FRANCE AND HER ALLIES
ADDRESSES BY GENERAL PAUL PAU, CHAIRMAN OR
FRENCH MISSION TO AUSTRALIA (Address translated)
AND MONS. ANDRE SIEGFRIED, (In English.)
At a Joint Meeting with Canadian Club, Toronto,
February 25, 1919.
MAJOR WRIGHT (President Canadian Club, Chairman)
We are honored today by having with us His Excellency the Governor-General of Canada. (Loud applause.) We .are pleased that he was able to so arrange his engagements as to be here and help us to welcome the French Mission. Since the war we have grown to know our Allies, and we know now and understand nations which before the war were only looked at from the distance. In the new knowledge no nation has occupied such a place in the hearts of the people as has France. (Hear, hear and loud applause.) In August 1916 the Canadian Corps moved from Belgium -to the Somme. It was very hot. The fields were ripe with grain. We did not take a direct route; we went by a roundabout course which took us through a part of France which had been devastated, and where the people were carrying on their peaceful pursuits. In order to avoid the excessive heat of mid-day, we marched early in the morning and resumed in the afternoon; but we never marched so early in the morning, it was never so hot at noonday, we were never out so late at night but what in those golden harvest fields
General Paul Pau was one of the outstanding figures in the saving of Paris during 1914. He was Chairman of a Mission appointed by the French Government to Australia for the cultivation of friendly relations and the development of trade connection between France and Australia. He is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque figures produced by France during the past fifty years.
of France the women and children and friends were bringing in the harvest. (Applause.) During those days we got the thrill of pride in fighting by the side of such a nation, and we realized as we had never realized before the extent of the sacrifice and contribution which France had made for our common cause. Such of those men as do not lie for ever buried in France are now returning to Canada, and they are telling her the real story of France's effort in the war. So it is with a deep and permanent affection that we, today, welcome to Toronto General Pau and his companions, and pay through them our tribute to the heroic nation they represent.
GENERAL PAU, on rising, was received with loud applause, the audience cheering and waving handkerchiefs. Speaking in French-his words being interpreted afterwards in sections-he said: Mr. President and Gentlemen, I must be excused if I do not speak in English. Your Excellency and gentlemen, I do not think that it is necessary that I should apologize for not knowing your language. I am very sorry I do not, but you are so kind in coming here today that I do not think my apologies are necessary. It is certainly very kind of you to come and listen to me; that is why I do not hesitate to say a few words, that one of my comrades will translate. Afterwards Mr. Siegfried will speak eloquently of the French effort during this war. (Applause.) But I will not leave to my friend, Mr. Siegfried, the care to answer to the eloquent words of your chairman. I want to thank him and you all for the feelings of admiration and love he has expressed in such a touching way. He is not the only one who knew France but imperfectly before this war; because France, with all her qualities and shortcomings did not appear to the world as she really is. The Frenchman has a sort of shame which makes him hide his innermost feelings. It is very difficult to penetrate into a French home, and that is why the Frenchman is very often judged wanting in feeling. But wait for the days of trial, and in those days see, listen, and judge, and you will know France. (Loud applause.) The France you have seen on these historical days is the same France which has always existed. Every time that France seemed to be on the verge of the precipice, that country, which some people called a decayed country, showed herself united; she showed that union in the minds and in the hearts which is the first condition of strength. (Applause.) Many times she has resisted a terrible onrush. Today, as well as in the past few weeks, as I was travelling through His Majesty's Dominions, I find the same surprise at the way France has fulfilled her duty towards her past and towards the future of humanity. But now people know; they have seen that heap of lies, which our enemies had spread about us, crumble down. (Hear, hear and applause.) But be careful. In a few years, when life is normal again, France may appear again to be light, but it will always be the same France, the storehouse of tradition. Every country has in her disposition some elements of strength as well as of weakness. Perhaps our elements of weakness are more conspicuous. You Britishers know what traditions are. We French people perhaps do not show it so much; we keep our feelings more compressed in our hearts; but when the day of trial comes we can rise to any height. (Loud applause.)
But I apologize to have kept you waiting so long for Dr. Siegfried's speech. I cannot sit down before I let you know what is the object of our mission. We have here no economic mission; we simply bring you the expression of the gratitude of France. (Applause.) I want to tell you that the names of Britisher and of Canadian are now synonymous in France, not only of gallant men and of good men but of sincere friends. (Cheers.) We want our friendship to be eternal. Our two nations may have had diferences in the past, but we always fought fairly (Hear, hear and loud applause.) and only our friendship can ensure for the world a future of peace and happiness for which the world has sighed now for more than four years. It is a necessary condition that France and the Empire should remain united (Hear, hear and loud applause.) and it is that friendship that shall be the guarantee of our union. It was only from the day that unity of command was realized that we saw the dawn of victory. (Hear, hear and applause.) It is as necessary that we should remain united in peace as we have been in war. (Hear, hear and applause.) There will still be economic struggles. Economic struggles have in the past very often led to war, but if we remain united as friends we are safe; the blood of our soldiers shall not have been shed in vain.
I now conclude in thanking you for this greeting. We shall carry away with us a precious memory of this day, and we will tell our friends and the people of France that here we have met not only true friends, but real brothers. (Hear, hear and applause, the audience rising, cheering and waving handkerchiefs.)
MAJOR WRIGHT, (Chairman): We are now going to have the privilege of hearing from Dr. Siegfried, the Secretary of the Mission. His accomplishments are well known to us all, but there is just one matter I would like to mention which makes him almost a comrade with us here today--indeed it does. During the early days of the war Dr. Siegfried was attached to the First Canadian Division by the French Government, and it is not only as representing the great Republic of France, but as a former comrade of our corps that we look forward to hearing from him today.
DR. SIEGFRIED: Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, and Gentlemen, the General asked me to assume the hard task of speaking after him. I will do my best to tell you what I have in my heart to tell you about France. The General, very often during the trip we have had together for the last months, said to me, "This war was not only a war of governments, not only a war of armies, but mostly a war of nations." And it is because the French nation as a whole put all its heart into the war that the French could bring this fight to be a victory. (Hear, hear and applause.)
Gentlemen, we did not expect the war to be what it was. We expected it would be a short war, finished suddenly after a great clash for a few weeks, perhaps a few months. And again,- we did not expect the attack to be through Belgium. We expected it by the east, because we French did not believe that Germans would break their word and assault a neutral country; but this happened. The war was very long. We were attacked not by the east but by the north, and under that sudden assault we were obliged to retire to very near Paris, and after the keen blow of the Mons, in September 1914, we realized suddenly that the war was not finished, and that we should have to fight many more months and perhaps many more years to defend the country and to throw the enemy out of the sacred soil of France. Then we started really for a second war, not the brilliant war we had thought of and dreamed of, but the long and weary war of every day, and every hour. Then France found herself all ready for that new war, and the whole nation seconded her. (Applause.) Gentlemen, in October 1914, the situation was terrible for the French. Of course we had behind us the victory of the Marne; we knew we were strong in a military way; but we found that to fight the new kind of war we had practically nothing. All our industries were practically stopped; we had no munitions; the best part of France for manufacturing, I mean the northern part, was invaded. Lille, Armentieres, Tournai, Valenciennes were in the hands of the Germans, and we had to start industries of the war in the same conditions as Great Britain would have had to do if she had been deprived of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. At the same time all our men were mobilized at the front; all the men between 18 years of age and 47 were in the army; nobody was left in the factories. (Applause.) But that is not all. I do not speak only of the factories; the fields were empty, and the country had to feed itself. The country had to continue the cultivation of the French soil, in order simply to be able to live; and to be able to live in order to fight was the problem. If we solved that problem, it was because the government found behind it not only the will of the army but the will of the whole nation, and suddenly it was the unanimous spirit of the whole nation to fight for victory. I think you felt it, and, when I see and feel around me the sympathy and love of your people, I dare to say the people of Canada felt it (Hear, hear and loud applause.) because you realized that that great country of France from the first day of the war put its whole heart into the struggle. We left nothing aside; we did not reserve anything; we were ready; and it is no flower of rhetoric to say, because you have seen it for years, that we were ready to give everything; we were ready to give the life of our men, and each of them was willing to make the sacrifice of his life; we were ready to give our civilians, to give all their work for the nation; we were ready to give all our factories; we were ready to give all our money; we were ready to give the whole nation; and I think you gentlemen, who are great citizens of a great empire and at the same time are great sports, I understand, (Laughter.) you realize that in this great fight France was sincere, and that having France as an ally, you had a sincere and fair ally. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
The government asked everybody, as Nelson said a hundred years ago, to do his duty, and I dare say everybody did his duty. I do not speak of the men at the front, because so many of them have shown that, and we have known them; so many of your soldiers have seen the French poilu and have fought with him; and from what I have heard him say of you I think you might say of, him-brave fighters, ready to give everything for the country. (Applause.) Nowadays an army which is not backed by a country is nothing, and the time is past when an expeditionary force or an army can go and fight while the nation behind it continues its ordinary life of peace. That is not the modern formula of war; the war is the one thing, and the army can only fight well at the front if the people behind are supporting it. (Hear, hear.)
The French government asked the whole nation of France to support the army. It was done in several ways. We first had to ask the country people to continue to cultivate the soil. It seemed a small thing, but it was an enormous job, since every man was away. Mr. Chairman, you have spoken of those French women working the country of France while the men were away. They were seconded by old men and by children; but it was not only behind the front that the land was cultivated. During a great part of the war the country was invaded so that it was necessary to secure every square yard of that soil and the peasants were asked by the government to cultivate it, and they did not need to be asked to cultivate every inch of the French soil, even under shell-fire. (Applause.) Those who have been at the front have seen that magnificent sight which I could never see without emotion- the French peasant, generally an old man not subject to military duty, plowing his land sometimes within 3,000 yards of the enemy, sometimes within 1,500, and sometimes within 1,200 or 1,000 yards from the trenches; plowing with his horses, perhaps with his oxen, and sometimes the shells were all around continually. Sometimes also you saw the French field pierced with shell-holes, ten or twelve of them. You pass again a week after, and the shell-holes do not exist any more; the French peasant had been there; and I never saw anything more comforting for my heart and for the French citizens than this spectacle. (Applause.) Do you know why the peasant did it? He did it from a sense of duty. Perhaps he did it from, a sense of interest, I don't know; I think he did it mostly from love for the land. (Applause.) There is in the mind of the French peasant something which I think has struck your soldiers. It is the very peculiar kind of love he has for his country. For you the country, the Empire, does many fine things-I don't know exactly what-but I know it is something fine. For us, and especially for the French citizen at the war, for the French countryman, of course France is France; but it is more than that; it is the soil of France, it is the land of France. The Frenchman could not sell his land and buy another; it is his land, he will never sell it, he will keep it, he belongs to it; and when the country is invaded and the land of the country is taken by the invader, the French citizen, the French countryman, the French peasant suffers not only in his land but in his heart. That is why the government of France asked him to do his duty and to put the plow in the land. He did it, not knowing or not believing he was a hero-which he was. (Applause.) This could be done only because the women were there. (Hear, hear.) You know, gentlemen, as well as I do--and the General has said it--that this war was also, and perhaps mainly, won by women. You have seen in the cities behind the front all the shops, practically all the business, conducted by French women. I think some of you have told us in France that French women were very good business women. In a war like this, that is great praise. (Laughter.) You have seen them also in the fields. Really the life of the country would have been impossible if the women had not done their duty. It was not merely the work in the factories. Nowadays, a war is an immense manufacturing enterprise, so we had to create manufactures which had not existed or which had been taken by the Germans. We started factories for war material, and everywhere in my country of France, sprang up new industries. We were obliged to use the ones we had near the front, and what I said about peasants working their land under shell-fire can be told of the French manufacturer working his plant under shell-fire. (Hear, hear.)
Gentlemen of the Canadian army, you have been at Armentieres, or if not you have seen that little cottons-pinning city in the north of France at work within 2,000 yards of the enemy. You remember the suburb of Armentieres, 1,800 yards from the trenches and surrounded on three sides; it had six or seven cotton-spinning mills at work in 1915 and 1916, really under the frightful menace of the enemy. The labor was done by girls of 17, 18 and 19. They were shelled, and at the time of the shelling the workers went to the cellars, and sometimes they, were wounded, but I was told by the inspectors of labor that the next day not a girl was missing. (Loud applause.) Another thing I should not like to miss, because you Canadians may have seen it, that is, the working of the mines in France during the war. You know our mine supplies had been badly handled; about two-thirds of our mines had been taken by the invader. One-third was remaining, and the government insisted that those mines should be worked, and two of them were within four thousand yards of the trenches. Well, they were worked under shell-fire, and everybody was at his duty; the men were obliged to go at night so as not to be seen by the enemy, and they had to come out of the mines before daylight, not to be seen by the enemy. One of the greatest plants of the mines, which was run by electricity, was 3,000 yards from the trenches; it was worked all the time up to March 1918. The machinery was covered by sand-bags to escape the shells. The place was shelled perhaps forty or fifty times. By an extraordinary chance the machinery was never touched, and those mines for three years could work and produce good coal, which also was a weapon of the war. (Hear, hear and applause.)
Now, gentlemen, if all this was possible, it was because of the help of everybody; and in speaking of everybody I do not mean only the Frenchmen, the French women, the old men, the soldiers, the manufacturers; I mean also the Allies. I remember an old dictum of your country in which it is said, "We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do, we have the ships, we have the men, we have the money too." (Laughter and applause.) Gentlemen, you had all that, and because you had all that, we had it all the same, because we shared with you. (Applause.) I do not speak of your men; it is no use; we have seen millions of them on the battlefields of France, and they will never be forgotten. As to the ships, it is by the ships you feed the country; the ships of Great Britain gave us the food in these last four years. (Applause.) It is all right to fight, but you cannot fight if you are not fed. And the money, .I hardly have to speak of it, but I know that all the time of the war when financial help was necessary, we found it among our good friends. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, I speak of the French and of the British Empire, but I have not especially to mention the Canadians because you are part of the British Empire, and it is with pride we say that we have British friends; for we know that in the word British the word Canadian is included. (Hear, hear and applause.)
And now, gentlemen; let me finish. France has shown what is unanimity of will. It is, in the tradition of France, as the General said in magnificent language, to be equal to great opportunities. The opportunity was great, and the French have shown themselves at the level of the opportunity. (Hear, hear and applause.) We had all things together for the same fight; we have shown qualities of organization which people did not expect from us; for we were always spoken of as being charming people, of course (Laughter.) but light. Gentlemen, as our General has said, we remain all that, but we claim that we are able to organize, and I think that during those four years we have been organizing victory. (Hear, hear.) That is not all. It was often said in the last fifty years that France was decaying. I was born within the last half-century, a few years, a few years after the defeat of 1870, when France was under the cloud. We knew -that the old current French tradition was still running, but it was not always seen. We knew that the qualities of the French remained the same; we knew that the will of the French to be a great nation was always there; but it was not always known either by our enemies or even by our friends; but during this last forty or fifty years there have been years of retrenchment, years of great work, in which, as General Pau said this morning to the young men, two generations have prepared for the great Day we are seeking now. We knew what France was, though people did not know it, we expected the time would come when we would be allowed to show it; and now, after forty years of ordeal, and after four years of the horrors of war, the Day has come, and the light is shining in France after so many days of darkness. (Applause.) Gentlemen, I think you realize how dear this victory has been to us. We had been expecting it, we had been hoping for it; we thought sometimes it would be very, very long to come, and when it came, it was a great day for France. I thank you, gentlemen, to have been with you in those days, and I think that when we are speaking of this victory we should not say it is the victory of France, we should always remember it is the victory of all.
Now, I say this: for the future relations of our two countries I have no doubt they will be friendly, they will be lastingly friendly, but I rely mostly on this for the future of our relations-that hundreds of thousands of your Canadian boys have fought on the French soil, have fought there as Frenchmen and with the French. The General said it was difficult to penetrate into the French family. Your brothers, who have been in the Canadian army, have done it; because as you know when you are billeted as a soldier in a French home you belong to the family, you are one of them; they do not look upon you any more as a stranger speaking a strange language; they do not say any more that they did not know you yesterday, and they don't know who you are; they say, "Those fellows, they are fighting for us." There might be an old woman whom you have met who has told you, "You are 22, or you are 25; my son of the same age is fighting at some part of the front; well, take his place; you are at home." (Loud applause.)
All of you have been able to realize the meaning of the formula of the French law of billet, in which it is said that a soldier billeted is entitled to the fire and to the candle; he is entitled to share the fire to heat himself, and he is entitled to share the light to read his paper or write to his family; and after that what do you want more of the family? You are in the centre of it, and you have not much more to learn of the French since you have been for some time one of them. Now, gentlemen, I think that a country like yours that has seen so much of the French families, that has penetrated the sacred secrecy of the French family at the time of the most terrible ordeal that that country could undergo, will not have forgotten such an experience though many years may pass. (Applause.) And if a friendship has been created in such conditions, I very sincerely think that such a friendship must and will be everlasting. (Hear, hear and loud applause.)
MAJOR GRANT, Principal of Upper Canada College, speaking in French, expressed the thanks of the united Clubs to General Pau and his confreres.