- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Dec 1917, p. 53-59
- Montagu, Lord, of Beaulieu, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The importance of aviation at the present time and its growing importance for the near future in this great War. The decided influence it will have upon the final stages of the struggle. Credit to Gen. Heigh for the facilities for training aviators here in Canada. The need of the qualities of individual initiative and personal bravery being found and appreciated in the Canadian pilots, with examples. How aviation has grown in importance in this War. The increase of planes and pilots. The long-distance bombing machine as a long-range gun. The speaker's hope that in the near future we shall be able to attack by bombing the whole of that part of Germany which lies in Westphalia. An analogy of blowing up the wasps' nest, and not then needing to bother about the individual wasps. A review of the activities of the Royal Naval Air Service, and the Royal Flying Corps. The great wastage of men and machines. The hope that well-equipped and great factories like we have here in Canada will continue to turn out work for the Empire for many months and years to come. Hoping to see the factories here in Canada as the nucleus of a still bigger interest throughout Canada. Recruits from Canada. Placing more and more reliance every day on aviation as a means of winning this War. The belief that if we can once rule the air along the whole line of the front, everything else will follow. Not counting on early victory; setting teeth and work and realizing that the enemy has still masses of men, great intelligence and energy, and that he is building aircraft for all he is worth, and training pilots as fast as he can. Confidence that if the Empire joins together, all the various members joining with the Mother Country shall eventually overcome all difficulties.
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- 13 Dec 1917
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- Full Text
EMPIRE AND AVIATION
AN ADDRESS BY LORD MONTAGU, OF BEAULIEU
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
December 13, 1917
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I come here today to tell you how important aviation is at present and how much more important it is going to be in the near future in this great War, and eventually what a decided influence it will have upon the final stages of that struggle. It is due to Gen. Heigh that you have had very good facilities for training aviators here, and that you have already sent over to us a very large number of specially well-trained Canadian pilots -who have not only justified their training but also have justified the country of their origin. In military aviation at the front, it is, above all, necessary to possess the qualities of individual initiative and personal bravery, and there, I can tell you, we appreciate the Canadian pilot as much as you do here, and in some ways almost more. In France I came across as fine specimens of young men as it was possible to see, and in one of our best fighting squadrons I saw several gentlemen who came from this part of Canada who were doing great work there-Hoidge, M.C., and Baird, who came from the School of Science, University of Toronto, and Lieut. Curry, of the School of Science, both of them doing wonderful work in that fighting squadron.
I want to tell you how aviation has grown in importance in this War. When War broke out, our squadrons at the front were so limited in numbers that they could
Colonel Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was Advisory Inspector of Mechanical Warfare for the Government of India, and was on his way from England to India at the time of this address.
hardly be discerned in the welter of battle. At the actual start we had between 30 and 40 aeroplanes to work with our forces at the front; but notwithstanding that, in the retreat from Mons and in the return blow which we delivered on the Marne, I go so far as to say that even the small number we had, assisted materially in enabling our retirement to be carried out in an orderly way, and saving us from unforeseen attacks by their keenness and activity as the eyes of the army in every sense.
Those few pilots have now grown to many thousands, and we hope to see our air forces so big that we shall be able to clear the air, so to speak, of the Germans, and to enable our army to have eyes to see, and to blind our opponents by driving his machines out of the air. I can tell you this: for every general at the front it is a commonplace that you cannot plan any big attack, you cannot carry out any big push, you cannot pursue the enemy afterwards and find out his position, without aeroplanes. In fact they are a necessary prelude to an attack, and lately, at any rate, a prelude to victory, and the duties they have now undertaken far surpass anything that could have been seen a year or two ago. At one time they were used chiefly for reconnaissance purposes. Nowadays two-thirds of our aircraft at the front are not fighting so much as carrying out reconnaissance and topography. We have also squadrons which carry out bombing, and squadrons which carry out fighting to protect the others. Nowadays some of our aircraft and pilots have really taken on other duties which originally were supposed to belong to the other branches of the service. I will give you an example. They now descend so low that they are able to us their machine guns on the enemy in the trenches; to pursue and disorganize forces coming up; to shoot at the groups of staff officers; to come down so close to hangers and other aerodromes as to drop bombs on them accurately and set them on fire. We also carry out raids on all the important depots behind our lines; we attack their important railway junctions, blow up their ammunition dumps, harass their troops at night, and make their lives, as far as we can, entirely detestable. Mr. Lloyd George the other day called them the "cavalry of the air"; and much as I admire the cavalry, and keen as I used to be when young, on hunting and horses, I am free to confess that I can see hardly a single function of cavalry, in the old sense of cavalry functions, that could not be carried out today by aircraft. They can pursue more quickly than cavalry; they can pursue farther behind the lines; they are not stopped by mud; they are more difficult to attack by machine guns; cavalry cannot carry machine guns, but aircraft can; in fact there is hardly anything cavalry can do to a retreating army which cannot be done by the pursuing aeroplane.
Then again, the long-distance bombing machine is really a long-range gun. It does not matter, if a man is blown up, whether the projectile comes out of the sky or gets at him from the horizon, the effect is the same; and if you can drop it on the head of a gentleman a hundred miles away it is equal to a projectile being fired at him from a gun. So the longrange bombing machine is really a long-range gun which, instead of fighting a range like a long-range gun-possibly 20 miles-has a range in the future of perhaps 200 miles. I hope to see the time in the near future when we shall be able to attack by bombing the whole of that part of Germany which lies in Westphalia. The distance from a certain point on the French line--Pissen, for instance,--is only 178 miles; the majority of the Rhine bridges are under 200 miles; the whole of the great industrial district that centres around the lower Rhine-Dartmund, Cassel, let alone Frankfort and places higher up-are all within 200 miles of the starting point. I hope to see that their life is made even much more uncomfortable there than they try to make us in London and some of our east coast towns, because it goes without saying that if we could really deliver a knock-out blow at Essen and some ammunition-making centres in that district, it would be a more worth-while blow than it would to blow up scattered dumps of ammunition at the front. If you blow up the wasps' nest, you needn't bother about the individual wasps-it is a cheaper and more efficient way of doing it. There are certain Rhine bridges which are absolutely vital to the German army for the carrying of supplies from behind. We hope to get at them in time. You may take it from me that just as we have beaten Germany at all the tricks of war ever since the beginning of this struggle, you may be fairly confident that before long we shall beat him at long-range bombing, and we shall make that weapon recoil upon himself with ten-fold force.
I will first speak of the Royal Naval Air Service, and then of the Royal Flying Corps. The chief duty of the former is the anti-submarine work. It stands to reason that the higher you go up from the surface of the sea, the bigger is your horizon, and the more space you can see underneath. Even taking a margin of 100 or 150 feet above sea-level, even from the crow's nest on the top of a ship, you cannot see anything like you can see in an aeroplane; and, given reasonable visibility, you can increase your horizon almost uncannily. In a big seaplane a pilot can get a horizon on a clear day at sea up to 50 or 60 miles away, while the actual horizon is very much greater even than that. It therefore follows that the bigger expanse of ocean you can see, the more chance there is of picking up the sight of an enemy's submarine; consequently the power of approach is better. You can approach at 80 or 100 miles from the heavens and he cannot see you; then you drop one of those convenient little pills on him, which puts an end to his existence or seriously troubles him for a long time to come. We have already used that as a very efficient anti-submarine weapon around our coasts, and I hope we shall be able to multiply our aeroplanes in that direction, for I feel that they are the very best answer we can possibly give, at any rate to a submarine within reasonable distance of our shores. Many of your boys are doing that kind of work, and doing it very well indeed. We have several of them in the Royal Naval Air Service, and I assure you we appreciate them very highly on the other side.
The Royal Flying Corps has been one of the wonderful things in this War. All along our portion of the line, 1.20 or 130 miles long, the general staff require every day accurate knowledge of what the enemy is doing. It is all photographed so many days a week, sometimes every day, according to the activity prevailing. Those photographs are taken, developed, pieced together, and actual photographs of everything going on back of the enemy's lines are obtained; you can see exactly where the enemy's trenches are, his lines of communication, his ammunition dumps, where he has built special lines of railway to support his trenches, and so on. A model is made of that, and then the general staff work out their plan. You may take it from me that no defence and no big action could be planned nowadays without the work done by the reconnaissance plane that carries a photographing camera. That work, though it sounds not so exciting, is good fighting, for it requires not only a pilot of great skill but also of pluck, because if you are attacked when you are flying a reconnaissance machine, you have not the same power of retort and of getting out of trouble as you have if you are on a fighter. If some of your boys are doing reconnaissance work, you must not think it is any less important work than that of those handling the actual scouts. Then there are the actual fighters, some of whom are quite marvellous. The stunts they do would be quite a revelation. Looping-the: loop is almost a back number compared with what they do nowadays. You have no doubt seen tumbler pigeons flying about. Well, the tumbler pigeon has been left far behind by the stunts of the modern aviator. I think there is scarcely any bird that is not taking a back place as far as that is concerned. When you come to consider that those single-handed combats take place up 15,000 to 20,000 feet in the air you can see what it means. It means an extraordinary degree of pluck, cool nerve, daring, personal initiative, and it calls for those powers in which I am proud to say the Anglo-Saxon race has always excelled and which I find very strongly developed in Canada by the peculiar conditions of your country and by the fact that you have been up against the forces of nature here and have been forced in most cases to overcome them.
The air service suffered from one permanent feature--I won't call it a drawback--which I have come to tell you about. The wastage of m -en and machines is very great. Not that very many men are killed in proportion to the work they do, but you can see you have to give your pilots constant rests from such peril. When he gets a rest for his nerves, he comes on again. The wastage of machines is less in crashings while in training than when you land in very unsuitable aerodromes in France and Flanders. When you consider the strains such a machine has to bear, you cannot afford to run any risk with material, when you have lives, and such gallant lives, to think of on the other side. I cannot make any promise, but I hope that well-equipped and great factories like you have here will continue to turn out work for the Empire for many months and years to come. I hope to see our factories here as the nucleus of a still bigger interest throughout Canada.
As regards recruits, I believe you have supplied my friend Gen. Heigh with a splendid lot, and he is still getting names of candidates and training more and more men, and part of his squadrons have gone down to Texas for the winter to train. The records he has given me of the work here surpass those I have had in the Old Country as to the number of hours he gets from the training squadrons. It seems an ideal way of dealing with the matter to supply the billets so that you can train them in this country and then that they should take over the machines they are going to use at the front. I congratulate you in Canada, and especially in Toronto, on the help you have given to Gen. Heigh and the Flying Corps here; I think Toronto and this neighborhood deserves special credit in that direction.
If we are going to possess and maintain a very much bigger air force than we have now, we shall want every recruit we can get in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Home Country as well. You cannot give us too many young men suitable for this work. I hope in the course of time the factory here will be able to make machines of the latest types. We want you to understand that we are placing more and more reliance every day on aviation as a means of winning this War, and I believe that if we can once rule the air along the whole line of our front, everything else we desire will follow. If you can get us armies that can see while the German armies are blind, you can drive him out of the air while you maintain yourself in it. If you know where he is moving troops and he does not know where you are moving troops, I think the victory will be in the air, and we shall be able to drive back and disintegrate the German forces against us. I want to warn you that this is going to be a long and bitter struggle. Don't count on early victory. We must set our teeth and work on and realize that the enemy has still masses of men, great intelligence and energy, and that he is building aircraft for all he is worth, and training pilots as fast as he can. We must not in any way relax our efforts to win, but I believe if the Empire joins together, all the various members joining with the Mother Country, that by our united forces, backed by the will-to-victory we shall eventually overcome all difficulties; and I am sure that Canada, and Toronto especially, will help in this great work, and that we may rely upon you to give us the best men and the best machines you can. In that way you will be making the best contribution you can towards winning this long and bitter struggle.