CANADA'S ACHIEVEMENTS AND
OPPORTUNITIES IN EUROPE
AN ADDRESS BY LIEUT.-COL. SIR GEORGE MCLAREN BROWN
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
February 4, 1919.
PRESIDENT STAPELLS : The community spirit found
expression during the war, and in no province more than in Ontario. Great campaigns were organized on a basis of Toronto raising 25. per cent. of the whole allotment of Ontario, and the other parts of Ontario raising 75 per cent., the result being that we went over the top for an amount in excess of our allotment. That contributed a splendid spirit of comradeship, so that today we hear no facetious remarks from Torontonians--in regard to the inflated aspirations of our good friends in Hamilton; and they will not permit any thing to be said along the lines of Toronto being known as "Hogtown"; and so today we can congratulate Hamilton once again on having produced another distinguished citizen. (Hear, hear.) We can join with Hamiltonians in paying him a tribute. We can rejoice
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George McLaren Brown is a Hamilton boy, educated in England, Hamilton and Upper Canada College. He entered railroad service in 1881 and has been a student of transportation problems ever since. His service with the C.P.R. in charge of their sleeping and dining car service, their steamship lines, and since 1908 as their general European Agent, has made him one of the world authorities on transportation. During the past year he has acted as Assistant Director-General of Movements and Railways at the War Office in London, and he has there displayed that rare organizing and executive ability for which he is noted. In the London Office of the C.P.R, he has, become well known to thousands of Canadians who came to him for purely business reasons and who left feeling that he was their friend.
with them in welcoming him home: You know that Hamiltonians, when they wanted to find out something about their men-folk at the front, did not write to Ottawa, did not cable the War Office in London; they simply communicated with Sir George Brown, knowing that he would not go back on them-and he didn't. (Applause.) In fact, there is a story of a young lady who had not heard from her young man for five or six weeks, and she promptly wrote Sir George Brown to find the reason why, and on the afternoon of the day on which he got the letter he telegraphed, with his concise and somewhat military abruptness, this message-"L=etters, kisses, for Heaven's sake write at once to-night, good-night." (Laughter.) We have welcomed a great many distinguished guests here, but he is one of our own, and it is a great pleasure for us to welcome him here today, and I am going to ask you to rise and welcome him by drinking his health and then giving three cheers and a tiger. (The audience rose, drank the health of the guest, and sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.")
SIR GEORGE BROWN, on rising, was greeted with loud applause, and said:-Mr. President, Your Honor, My Lord Bishop, and Gentlemen of the Empire Club of Toronto, I am deeply touched by the warmth of your reception, and I thank you, sir, for your kind and all too flattering remarks. You honored me indeed in asking me to speak before such a representative and influential company of my fellowcountrymen, and naturally I would wish, above all else, to be able to do justice to the occasion, but frankly, at the moment, I am sobered by the consciousness of my limitations, and find myself seriously at a loss. The best that I can promise is but a rambling talk, disjointed, pointless, and I fear leading nowhere.
I observe from this card that I am expected to speak on Canadian achievements, presumably overseas, and on the prospects for Canada in trade in the future. And first, what man alive can tell the story of the glory of Canada's fighting men, or the equally uplifting story of the self-sacrificing devotion of Canada's glorious women? (Hear, hear and applause.) Such an undertaking, gentlemen, is beyond my powers. But I find, when I go on telling that story to myself often and often, as I pass in review before me that host of gallant Canadian souls who, with such unselfish courage, went forth to the fight that we all might live, I, as a Canadian, pray that I may be never permitted to forget the duty we owe them (Hear, hear.) and that I may be privileged in some way as yet unknown, to contribute my quota to the cancellation of that debt. (Applause.) The deeds of the Canadian Corps speak louder than words, and nothing that I could say would add one iota to the honor and glory they have attained.
My duties in the Imperial service have not specially brought me in contact with the Canadian fighting forces, but, as you can well imagine, I never missed an opportunity of visiting the Canadian lines whenever I have been in their vicinity; and everywhere I have met them -in the fighting line, or behind the line at rest-that same considerate, generous spirit has prevailed always. You hear very little among the fighting men of Canada of their deeds, and my experience has shown me that if you really wish to form a true appreciation of what they have done, it is necessary to get in touch with officers and men of the Home Land Forces unstinted, generous in their praise of their Canadian comrades in arms. Often and often have I listened to conversations not addressed to me, but conversations between British officers, that have made me blush with pride as I have listened to the tributes paid to my countrymen. (Applause.) Only a few months ago I was privileged to hear the Commander-in-Chief at his own dinner table at his advanced headquarters pay a tribute to the Canadian courage and efficiency, that should be added to our history. He had about him only members of his staff, myself, and one other outsider. It was just prior to their first great advance. They had taken their position before Cambrai--I may add that the Commander-in-Chief did not know at that time that I was a Canadian-and he turned to his Chief of Staff, who had reported something in connection with the Canadians, and said, "But I have no anxiety as to the result where the Canadians are placed." (Applause.)
I rather emphasize this attitude of the British towards Canadians, and those other forces from the overseas Dominions, because I have heard it thoughtlessly stated by those who are probably not in a position to know the true facts, that British appreciation of the efforts and achievements of the overseas Dominions is non-existent. Believe me, gentlemen, that is not the case. Believe me that I know what I am talking of when I tell you that the achievements of the overseas Dominions loom far larger in the minds of the average Britisher than do his own miraculous performances. I have not time to enlarge upon this theme, and I would merely say in passing that the people of Great Britain have done miracles, and not one man in twenty thousand had the slightest conception of any of it, and would rather resent any intimation of the fact "All in a day's work," "It has got to be done," and "Do it and don't talk about it," is their motto. (Applause.)
God knows they were unprepared on that fatal 4th of August, 1914, and the world knows how they have risen superior to their then disabilities. That strong fundamental character of the race that has saved the nation in other crises throughout its history was on that day found to be still alive, and we know the results at this moment. I admit readily that those great hearts of the Old Land from which we of Canada have sprung are in many respects strange to us, difficult to understand, but I submit that the fault is rather with us in our lack of understanding, and I assert without fear of contradiction, that whatever their peculiarities, whatever their ways, there is one thing certain, and that is that they are truly great. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, I have probably dwelt on that point too long. I am here to talk about my own countrymen, but I think it is well that you should all know, and that you should all appreciate beyond all question, the true feeling that exists in Great Britain towards their fellow-subjects throughout the Empire. The story of our fighting forces and of our nursing sisters is known to most of you; even the dry-as-dust official records, thrilling enough in themselves, tell that bald story, and history will relate that story in fuller detail. There are other Canadians and other Canadian forces at the front with the doings of which you are probably not so familiar; I refer to the really strong troops of Canadian foresters, the Canadian Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., Salvation Army, and similar other institutions. In addition to those, which are purely Canadian, we find in almost every branch of the British service Canadian units serving under British officers You have the railway operating companies, the railway shop companies, units working within the directory of the Inland Water Transport. You find them in the Department of Docks and Dock Construction. In fact, you find them where-ever there is or has been any military activity.
Dealing first with the Railway Construction Troops of Canada, which I think number some 14,000, being part of a Railway Construction Corps numbering between 30,000 and 35,000, you find them in charge of a well-known Canadian whose name is known throughout the length and breadth of Canada and who, I-think I may safely say, will count many friends at this board-I refer to Brigadier-General Jack Stewart. (Applause.) His work has been beyond praise. It is, again, the story of courage and resourcefulness and the highest efficiency. You will probably have the opportunity of hearing that story from that gentleman himself, as I understand he is shortly returning to our native land.
We come to the Canadian Foresters. They also have been wonderful in their performances. They proved their usefulness almost from the very day they landed in England, and now we wonder how it had been possible to have done without them as long as we did. Composed almost exclusively of Canadian lumbermen, they rose to the situation, they maintained the fair name of Canada, they brought honor to themselves. One incident that came under my personal observation may be of interest to you. Some months ago, just about the time that the German push had been effectually stopped, the military authorities in France awoke to the fact that they were dangerously near the serious point of being short of measurement timber, due, I fancy, to the submarine activities and the consequent shortage of overseas tonnage. A rush order was sent from France to England, to the War Office, for 65,000 tons of measurement timber-approximately something like 173 million feet-for delivery in France over a period of six weeks. Time did not permit of getting that enormous supply from Canada or the United States of America. Scandinavia was out of the question because of the submarines. The French demurred at cutting it in France because of the inroads such a great cutting would make upon their beautiful forests; and the only alternative was to sacrifice some of the stately park timber of England, which they can very little spare, or afford to lose; and our Canadian foresters were turned loose. Within five weeks they had cut, sawn and delivered at British ports for trans-shipment to France something more than the entire order. (Hear, hear and loud applause.) It would also interest you to know that the final delivery of all this 173 million feet was made within the specified time at the ports in France where it was most required. (Applause.)
The Railway Operating Companies and the Locomotive Shop Companies come next. The Operating Companies practically dominate that section of transport involving the running of trains on the branch railroads within the British areas. Here, again, our countrymen maintained the high Canadian standard, maintained the fair name of Canada; and brought honor to themselves, because, believe me, their work was not the operating that they would find under normal conditions They were under shell-fire and under difficulties, and faced difficulties that no railroad man, unless he had been at the front and knows what, it means, can have any conception of. These men, though not fighting, though not armed with rifles, had their fighting at times to do, and mighty well they did it. (Applause.) That equally applies in the mechanical shops, in the repair shops. When I tell you that not-withstanding all the difficulties of transport, the fact that, their rolling stock was constantly under shell-fire, constantly seriously damaged, with an indifferent track causing derailments, and filling the repair shops at all times-when I tell you that notwithstanding all those circumstances the percentage of rolling stock out of commission has never been beyond six per cent., and is usually about four, you can appreciate the task. (Hear, bear and applause.) You find the Canadian officers in charge; I am now thinking of six mechanical shops with Canadian officers in full charge. I must tell you that these are really British units under British direction, and I am simply citing these to show you to what extent the Canadians are appreciated by those in control of the British forces.
Inland Water Transport is a very important section of the general transport, not only in France, but in every theatre of war. They have operated since early in 1914 a very successful service of barges from a place called Ridgeboro to the northern French ports, and within the last two years have established three train ferries which operate respectively from Ridgeport to Calais and Dunkirk, Southampton to Calais, and from Southampton to Cherbourg. The last port is served by the ferry steamer which, I think, ran across the St. Lawrence River, until a few months ago, in connection with the Grand Trunk service. You find the Canadians in responsible posts in this cross-Channel service, on the canals in France, as on the waterways and rivers-the Tigris, the Euphrates, in Mesopotamia, you find them in Egypt, you find them now in Russia, and in fact you find them wherever it is possible to utilize the inland water-ways in any of the theatres. I was surprised one day in my office to receive calls from fourteen men, all of whom had known me in my earlier days; when I knew them they were much younger; I had known them as mates and captains of the swift water boats on the upper Columbia River. Those men moved to Mesopotamia, and you all know what wonderful deeds and what wonderful success they obtained in the difficult transport problems of that Mesopotamian campaign.
In the Directory of Docks we found many Canadian not only in the operation of the northern ports in Franvr used by the British-Cherbourg, Havre, Rouen, Calais Boulogne, Dunkirk-but now, it is pleasant to be able to say in Ostend, Zeebrugge and Aerschott. (Applause) For instance, the former Mayor of the Town of Port Arthur, a major in the Canadian Militia, now holding the rank of LieutenantColonel in the Imperial Service and created as an Assistant Director of Docks, is in charge of the important port of Cherbourg, which is the most northerly channel point in the Cherbourg Duranteau lines of communication. At the Aldershot end of that Duranteau line you find another Canadian also a Lieutenant-Colonel, a civil engineer by professional and if I mistake not, he is a native of the city of Toronto.
One other striking example is that of a Lieutenant in the Canadian Foresters. He did not care very much for the work of the Foresters. He was a dock-man, one of the most important stevedores on the Pacific coast, a man whom I have known since his infancy. Immediately on his arrival in England he called on me and at that time I had been asked to recommend a young active chap, a good stevedore, to take charge of one of the quays at Dunkirk. He was recommended, accepted by the general in charge of that particular branch, and he made good, subsequently practically dominating the entire business of that most important port in northern France as far as the British were concerned. (Applause.) Just about this time a mission w assent to Mesopotamia to look into the large question of transportation in that region. I was again asked to nominate a man to go with that mission as an expert of dock construction and the operation of ships within the docks. This officer, who by this time was a captain was accepted; he went there with the mission as a major and today holds the rank of full Colonel and the grading of Director-General of Docks and of Dock Construction at the important port of Basuk. (Applause.) I could go on ad lib with such examples, but surely these are sufficient to give you the general idea that the Canadians who have left this country in the great cause have not failed. I do not know of one single instance where a Canadian in the British service has failed to maintain and uphold the good name of Canada, or has failed in bringing honor to himself. Do not let it ever be thought that all this work is not appreciated by our fellow-subjects of Great Britain.
I am expected now to say something of the future opportunities for Canada, presumably also abroad. If there is any man who has the temerity to prophesy today as to the immediate future he has much more self-confidence than I have. Though the fighting has ceased, let us hope for good, on the western front, it goes merrily on in other theatres, and to that extent at least the war is not over. Unrest prevails throughout the civilized world. Chaos is rampant over most of it, and that chaos is not without its reflection on the Western Hemisphere. There is no doubt in the world that the ultimate destiny of Canada will never be affected; that she will go on and on; but to say what is in the immediate future I think is beyond any man's mind. Your first duty in Canada appears to me, as it is in England, to settle your own and keep your hearts open to the calls not only of the widows and the fatherless, but of those hundreds of crippled men, physically and mentally disabled, to whom you owe so much. (Hear, hear, and applause.) If you as Canadians are alive to this-your first and today your only duty-as I believe you are, I am firmly convinced that everything else will follow-the spiritual advancement and material progress of this country and of my countrymen. That must follow in natural sequence. If you fail, however, in your first duty, then you cannot promise yourselves anything in any other respect. I believe, in fact I think-it is with me more than belief, it is knowledge-that out of this welter of evil that has been permitted to over-run the civilized world, good and only good can result (Hear, hear.) but at the same time, before that good does come I feel that we are faced with graver problems, problems of greater danger, than we have ever faced during the past five terrible years; and I would say that if unity of purpose and of action have been found necessary during those five years, it is doubly so the case today. (Applause.) I. do not expect the difficulties in Canada which may possibly have to be faced in England, but I believe that the strong character and national common-sense of the people of Canada will pull this country through, just as I believe that the sound common-sense of the British people will help them to overcome the pitfalls that lie in front of them. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, I hope you will pardon me, a Canadian, for speaking as I am, but my heart is full; I have been a long time from my own country, and I feel an exaltation as I breathe again the air of my native land, as I absorb again that Canadian atmosphere that will, I believe, continue to make strong, upright and good men. I do believe that Canada's future is assured if you are but true to yourselves. The old order changeth, and if you are honestly prepared to meet the new conditions, there can be no doubt as to the future of the land we love so much. (Loud Applause.)