DUNKIRK TO DIEPPE AND BEYOND
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR ELIOT WARBURTON, M.C. and Bar
The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, October 15, 1942
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Gentlemen of The Empire Club: We are happy to welcome today an emissary from the office of the British High Commissioner at Ottawa, who is going to address us on the subject "Dunkirk to Dieppe and Beyond."
Our guest is a soldier with a distinguished career, a student of world politics and a writer, a business man and a diplomat.
The outbreak of the war in 1914 found him (then a cadet at Woolwich) in Germany. He escaped to England, was posted to the Royal Horse Artillery, served in Gallipoli, France, and Italy, and was decorated with the Military Cross and a Bar.
In the post war years from 1919 to 1921 he spent much time in Germany, working on disarmament problems and political intelligence, and from 1921 to 1925 he was on the general staff at the War Office in the Department dealing with Germany and Central Europe.
In 1925 his old wounds interrupted his military service and he retired into business. For the next fourteen years he directed the European affairs of an international chemical company. This gave him the opportunity of spending much time in the United States and in various European countries, and the incentive to write on international politics and strategy.
In August, 1939, he was recalled to the War Office, and a year later, after the fall of France, he applied to rejoin the Artillery, where he served for eighteen months until his old wounds invalided him out of the active army.
He is now on the staff of the British High Commissioner in Canada. His function is to see that Canada is kept informed of affairs in the United Kingdom and conversely that the United Kingdom is kept informed of affairs in Canada.
This background of study and service will prove an invaluable asset in dealing with the problems of an Intelligence Department, a Department of Information. Another invaluable asset is personality.
Gentlemen, I present Major Eliot Warburton, M.C. and Bar, who wants me to inform you that he has demilitarized himself and is now plain Mr. Warburton!
MAJOR ELIOT WARBURTON, M.C: Mr. President, Distinguished Guests and members of The Empire Club of Toronto: I appreciate very deeply the honour you have done me in asking me to address you today, and also, Sir, your very kind introduction. I only hope that, when, at the end of these proceedings, you rise to pronounce sentence, your justice will be tempered by extreme mercy!
There are very many reasons for which I am particularly happy to have been sent to Canada. The only complaint I have had about it so far is that your country is so large that it is difficult to see enough of it: it almost needs a bicycle to get about.
The benefactions of Canadians to Great Britain have sheen very deeply appreciated, and Canadians have been very deeply appreciated, and Canadians have been so kind and so generous, from Yukon and British Columbia to the Maritimes. Just to mention two items-the Canadian Red Cross, when I left England, had sent ten and a half million dollars in goods and one and three-quarter million dollars in cash. The Toronto Newspaper Funds have sent great help to air raid victims.
Of course the strongest links have been forged by your fighting forces in the United Kingdom; 1 1/2 % of your population is there. When your First Division arrived I was at the War Office and had a certain amount to do at that time with General MacNaughton, and with that cheerful and well-named Torontonian, his P.R.O., Major Abel. Then I took some Turkish M.P.'s and editors to Aldershot when your First Division was concentrated there. I was with them at Plymouth when the First Canadian Division so nearly went to France in the last phase there. I was commandant of the Larkhill camp to which came all the Artillery of the First and Second Canadian Divisions. Then, when I was commanding a battery in our Fouth Division, I took part in manoeuvres in which your men showed themselves keen soldiers. For two years they have been around my home in England and, on my visits to my deserted house, I have been able to note the continual improvement in their physique and bearing. They are very popular. Finally, just before I left England, I paid a special visit to some of your training units under General Price Montague's command. They were splendidly run and doing great work. I remember particularly Brigadier Nash, also another Torontonian, Lieut. Rae, who was in charge of a P.T. course. I have met a lot of your gallant airmen and some of your sailors who are playing an effective part in the vital battles for the mastery of the air and the seas.
Of course it was no surprise to me to find they were such a fine lot of men, because I knew their fathers at Vimy Ridge twenty-five years ago where I was Artillery Liaison Officer with your 28th Infantry.
I was afraid at one time that many of this 1 h% of Canada's population now in the United Kingdom for two years, might bring back a poor impression of Britain's war-effort. The country districts where they have spent these two years have been stripped of every able-bodied man and woman that could possibly be spared for the fighting services or for war industries. In our zeal to hide these war industries from the enemy, we have made them hard for our friends to see. On leave, many of your men gravitate towards the Piccadilly neighbourhood, where, despite the black-out, rationing and high prices, a certain spirituous gaiety is still achieved, but this is more likely to lower the bank account than to raise the view of the earnestness of our war-effort. However, I found that your men who have been in Britain for some time have seen through our odd behaviour, accustomed themselves to our peculiar ways, found out what lies behind our stolid faces, green hedge-rows and blacked-out houses. I am not now afraid of the impressions they will bring home or leave behind. Before I left, I initiated a plan for taking officers and men while on leave behind the veil, to see many phases of our war-effort. That plan was blessed by Mr. Attlee, who is the Secretary of the Dominions and the Deputy Prime Minister, and, with the co-operation of the Ministry of Information and other Ministries, seems to be working very well.
The reason why I attach so much importance to the impression brought back from the United Kingdom by Canadians in the fighting forces and others, is that Hitler and Goebbels would like you to think that we in the United Kingdom are not playing our part are not pulling our weight in this war. Yes, that would be something to laugh at had the trick not worked so well elsewhere and did one not find some people on this continent ready to believe it.
Press, radio and films, the chief channels of information about current events, have a great and difficult responsibility in war-time. The natural inclination of journalists is to write about the doings of the home folks. There is an old saying in editorial offices, "The dead dog on High Street is of more interest than 100,000 Chinese drowned in the Yellow River." It is indeed the duty of the Press, radio and films to stimulate patriotic enthusiasm by reporting the heroic and steadfast efforts of the people of their own land. But the danger is that they may do this so well that their people may conclude that they are carrying the whole burden, may doubt if others are doing their fair share. Many of you will remember that happened during the last war. I remember in 1921 I was in Northern Italy, and on every hand I heard expressions of hate toward the French. I enquired from one of them one day why the Italians had so much hatred for the French, and his reply was, "It is because the French will not admit that the Italians won the war."
I venture to hope that this will be kept in mind by the Wartime Information Board now being formed under your able Mr. Charles Vining. Great skill is needed to achieve a nice balance in public opinion. It is very easy to misinterpret other people's actions. A story is told of an incident during an early air raid-when the alarm sounded there was a lady of rather ripe charms walking along the street, and she heard the people shouting, "Take cover, take cover!" She saw a garbage can on the side; she got the lid off, squatted down inside, and pulled the lid on. After a short time, two Chinamen came walking along and, as they passed this garbage can, they saw the lid wobble. One of them took it off and saw the lady; he said to the other Chinaman: "You know these Occidentals really are very wasteful, you know I would not have discarded a woman like that for another twelve years." (Amusement.) Really we are very careful about our salvage! I have no fear that Canadians will misinterpret United Kingdom views or actions as seriously as that. But there are whispering campaigns even here that are doing Goebbels' work of sowing dissension-some are prompted by the Nazi short-wave propaganda.
Gentlemen, it is of course healthy, right and proper that Canada and the United Kingdom should form their respective opinions in their respective ways and independently. But it is vital to the future, not only of this great Commonwealth in which we are the two leading partners, but to the future of civilization, that we should understand each other, know the aims each cherishes, the difficulties to be surmounted and the contributions made to the common cause.
It is with these points in mind that I have chosen the title of my talk to you today "From Dunkirk to Dieppe and Beyond". Not that I want to tell again our sad, but gallant, Dunkirk story or to dwell on the proud but poignant facts of Dieppe. I have selected these as milestones to that "Beyond" that we all long for and are straining towards. For you must know that no Russian soldier grappling with the Huns in Stalingrad, no armchair critic anywhere, is nearly as anxious to see us attack Hitler's main armies in Europe as are our and your fine troops after two years of training in Britain. Last year, I often had to soothe the impatience of the gunners in my battery, whose homes were being blasted from the skies, as have one-fifth of the houses of Britain, by an enemy that they could not yet hit back. This impatience is shared by our munition workers who are working long hours, without strikes, and with few holidays, in the black-out, under hostile bombing, to build up supplies. And bombing, by the day, works two ways. It is a stimulus to production, as well as a punishment. This is a long job because all democracies, not only the United Kingdom, refused to prepare for war while the Axis powers were doing it. With nearly 50,000 killed and over 50,000 wounded, these men and women in the United Kingdom have kept at it to pile up the weapons of war, to launch new ships and repair damaged ships. The war production of the United Kingdom today is by far the greatest in the world in proportion to the population, though the United States passed our total rate of production this past summer.
To the invasion of Europe, two things are vital, mastery of the air and mastery of the sea. Our airmen end yours, those brave Poles and Czechs, French, Dutch, Norwegians and Belgians who fight so gallantly over their oppressed countries and now the American squadrons, are fighting to weaken Germany's war industry, to cripple the Luftwaffe. The navies of the United Nations and the merchant marine are seeking day and night to make the seas safe for our shipping and to carry vital warsupplies. On any day there are 2,000 United Kingdom merchant ships at sea, and 16,000 of our merchant sailors have perished already. Guarding these ships, and some 400 more British vessels are over 600 United Kingdom warships of all sizes, as well as the patrolling planes and your and other United Nations' navies. We have sunk or captured over six million tons of German and Italian merchant shipping, sunk 80 battleships, cruisers and destroyers, as well as a large number of U boats and auxiliaries, 90 % of all these by United Kingdom forces.
Gentlemen, reflect for a moment on these two years of painful uphill climb. My first landmark, Dunkirk, and the collapse of France, left the land forces in Britain reduced to three or four properly equipped divisions (of which one was the first Canadian) with but one armoured division, and that not completely equipped. For all our efforts, it seemed incredible that the R.A.F., after one year's war expansion, but heavy losses in France, could ward off the Luftwaffe.
The miraculous way in which they did it is known to you all. We have recently celebrated the second anniversary of the 15th September, 1940, on which 185 Nazi planes crashed to earth in Britain, a bag probably equalled at Dieppe. The R.A.F. have now downed over 10.000 enemy planes.
The Royal Navy not only held the seas, but they have hunted down surface raiders and submarines; put our raiding commandos ashore at a score of places in Europe and the Mediterranean; with the R.A.F., destroyed half the Italian fleet, and helped to stem the invading floods over half the world.
In Egypt and Palestine, General Wavell had scarce 40,000 men. To the north of him was a big French army in Syria, the trusted allies of yesterday, the potential foes of that day. To his west, an army of 250,000Mussolini's, the jackal scurrying in to enjoy the victor's spoils, as he thought. To the south in East Africa, Mussolini had another army of 300,000. Wavell, Egypt, the Sudan and Suez-yes and Iraq and Persia, looked like easy meat to him. But Churchill did not hesitate to send one of our few precious divisions to reinforce Wavell and, with this small force, with never more than 30,000 men in the fighting line, General Wavell put that quarter million Libyan army in the bag; added the 300,000 from East Africa, freeing Eritrea, Abyssinia, British and Italian Somalilands, an area twice the size of Germany. He helped to quell an Axis-directed revolt in Iraq, he cleared the Vichy forces out of Syria, he sent politically necessary, but militarily hopeless, aid to the gallant Greeks. These campaigns are too soon forgotten; they have few parallels in history. I hope that the story of the "Abyssinian Campaigns" may soon be published in Canada.
Since General Wavell was moved to the East to try to stem with quite inadequate forces, the long-prepared Japanese onslaught on our sixth front in the Far East, his successors in Egypt have fought ding-dong battles with German-Italian forces that they have not yet been strong enough to destroy. Meanwhile, gallant Malta has stood 3,000 air-raids and is still hitting back. At Gibraltar and Cyprus we hold firm, too. South of the Caucasus, we are preparing to guard the oil fields of Persia and Iraq, if the Nazis break through that Russian front.
And, since Russia was first attacked, we have freely poured out aid to her, more than fulfilling the engagements made. You and we have supplied the U. S. A. with much since December 7th last,-guns and shells, barrage balloons, Spitfires and shipping, equipment and tools for factories, vital, battle-proved plans, designs and formulae. We have helped to guard the American coastline with warships and planes. Before Pearl Harbour, Britain was paying for war-factories in the United States; to the end of last February we had spent about 2 1/2 times as much in cash there as the value of the lend-lease goods we had received. Lend-lease works both ways.
It has been heart-rending to see so many countries go down before the Axis hordes-humiliating; but we have not been cowardly; we have only been ill-prepared, as were these countries; not one of them, except France and the British Commonwealth, fired a shot against the Axis until themselves attacked, and only the United States lent substantial aid or concerted any plans for mutual defence. All these countries, like ourselves, believed earnestly in a democratic peace and would not pay the insurance premiums that defence demanded. Now and again we hear from stern critics of our past failures to "rescue" one or other of the victims of international mob-violence; but I have noticed that these stern critics are often the same gentry who were previously wont to denounce "armed imperialism", who urged and delighted in that very disarmament that left the road open for those gangsters, Hitler and Tojo.
Speaking of critics, it is often forgotten that democratic criticism, which is healthy and stimulating for home consumption, may be a handy propaganda weapon for the enemy and even misunderstood by one's friends. We all have our Bernard Shaws and Theodore Dreisers, licenced court jesters. But people abroad are apt to generalize from particular criticisms and your and our war-effort may be underrated because of some remarks of our own.
No, the United Kingdom has not been slacking these three years at home or abroad. Over 70% of army casualties of the Commonwealth has been from the United Kingdom.
About 90% of the crews of His Majesty's ships of war come from the United Kingdom. Last June, of the crews of the combat planes, 67% in the British Isles and 83% in the Middle East, India and Ceylon were United Kingdom men. Of the ground crews 97% at home and 99% overseas were United Kingdom. While the planes were 87% British at home and 75% British overseas.
May I remind you that the population of the United Kingdom, four times that of Canada, one-third of the United States, is about half that of Hitler's Germans, without counting his jackals, vassals and slaves.
For a year after the collapse of France, we had with us, besides the Dominions, India and the Colonies, only gallant remnants of the conquered countries. By the way, not enough is known about the war effort of India, partly because so much has been said about a noisy, if picturesque, political clique there. I find that few people know that there are more volunteer soldiers the Indian fighting services today than there are registered members in the Congress party, which many people mistake for a representative body or Parliament. There are more than one and a quarter million Indian volunteer soldiers in India, 300,000 more fighting abroad (and gallantly they have fought in Libya, Abyssinia and Burma). There are 70,000 new volunteer recruits a month and would be more if equipment were available. The Indian Air Force is growing fast; there are 10 squadrons already. The Royal Indian Navy, small in 1939, has increased 600% and is fighting efficiently, while 40,000 Indians help to sail Allied merchant ships.
It is the many Indians who are united with you and with us in beating back the aggressors, who will earn the right to take the final step in self-government; not the minority that have tried to sabotage the defence against the Japs. And this final step will be but a small one, for British officials are scarce in India today; for example, the Viceroys Executive Council of 15 has 11 Indian members, and 23 of every 25 Judges are Indians.
Giving all the great credit that is due to India, the Dominions and the Colonies for this valiant aid, it is still the 46 1/2 millions in the United Kingdom that have had carry the brunt of the conflict and carry it on short rations, under enemy bombardment, with heavy taxation.
That last word sounds much more unpleasant to you, I fear, than it did a couple of months ago. If it will give you a little cold comfort, may I remind you that, while you are now paying income tax at the same rate as our Exchequer has been extracting from us for 18 months you are not yet paying purchase taxes of 662/3 % on luxuries, 331/3 % on necessaries and 162/3 °7o on essentials. We have some other bright ideas on inheritance tax and other levies that you may be more comfortable without!
But the Briton pays his or her taxes with a kind of fierce joy, as so many nails in Hitler's coffin. There is little in the shops to spend it on, any way, and no time to go to look for what there is. Much of what the taxcollector leaves goes into War Bonds, the sales of which continue to be amazing. Over 17 billion dollars already.
The curious resentful determination that animates our masses in this war is reflected in the story of a charwoman who had just finished her nightly cleaning of a room that I once occupied in the War Office when the building was hit by a bomb. She and her colleague picked themselves up off the floor, sucked cuts on their hands, as they surveyed the mess of glass, splintered wood, plaster and other debris. "They would, the blighters", said one, "they would; just 'as ah've finished puttin' it orl nice an' tidy." And they set to work to tidy up again as best they might.
I find that many people on this side are much interested in the social effects of the war in the United Kingdom. They may be assured that there is no question whether the old way of life in the United Kingdom will go; it has gone-gone forever. As bombs have blown away buildings in Britain's cities and towns; some old, some new; some good, some bad; so the forms of our life-our conventions, our standards-have had great holes blasted in them by the war. What has gone is part old and part new; part good and part bad. Much of it would be harder to bring back than the buildings. We shall build both anew, on better lines-and not at home only. In the world of today, no people can build by and for itself alone. Nor can any one people determine the pattern of the world.
Let us bend the sacrifice and co-operation that are born of war to the service of peace and we shall produce a peace fit for heroes. There is indeed, an interesting spirit abroad in Britain today. Not very clearly defined, for we are not a very articulate people, but you cannot fail to feel it, to see its effects. Born of community of effort and sacrifice, of long, difficult struggle in a great cause, it has brought the people more closely together than ever before.
If we sometimes grieve over vanished homes, comforts and pleasures we know that we are living through the greatest drama of history, we like the simplicity of life, the objectivity and "busyness" of life. Most men and women in Britain today are doing two or three jobs at once; there is little time for boredom, if amusements and luxuries are scarce. We like our truce from party politics, our unity, our spiritual peace at home.
So we have toiled, with help from you and others, up the long and painful hill from the Dunkirk milestone to the Dieppe milestone. During that time we have had to dash about plugging holes in dykes, holes that might have let a savage foe through to deal a mortal blow. But now we are near the top of the hill; we begin to thrust at the enemy instead of parrying his blows. We shall soon see the grand assault.
And none too soon, for time is no longer on our side. It was, until this year, because the Axis powers had had seven years' start of us. But now the war-industries of the free United Nations are, on the whole, in top gear and our resources have been reduced by enemy conquests, so that we have to turn to substitutes for some materials. The Axis, on the other hand, if left in peace to exploit their conquests, will organize them ruthlessly to increase their supplies; they may be able to prepare for a very long war and defeat our blockade-for a time.
So it is doubly urgent that we smash the Axis quickly, before our economy is further strained and before the enemy economy is strengthened. Every moment is vital, every brain and hand is needed, there must be no flagging now, as we hasten on to the last milestone of the war.
If I have barely referred to the great war effort made by Canada from the beginning and that now being made by the U.S., it is not because I fail to appreciate it, but only because I have thought that you would not wish me to take up your time on matters that you know better than I.
Finally, what is it that we are fighting for-we of the United Nations? We are fighting for the right to have as much individualism, as much liberty, as people and nations can have without interfering with the liberty and individualities of their neighbours. We are fighting against that arrogant, Nazi, Fascist, Shinto system that deliberately sets out to enslave the world for their own benefit, to establish a caste system beside which the Hindu system is merciful. We are fighting to prove that this world of ours, with all its imperfections, frivolities and shortcomings, is too grown-up for such barbaric tyrannies. By our unity we shall win this fight. By our unity, and only by our unity, shall we achieve a just peace and build a world that will justify the sacrifices that our nations are making now, a world that will not again plunge into this abyss. God grant us all the faith, wisdom, courage and steadfastness to see this through in war and in peace, to still petty jealousies and to rise to our full destiny. (Applause.)
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Before thanking you, Sir, formally, may I introduce another speaker, Captain Donald Wilkins, formerly of the 75th Toronto Scottish, who has recently transferred to the Paratroops, who is a hero just home. Captain Wilkins has very kindly consented to address a few words to us before we finally thank the speaker.
CAPTAIN DONALD WILKINS: Mr. President, Distinguished Guests: Thank you for the honour you have given me in asking me to your luncheon today. There has been a lot of adverse opinion expressed since the Dieppe raid, saying that the raid was not worth while, that it was a waste of time and effort, and perhaps a waste of good Canadian lives. That is not true. When such statements are made they don't take into account the fact that in addition to the job of killing Germans, there were a lot of other objects behind the raid, and they don't look at those objects.
The Royal Air Force on the day of that raid scored its greatest victory, the greatest it had scored to date. The Germans lost in planes and personnel more than in any battle to date, even including their greatest loss in the Battle of Britain.
Another result was that as a result of the prisoners we captured we were able to assess something of how Germany was faring after three years of war. We knew there were a lot of substitute materials being used in Germany, but as a result of the prisoners taken we were able to assess that fact a lot more clearly.
Also we were able to tell something of how the French civilians felt. We had not done any fighting on their territory since 1940, and although we felt sure a lot of them would help us we had no indication of how they would feel to have us fight on their own terrain. And that was another result: we found out how they felt if we fought on their territory.
Another result was a great many demolitions.
Then were able to test the defences. We knew Dieppe was a heavily fortified town, but there were certain things we had to find out-about the best way to tackle those things, there was only one way to do it and that was an actual raid.
As a result we were able to find out which is the best .way of attacking a point like that.
Then we were able to find out just what the German soldier was like. There were a lot of tales that he was a fat, bald-headed fifty year old man, and that the younger men had all been sent to the Eastern front. My opinion is that there are still first class German fighting men on the Western front. But the German troops are not the swaggering louts they were at the beginning of the war. One German warrior was shot down in the English channel and picked up by a small patrol boat. We put him in charge of one of the crew with instructions not to lay hands on him for the violence and obstreperousness he had exhibited. In about five minutes the German was laid out on the deck. The officer spoke to the crew man and said, "I thought I told you not to lay hands on him." The crew man said, "Well, I didn't mind him calling the king a swine, I did not mind him calling the queen a swine, I did not mind him calling us all swines, but when he spit on our ocean, that was too much." (Amusement.)
Another result: in a great many quarters there had been overlooked entirely the morale of the English civilian people, the people who had worked long and hard and taken a terrific beating. They were more than pleased. It was really a great thing so far as they were concerned to find out that British troops could land in France, kill a lot of Germans and came back again. When we landed at Southampton we got a terrific ovation from the English people. That same effect was felt in all parts of England. It was the topic of the day in London.
Perhaps one of the greatest results was that the Canadian soldier is a fighting man. He established a great reputation for himself in the past war. But now for two years he had been sitting in England, doing no fighting, and a lot of people had the opinion he had not done enough fighting to keep himself in trim. The list of awards proves otherwise. I think as a result of the raid there were ten times as many heroic deeds acted out that day as were reported. Thank you very much.
Mr. JOHN C. M. MAcBETH: First, Major Warburton, I have to thank you on behalf of The Empire Club for your kindness in accelerating your speed a bit to give place to Captain Wilkins. It must be quite a job to preserve the nice balance in public opinion that you have described to us today, and from the information that you have given to us there is no doubt in my mind that you are doing a good job in the work that you are doing at Ottawa.
It was informing to me, something I did not know before, to find that 1 Y2% to 2% of our entire population are now soldiers in Britain. It was informing also to know that one-fifth of all the houses in Britain had been bombed. We know that the bombing has been terrific, but I don't think it has heretofore been brought to us quite in that particular way.
Then the fact that there are 11 Indians in the Viceroy's Indian Council of 15 persons and that 23 out of 25 Judges are native Indians, is news to some of us.
All this information tends to bring home to us the extent of the job that you have to do in keeping this balance of information between the countries.
But I should be very happy to be informed as to the difference in connection with that tax of 33 1/3 % on necessaries and 16 2/3 % on essentials. I think some of us would be in grave doubt, in the light of the difference in tax, as to which were necessaries and which were essentials.
It is interesting too to note in a recent publication that the Army is preparing a dictionary of English terms and words and pronunciations, particularly pronunciations of place words and names in Britain, for the use of the United States Army. I fancy our own armies don't need this assistance.
Thank you, Sir, very much for the pleasure you have given to us this afternoon in bringing to us this informative address.
And for you, Captain Wilkins, we are very happy to act as your hosts today. It was a very happy thought on somebody's part that you should receive an invitation to come. The information you have given us has added much to our knowledge with reference to some of the criticism some of us may have had in mind regarding Dieppe. Thank you, Captain Wilkins. (Applause.)
Gentlemen: The meeting is adjourned.