HOW ENGLAND MEETS
AN ADDRESS By RT. HON. RT. REV. A. F. WINNINGTON INGRAM, LORD BISHOP OF LONDON.
17th September, 1931
LT.COL. GEORGE DREW was in the chair and introduced the guest, who said :-I must first congratulate you upon this splendid hall; when I last spoke to you we had nearly eleven hundred people crowded into a space built to hold about six hundred. When I arrived today I imagined this was the new club house of the Empire Club (laughter) and as I came through the lobby downstairs I thought, "My word, that Empire Club must have some money to put up this magnificent club house in five years." (Laughter.) I was reminded of the story I heard of the woman who was explaining the wonderful tour she had had. She had travelled by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and seen the Canadian Pacific Rocky Mountains, until at last she came to the Canadian Pacific Ocean. (Laughter.)
I have been asked to tell you today-and this is the ninth gathering I have faced in Canada, having to choose a new subject each time,-in what spirit England is meeting the present difficulties. In order to answer my subject I will carry you back in memory to August, 1914, to tell you how England met the difficulties which beset here at that time.
I shall never forget standing with Lord Roberts in the Peers' Gallery of the House of Commons listening to the even" quiet, well-modulated voice of Sir Edward Grey declaring War. One of those moments which one never forgets, a stirring moment in our lives. We were told at that time how Belgium had been violated, and that if there were not an answer by midnight War would be declared. I went back with Lord Roberts-this will interest you, I think-and I shall always remember that that great old man never said one word of "I told you so;" he had told us of the danger; he prophesied it; one of the papers had said he should have his pension taken away for mentioning it; yet at that moment when the very thing happened which he had prophesied, he never said "I told you so". (Applause.) I had just come from Beachy Head, where I spent the mid-summer, with the rifle brigade of which I was the chaplain, and we were hardly installed when we were ordered back to defend London. We had gone down to Beachy Head at half-past four, and I had arranged for the service in the evening; at half-past five we received a telegram to return to London, and were starting back by six o'clock. Then came-and in a moment you will see why I am enlarging on this-the most wonderful experience of my life" in regard to the spirit of the men of England. My London Rifle Brigade and other territorial regiments had never fought in their lives. They had enlisted under the impression that they would serve in England, having no idea that they would have to- go across the English Channel to fight on the hills of Belgium. That is the message I had to break to them. I found myself with sixteen thousand troops, the only padre at Bisley. The General told me, "Put a little ginger into your sermon this morning; they have not volunteered for foreign service yet." I put a little ginger into my sermon, with the result that the entire brigade volunteered in the evening for foreign service. (Applause.) I had not met the General before, but we became great friends in twenty-four hours; he asked me to go with him to the other brigade and make the same speech. In this particular instance the Sergeant Major stood me with Sir Ian Hamilton, the reviewing officer, on one side, and
General Frye on the other. I gave there what was termed "The Call to Arms", and I shall always remember the thrill I received. This brigade was unknown to me, and yet every one of them volunteered for foreign service practically that same day. This made about ten thousand men of the British Forces volunteering in twenty-four hours. I shall never forget the thanks I received from the war office. (Laughter.)
In the House of Commons I heard telegrams coming in from all over the world, the first from Canada-(Applause)-offering help to the British Empire. Then came telegrams from Australia, New Zealand, and India, all offering their resources. I heard Redmond on behalf of the Irish, saying that if they removed the British Troops, he would undertake to keep Ireland in order.
I saw the first Canadian contingent which arrived at a place called Attarr in France. They sent me a message, "We shall wait here until you come." I was exhausted; I had addressed eight regiments already that day, and when I arrived at the Canadian lines I was rather out of breath; so I said something, and then added, "Now, cheer that"-in order to get my breath for the next sentence. (Laughter.) I had been to only Toronto and Montreal on my first visit to Canada in 1907. During the course of my address I said, "This reminds me of Montreal and Toronto"; "Why not Winnipeg?" said a fellow who came from there. (Laughter.) I shook hands with seventy-two young officers and addressed nearly ten thousand men in a little market square, and it has always touched me to think that within three weeks twenty-two of those officers were killed, and five thousand men were put out of action at the second battle of Ypres. I took the memorial service in St. Paul's Cathedral in memory of the Canadians and I described what a splendid body of men they were, and how well they had fought.
Now we come to the spirit of the women. They rose to the occasion in a most magnificent way. Many girls drove motor ambulances under fire for years. Those who were not allowed to go to the front volunteered for other work, making garments and comforts for the soldiers. One evening I was asked, by those in charge of a London factory, to come and see one hundred girls who had had a terrifying experience the night before. They were working, when two bombs fell from an aeroplane; one made a hole in the street big enough for a horse and cart to be buried in, and the other fell on the house; by the mercy of God it did not explode, but the girls were thrown to the ground. The lady in charge kept her head, saying, "Get up; it has not exploded; you will not be killed", and every one of those girls turned up for work the next night. (Applause.) The church carried on as usual until we were stopped by the police, but we continued with the work in London just as if there were no war. One night I was in East London, taking a service in a small Rectory; a little servant girl had brought me a cup of coffee, and I heard over the top of the house that familiar sound, "Boom,, boom, boom". I said "I hope that does not frighten you, my dear," and she answered "Well, Bishop, it does, but I keep it in." (Laughter.) This shows you the spirit of courage with which the nation-men, women and children-met the terrible dangers of seventeen years ago.
You remember that a coalition government was formed to see us through the crisis. It was not only a union of parties; it was an extraordinary union of classes. A dear old cabby who was wounded and in the hospital, said to one of my clergy, "What astonishes me is them toffs; they were so tired before the war that I had to drive them from one end of the street to the other' but at the front not only do they share their cigarettes and sandwiches with me, but they go over the top first." Employer and employee went over the top side by side, and all sense of class feeling was obliterated. (Applause.) There was not only courage and unity, but also willing sacrifice. The Archbishop's palace was used as a hospital for one hundred Tommies for two years. Many of the rich people gave their beautiful houses for hospital service. The seven hundred thousand men,-the million, if you count the whole Empire-who gave their lives, were fighting on such meagre rations that some died for want of nutrition; thus it was fitting that those who were blessed with this world's goods should make any sacrifice they could. We were a noble nation then, and in that spirit of courage;, unity, and sacrifice, we met triumphantly the trials and dangers of seventeen years ago.
Now, quite suddenly to most of us, there has come upon our nation at home almost as great a danger-I weigh my words, and would not say "as great", because nothing could be more dangerous than to have little England a German Province-(laughter)-a danger in that England finds itself losing the credit of the world. When you think of what the Bank of England stands for in the Empire you will understand what it means for the Bank of England to lose its credit.
On one occasion Mr. Blye and I were in Australia, and were received by the Labour Government in New South Wales. They very kindly sent a man to meet us; in his speech he said, "The Star of Australia is rising, rising, rising,, and the Star of Great Britain is sinking, sinking, sinking." (Laughter.) That was not a tactful thing to say in receiving one who came from Great Britain-at any rate there were loud cries of, "No! no! no!" When I had the pleasure of addressing the Australian Press, representing about one hundred and thirty papers, I took the opportunity of pointing out that the prestige of Great Britain was higher than ever before in those parts of the world which I had visited; I had found the rich Chinese in Hong Kong moving into a certain portion of the city to be under the British flag, and wherever I went in Japan, Great Britain's influence was more highly respected than ever. When I sat down, Sir Ernest Hardie, representing the Bank of England, said, "I want to add a few remarks to the eloquent words of the Bishop of London. The Bank of England has just set three bankrupt nations of Europe on their feet, has repatriated five hundred thousand Greeks, and is today the only sound thing in Europe." However we could not say the same thing in August of this year. I have little knowledge of these things, but I can quite understand that when millions are suddenly withdrawn from a bank in a great country the people think that the nation is going bankrupt; that is what happened-the world made up its mind that the credit of England was gone. I ask you "what would happen to Great Britain if there were a flight from the pound sterling?" But no one can imagine that happening.
Men like MacDonald, Thomas, and Snowden, who have given their political careers for the benefit of the nation, deserve the thanks of the British people. Their political opponents might fairly say, and no doubt will say, that they brought us to the edge of the precipice and then refused to go over. I take no political leaning, but work with all parties as well as I can. Let us give these gentlemen credit; rather than let the Nation go over the precipice, they went themselves. (Applause.) I do not feel that those who are opposing them are consciously unpatriotic; I have lived amongst the working men in East London for nine years, and they know no more about political economy than a new-born babe. They are absolutely ignorant of what is going to happen. I am ignorant myself, but you business men can realize the grave danger to England's credit at the present time.
This means a tremendous crisis, and we have to face it in the same spirit of courage that we met the crisis in wartime. Do not listen to pessimists who prophesy at such times as these. There are millions in the savings banks of England. We must show the courage for which the British Nation is famous; we must show a united front. I thank God that the political parties have joined, and I am sure that the brains of the present Cabinet will soon dispel the pessimistic attitude which is prevalent. Knowing these men as I do, I assure you that you could not pick any with greater ability than those who form the Cabinet of Great Britain today. We must get the Nation together, and realize that the danger is almost as great as the danger of seventeen years ago. If we show the same spirit with which we met the crisis during the dark days of the War, we must sacrifice in every possible way. With this sacrifice, unity, and courage, will come a solution of the problems, and within a few months' time Great Britain will look the world squarely ins the face, and the heart of the Empire will be as sound as ever. (Prolonged Applause.)
Horn. G. HOWARD FERGUSON, High Commissioner for Canada in London, conveyed the thanks of the Club for the inspiring address.