"THE ROLE OF THE LAND FORCES IN MODERN WARFARE"
An Address by LIEUTENANT GENERAL GUY G. SIMONDS, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., C.D.
Chief of the General Staff, Canadian Army
Thursday, February 14th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. D. H. Gibson.
MR. GIBSON: Our speaker will be introduced by the General Officer Commanding Central Command, Major-General H. D. Graham.
MAJOR-GENERAL GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I am quite sure that to a great many people in this room an introduction to General Simonds is quite unnecessary, but for the benefit of others who perhaps are not acquainted with his career, I will just give a thumbnail sketch.
The speaker was born in the United Kingdom, but received his education at two well-known Canadian schools, Ashbury College in Ottawa and the Royal Military College in Kingston. Upon graduation from the Royal Military College he was immediately commissioned in the Canadian Army and posted to the Royal Canadian Artillery.
From the very beginning he exhibited intense interest and displayed great talent in his chosen profession. In the 30's he graduated from the British Army Staff College with an outstanding record. In 1939 he was an instructor in tactics at the Royal Military College, and upon mobilization of the army, he was posted to the staff of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and went overseas with that formation in 1939.
His experience as a commander, staff officer and a teacher during and since the war has been unique. As a Lieutenant-Colonel in England in 1940 he organized and conducted the first Canadian Army Staff Course; he commanded a regiment of field artillery and later was promoted to the rank of Brigadier, and commanded the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade; Still later he commanded the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in the assault upon Sicily and Italy. Then he took command of the 5th Armoured Division during part of the Italian campaign. Early in 1944 he was promoted to the rank of LieutenantGeneral to command the 2nd Canadian Corps in the invasion of Northwest Europe, and he continued in that command until the end of the war, except (and this is perhaps not known to many Canadian citizens) that for some weeks he was in command of the whole army during the illness of the Army Commander. He served for a short time in North Africa under Field Marshal Montgomery in the 8th Army.
During these years, in addition to holding these many and varied commands, he held staff appointments on the divisional, corps and army levels.
Since the war General Simonds served for a period as Chief Army Instructor at the Imperial Defence College in London and later was head of the Canadian National Defence College at Kingston. About a year ago he was appointed Chief of the General Staff, which is tantamount to Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Army.
General Simonds has been honoured by many foreign governments and by his own Sovereign. He had been admitted a Companion of the Order of the Bath, has been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and a member of the Distinguished Service Order, and he holds the Canadian Forces decoration.
All ranks in the Canadian Army are proud to have him as their Chief and I am sure the Canadian people are fortunate indeed in having at the head of their ground forces at this critical time, a man of such vigour, proven ability and wide experience, a student, a scholar and a great soldier.
Gentlemen, I present to you Lieutenant-General Guy G. Simonds, Chief of the General Staff.
LIEUT-GENERAL SIMONDS: Since I had the pleasure of receiving the invitation to be your guest here today, we have all been shocked by the death of our late Sovereign and Commander-in-Chief, His Majesty, King George VI.
It has been a matter of deep and sincere pride for those of us serving in the Canadian Army that we have been privileged to wear the King's coat and we will continue to give the same sincere and unswerving loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
I have only recently returned from a trip to Korea, and I would like to begin by saying a few words about what I saw in our Brigade there. I visited every unit of the Brigade and every establishment which we have serving with the Brigade on the lines of communication. Contrary to reports which occasionally you read in the press, I had never seen a formation in which the morale was higher, and I can say to you in absolute sincerity that there is no formation serving in the Korean theatre that is better equipped and has higher morale than our own 25th Brigade. And the thing that annoys them most, and the one thing about which I heard criticisms and protests is the circulation at home of reports that their morale is low, and that they are not conducting themselves in a manner creditable to Canada. The fine record established by the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade is a great tribute to its officers and men and the leadership of Brigadier Rockingham, and I am satisfied that it is maintaining the best traditions established by the Canadian Army during two world wars.
I would like to say a word too about our 27th Canadian Brigade in Europe. It has not yet attained the high state of operational efficiency equal to that of the 25th Brigade. The units were raised later, and they have not had the same opportunities for all types of field training, but they are a first class formation, and I am satisfied that by the time they have finished their program of exercises in the coming spring, they too will be a Canadian formation as battle worthy as any.
I would like to add one other word in connection with the 27th Brigade. When we raised that formation I was very strongly of the opinion that if we continue the expansion of the Army, without calling upon units of the Reserve Force, it would be a severe blow to their morale. They have always regarded themselves as the basis upon which the expansion of the Canadian Army would take place, and, though I knew we were going to be faced with the difficult problem of selecting the units which were to be represented, I felt strongly that units which had established outstanding records in two World Wars should be represented in any further expansion of the Army. I called on the Defence Associations for their advice. I notice some units have been disappointed that their regimental names were not included in the 27th Brigade, but I think that the other alternative of continuing to expand the Army whilst ignoring the record of the Reserve Force would have had a far more depressing and demoralizing effect.
Now in addition to these two formations serving abroad, I have been able to create two replacement brigades in Canada to provide the necessary reinforcements. Faced, as we may be, by a long period of cold war, I think it is essential that right at the beginning we should have made provision for the rotation of officers and men serving overseas. It has made a tremendous difference--the announcement of the rotation for Korea gave a tremendous fillip to the troops there. Having regard to the conditions in Korea, we consider that a man is due to be brought home after a year there, and I hope many will continue their service in the Army after they come home.
The same applies to our European Force. We have made provision also for the rotation of our European Force.
Now with this expansion of the Army Forces in being, I know there is a feeling in some quarters that that has made the role of the Reserve Army less important, and it is my principal purpose in speaking to you today, to emphasize to you most strongly that such is not the case.
We--I speak now of all the Western Allies in the two World Wars--have allowed an aggressor on two occasions to attack us unprepared, and took the risk of being unable to repulse these attacks because of insufficient forces. We have banded together collectively to prevent the same thing occurring again. Whether we shall succeed in discouraging aggression is in the lap of the gods, because the actual decision does not rest with us. It rests with others. The Western Democracies are certainly not going to be aggressors in war, and the decision as to whether or not the risk of provoking a third World War is acceptable rests with the Communist powers. The best we can do is to try to make it clear that the risk is not going to be worthwhile.
Before I say something further on the problem of the balance we have tried to create to produce that desirable situation, I would like--taking the example of the present situation in Korea--to say a few words on the interdependence of the three Services. Unfortunately there are always extremists and enthusiasts who will say that only one Service matters and the others are quite unimportant. In mobile war the three Services are interdependent, and it is not the part of any one to gain a decision without the complete and absolute co-operation of the other two. You could not have that better illustrated than, by the situation which exists in Korea at the present moment. If there is a geographic spot, a theatre, in the world which would offer the possibility of gaining a decision by air power alone, that theatre is the Korean Peninsula. Communications are few. The main communications, rail and road, are close to the Coast. We have complete and undisputed command of the sea, and practically undisputed command of the air. Command of the air in the northern areathe area commonly referred to as "MIG Alley"--is being contested, but over the forward areas and in the south we still have practically undisputed command of the air. When the cease fire discussions led to a diminution of the land operations along the zone of contact, the Air Forces were directed in the main to try to destroy the Communist communications and segregate the forward area from its bases and lines of communication behind. The lessening of close support for operations on the ground meant that a higher proportion of the air effort could be devoted to the above task.
In spite of the effort which started many months ago, the Air Commanders on the spot will be the first to tell you that they have not prevented the Communist land forces from very substantially increasing their capability and potential during this period of cease fire talks.
Now if it were not for the support of air power in Korea, it is my belief we would not have held on to the Korean Peninsula at all, and I would be the first to admit it. But if the land forces were unable to hold the enemy forces along a certain line, the forward air bases, on which air support depends, would be quickly over-run, and if we lost command of the air we would probably have the Army in turn placed in a most critical position.
I would emphasize also to you the essential part which the Navy plays in maintaining the operations of the Air Forces in Korea. A single wing requires a tonnage of between 250 and 300 tons delivered daily to its air fields. Without the sea lines of communication to bring that tonnage, we could no longer sustain air operations in the Korean Peninsula today. You could not have a better example of the absolute interdependence of the three Services.
So each one of the three services, bearing its part as a member of the combined team, has contributed to bringing about a situation which has made the cease fire talks possible. Today we confront the Communists with a situation where they would really have to pay a very heavy price to try and remove us from Korea by force of arms, and I think they would even be willing to pay that price if they thought they could succeed. Whether the cease fire negotiations are going to lead to an armistice and truce remains to be seen. It depends on the intentions of the enemy, whether he is only stalling for time or whether he does want to reach some compromise arrangement. Nothing but time and patience and turning up daily to the truce discussions can eventually reveal what his real intentions are.
In the meantime we cannot afford to accept any reduction in strength which might jeopardize the possibilities of a settlement of the Korean situation by negotiation.
Now coming from the Korean theatre to the world situation at large. The critical issue upon which all else turns is the mighty effort of the Western Powers to try to eventually resolve this problem between East and West in terms of the cold war rather than allowing it to deteriorate into a shooting war. And from this I would like to emphasize to you the vital role which still is that of the Reserve Army. Now the forces which we are creating represent a minimum, and they represent no more than the crust which must be there in order to turn the aggressor from taking the chance that by a sudden coup he may be able to make such gains that we will be in a position of disadvantage from which we could never recover, and which would place him in a position from which he could eventually defeat us.
Although we never had strictly speaking a strategic concept in World War I and II, we certainly did rely on our industrial potential and manpower, and on the conviction that if there was a war, we could start raising forces, and with our big industrial machine behind us, we would have ample time to marshall our forces, and then dominate events and so be victorious. The situation is different today, because previously, in the main, the industrial plant which we depended upon was in a totally secure area with reference to the weapons that then existed. Today there is no part of the industrial plant upon which the Western world must depend, which can be regarded as completely immune from the possibility of attack by destructive weapons. If a blow was struck which, in addition to overcoming most of our forward base areas, yielded into the enemy's hands large resources of manpower, and at the same time our own industrial plant on which we were depending to carry on our war expansion was severely damaged, we might never regain the momentum necessary to carry the war to a successful conclusion.
So we must have sufficient forces in being to turn the aggressor from the risk that his first violent blow would not lead to the complete success which he must achieve.
Assuming that this temptation has been removed, there is still the temptation that if the forces in being are not capable of holding out defensively while major forces are mobilizing behind them, but could be worn down by attrition, in six or eight months they could be destroyed before the power mobilized behind them had provided a further backing to that very thin crust. If we are going to have organized armed forces that are a deterrent to war, although it may seem to be an anomaly, it is a fact our war organization must be convincing to the extent that it is quite apparent that we have the capacity to successfully wage total war. That means a certain minimum of forces in being which can gain the time needed to provide the building behind them and which are not subject to the possibility of being overwhelmed before the whole machine comes into operation.
I put that to you in this way because some are inclined to think that our Reserves are something that are only there if war comes. I would put it to you in the strongest possible sense, that they are just as much a deterrent to war as are the forces in being, and if we provide the forces in being alone and are unable to back them up, the temptation is still there for an aggressor to risk a final show-down.
I know possibly the vast bulk of this audience today are from those who are making a very considerable contribution to our Reserve forces, but still I would emphasize to you that that is a national effort of primary importance in these times and one which we cannot do without. I would appeal particularly to employers to put up with what, after all, is more or less a minor inconvenience, of supporting those representatives of firms who are prepared to give their time to Reserve Force training. Without the support of employers, if an officer or man, because he serves in the Reserve Forces is handicapped in his day-today job and the means by which he wins his bread, then we cannot expect to build up the Reserve Forces in the form in which they have to be, and it depends on the willing co-operation of employers in playing their part in making certain that no man who works for them suffers by virtue of the fact that he is giving service to the Reserve Army.
That is the message, Gentlemen, which I would like to leave with you today. I have been very much preoccupied in the last few months with getting the immediate forces in being and the backing for them organized and in position; and I have not had as much time as I would have liked to go around Commands and see the Reserve Army at work. I have on occasion when I have been travelling in the country made a point of going to visit the Reserve units whenever there has been an opportunity, and I hope in this coming year there may be more opportunities than I have had in the past. But I would not want you to think that the Reserve Army has not my strongest possible support, and that I do not regard it as a part of our Military and Army organization.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. H. G. Colebrook, a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.