- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Apr 1927, p. 95-104
- Story, W. Oswald, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Defining what is meant by sea power. How sea power of a country may be measured. How the British Empire was built up by her traders who carried her commerce to distant lands and established themselves in security under the armed protection of the British Navy, or in early days trusting to their own armed vessels, as in the case of the East India companies. The speaker's experiences when stationed on the Australian Station, spending many months each year among the South Sea Islands. Japan's present position, owing to her sea power, also Germany's position before the War. The advantages to a country when its trade is carried in its own ships, manned by its own people, and protected by its own vessels of war. Conditions favourable to a nation taking to sea, as in England. Canada in much the same position as the United States, with her sea traditions coming down to her from her connection with the Mother country, with few families having a member following the sea, the exception being in the maritime provinces. Duties of the Navy. Words from the Naval Discipline Act, with illustrations from history to prove their true meaning. Going back to the long struggle between Rome and Carthage to illustrate the advantages of sea power and command of the sea to a country. A brief account of key episodes in naval history over the 17th and 18th centuries. Hawke's action in Quiberon Bay in Canada in 1759. The debt that Canada owes to the British Navy, which enabled the gallant soldiers and early settlers to win Canada for the British Empire by keeping the seas open. Command of the sea in the last War. How the Navy fulfills its duty of keeping the seas open. Canada with a growing country and an ever-expanding trade, seeking markets further and further. Protecting our daily average of three million dollars worth of produce on the sea. The need to encourage a sea-spirit, or sea-consciousness throughout the Dominion, so that this ever-increasing volume of commerce may be carried in Canadian ships, built in Canadian yards, manned by Canadian seamen. How this might be done. Canada combining and forming one Empire Navy to insure that the sea shall be kept open to our commerce at all times and under all conditions. Canada providing her share. Two more naval problems of interest to Canada: finding more and more nationals in foreign parts who would benefit by the safety and prestige which can only be obtained by the periodical sight of the armed forces of the nation; in case of war between other powers, in which Canada is a neutral, she has on the West Coast many out-of-the-way harbours, islands, etc., in which a belligerent under certain circumstances might establish bases, or make use of. Some force necessary to assure that Canada's neutrality shall be respected.
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- 7 Apr 1927
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AN ADDRESS BY ADMIRAL W. OSWALD STORY, C.B.E.,
(Links of Empire Series)
7th April, 1927
Some years ago, a French author wrote : "Naval strategy has indeed for its end to found, support, and increase in peace and war the sea-power of a country". Now let us define what is meant by sea-power.
A primitive race has but few requirements, such as nature can produce. As the race develops, wants and production increase, till at last production exceeds the requirements and outside markets become a necessity. To reach these markets, it stands to reason transportation must be provided, and further that those markets being found in distant lands, the bulk of the goods must be transported by sea. As the value of this trade increases it requires armed protection to insure its reaching its destination in safety. People also require from abroad goods that cannot be produced at home, and raw materials for their own manufacturers that they do not possess, and in certain cases food for their own consumption. So that it becomes imperative to their very existence that the seas be kept open at all times. Again, as a people increases in strength and wealth, its nationals go further afield in search of trade and commerce. These also require protection. Hence, the sea-power of a country may be measured by the volume of its sea-borne commerce, plus the armed protection it is able to afford, its power to keep the seas open in peace and war, and the protection and prestige it can give to its people in foreign parts. Thus, the British Empire was built up by her traders who carried her commerce to distant lands and established themselves in security under the armed protection of the British Navy, or in early days trusting to their own armed vessels, as in the case of the Fast India companies who fought many gallant actions. So the flag followed the trade.
For some years, I was stationed on the Australian Station, spending many months each year among the South Sea Islands, where among treacherous natives one found everywhere British traders, rough men living alone, but secure in their persons and possessions through the knowledge among the natives that there was always a man-of-war somewhere in the neighbourhood. Japan owes her present position to her sea-power, and through it takes up the position of one of the great powers and one to be respected in the council of nations. Before the War, Germany built up her strength by her seapower, which she lost by ill-advised military action.
There is another expression : A nation may be said to have command of the sea when in war its vessels can pass thereon in safety at all times, it being understood that this is not vitiated by sporadic raids.
It is to the advantage of a country, that its trade be carried in its own ships, manned by its own people, and protected by its own vessels of war. Some nations naturally take to the sea, others do not, dependent upon circumstances, such as geographical position, environment, tradition and the state of the labour market. Now in England, all these conditions are favourable. A comparatively small island, surrounded by sea, which is at almost everyone's door; hardly a family but has or had someone following the sea as a profession; and an overcrowded labour market. Hence the sea Spirit is always to be found and she experiences no difficulty in manning her ships. At the opposite extreme we find the United States, part of a vast continent with a small sea-board relative to its area; no sea-tradition to speak of and no race of seamen, except in the north-east corner; and ample well-paid work for everyone. She has to offer tremendous inducements to get men to man her ships. I heard only the other day of a boy of my acquaintance, aged 16, with no experience, going to sea in one of her tramp steamers as a deck boy, at $70.00 per month, all found, comfortable quarters, plentiful food, such as would be obtained in any good hotel, and eight hours a day work. Canada is much the same in position as the U.S., eliminating, of course, the Northern Sea board, which is practically unpopulated. Her sea-traditions are purely such as come down to her from her connection with the mother country; and families Raving a member following the sea are few. She has, of course, in the maritime provinces the descendants of one of the finest races of seamen the world has ever known; and I saw last fall in the race between the two famous schooners "Blue Nose" and "Haligonian" that their traditions have not been lost. But these form a small percentage of the population of the Dominion.
The armed forces I have mentioned are known as a "Navy", whose duty it is, therefore, to keep the seas open, so that ships may at all times pass thereon, on their lawful occasions. Observe the word "lawful", which is the key note of this expression. The articles of war by which the Naval Discipline Act is known commences in its preamble "Whereas it is on the Providence of God and a strong Navy, that the peace and prosperity of this realm do most chiefly depend=" These are words unmistakable in their meaning, and have been proved by all past history to be true.
Venice, once Queen of the Adriatic, sent her commerce far and wide, supported by armed vessels, or in such, and grew rich and prosperous. The time came when prosperity became too great and luxury destroyed the virility of her people, Her armed vessels were laid up, her people sank into sloth, her commerce declined, and she is now, commercially speaking, but a monument of the past, a beautiful city for tourists to visit.
Spain, once a mighty colonizing power, with a farflung empire, connected with the motherland by sea, from one cause and another allowed her sea-force to decline, so that Sully characterized Spain, as one of those states whose legs and arms are strong and powerful, but the head infinitely feeble. Since his day the Spanish navy suffered annihilation, the consequences briefly being that her shipping was destroyed, manufactures perished with it, the narrow stream of gold and silver that flowed from her colonies was interrupted by enemy vessels, so she lost her wealth and eventually her foreign possessions. Portugal, in the same way and for similar reasons declined.
Holland, once rich and powerful, carried in her ship' the greater part of the trade of the world, lost this carrying trade when she lost their protection, largely because it was found safer for merchants to send their goods in British ships. This loss was largely due to parsimony. One of their own statesmen wrote: "Never in time of peace, and from fear of rupture, will they take resolution strong enough to lead them to pecuniary sacrifices before hand. The character of the Dutch is such that unless danger stares them in the face, they are indisposed to lay out money for their own defence. I have to do with a people liberal to profusion where they ought to economize, who are often sparing to avarice where they ought to spend". Are not these words worth pondering over and taking to heart ? An English writer also wrote about the Dutch; that they were so parsimonious in fitting out their ships of war, that they could not keep the seas, with the result: "that we took five of their ships for two of ours that fell into their hands. "
Now to see what advantages sea-power and command of the sea has been to a country, we will go back to history to the long struggle between Rome and Carthage. We find Rome holding command of the sea from the north of Spain to Marseilles, and from thence to the north if Sicily, round the south of Italy and across the Adriatic. Carthage, Spain and Macedonia wanted to attack the power of Rome at its heart, but Macedonia was unable to cross the Adriatic; Carthage could not reach the south of Italy with an army, but formed a base in Spain, whence the great Hannibal started on his march round to Italy over land, incidentally losing 33,000 men out of his 60,000; when he reached the vicinity of Rome his force was too weak for an offensive, so he passed on to the south where he lived on the inhabitants. Return was impossible because Rome having command of the sea had landed an army in the south of Prance which cut off his retreat. Carthage could not send him supplies for years, but eventually managed to send a few reinforcements including elephants. (It would be interesting to a seaman to learn how they accomplished this feat in their small vessels). This shows the advantages of a country holding the command of a sea, preventing an expeditionary force from reaching its shores by sea.
The 17th and 18th centuries are marked by the number of wars which followed one another, in which the nations of Europe were all involved sometimes as allies, and sometimes as enemies, and in most cases the underlying motive was trade and its expansion. Nearly all wars may be said to be caused by the scramble for trade and possessions; two exceptions may be quoted such as the "War of Jenkins' Ear" which was caused by some Spanish sportsman cutting off the ear of a British mariner, and (I think the last Dutch war where the Dutch resented England's claim to the sovereignty of the seas north of Cape Finisterre.
Early in the century the Dutch, having been successful against Spain allowed their fleet to deteriorate. Cromwell strengthened the British fleet, and his General at sea, Monk, brought it to a high state of efficiency, so much so that the Dutch were blockaded in their ports and their merchantmen ceased to function, with the result, it was said that "grass grew in the streets of Amsterdam. " By 1665 Monk was dead and the Dutch had recovered and rebuilt their fleet and further fighting occurred. In 1666 both sides, tired of the struggle, retired from the contest, and Charles the Second, with his lack of money laid up the fleet. His intelligence department, if he had one, must have been at fault, for on the 14th of June, 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Thames, and destroyed the shipping, burning off Chatham, one of our finest men-of-war, the "Royal London." They remained a couple of days off the mouth of the Thames, and returned home, unmolested. This shows the danger of unpreparedness against a potential enemy. In 1668, Great Britain withdrew from the war, and the French took on another quarrel, with the result that more of the Dutch trade passed into British hands. With this, and the circumstances I have mentioned before, the Dutch were left in such a pitiful plight that for a time as a historian puts it, "the Zuyder Zee became a forest of masts, and famine stalked naked throughout the land". The following years brought on our long-drawn-out struggle with France, where Prance in particular waged what is called a "guerre de course", or a war against commerce. Great Britain was able to control this to a great extent, and give protection, which enabled her wealth to increase, and support her to the final conclusion. By her sea-power, among other things, she was able to control the French pretensions in India, but the episode that stands out most, and is of the greatest interest to us here in Canada, is Hawke's action in Quiberon Bay, which has been described as an early Trafalgar. In November, 1759, the French under Conflans started out with the intention of leading an expedition for the invasion of England or Scotland, when he was met by Hawke in a gale of wind. Finding himself on a lee-shore, with the wind increasing, he ran for Quiberon Bay, thinking that Hawke would not dare to follow him in, but in this he was mistaken in the temerity of this gallant seaman, who held on through the shoals of an uncharted harbour, in the gathering storm, and eventually brought his fleet to anchor under the lee of some islands, while the French fleet was completely destroyed by running ashore. This is but a brief account of a wonderful episode in Naval History; and it is interesting to note that on this very night Hawke's effigy was being burned in the streets of London, the people believing he was shirking his duty. This action cleared the seas, enabled the base of Louisburg to be formed, which completed the conquest of Canada, and two years after this date, the French surrendered their claims, and Canada was painted red on the map of the world. I think our Canadian histories, especially those used as text-books in schools do not pay sufficient attention to the debt that Canada owes to the British Navy, which enabled those gallant soldiers and early settlers to win Canada for the British Empire, by keeping the seas open.
During the ate War, owing to the position of Germany we early obtained comma, d of the sea, which enabled our Expeditionary Force to cross with safety, and without any loss. Very different to Hannibal, who unable to cross the sea, had to march round, an alternative denied to us. Had the allies not had command of the sea, the war would have had a very different termination, and we might by now have been using German as the official language of the country. Instead, trade and commerce, were able to proceed as usual on most seas, and under protection on others. There was however, one cruiser, loo ,e in the Indian Ocean, which destroyed a considerable amount of shipping before she was run down, and was destroyed by an Australian vessel. What a thrill would have gone through Canada, had this vessel been a Canadian one. To show the difficulty of rounding up cruiser or commerce-des royer, nine or eleven vessels were hunting her at the time she was discovered. Von Spee's squadron did very little damage in this way, before being finally disposed of, but made Canada feel uncomfortable on her west coast. Only the Moeve, and I believe, one other vessel managed to get through our blockade, and after doing some damage to commerce and trade, succeeded in returning to their base unmolested.
It is to be borne in mind that the comparative ease with which we kept .the trades routes open was in large measure due to the geographical position of the enemy. Had his coasts been open to the sea, it would have been quite a different matter, for it would have been almost impossible to prevent a number of commerce-destroying vessels from slipping out, and we have seen how difficult
it is, under modern conditions to catch even one. Let this never be lost sight of in any considerations, bearing on trade protection.
The duty of a navy being, as I have said, to keep the seas open, you may ask, how is this to be done ? The answer is; it has three functions to perform. The first is to seek out its main fleet-the enemy's fleet, defeat it, or contain it. With the remaining cruisers available, to protect the trades routes. Thirdly, protect its own ports of ingress and egress. If you look at a chart showing the trades' routes, you will notice that there are certain local points, through which, or near which, all vessels must pass. It is in the vicinity of these that our cruisers must be stationed, and bases established as near as circumstances will admit, from which they can radiate. Hence, the much-talked of need of a base at Singapore. For protection of ports of ingress and egress, destroyers, submarines, minesweepers are required. These are the general lines on, which naval strategy is based.
A modern naval vessel of war is a very complicated machine, which takes from one to three years to build. Its personnel is comprised of very carefully-trained officers and men, whose training requires about seven years. Hence, neither the ship nor the crew can be hastily improvised, when war looms on the horizon, and those who are interested in trade and commerce should see to it that the necessary protection is always at hand, or is in such a state with trained men in reserve that its defensive force can be readily expanded. Here in Canada, we are the builders and if we build well, Canada with her size and vast resources and potential wealth may, in time, become the centre of the Empire, but we must have courage and vision, building for the future and thinking imperially. We have a growing country and an ever-expanding trade, seeking markets further and further afield. At the present moment, we have daily throughout the year an average of three million dollars worth of produce on the sea. Imagine the volume this will reach in, say, seven years time, the time it takes to train the crew of a vessel. We need to encourage a sea-spirit, or sea-consciousness throughout the Dominion, so that this ever-increasing volume of commerce may be carried in Canadian ships, built in Canadian yards, manned by Canadian seamen. It is in the power of Governments to foster this spirit, and to encourage exportable industries, thereby increasing its sea-power, provided it has adequate protection. See how remarkably this was done in the case of Germany whose sea-power before the war, and consequent prestige was second only to that of England. The Navy League of Canada, consisting of public-spirited men and women, is doing its utmost to spread this spirit of sea-consciousness among the people of Canada by supporting Sea Cadet Corps in all the principal cities of the Dominion, so that at the present moment there are about 1,300 boys in training in naval discipline, and interested in sea-life. We have our Canadian National Mercantile Marine, the C.P.R. and other vessels, and one sees in the papers many of them bound to destinations throughout the seven seas, all bearing Canadian produce, bringing wealth and prosperity to the Dominion. It is for you, business men, to see that this source of wealth, the very lifeblood of the country shall run no risk of interruption by enemy action, that it is adequately protected. Remember the fate of Spain.
Canada of herself, and from her own resources cannot provide all the protection necessary for her commerce, nor is there any need for her to do so. She is one of the great nations forming the British Empire. We are all one family, and are, or ought to be each other's best customers.' So by combining, and forming one Empire Navy, we shall insure that the sea shall be kept open to our commerce, at all times, and under all conditions. I would suggest that it is not outside the means of Canada to provide a force sufficient to protect her ports of ingress and egress, and her share of the additional cruisers required to increase the adequate navy for policing the trade routes of the Empire. Then indeed we may say that it is on the Providence of God, and a, strong United Navy, that the peace and safety of this Empire do most chiefly depend.
There are two more naval problems of interest to Canada. As this nation grows and commerce extends, more and more of her nationals will be found in foreign, parts, who would benefit by the safety and prestige which can only be obtained by the periodical sight of the armed forces of the nation. We are witnessing in China now, English and U.S. destroyers rescuing foreigners, among whom there must be a sprinkling of Canadians. The second problem is this. In case of war between other powers, in which Canada is a neutral, she has on the West Coast, many out-of-the-way harbours, islands, etc., in which a belligerent under certain circumstances might establish bases, or make use of. Some force is necessary to assure that Canada's neutrality shall be respected, lest she be constrained to accept the humiliation of seeing herself scorned and flouted, as has occurred to weak nations many times in history.
When trade, the very source of a nation's life is at stake the real situation to be faced can best be put in the words of Scripture: "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. "
The thanks of the meeting were accorded heartily to Admiral Story.