St. George and Canada
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Apr 1943, p. 491-502
Llewellin, Right Hon. Colonel John J., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A special joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The St. George's Society of Toronto.
St. George and what he stands for in the history of England. Canada's contribution to the war, with specific activities of the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force. The speaker's experience serving under General McNaughton. The Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy working side-by-side, continuously and well. The Royal Canadian and Royal Air Forces and their raids on German industries. Canada's great production drive. The Empire Air Training Scheme undertaken by Canada. Canada's kindness shown to many children from England. The days after the war. The need for give and take between nations.
Date of Original
22 Apr 1943
Language of Item
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Full Text
A Special Joint Meeting of The Empire Club of Canada
and The St. George's Society of Toronto.
Chairman: Third Vice-President C. R. Conquergood, Esq.
Thursday, April 22, 1943.

MR. C. R. CONQUERGOOD: Your Honour, Distinguished Guests, Members of the St. George's Society, and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: The Empire Club is very happy to have with us today His Majesty's Representative, the Lieutenant-Governor for the Province of Ontario. We greet the President and member of St. George's Society and we are glad to join with them, in celebrating the anniversary of the Patron Saint of England. Members of the St. George's Society and of the Empire Club have a common bond of fellowship, for though our methods and procedure may differ, we are united in our aims, that of promoting the best British traditions.

We pause today to consider the contribution which our Patron Saint has made to the life and ideals of the nation. The love of freedom, and the badge of chivalry, which are the hallmarks of any Englishman, have been largely inspired by the worthy example of our Patron Saint. Those lofty ideals have come to us as a heritage from our forefathers and we must hand them on to succeeding generations as an integral part of the great things which we have found to be of value.

Of the person of St. George, we have some historical information. We have too, the story of his exploits told in allegorical form. History and legend have been woven together through the passing years, but the inspiration of his chivalry, his courage and his discretion are enshrined in our traditions, and constantly resurrected in our actions.

Was it not the chivalry of St. George in his great exploit that later found expression among British seamen? When heroic and self-sacrificing sailors shouted as they clung to the tilting decks of their sinking ships, "Women and children first". Was this not the chivalry of St. George again manifest among men?

Is it not the courage of St. George that inspires courageous British soldiers whenever and wherever they have faced fearful odds on the fields of battle? The story tells us that the dragon swept St. George from his horse and broke his spear in many pieces, but with undaunted faith he drew his trusty sword, Ascalon, and hit the vital spot under the wings of the dragon. His spirit of faith and determination in refusing to accept defeat has been re-enacted in these times by the abiding spirit of Britain. The flames that come from the dragon's mouth and almost overpowered our Patron Saint were not hotter than the flames which came from the incendiary bombs that showered the Motherland from the dragon of Naziism.

St. George was discreet. He adopted a form of the cross, which would constantly remind him of the Christ, but would not be recognized as such by the infidel. In his time, as in ours, it seemed as if even the walls had ears, so when he told of his exploits, he talked in parables which his friends understood, but which meant nothing to his enemies.

His cross is retained as a symbol, in our flag. His favorite flower, the rose, has become the emblem of England. His Christian purpose has found expression, as churches and charitable institutions spread throughout the land.

It is my intention, according to ancient custom, to propose a toast to St. George and this toast will be responded to by our guest speaker of today, the Right Honourable Colonel John J. Llewellin, P.C., C.B.E., M.C., M.P., who has come from Washington to be with us today.

Right Hon. Col. Llewellin was born in England, educated at Eton and University College, Oxford. He received his commission in the Artillerv in his native Dorset in 1914. From 1915-1919 he served in France. In 1921 he was called to the Bar. From 1931 to 1935 he served as Secretary to the Commissioner of Works; from 1935 to 1937 he was the Assistant Government Whip; from 1937 to 1939 he was Civil Lord of the Admiralty; from 1939 to 1940 he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, and from 1940 to 1941 he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry for Aircraft Production. In 1942 he was successively President of the Board of Trade and Minister of Aircraft Production.

He is a member of the British Cabinet and Minister in charge of Procurement of Supplies for Britain and has been in Washington since January.

We welcome him here today, and will be favored in having him reply to our toast.

Gentlemen: I give you a toast "St. George and Merrie England."


Mr. Chairman, Your Honour, Gentlemen: I feel that it is a great honour that has been done me to ask me to come as the guest today of The Empire Club and of The St. George's Society on this, the eve of St. George's Day, to reply to the toast to St. George.

St. George stands for much in the history of England. Uplifting the shield on which is depicted the simple red cross, he stands for upholding of the right and for the trampling underfoot of the dragon of tyranny and oppression. He stands indeed for the characteristics, as our Chairman has said, which have made England what she is, which in fact have made Canada and the other Dominions what they are. For you and I and all of us in the British Empire inherit the same traditions of justice, of freedom and of fair play, and we have shown in these last three years that we are fully determined to see them maintained in the world. From the outset of this war there was no doubt in the minds of anyone in Great Britain where you stood in Canada. The war was some thousands of miles away from your coasts, but from the start you were in it at our side and Canada's contribution to this struggle has indeed been a great one.

I think it may be said to fall under four main heads. There is the contribution that your Army, Navy and Air Force have made and are making. This time three years ago, and I remember that period very well myself, even the optimists in Great Britain were doubtful as to how many of our men overseas we should be able to get back, but at that time I think we can say that we gave a supreme example of determination, of courage, and of organization, and so it was that we got our men back from Dunkirk.

That was due partly, of course, to the Army itself, the Army which because of the collapse of France, because of the capitulation of Belgium, was left unsupported on both flanks with its lines of communication cut, but which nevertheless fought back with perfect discipline under the leadership of Lord Gort to those beaches.

Then the men, and the women too, went out from our shores as others had done before to Zeebrugge on St. George's Day. They crossed the channel in every ship that could cross the channel-in yachts and dinghies and sailing boats, in tugs, minesweepers, and destroyers. I know two boats quite well that used to ply on the little harbour on which I live in England and take people for sixpence a trip around the harbour. Well those boats sailed away a hundred and four miles to get to the East coast and take their part in bringing our men home.

The Royal Air Force indeed played its part. There were men overhead, far beyond the Army, fighting off the bombers and the fighters who would have attacked our men on those beaches. I well remember on one of those Sundays flying around to visit about half a dozen squadrons of the Royal Air Force and going to one, and after we arrived there we were talking to the Station Commander and his Adjutant came in and said, "Nine signalled back, sir", and we asked how many had gone out and we were told twelve. However, we went on talking and in a minute or two in came the Adjutant and said that the other three had been signalled back.

Now those twelve young men had gone out from that quiet peaceful airdrome in Britain and had only been away an hour and a half and in that time had shot down 17 German planes and 9 probables. (Applause.)

We went around and spoke to each one of those pilots and they said, "Well, you see, we just happened to come upon them lucky," and there they were, quite unmoved, except for one fellow. It was his first go. But the others were quite unmoved, yet for the. previous hour they had each one of them been facing death.

The getting of those men back, an action in which, as I say, all the Services took part, was an immense and significant event for the future of the whole world. It was only achieved by the courage and seamanship of the Royal Navy, by the skill and daring of the pilots of the Royal Air Force, by the discipline and endurance of the Army and by the cheerful pluck and perseverence of many a civilian in a small boat.

However, we got our men home. They were not fated to spend the past three years in prison camps, but were destined for the gallant deeds which they have since performed in the battles of Egypt, of Libya, and now in Tunisia. At that time we were almost completely unarmed. We had, in fact, an unarmed army of our own and who was there to hold the centre of the Empire at that time? The one fully armed division was the division which you had sent from here-a division now greatly reinforced so it had become a large army, and one commanded by a great soldier.

Some twenty-five years ago, when I was a major and he was a colonel, I had the honour to serve under General McNaughton. M y battery was in the Canadian Corps area in France and he was Battery Commander for our part of the line. Together we blasted the German batteries, and I am glad that each of us has been privileged to play some part in the second and final round.

The Canadian troops under his command have indeed a big part to play before victory is ours, as other Empire troops have done in various parts of Africa, the Australians in the early battles, and the South Africans as well, and the New Zealanders, lately leading that great attack through most difficult country on the left flank when Montgomery's army took the Mareth line--that Army which I think has got as proud a place in history as any Army before it.

Of your Navy I will only say that throughout the struggle the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy have worked side by side, continuously and well. The Royal Navy has its duties and responsibilities throughout the length and breadth of the high seas. Canada with her Navy is fully taking her part. That Navy is protecting your own coasts and is supplying a considerable part of the escorts which take convoys continuously to and fro across the Atlantic, carrying the troops, the munitions, the food and the other stores, so essential to the war fronts.

With regard to the Royal Canadian Air Force, they are valiantly sharing every task with their larger brother, the Royal Air Force. The pilots go on the fighter sweeps. They protect the American bombers during their daylight raids and there is hardly a night raid now over Germany itself in which your crews do not take part.

And let me say something here about these raids on German industries. We know that the mass of the German steel industry is in the Ruhr district and that by our raids we have been able to reduce the output of steel in that district by no less than 50 per cent. We know that by our raids we have decreased German production of aircraft by 30 per cent. We know that because of our attacks on the railway centres and on locomotives on the railways that the Germans have had to take out of munitions industries some 30,000 workers to build new locomotives or to repair those that have been damaged. We know indeed that the whole munitions production of Germany, is being hampered by those raids and we know that the submarines will be far less effective in attacking our shipping than otherwise they would have been.

Well, your pilots are taking their full share in that great achievement. They are doing equally vital work in the Coastal Command, where your planes patrol the ocean alongside those from the United Kingdom.

Apart from the fighting services the second great contribution of Canada to victory is your great production drive. I spoke about this in this very room four or five weeks ago and today, therefore, I will no more than say this, that starting from small beginnings your production of vital weapons ranks fourth among all the United Nations. Fourth only to that of the United States, that huge arsenal of weapons, to Russia and to Great Britain herself, and the nation that takes fifth place is quite a long way astern of you. Apart from the production of finished goods there are two other great production fields which I should like to mention. They make a contribution, perhaps the most valuable of all. I refer to metals such as nickel and aluminum. I refer to the vast production of vital foodstuffs. I ask you to maintain your supplies of aluminum. Made by water power it is the vital metal for air power. Keep the fields fertile, the prairies plowed, keep them sown, and harvested. Breed the livestock, fatten the beasts and the hogs. Proteins and fats are vital to keep the forces fighting fit, to keep those in factories production fit, and we want some supplies to share out to the distressed peoples of the overrun countries of Europe whom we soon hope to and soon, I believe, will free.

Canada's third great contribution in my estimation is that part of the Empire Air Training Scheme which takes place in this country. There we have not only young men from Canada and the United Kingdom, but from many other of the United Nations as well. They are taught and trained here for their great task. Like St. George, these young men go forth in individual combat to conquer and to carry on their great crusade. None are braver than they. None face greater danger. None go out so fearlessly to meet what fate may bring.

The fourth end final contribution which I am going to mention is the kindness you have shown here in many a home to homeless ones from England. Many a father, many a mother in Great Britain has been relieved of fearful foreboding and has thus been enabled better to perform his or her war work, knowing that their children are safe and well cared for in a Canadian home.

You, I am sure were as much moved as I was by the Queen's recent broadcast speech to the women of the Empire. That speech mainly dwelt on family life and the Christian ideal and I know what success has attained the efforts that many a Canadian man and woman have made to make these children a part of their family. I know how they were and are being trained and nurtured here on sound Christian lines. Most of them will one day return to their homeland and that land will be better spiritually for all you have done and you will have formed another link, a link of kindness and affection in our family of nations-a family of nations headed by our wonderful Royal Family, who have given such a lead of steadfastness and devotion to duty throughout the whole of this difficult period. There is hardly a city or town in Great Britain that after it has been bombed hasn't immediately received a visit from Their Majesties the King and Queen in order to cheer those who are homeless and, by their smiles and their coming among the people, to give them courage and fresh confidence. It is perhaps well today to recall that the heir presumptive, the charming Princess Elizabeth, celebrated her seventeenth birthday yesterday. She is now as a matter of fact, flying to receive a message from one who is a member of the Cabinet of the Mother of Parliaments.

Colonel Llewellin has laid aside very heavy duties to visit us and speak to us on the subject of "St. George", "Canada's Contribution to the Struggle", and the position of "The Island Fortress at the Time of Dunkirk".

In paying tribute to Canada, Colonel Llewellin may be assured that the only difference between our Motherland and this Dominion is one of geography.

As to St. George, our Patron Saint, a member spoke to me a few days ago and said, "You know, I attend St. George's dinner, but it is something far more than that to-me-it is a prayer-I attend to pay tribute to England". I think he expressed what we all feel. Our gathering together here today is an outward and visible tribute to England.

Colonel Llewellin has spoken to us of this Dominion's contribution to the struggle under four headings: First, the contribution the Navy, the Army and the Air Force are making.

Here we have been told that these have been great days to live in because we have shown our greatness. This high tribute we know will be alike merited by all three Services of this Dominion when the final account is rendered.

Secondly, Production. "Perhaps the most valuable contribution of all". Canada's production of vital weapons of war now ranks fourth. The statement as to metals and vital food we may be assured will not go unheeded by our responsible heads of Government.

Germany too was a highly industrialized country, and was in the forefront in the days of peace and competition, in shipbuilding, engineering, chemicals, textiles and chinaware, but in times of peace her vast works were turned to war production, while our Commonwealth and the United Nations pursued the path of normal industry, producing for peaceful use and enjoyment.

Whatever other gifts the Germans may have, they are below standard in statesmanship and political genius--no Hitler or Mussolini could have persuaded the British peoples into such paths of shame and dishonour.

Thirdly, the contribution of this Dominion to the "Empire Air Training Scheme". We are all proud that this great contribution to victory takes place in this Dominion.

It is with a great feeling of pride in our Commonwealth that we see young men training here, from all parts of the Empire and the United Nations. These knights are worthy disciples of St. George, and in earlier days might have sat with Prince Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Fourthly, the kindness shown here in many a home to homeless ones in England. Here Colonel Llewellin has really touched our hearts. To many present here today, these words of appreciation will sound like music to their ears. For us, it has been a contribution of love, and gratitude, that we have been permitted to open our homes to British evacuee children. May this link of kindness and affection in our family of nations be ever strengthened.

I should be falling far short in my reply if I closed here! What about our Motherland? Colonel Llewellin has truly said that "Great has been the part that Great Britain herself has played in these tremendous times". Great indeed! Remember the epic of Dunkirk.

The steadfastness of the people at home during this grimmest of all struggles for freedom and liberty have been an example and inspiration to the whole Commonwealth and The United Nations, and forecasts the doom of the Axis powers.

We have a wonderful history, surpassing in splendour that of the Empires of old, not in conquests alone, but in service to mankind. Ours has not been a short struggle--for freedom and liberty--it has been a continuing struggle and extends for more than one thousand years, prior to the times of Alfred the Saxon, the founder of our Navy, down to our present world leader-Right Honourable Winston Churchill.

Of the service to mankind of this great leader, I will only say that he recalls to my mind the words of Lord Macaulay: "That even the ranks of Tuscany, could scarce forbear to cheer". That he may be spared to the end of this conflict is the prayer and wish of every Britisher.

How glad we are to know that the Church bells are to ring again at Easter, in England's fair and pleasant land. Not to sound the tocsin of invasion, but in rejoicing, that that threat is now remote. tomorrow we commemorate the greatest event in human history. It must have seemed to the oppressed peoples of the world that darkness had again fallen upon the earth, and the veil of the temple rent in twain.

St. George was His follower. We have heard much of St. George today, but what of the dragon! The dragon was slain! So perish all tyrants.

As we of the Commonwealth have stood together in war and conflict, so must it be in peace, that is our heritage, we ask none better.

One word more. Our Saxon King Alfred desired that he might live "worthily". Colonel Llewellin has referred to our Commonwealth as a family of Nations headed by the Royal Family. If that desire of King Alfred to live "worthily" was ever exemplified, it has been so with our present King and Queen.

Colonel Llewellin, may I again express our deepest thanks to you f or coming to us with such a message on the eve of St. George's Day. Thank you. (Applause.)

Mr. C. R. CONQUERGOOD: Thank you, Mr. Harbinson. Gentlemen, we have with us Mr. Lorne Green of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mr. Green has been awarded the Davis Memorial Prize for outstanding broadcasting, and he will now read for us. "The Tribute To England" from Richard II.

Following Mr. Green's reading the meeting adjourned.

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St. George and Canada

A special joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The St. George's Society of Toronto.
St. George and what he stands for in the history of England. Canada's contribution to the war, with specific activities of the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force. The speaker's experience serving under General McNaughton. The Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy working side-by-side, continuously and well. The Royal Canadian and Royal Air Forces and their raids on German industries. Canada's great production drive. The Empire Air Training Scheme undertaken by Canada. Canada's kindness shown to many children from England. The days after the war. The need for give and take between nations.