- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 10 Oct 1918, p. 311-322
- Wakefield, Dr. Russell, Speaker
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- Item Type
- Losses suffered by Canadians in the war. The great righteous and moral strength of this war on the part of the Allies. Great Britain's share in the war. The great social reconstruction which must take place after the war. Learning great moral lessons from the war in order that there be true and lasting victories. A review of conditions and political concerns in England early in 1914. Now better signs of a coming together of the employers and the employed in England. One result of the war taking us out of our narrowness and selfishness and giving us an idea as to something grander with regard to which we might all unite. The unpreparedness of the British Nation when the war began. Rousing the country to war-time effort. Financial burdens of the war on Great Britain and her Allies. What Great Britain has done with regard to war-like effort. A comparison with what has been done in the past by armies. Fighting eight simultaneous campaigns. The invention of the tank. Britain's independent air force and the retribution which has been brought to Germany. The contribution of the British Navy: sweeping the German ships off the sea. The successful blockade. Women in munitions. Losses by deaths now reaching a number of millions. Meaning to have a better and a nobler world in the days to come. The work of the American troops. The speaker's persuasion that no one of the Allies will give up the struggle until we have made it a certainty that war shall never, if possible, prevail again, and that if war should unhappily ever come again, it should not be waged in the abominable way in which Germany has waged it.
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- 10 Oct 1918
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- THE TURNING OF THE TIDE OF WAR
AN ADDRESS BY DR. RUSSELL WAKEFIELD,
BISHOP or BIRMINGHAM.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
October 10, 1918
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I am glad to speak to you on such a happy occasion. We have seen now the turning of the tide very thoroughly, and we are hearing -what we expected to hear later rather than sooner--that the Kaiser is discovering the authority which he considers has been so definitely given to him is rather an uncomfortable one and that, according to certain rumors, he is inclined towards a more private life than that which he has been engaged in up to the present time. Well, I am quite sure anything that we can do, either here or elsewhere, to secure him the greatest privacy for the rest of his life, we shall gladly do.
The part which Canada has played in this great war I need not dilate upon. The largest audience I have ever spoken to was the Canadian Corps, and I suppose a very large proportion of those to whom I spoke in 1915 have either paid the great penalty of heroism, or have in some
Dr. Wakefield has always been a leader in the Nation's affairs. Whether as an athlete, a man of learning, an orator, a student of the world, a social reformer, a hot democrat or a leader in the Church, Dr. Wakefield's position has always been one of outstanding pre-eminence and independence. Intended for a career in diplomacy, he decided to enter the Church, because, as he says, "Having an income of my own, I felt I should be able to do what I liked." He did and the Church of England is very much the better for it today. As the "hard-hitting, knock-out blow Bishop of Birmingham," it was natural that Premier Lloyd George should invite him as one of the stalwarts of Britain to join the mission to America.
way or other been injured in the course of the war. I remember, as I was speaking with General Alderson at that time, that I spoke to them, wondering as I looked at them, what people at home here were thinking about their boys, and also how many of those boys would never see their Canada again. At the same time I never dreamed at that time that the war would be lasting so long as it has done. We can only thank you for the sacrifices that have been made not only by your sons but by their parents and their wives. We remember also with great gratitude all the offerings you have made.
What shall I speak to you about today? There are three great texts on which I am speaking during my time in Canada-and after all a Bishop must have texts. Primarily, there is the great righteous and moral strength of this war on the part of the Allies, and that to me, is allimportant. There is nothing that has been selfish about this war. There have been wars in which even the country that I come from, could not always truthfully claim, there was no self-seeking. I think on this occasion we can honestly say that we entered upon this war with a noble and pure motive, and that we have carried it on, as far as we could have been allowed to do so, in a chivalrous and proper manner. Another question which I certainly approach with considerable diffidence, but which I have been asked to deal with, is about Great Britain's share in the war. If I had known you longer I should say, "But, my dear fellows, one does not like blowing the trumpet"-However, when speaking the other night in French at Quebec, that particular part of what I had to say, seemed to have great interest for those who were listening. My third topic while in Canada will be the great social reconstruction which must take place after the war; for the war will not have fulfilled its purpose, if ever my country goes back to the condition it was in before the war. Unless we have learned great moral lessons from that war, there will be no true and lasting victories. But I have spoken to a large number of people who have been kind enough to invade my territory in this hotel since I arrived here a little after eight this morning, and according to what I have learned from them, they think I ought to make a kind of pie the first two subjects, and talk today about the real strength which we have behind us in this war,-the moral purpose,--and then tell you something of what Great Britain, in consequence of that, has tried to do in the war.
Well now, I want those of you who live here, where there are no political differences or anything of that kind; where you all live in perfect harmony, and where your elections are conducted simply in order that you may have some fun, and not because you disagree one with the other on any great topics-I want you to think of the distracted condition of my country early in 1914. There were very serious matters which were making lots of people wonder whether our old country was not going to get into very serious conditions, and some say almost into civil war. The subject of Ireland is always with us, but at that time that question was in a very acute condition indeed. Then the ladies were troubling us; I know you fellows will say they always do,-but I don't mean on this occasion exactly what you mean. The ladies were troubling us by their intense desire to acquire that vote which they are going to use for the first time before very long, I suppose, in England. Well, they were using rather forcible methods. It was difficult to move about without being called upon to give one's opinion on that subject, and if one's opinion did not happen to coincide with the opinion of the ladies who might be asking it, well, we required the assistance of the glazier before many days were over, if things did not go to a greater extreme than that. I remember that the then Prime Minister of England was staying at my house and I happened to have rather a large garden, and policemen were stationed all round my garden the night that he was there, in order that the ladies might not be too obtrusive in their attentions to him. That was a very serious question, all the same, though there was a certain amount of humor attached to it-as thank God there is to most subjects. Another question was-that of Capital and Labor, which at that time were not in very harmonious relations; and I should like to say quite honestly now-that I do see better signs of a coming together of the employers and the employed in England today than I have noticed during the considerable years that I have been engaged in public and social life. Though I am a Bishop, I have been many other things that Bishops ought not to be; I have been Mayor of my Borough, and I have been in connection with most of the public bodies of London and other places, and I have therefore some knowledge and have been allowed to have some knowledge of those two sides-the side of the employer and the side of the employed. At the present moment I am Vice-President of a leading Employer's Association, and also VicePresident of a leading Labor Association. Whether I might camouflage on one occasion or another it is for my friends or enemies to say!
Those were matters which were trying us very much indeed, and I think that one result of the war was this to take us out of our narrowness and selfishness and to give us an idea as to something grander with regard to which we might all unite. In addition, the people who were doing nothing in particular, who were enjoying themselves, the lethargic people, the people who were eating and drinking for tomorrow they were going to die, or something of that sort--those people all left directly the war began. Something new came over us all the while, because we saw the rights. All seeing the right, some way or other we were enabled to do our best to accomplish it; and we lived. And we live because I believe that we could see the war was the largest thing -nay, the war was one which if we had not taken up, I certainly would not have dared to come from my old country to this new one, because I should have been ashamed to have confessed that I was an Englishman who had refused to take up the gauntlet which had been thrown down. The small state has always had the interest of Great Britain. We have been selfish in times past, but, on the whole, our record with regard to the smaller states is not a bad one; and we had a duty towards Belgium. So had Germany; the duty of Germany toward Belgium was the same as ours, but they did one thing and we did the other. And when you come to total up what should be meted out to a defeated Germany after this war is over, do bear in mind you are dealing with people who, at any rate, have no knowledge as to what truth is. Some one said to me the other day that I was known in Canada as the Bishop who wanted the knock-out blow. I did not say that I was, but I do feel this,--that we cannot stop this war until we have, at any rate, started Germany on the road upwards from what she has been travelling on up to the present; and my one fear is, that out of the very generosity of the bulk of the Allies, we should make the thing a little too easy for them. If you do, you will have taught her nothing, and I think that is to be borne carefully in mind.
Well, we entered upon this war feeling it was just and moral. I could give many reasons why I think the war is just, but I simply take the one thing-we were pledged in a particular way; yet we were totally unprepared at that time to carry out our pledge. There was not a more unprepared people on the face of the earth than the British Nation when the war began. True, our Navy was in good condition, and I think part of our unpreparedness generally was due to that fact. What did anybody in Great Britain think was the ultimate possible that we could ever be called upon to do for France, supposing there was a war in which she was engaged and we were more or less bound to help her? The most that people thought was, that our navy might have to safeguard the French coasts, and secondly, that we might have to send 120,000 or a 150,000 people over to France as a kind of make-weight and help to her armies. Nobody thought that any more was possible. There were a few far-seeing people who realized what might come, but the great bulk of the people there thought that we could not be committed to more. They did not foresee that if you were committed to that amount, and that amount did not accomplish what was necessary, you would be bound for your own protection to go very much farther than that. Well then, such was the condition of things--an unprepared Britain. She had first of all to be really roused to war-time effort. Now, that is not altogether easy, as we are not of ourselves a people who want to be always fighting. We get through our fighting at school and in pleasant sort of ways like that, and settle down afterwards to our various vocations. No doubt there was a time when we were a fairly adventurous nation, but we have really got all that could be possibly considered desirable in the world over there. We were like other people. I see a lot of young men around me here; I see their seniors, who are probably all millionaires and are now taking it comparatively easy, but the young men are backing them and pushing, and they are determined to be where their respected parents are at the present time-I hope my respected son will be better off than his parent is at my age,-but we were rather over-quiescent, there is no doubt about that, and therefore to rouse us took some little doing. Then, to realize the size of the effort was not very easy for us, and I hope and trust that the many mistakes we made in our preparations for the war will have helped that great ally, the United States, to get all her things in perfect order without having to make so many mistakes as we did; we ought to learn from the mistakes of our friends.
Well then, to keep up year after year the war-determination is not easy for Great Britain. I don't know how long you people thought the war was going to last when it began, but I remember quite well, very soon after it started, having told some people in a mining -centre in my diocese that they must expect the war to last at any rate a couple of years. The way in which they replied was that as I left this particular district, they threw stones at my motor for having had such awful ideas. The next year, when I came on the same work that I had been doing the year before-dear things!-if I had said the war was going to last sixty years, they would have accepted it without any reviling of me at all, for they had begun to think I was somewhat prophetic! Still, we had no idea or conception of the time the war might last. Not only so, but for us the financial effort became and is a very severe matter. At the early stages of the war, we had to finance not only our own efforts, but those of many of the Allies, and that has entailed a heavy burden upon the individuals in our country, so that I think it would be fair to say that the average person-I do not mean the very large people-has at present only half the fixed income with which he started the war, and he is paying double for his commodities. So there is that pressure, and there has been that pressure upon us.
Now, you would like to have summarized for you what under those circumstances, Great Britain has done with regard to war-like effort. What about her army--that "contemptible army"? Well, in order to effect some kind of comparison between what has been done in the past by armies, I understand that the conscripted nations of the past have really had more than 12% percent of their total population under arms. Now, Great Britain rose from the "contemptible army" to something like 14 per cent. of the population before she had compulsory service; and with compulsory service, she has risen to something like 20 per cent. She has at any rate over eight million men under arms. You know what she is doing now. Except Servia, I believe no other allied country has done more than half as much as Great Britain in proportion of soldiers to population. May I say here-as in Canada, it seems to me, there is an extraordinary proportion of Scotch, for you cannot miss the "Mac" some how or other as you go round in Canada--that I believe Scotland has attained the finest result in voluntary effort of any country there is, perhaps, at all. I remember in the early days of the war, when I went up to Scotland to see two of my boys who were there under training, that in one town I visited, you really could scarcely get about in the street because there was a Sergeant drilling soldiers at almost every corner you went; and the language occasionally necessary under those circumstances was more what a Bishop requires a layman to use when he is in a state of irritation than what he is allowed to use himself,-at least in Great Britain. I do not know what your Bishops are allowed to use over here.
Now, Great Britain has fought eight simultaneous campaigns; on the West front, in Italy, Palestine, Macedonia, Mesopotamia and Baghdad, Fast Africa, the Kurman District, and Vladivostok. She has finished one or two other campaigns, notably in West Africa and the Kameroons, and she has had one glorious failure in the Dardanelles, a failure we must all admit, but which nevertheless had this effect, I understand, that the best of the Turkish troops were there wiped out and from that time on, Turkey has been practically at our mercy, she has steadily deteriorated. Great Britain has borne, in arms, her full burden; she has taken over in France, month after month I was going to say, more and more of the line, until we in England certainly got nervous as to whether she was not taking over too much of the line. From the sea to St. Quentin her men are to be found. Her airplanes day after day destroyed more enemy planes than the rest of the Allies. But let me say this-that a large proportion of those who have been pilots and observers in their airplanes have come from this country in which we now are. Your youthful spirits over here have been on the verge of rashness in these matters, and I always remember an incident at an hospital that I have been connected with ever since the war began, in which we very often had very young airmen from a school quite near, where they were under training. In that hospital we had a young Canadian who came in badly injured. He had a great chum at the same aviation school, and this chum knew the exact window through which his injured friend could look from the hospital and he used to come over continually, doing the most awful stunts conceivable, in order to show his injured friend how much he had improved since the friend had entered the hospital. He did such awful things, and got so near the innocent inhabitants of the district, that at last he had to be told, much as it might delight him to show his friend how much he would have to learn when he came out of hospital in order to be equal to him, still, would he mind doing his spiriting a little more gently. Your fellows have been perfectly splendid not only at that work but at all work. Then we are inventors, we people of England, in regard to the war. I cannot say that the invention is a beautiful one, nor can I say that it is a pleasant one with which to be associated sometimes; I refer to the Tanka lumbering, but perhaps the most useful engine of war known in this war. The tank is a very uncomfortable thing to be in and if you are a bad sailor-well, it discovers your deficiencies in that respect; but not only what the tank has done, but what it has saved in lives is something remarkable, and I think after all, amongst the inventions -of the war, this by no means beautiful but very useful instrument and engine must be put to the credit of Great Britain.
Then our independent air force has brought to Germany almost the only retribution she has as yet had for a great deal of what she has done. From Cologne to Mannheim there has been some bombing, and I hope that there is still some whilst we are at present enjoying ourselves in this way-at least you are not enjoying yourselves-I am. Great Britain has engaged half the German army. She was by herself in the bulk. She has met a considerable percent of the Austrian and Bulgarian armies-and all this is a development out of a force which at the beginning of the war was held too unequal to cope with ten German divisions. Well, I need hardly say what has been done this year. Those who have read your papers today will have seen Field Marshal Haig's statement with regard to what has been done by the British forces. I will not read it; I ask you to read it; it was recommended to me this morning as a peroration; only I do say that it does bring a sense of pride to one coming from the old country to see what our arms have been able to accomplish.
And now what about the navy? Well, I know only one thing which the navy is responsible for, for which you ought not to be grateful, and that is, that, thanks to the protection of the navy, I am here. That great unadvertized and yet most potent instrument of victory, the navy, I do not think I need say much about. Its numerical superiority at the war's beginning was not so great, possibly, as people fancy, and our enemy could choose the moment of attack when he had the largest number of ships available. At that time, some of ours, as always is possible, sometimes a considerable number, might have been in dock. Our attacker could choose the moment when he had most of his ships ready for service, and yet there has been only one failure,-the defeat of Cornwall,-whilst we have had victories, more real victories, as history will tell, than we know at present, for example, Heligoland, Jutland, and- that wonderful thing which will be told in years to come with pride by everyone familiar with the sea-Zeebrugge. The navy has swept the German ships off the sea. There is nothing now but what the German has under the sea; practically nothing over at all. The blockade has been increasingly successful, and I think that if the navy had had more real power at the earlier stages, the blockade would have been far more complete even than it was at one particular stage, at any rate. Then the German is no longer able even to come to our seaside resorts. There was a time when he used to come to Scarborough, that terrified City, and he used to disport himself there-never actually landing, but still doing something. While he has given up the seaside resorts at the present time, I suppose he is looking for some more of those fortified cities that we have ourselves never been able to discover. Think of the safe carriage of food and troops. Think of that constant going and coming between France and England, always going on-troops going, everything going there and returning, and scarcely ever anything in the way of disturbance. The navy has done that. What our merchantmen have done must not be forgotten either; and here I might say a word for the right kind of conscientous objector. There are two kinds. There is one, the right kind, for whom one has a certain respect. The other is the wrong kind, for whom I have nothing but contempt. Now, I have known some of the right kind; they give themselves to mine-sweeping because they thought thereby they were saving life; they were risking their own; and I know of Ouaker friends of mine who have been spending their time mine-sweeping, and some of them have lost their own lives. Therefore let us be quite fair to everyone. Sixty percent of the American troops that have crossed have been in British vessels, and seventy percent of the patrolling has been done by British Destroyers and such like ships. There has been an improvement in dealing with the submarine, and I venture to think that altogether the navy does not require any defence from anybody for what it has done.
We have made munitions of war, and certainly in the early stages we were making them for all the Allies. Practically now we have no one not employed in Great Britain. Women are working splendidly, doing magnificent work that nobody dreamed they could do. Women and men are hard at it, and all this in a country where every crank or pacifist can grouse to his heart's content -and he does grouse sometimes; but he does not grouse as a rule for long, because he sees that there is a better way out of the back platform than getting down from the front.
Our losses by deaths are now reaching a number of millions. How many homes does that mean in our, comparatively speaking, small Great Britain. In how many homes is there misery, and at the same time a great and lasting cry?
My friends, that is the record. Now do you think we are going to give this up until we have attained our object? (Voices--"No!") Do you think for a moment that we are going to insult our dead by first of all telling them to go out in a cause to accomplish a certain purpose, and then when they are dead, deserting them? (A Voice--"Never!") We mean to have a better and a nobler world in the days to come. We can only have that better world, first of all by seeing this matter through upon which we are engaged, and then bending all our energies when the true peace comes, to seeing that each of our countries is a better country, truer and a nobler one, by all that we do in the way of re-construction. But finish the work first; get the work done; don't let us slacken off now, or else we shall only half accomplish our work.
I am thankful that this matter should be so much in the hands of one who I believe will not falter, namely, the President of the United States. I have been only a very short time in the United States, but I have seen a good many of the American troops and people connected with them over on the other side, and I am satisfied of this--that America will not consider her full duty done until we have made it absolutely impossible that ever again--within the memory of man any nation should be able to inflict the awful wrong upon the world that Germany inflicted in August, 1914. I am perfectly persuaded that no one of the Allies will give up the struggle until we have made it a certainty that war shall never, if possible, prevail again, and that if war should unhappily ever come again, it should not be waged in the abominable way in which Germany has waged it.
Gentlemen, I thank you for the attention you have paid to me, and I trust that you will believe that every word I say is said by one who is satisfied of this-that the Allies of this war are fighting God's battle and are fighting for humanity.