The Empire Carries On
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Jun 1943, p. 21-31
Stansgate, Right Hon. Viscount, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The speaker as part of a delegation to many parts of the British Empire, come to engage in informal discussions on the war, and to see something of Canada's war effort. Remembering Dieppe, and the Battle of Britain. Naming the Joint Air Training Plan as perhaps Canada's greatest contribution. Moving the production of air crews and a large part of the production of machines out of Goering's grasp. The importance of training. The strategic importance of what Canada is doing both now and after the war, which will be an air-minded world. Activities and achievements of the Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Navy. Canadian fighter pilots. Talking to the soldiers, who say very little. Preserving freedom. Some words from Charles James Fox.
Date of Original
14 Jun 1943
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Full Text
Joint Meeting of the Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto
Chairman, the President of the Canadian Club, Mr. R. G. Meech, K.C.
Monday, June 14, 1942

MR. MEECH: Gentlemen: Today the Canadian Club joins with the Empire Club in formally welcoming our guest, Viscount Stansgate on this, his second Trip to Toronto and to Canada. On his first trip in 1933, Viscount Stansgate, then known as the Right Honourable Wedgewood Bern, addressed the Empire Club on "The New British Commonwealth." He was greeted at that time by many of his former associates of the Royal Flying Corps who had served with him and those of you who are familiar with Colonel George Drew's book, Fighting Airmen will have read that Captain Wedgewood Bern and the late Colonel Barker, V.C., had one or two flights of extraordinary moment. They dropped spies in Austrian territory, which was a laudable manoeuvre in the war at that time and unquestionably was the forerunner of the paratrooper of today.

Our guest has had a distinguished life, both in and out of Parliament. He is a Fellow of University College, London; he is a Member of Parliament since 1908, having the ultra distinction of sitting in Parliament alongside of his father. He has served in many capacities and these include, junior Lord of the Treasury and Secretary of State for India. He won the D.S.O. and the D.F.C. among other honours during the last war.

Viscount Stansgate is here on the invitation of the Canadian Branch of the United Kingdom Parliamentary Association. They have come over here to examine at first hand Canada's prodigious war achievement.

Viscount Stansgate is very well known throughout the Empire and possibly he is better known for his public relations endeavours and in his later life he has spent considerable time in this connection. At the age of 63, when most other men would be seriously considering their memoirs he enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a junior Commissioned Officer. This indeed, Gentlemen, is a supreme exhibition of the real British spirit which the invader would have been called upon to face had he attempted invasion in 1940. Viscount Stansgate: (Applause.)

RIGHT HONOURABLE VISCOUNT STANSGATE: Mr. President and Gentlemen: First of all I must thank you, Sir, for the extremely kind words-far too kind-with which you have introduced me.

Secondly, I must say that I never could come to Toronto without thinking of my old friend, Barker. I don't know how many of you knew him. I knew him very well indeed. I flew with him a good deal and if Toronto can produce a Barker, then it has a claim to fame.

On this occasion I had the honour of leading a Delegation of British Parliamentarians and perhaps you will allow me, although they haven't the pleasure of being present today, although they are lunching in an adjacent banqueting hall, perhaps you will allow me to tell you who they are and what they are here for.

My Deputy Leader is the very distinguish Conservative Member, Sir John Wardlaw-Milne. His present work has been to create in the National Expenditure Committee what I think, speaking as an old Parliamentarian, I may say is the most powerful unofficial Committee that ever existed in the House of Commons. It is doing a very difficult job, mainly, seeing there is no waste in wartime, so anyone who is interested in Lease-Lend will look upon Sir John Wardlaw-Milne as a worthwhile friend.

We have a woman with us--Mrs. Tate. Mrs. Tate already enjoyed world-wide recognition. She has come from a battle and has secured equal compensation for men and women civilian war injuries which will indeed endear her to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian women who are engaged in the war effort.

And we come to Lord Marchwood. He is the Treasurer of the Conservative Party. That is a serious responsibility. He has been head of the Worshipful Company of Master Mariners, a company which the King founded and of which he is the second Master, and more than that, he is a practical man, too, and he will be particularly interested in the great naval effort Canada is making.

In addition, we have Sir Percy Harris, who is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, and who was the originator of the idea of the Home Guard.

We have Mr. Neil Maclean, who saw in the Anglo-Russian Treaty the fruit of twenty years of effort to improve relations between ourselves and the Soviet Union.

We have Mr. Morrison who represents the great Cooperative Movement and who spent three and a half years as a Tommy in the last war in the trenches, and myself.

And so you can well understand that it is a serious responsibility that I carry, and that I am very proud that it has been laid on my shoulders.

I have mentioned politics, but I tell you I am an Opposition man. I have spent the greater part of my time in Opposition, but I tell you today in Great Britain, as far as Hitler is concerned, there is no politics, there is only one party, and I have never seen such a high degree of unity as exists in British opinion today.

Now, the Delegation has come to Canada primarily to engage in informal discussion with representatives from New Zealand, Bermuda, Australia, and other parts of the Empire, to engage in informal discussions on the war. That is the democratic way of waging war. We believe discussions are stronger in the long run, with a sinewy strength far more formidable than the brittle structure of dictatorship, and that it is to find out, I believe, before long, when they receive further blows from our armed forces. In addition, we have come to see something of your war effort. They know something of it in our small island. I believe in one week you are now sending us as much food as you sent us ten years ago in the whole course of one year. That is only one of many phases of the Canadian effort.

We had the pleasure before we left England of being entertained by General MacNaughton, who told us something of what the Army is doing. We remember the gallant conduct of the Canadians at Dieppe, but what we remember most in England is this. In 1940 we had a very rough time. We had our men on the Continent and we got them out, but we didn't get their equipment out. The miracle of Dunkirk saved the men but not the material, and it was the Canadian Army, equipped by you, that stood to defend that foremost bastion of liberty, that defended it during those months and we have not forgotten and we are grateful to you.

Today London is fairly quiet--knocked about a bit--we didn't prevail against a few incendiary bombs from Mr. Hitler. There are no railings - all the metal is made into munitions. There is not much traffic on the streets, but we are all very happy and contented, and if the Germans see fit to send a stray bomber, if they can afford one from time to time, it is taken philosophically. As one charming woman remarked, with great insight, "Well, you know, I don't mind a bit of bombing now and again -it takes your mind off the war."

Well, gentlemen, that was 1940. You remember that you participated in the Battle of Britain, that battle which saved the world. But if you were to ask me as an observer what was the greatest contribution that Canada has made to the war, I would say without hesitation, the joint Air Training Plan.

You see, Goering's plan was quite simple. He built up bombers while we were engaged in more civilized pursuits. His plan was to bomb the air fields, destroy the production, destroy the training, advance again and crush England as they had crushed Poland, as they had crushed Holland, as they had crushed Belgium and had crushed France. At one stroke the Training Plan snatched the whole of the production of air crews and, with the United States, a large part of the production of machines right out of Goering's grasp and moved it far beyond his reach onto these shores. The result is today your efforts, combined with your productive efforts and the productive efforts of the United States means the two things, machines and men, are growing and growing in volume, and nothing the Germans can do can meet them. I say that was an act of amazing statesmanship. You can train boys in safety.

I have two boys in the Air Force. One was trained in England. He came home on leave. I asked what the leave was about. It was the funeral of one of the boys. He wouldn't tell what it was about. They are very silent, these Air Force boys. I found out that while they were flying a machine a German plane came in and shot one down. It wasn't my boy. The second boy is going to arrive on these shores in a few weeks. I hope you will be kind to him. I am sure you will. Anyway, it means so much to a mother's and father's heart that he is going to be trained, equipped for battle, with the training field here, where there is a degree of comfort, of safety and skill never available in the old days.

Canadians, as far as I have been able to judge, have a curious desire to be in the front fighting line. They always want to be in where the hottest work is to be done. May I say this: don't ignore the battle of training. The battle of training is as much a battle as the battle of the skies. Remember, for every airman in training there is a pyramid below of a hundred other trained men that you need to support him, his machine, his training, his supplies, his equipment, his adjustments.

What this means for the future of Canada, I won't venture to say, but you must see the strategical, the critical position you occupy in the world which will become in the near future an air-minded world. What the future of Canada is in that regard it isn't very difficult to foresee. That is for peace. We are now making war.

Now, may I speak just for a moment or two of some of the things that your boys are doing and I am speaking of the Air Force. We have got soldiers and sailors with us and they will be speaking and will tell of the others. You must forgive me if I speak of my own Service. Now, take the Coastal Command, away in the regions at Kiska, flying with the Americans in Ceylon. One of your men, Squadron Leader Birchall first spotted the Japanese fleet approaching Ceylon for attack. He was lost and we thought he had gone but we have fortunately found out that he is 'now a prisoner of war and has been suitably decorated by His Majesty. In the Coastal Command the Canadians have been flying from Iceland to Gibraltar continuously. They had a smack at the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. You remember how the Germans boasted how he had escaped from Brest. I am not a naval man--I know nothing about it--but I know he has never shown his nose in battle since.

Then again, this surprising development of the Canadian Navy, and the co-operation that exists between the Eastern Air Command of Canada and the Coastal Command. You have now succeeded in putting an air umbrella so our convoys can proceed with continuous air protection from the coast of Canada to the coast of Britain. That is no mean achievement.

Then the fighters. I think someone gave me the figure that 25 percent of the fighter pilots were Canadian. They were at Malta. I and my colleagues went down to see something of the Canadian Fighter Wing. We saw one Wing, the Red Indian. The Red Indian is one of the newest Fighter Squadrons, equipped, believe me, with the very finest supplies that could be given them. We saw another Squadron-the Wolf. We saw the boys, talked to them, walked around, looked at their machines and got inspiration from them. The Wolf is commanded by a Toronto boy, Squadron Leader Magwood, who took over from Wing Commander Ford. Wing Commander Ford is 23 years of age. Heaven knows what he has in his book -two destroyers, any number of enemy aircraft. You talk about your Training Scheme. Ford started as an A.C.2, a second class aircraftsman. He started as an A.C.2 and he and another, to whom I shall refer in a moment, have risen to the rank of Wing Commander, and one of the finest aces you have produced.

Then bombing. We came also to see the bombers. I went myself and saw a Squadron of French-Canadian bombers, Les Allouette, under Wing Commander St. Pierre. But you have a Canadian Bomber Group under Air Marshal Edwards, and there is very little in the geography of Germany that they don't know--Emden, Dusseldorf, Lorient, Hamburg, Kiel--they know the lot.

You remember about the dams. You remember when they laid mines on the Mohne Dam and blew it up and sent the waters sweeping away into the productive capacity of the Ruhr Valley. There was no Canadian Sqaudron but there were Canadians, and out of the heavy casualties thirteen returned from the epic sortie, and for that one deed alone D.S.O.'s., D.F.C.'s, and D.F.M.'s were justly poured on those that came back.

Another thing about the bombers I wish to refer to. That is, those that go to places like Kiel, Dusseldorf or St. Nazaire routing out the U-boats in their lairs-who is going to tell me that a Canadian boy who goes to Lorient and bombs the submarine out of existence isn't in reality defending the mouth of the St. Lawrence?

This bombing is in England. We have a great figure in the Air Force, in the Bomber Command-Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris. He has learned to apply this weapon with amazing success. See what special merits it has. First, you can choose your target. You are not stopped by front lines. If you knew the Germans were short of transport, you bomb their shipping yards or railway shops. If you think they are short of guns you can bomb Essen. If you think the U-boats are getting too strong you make a long journey to bomb the deisel works.

You can very your methods. You can take the night bomber with its heavy load with a technique developed in an amazing way, or take the Mosquito, a little wooden machine that is now coming into production in Canada, which can go and sting and escape and that rely, not on armament but on speed for success. Or you can take the fortresses which go out looking for trouble and they are very dangerous even for fighters to reach. All these things can be combined and are being combined into what we call a round-of-the clock bombing of Germany. There is one thing a bomber can do that nothing else can do. Other people can invade Italy or Holland or France or somewhere else, but the bomber can hit Germany. People say that bombing cannot win the war, but the answer given by the Prime Minister and Sir Arthur Harris is, "It has never been tried", but when we read of the fall of Pantalleria, we have some new evidence at least that is historic.

Now, Mr. President, we can't claim to be the originators of bombing. It wasn't our idea. It was Goering's idea--when he thought he was on top, he applied it remorselessly--Warsaw, Rotterdam, Belgrade, London, Coventry, Canterbury. Now, the tables are turned and all sorts of people are discovering that you mustn't bomb. I think they might have thought of that some time since. Goering boasted that the British Air Force would never be able to drop a bomb on the Ruhr. Today, wave upon wave, day after day-Sir Arthur Harris is producing a tidal wave of rubble in the centre of German production. The Germans used to say, "We were never beaten in 1918. Our armies were never defeated. It was the home front that crumbled." You have heard that dozens of times from Germans. Very well then, in this war the home front is crumbling.

Let me say just this one thing. We are in good spirits. We are all in good spirits. But it would be a very great mistake for anyone to imagine that the war is won. When Hitler speaks of "the fortress of Europe" he is talking sense. He has got his armies in the east, his armies in the west. He, himself, is unassailed by land forces and it will be a big job before he is disposed of. Everybody should ask himself or herself, every day: "What am I doing today to beat Hitler?" Those who take no part in the war will have no place in the peace.

I spoke, Mr. President, about the fighting men. It is an inspiration to me. Those boys--they are only boys--put life in perspective. Anything that is mean, or self-seeking or dirty can't exist in the atmosphere of sacrifice that is represented by those young men. Yet they don't talk. They are the most silent creatures on their own affairs I have ever known. You can't get anything out of them. I talk to my boy. "Well, I shot down two" I thought to myself, "Poor devils." "It's my job," and "my job" is about as far as I get.

When coming here I was talking to a young Canadian lad who had done about two years on bombing operations. I said, "Look here, tell me (I was thinking of this speech-it has been a great anxiety in my mind for many weeks), tell me, why did you volunteer for air crew? Mark you, there isn't a man in the Air Force, in the air crew, who is not a volunteer. Nobody is ever put in the air against his will, not one. All the boy could say, as he looked at me, "Well, there we were at home. There was Dad, there was Mom, and there was me," and he looked at me in a helpless way and said, "After all, it's only right, isn't it? It's only right, isn't it?"

I thought to myself, that is pretty deep. It is only right. It is because it is only right that peoples of all lands are rallying to the cause of the United Nations.

It is because it is only right that the Norwegians are coming in open boats, hundreds of miles across the sea to escape. The Dutchmen, the Belgians, facing firing squads, the Syrians fighting in the mountains, the Greeks starving and fighting at the same time because it is only right, because deep down in human nature there is a demand to think, to write, to speak, to live, to worship in our own way.

That is what binds the free peoples together and I think we may say, as a British Empire Club, that in our way that has been the lode star of the British Commonwealth. We haven't always done very well. We have made a mess often. We have been slow, we have been stupid. But if you asked me what was the lighthouse, what was the steering star in our history, I would say it was Freedom.

A hundred and fifty years ago in the British House of Commons, Charles James Fox made a famous speech. I am in the presence of distinguished university men here. I am going to quote this from memory, so if I am wrong, I know Dr. Cody will put me right.

What Fox said and what stands for us today, was this "So long as you have the wisdom to preserve this country as the temple of freedom--so long they will turn towards you. Tyranny is a weed that grows in every soil. Freedom they can have from none but you." (Applause.)

MR. R. G. MEECH: Gentlemen, I shall ask Mr. Humphreys, the President of The Empire Club, to express our thanks.

MR. HUMPHREYS: Mr. President and Lord Stansgate I have been personally quite interested in your marvellous personality and I can well understand the title of your last book, Beckoning Horizons, and, Sir, you might be glad to know that that book, although written in 1935, and your book, written in 1919, are still being read in Canada.

It is my pleasant duty, Sir, to convert the hand-clapping into words. You have done honour to Canada's war effort. I think there is not a man in this room who would not like me to remind you, Sir, that this is our war, too, so we thank you very much for an inspiring address. (Applause.)

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The Empire Carries On

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The speaker as part of a delegation to many parts of the British Empire, come to engage in informal discussions on the war, and to see something of Canada's war effort. Remembering Dieppe, and the Battle of Britain. Naming the Joint Air Training Plan as perhaps Canada's greatest contribution. Moving the production of air crews and a large part of the production of machines out of Goering's grasp. The importance of training. The strategic importance of what Canada is doing both now and after the war, which will be an air-minded world. Activities and achievements of the Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Navy. Canadian fighter pilots. Talking to the soldiers, who say very little. Preserving freedom. Some words from Charles James Fox.