in London we distributed to the hospitals for the sick and wounded, for the men of the fleet, and for Canadian prisoners in Germany, a large quantity of apples and fruit of different kinds. This fruit was not only enjoyed by our men, but was the means of advertising Ontario in England as a fruit country. The English people could scarcely believe their own eyes when they saw the splendid character of the apples and other fruits we produced in this country. We intend to carry on this work to even a greater extent this year.
While our wounded and suffering are properly our first care, all our men are entitled to our thought and consideration, and too much cannot be done to make the lives of our brave soldiers as comfortable as possible. In this connection the Maple Leaf Club, under the direction of Lady Drummond and her excellent voluntary Committee, are doing a splendid work. Cost of living is very high in London, and large numbers of Canadians on leave from the front, from the training camps, or after discharge from hospitals before returning to their units, are constantly in London. It is difficult, with the money at the command of the privates, to secure good respectable places to stop at; and even when they have the money, being strangers in London, they do not know where to go to secure the kind of accommodation they want. These clubs furnish the men with good clean beds and wholesome meals and a change of underclothing at a moderate cost, and best of all, furnish healthy amusements, good companionship and healthy surroundings morally and every other way. Representatives of these Clubs meet the men at the trains and conduct them to the club premises. The work in connection with the running of these clubs is done largely, if not entirely voluntarily, and you will find titled ladies washing dishes or doing other house-work beside their sisters in humbler stations of life, but who are no less heroic or less self-sacrificing. The men appreciate the provision made for them very greatly, and many a young man is saved from the temptations with which London abounds and kept from serious trouble, by means of these clubs. When I was there the club was seriously handicapped for lack of room. Scored of soldiers had to be turned away every night and I felt the money of the people of the Province could not be better spent than in providing a respectable home for our men when in London, and I consequently undertook to rent and fit up on behalf of the people of the Province, two additional houses for the work of the Club. These buildings will provide accommodation for 350 or 400 more men and since my return I have been advised by cable that one of these houses has already been opened and is full to the capacity. Lady Drummond writes,-" I can now sleep much more comfortably in my own bed, knowing that our brave defenders have some safe and suitable place to sleep when they are in London." The Club, out of the funds at their disposal, are fitting up another building and when these premises are all ready the Committee hopes to be able to supply a home to all our men who need one when in London. I can assure you that this institution is doing an excellent work and is entitled to every support and consideration. The I.O.D.E. in Canada has taken an active interest in and has greatly helped in this good work, and, in fact, the good work of Mrs. Gooderham and the Daughters of the Empire is in evidence on every hand. The Daughters of the Empire Hospital at Hyde Park Place, London, is a credit to that organization and to Canada.
"THE BRITISH FLEET"
Among the most pleasant and interesting days of my visit to the Old Land were those spent at Portsmouth visiting the naval shops and yards and the submarines, and in visiting the fleet. I was privileged to inspect the very latest designs of British submarines, some just ready to be placed in commission. These are the most wonderful productions of the designer and mechanic I have ever seen in my life, and one is at a loss to understand how so much machinery of all kinds can be compressed into such small spaces. The shops at Portsmouth are models in many respects, airy, comfortable, sanitary. Quite a large percentage of the labour engaged in these shops are women. They seem industrious and efficient and the testimony I received from here as elsewhere from employers of labour was that the employment of women in munition factories and factories generally was a distinct success.
As I looked at Nelson's old Flag Ship the Victory, still floating intact, proud and trim in Portsmouth harbour, and compared her with the latest vessels designed by the naval architects of today, I was struck with the great change one hundred years had wrought in the character of our fighting ships, and wondered what the feelings of Nelson would be if he could look down upon the present British Navy that maintains the supremacy of the seas that he so bravely won. One thing, however, is certain that the same splendid spirit that actuated Nelson and his men and secured the splendid victory of Trafalgar, actuates the officers and men of the British Navy today: and Nelson's famous message still rings in the ear and guides the conduct of all British seamen. The privilege I was allowed of sailing through the British Fleet in the North, and closely inspecting the same, was a delightful one indeed and helped to impress upon me the strength and mighty power of the British Navy more than anything else could do. It was with real joy as a Briton that I walked upon the decks and examined the war scars of the Tiger, the Warspite, the Princess Royal and other splendid vessels that have played important parts in the present struggle, and it was with pride and satisfaction that I heard from the lips of the gallant Sir David Beatty himself the story of the Jutland fight, the Heligoland battle aid other naval engagements of the war; and you felt that with such splendid vessels and such skilful and confident men to man them, there could be no doubt as to the supremacy of Great Britain on the high seas. The one wish and desire, from the Admiral to the common seaman was for another opportunity, and that at an early date, to try conclusions with the German fleet when conditions would allow a fight to the finish. Sir David Beatty, like the chivalrous fighter he is, gave due credit to the Germans for their bravery and marksmanship, but you could see the light of battle in his eye when he told how bravely his officers and men had played their part in the Jutland fight; and how a cruiser at Heligoland had run in, and out of sheer contempt for the German navy, fired at the German fortifications when the enemy had a vastly superior force of ships and guns at their command than he had, if they had only had the nerve and courage to go out and show him battle. He pointed with some pride to the fact that while the accuracy of the fire of the Germans decreased as the battle waxed warm and the enemy began to receive punishment, that of his fleet increased as long as the guns were in commission. He also pointed out the interesting fact that in the Jutland fight some of the vessels attained a greater rapidity of gun fire than had been attained in any trial in the history of the fleet, striking proof of the training, skill and coolness of the men and the perfection of the ships, guns and machinery. One of the officers whose position and duties enabled him to obtain a bird's-eye view of the battle, said it was one of the most magnificent sights he believes human eyes ever witnessed. He says the British Fleet carried out the plan of battle as steadily and accurately as it was ever done on review; and as the big battleships came up, each falling into its place in the battle line, belching forth fire from every gun with an accuracy and rapidity beyond belief, the scene was indescribable. Only a few minutes more of clear light and the German Fleet would have been totally annihilated and Germany's naval power destroyed, but unfortunately a mist obscured the rapidly retreating German ships from the British gunners and robbed the British of that absolute and complete victory that was almost within their grasp. today Britain's Fleet is stronger than ever before, and adding to its strength at a rate that is unbelievable. Jutland's naval fight was Germany's much heralded victory. May the Germans obtain many such victories before the war is over; but before they obtain many such their' fleet would be entirely wiped out.
In this far off land we hardly appreciate what we owe to the navy and to the splendid men that in heat and cold, in storm and shine, keep the trade routes of the world open, guard the heart of the Empire and enable us to travel in comfort and safety on the high seas, and if there is one class of British seamen more than another that excited my admiration and respect it was the sailors who man the destroyers and submarines. No one can understand the discomfort and hardships with which these men have to contend until you see the conditions with your own eyes, and no one can understand the great service these ships and men are doing until you recognize the protecting care that enables you to travel safely through dangerous waters. Britannia rules the waves as certainly and as surely today as at any time in her history; and so long as her ships are manned by men of the character, ability and heroism that man them today, so long will she continue to rule the waves.
A VISIT TO THE FRONT
My trip to the front was one of intense interest and satisfaction. Again I saw a demonstration of the strength and ever-watchful eye of the British navy. As soon as our vessel moved from Folkestone Pier destroyers appeared on either bow of our ship scouting for submarines and dangers of all kinds and protecting from harm the soldiers on their way to the trenches. Referring to the Navy again, and as another proof of the efficiency of that service, one of the Commanding Officers of a Canadian Battalion told me with great satisfaction that when his brigade was crossing to England he was informed by the Captain of the transport that at twelve o'clock noon on the second day out from Liverpool they would be met by destroyers and convoyed into harbour; and that not only to the appointed minute, but to the appointed second, two destroyers appeared out of the trackless unmarked ocean and took their position on either side of the transport, and convoyed them safely to Port. By such efficiency and vigilance nearly 300,000 troops have been conveyed from Canada across the Atlantic, and a very large number across the channel without the loss of a single man, and parents and friends whose loved ones are now on the sea, or soon to sail to take their places alongside their brothers in the battle line, may feel little concern because of the might, efficiency, and the eternal vigilance of the British Fleet have rendered the German fleet impotent.
What I saw of our Canadians at the front served to emphasize still more their qualities as fighting men and their devotion to duty. I doubt if the annals of history contain the record of greater heroism, or a deeper sense of duty and sacrifice than that displayed day in and day out by our Canadian soldiers.
In the past while ofttimes men have gone to battle freely and voluntarily for a great cause, and from the call of conscience, they often have gone for the lust of battle, for the hope of plunder, for the love of adventure, for the avenging of a personal wrong, or for personal freedom.
None of these things move our Canadian men. They pray for the day when they can return to Canada and the loved ones they have left behind, but from a sense of duty and duty alone, these men are fighting, fighting with bravery and skill not surpassed in all the ages. No thought of quitting, no regrets for the action they took when freely and voluntarily: they assumed the task, and shouldered the burdens of the fights for freedom, determined to fight, to fight with every ounce of their strength until Kaiserism is destroyed.
Their spirit and conduct is superb wherever you see them, at their grim work in the trenches, coming out of the trenches after their turn, weary, mud stained, with clothing often torn and tattered on their way to rest billets. Wherever you found them, whether at work or at play, and no matter what privations or hardships they were suffering, you found them cheerful, jolly, uncomplaining, determined, with one thought, one purpose to fight on until final and complete victory is obtained, no matter what their own fate might be. No wonder Earl Curzon said in an address delivered in London a few days ago,-" If in this war there were any of our fellow subjects who in the superlative degree might he said to have shown the loyalty of the loyal and the bravery of the brave, these were our fellow-subjects from the Dominion." I received many messages of comfort and good cheer from the men at the front to the folks at home but not one message of complaint or despondency. I saw a number of Canadian troops, including the 75th Toronto Battalion, on their long and trying march from the Ypres Salient to the Somme, and I never looked upon a finer body of men. They knew the ordeal before them and the inferno to which they were going, but not a man wavered, not a man faltered, all 'eager for the conflict. Every man I saw, officer and private alike, was a hero. Alas, already many of these men lie maimed or wounded. Many have made the supreme sacrifice, and the soil of Flanders is still more sacred to us for it has once again run red with the blood of Canada's best and bravest. Our voices shake and words completely fail if we try to pay a proper tribute to our heroic dead. To the fathers, mothers, wives and loved ones of those who have gone we extend our sympathy, but I bid the sorrowing ones to weep not, if your loved ones could speak to you from their hallowed tombs on that far off battlefield, their message would be one of good cheer. They died like heroes all with their faces to the foe and their feet to the field. The brave die not; their memories live forever stimulating us to deeds of courage and nobility.
As a Canadian, with reverence I bowed my head before the splendid spirit of heroism and devotion exhibited by our Canadian men. Before their heroic deeds and suffering our troubles and sorrows at home must be silenced. No wonder the Canadians have made a name for themselves and for Canada; and the call comes to us as never in the history of the world before to live noble, unselfish and sacrificing lives. Unless we give and give with a full and free heart everything that may strengthen and help our men, unless we provide and provide generously for their families and loved ones at home, we are not worthy of the splendid fellows who are fighting, alas, many of them dying for freedom and for us. Let us strive at least in some degree to measure up to the standard of citizenship, service and devotion to a great cause set by our men in the field.
"PROGRESS OF THE WAR"
A much greater feeling of satisfaction and confidence prevailed in England with reference to the war when I left than when I first went over. The addition of Roumania to the number of the Allies and the splendid successes that have attended the present offensive on the Somme front hale satisfied the people beyond all question of doubt that complete -victory is assured for the allied countries. Sir William Robertson's words to me were,-" I am beginning to see around the corner, I can't quite see around it yet, but I soon will," and in this connection I simply desire to say that Sir William Robertson has won, and I believe rightly won the confidence of the people in a very marked degree.
Shells and munitions so badly needed at the commencement of the war are now going forward in abundance, and the Germans are outclassed by the British artillery and are beginning to feel something of what the British suffered in the early stages of the war. To illustrate the changed conditions, Lloyd George pointed out to me that in one week now they are turning out in Great Britain three times as many shells as they had in the whole line of communication a year ago last July.
Great Britain has also secured complete mastery in the air, and Germans, man to man in bayonet fighting or hand to hand encounters, are no match for the Imperials, the Canadians or Australians. In fact, they do not wait to try conclusions with the British troops when there is a chance of a hand to hand fighting. While the Zeppelins in their raids upon England never had any success from a military standpoint, it was more or less a matter of irritation to an Englishman to feel that these monster air ships could cross over his land at all, and it is a source of great satisfaction to him now that they are able to successfully wage war on the murderers of helpless women and children. While there is no doubt of the ultimate result, the end is not yet near and there must be no slackening; but, on the contrary, a great increase in effort if the end is to be gained as quickly as it should. More men and more munitions is the cry. I asked Lloyd George in what way could Ontario best serve the allied cause apart from what we are now doing. His immediate answer was,--"Send Send us more men. It is the side that will be able to throw fresh troops into the field when the other is exhausted that will ultimately win this war: and we look more and more to our overseas dominions, particularly to Canada and Australia, for the help that is required." I do not believe that at any stage of the war did the call come to Canada more insistent than it does today to help in every way possible, so that the end may be hastened and the terrible loss of life we are suffering brought to an end.
I am sure we are all agreed throughout the Empire, men of the Old Land as well as men of the New, that this must be a fight to the finish, that there can be no compromise. Nothing but a lasting, complete and final victory will satisfy. The blood of our fallen heroes must not have been shed in vain, and our children, or our children's children, must not be called on to fight this battle over again. The more men we send, the better we equip them, the more guns and munitions we supply, and the better the camps and hospital arrangements we furnish, the sooner the end will come, and the less the loss of blood and treasure will be. There is a great work for all of us to do.
The people of Great Britain are setting themselves more strongly to the task,-England is awake, a journalist writing from Berlin the other day said she would not sleep again unless it was the sleep of death. Great Britain is not going to sleep the sleep of death, but she will emerge from this titanic struggle, nobler, better and stronger than ever. It is Prussian autocracy, Prussian brutality and Prussian ambitions that will sleep the sleep of death.
Five weeks sojourn in England and France with the knowledge it brought and the evidence it afforded of the grim struggle in which we are engaged and the tremendous issues that are involved,' the opportunity of personally seeing the toil, the suffering, the sacrifice and heroism of the men in the trenches and the havoc and woe the war has wrought in all directions in Europe,--the sight of the wounded, the maimed the suffering and the dying in-the hospitals of France and England,--the list of the Empire's bravest and best sons that have given life itself in the struggle for liberty; all have impressed upon me the necessity for greater sacrifice, greater earnestness, greater exertion on the part of all of us if we are to measure up to what the Empire and our men in the field have a right to expect of us.
Many of us are following our daily avocations but little inconvenienced and little disturbed by the terrible conflict upon which not only the future of the British Empire, but the future happiness of the world depends. It is surely time that we took the war more seriously to heart even than we have yet done; and bend every energy and make every sacrifice that may be necessary to supply more men and more munitions and to support and strengthen our men in every way possible in the field, care for the wounded and disabled, and help and care for the families and dependents of those who are fighting in the trenches and for those who have fallen in the battle.
Let us see to it in this thrice-favoured Province of Ontario, and this great City of Toronto, that we fail not in this great crisis of our history. Let us set an example of patriotism and devotion that will be held noble in every section of the Great British Empire, and in every Country lined up with us in the struggle for the freedom of the world.
A vote of thanks was heartily carried.