The house resumed from Monday, November 18. consideration of the motion of Mr. Brooke Claxton for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury) and the amendment to the amendment of Mr. Blackmore.
Hon. ANGUS L. MACDONALD (Minister of National Defence for Naval Services): Mr. Speaker, to-day I shall endeavour to tell the house something of ships and sailor men, of the ships of the Royal Canadian Navy and of those men who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.
Hon. members will recall, I am sure, that in the latter days of the last session, at a time when I had not the honour of a seat in this house, my colleague the Associate Minister of National Defence (Mr. Power) gave to the house an account of the growth and strength and accomplishments of the Royal Canadian Navy. That story was told by my hon. friend about four months ago. I shall endeavour now to continue that exposition and to add to it such new material as the intervening period of time warrants or requires.
I should like first, Mr. Speaker, to deal with the composition of the navy. The personnel of our navy may be classed under three heads. First there are the men of the Royal Canadian Navy itself. This class consists at present of 253 officers and 2,429 men.
Next there is the group known as the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve. This group, as many members know, is made up entirely of seafaring men, drawn from the merchant service and other seagoing pursuits, and it consists non' of 486 officers and 2,670 men.
Finally we have the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, a reserve which for some years has existed in eighteen different centres throughout Canada. It corresponds roughly to the militia of Canada, and it is to a large extent the training ground for officers and men who wish to join our naval forces at this time. The Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve has a strength now of 881 officers and 6,554 men.
That gives a full strength in the Canadian navy, in all its three branches, of 1,620 officers and 11,653 men, or a grand total of 13,273, all ranks.
All these men are on active service. At the beginning of the war the number of men on active service in the Canadian navy was 1,774, so that in fourteen months we have increased the number of men on active service nearly eightfold.
These 13,273 men on active service with the Royal Canadian Navy have been drawn from the three branches of the navy to which I have referred. They are to be found in widely scattered lands and seas, all accepting equal responsibility and danger, whether they are with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve or the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, and all striving together in one service for the same great end. Some of these men are on Canadian destroyers, others are on armed merchant cruisers, and still others on patrol vessels, mine-sweepers or in supporting establishments. No fewer than 798 young Canadians are serving in Great Britain or in British ships. This number includes Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve officers training with the British navy, officers lent to the Admiralty for special service, officers and ratings serving on British convoy staffs, Canadian cadets training in England, and the like.
In addition to the number I have given, there are in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve 81 officers and 1,033 men who are in reserve and not yet called up for active service. When you add these last
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
figures to those that I first gave, you get a total Canadian naval personnel of 14,387, all ranks.
The second element in the composition of the navy is, of course, ships. The number of ships in the Canadian navy now stands at 155. These include various types. We have armed merchant cruisers, we have destroyers, we have corvettes which can be used for general patrol work, for anti-submarine work or for mine sweeping; we have mine sweepers; anti-submarine vessels, motor torpedo boats, together with various other types of auxiliary craft. The figure of 155 vessels now in the Canadian navy represents a tenfold increase over the 15 vessels of various types that we had at the beginning of this war.
I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to the duties of the Royal Canadian Navy. The duties of that navy may, I think, be classed under three heads: First, convoy work and control of the movement of British merchant shipping to and from north America. Second, the patrolling of our own coasts. Third, cooperation with the British navy in European and other waters.
Convoy work is undoubtedly one of the most important duties which the Royal Canadian Navy performs. Under the system now prevailing in our great ports, merchant ships are assembled, grouped together and escorted across the Atlantic in cooperation with the Royal Navy. From our ports in Canada since the outbreak of the war no fewer than 3,500 ships have departed, and in these ships 21,000,000 tons of cargo have been carried over the sea.
In addition to providing escort for cargo or merchant ships, Canadian naval vessels have escorted troop convoys to England and to other areas; and I am glad to be able to say that not a single one of these troops so escorted has been lost at sea as a result of enemy action.
With regard to the escort of cargo ships, I should like to say here that, in spite of enemy claims, which have been particularly exultant and exaggerated in recent weeks, the convoy system is still functioning efficiently and, one might say, without serious interruption. Recently the enemy has increased his efforts to interfere with the passage of goods over the seas of the world to Great Britain, but it may be said with the greatest assurance that these efforts have not approached in their violence or in their success the attacks upon merchant shipping in the last war. I may tell the house, for I see no reason why it should not be told, that in the last week for which I have official figures, a week which falls within the last month, 775 ships in convoy reached British ports, and in that same week 14873-14J
only 5 convoyed ships were lost. That is a percentage of about three-quarters of one. In the last week for which I have figures of cargo tonnage, a week which also fell within the last month, 1,129,000 tons of cargo were imported into England-cargo which came over every sea. In spite, therefore, of enemy claims, we may rest assured that the British navy, associated with the navies of the dominions, is still performing vigilantly and valiantly and successfully its time-honoured function of keeping the ocean lanes of the world open, not merely for its own ships and its own supplies, but for the ships and the supplies of neutral countries as well. The white ensign of the British navy is still a pledge of security to all who pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions.
The Canadian navy guards our shores with its destroyers, its armed merchant cruisers, its patrol vessels and mine sweepers, and its various other types of craft. In these matters it works in close cooperation with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army, and its men are constantly on the alert by night and by day, whether the weather be fair or whether it be stormy; whether the temperature be marked by the severe cold of the north Atlantic in winter or by the balmier air of the Pacific. The ships and the men of the Royal Canadian Navy stand, in all circumstances, on guard for Canada.
The third duty of the Royal Canadian Navy-and though I mention it last it is not at all because I regard it as least-is that of cooperating with units of the British navy in European waters or in whatever other part of the world such duties may be assigned to them. These duties may take ships and men of the Royal Canadian Navy across the Atlantic and back again. They may call them to the broad waters of the east coast of Britain, or to the narrower seas which separate Britain from the continent. Our ships and our men may find themselves serving in and with British units in the Caribbean sea, or off the Newfoundland coast, or in the Mediterranean, or on the Pacific. Wherever in the seven seas they have been called upon to serve they have won commendation and approval-the highest and the most authoritative in the world-the approval of officers of the British navy.
And here I come to a stage at which I shall have to draw attention to certain remarks made from the opposite side of the house during the course of this debate.
My hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson), in his speech in this house in July last, and again in his remarks last week, made some references to me which I regard as, on the whole, kindly and
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
well meant. It is true that speaking last week he predicted for me a not too lengthy stay in the historic constituency of Kingston City. He would have me homeless shortly, but not nameless; for he paid a high tribute to the name which I bear. For that tribute I forgive him his Cassandra-like references to my political future. The hon. gentleman has made, however, certain references to the quality of Canada's war effort which I cannot pass over lightly. For example, in the amendment which; he proposed to the address he used these words:
. . . this house regrets that the government has continued to soothe the Canadian people regarding the war effort of the nation, thereby creating a false sense of security, when a clear-cut call to action is desperately needed.
And again in the course of his speech he used these words:
Our contribution to the first battle of Britain has been rather pitiful. In fact it has not been a factor in the defence of Britain at all, so far as I am aware.
Well, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) has put on record here the story of the Canadian Army, and my hon. friend the Minister of National Defence for Air (Mr. Power) has told the house of the work of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I ask the house if there is anything pitiful about our contribution of more than 50,000 land soldiers to the defence of Britain. Fifty thousand of our men stand on British soil to-day, and Britain knows, and Hitler knows, that behind them in this country are many times fifty thousand eager to join battle with the enemy.
Is there anything pitiful in the work of the Canadian airmen serving now with the Royal Air Force or with the Royal Canadian Air Force, as described yesterday by the Minister of National Defence for Air? I think there is not. I think, on the contrary, there is every ground for pride in the achievements of these two branches of the service.
I am here, however, to speak for the Royal Canadian Navy, and if hon. members have listened to the account which I have just given of the work of that navy, I am sure they will agree that that work has not constituted a mere pitiful contribution and that it is not a factor to be disregarded in speaking of the defence of Britain.
Take, for example, the assistance of the Canadian navy in convoy work. Is convoy work not important? Take away the convoy system in which we cooperate with the Royal Navy, leave our merchant ships on the oceans of the world unguarded and defenceless, and you strike at the very arteries of British life. Is it to be said that the work of the Royal Canadian Navy in this respect is pitiful and negligible?
Take again the casualties that the Canadian navy has suffered in the discharge of its duties, and say that these represent only a pitiful contribution. Two of our destroyers have gone down in the discharge of their duty -the Fraser, in June of this year, and the Margaree a few weeks ago. The mine sweeper Bras d'Or is now nearly a month overdue from a port on the St. Lawrence river to the port of Sydney, Nova Scotia, and she must be presumed lost. As a result of the loss of those three vessels and of other Canadian losses the Canadian naval casualty list now stands at 14 officers and 243 men.
We mourn for those men who have gone, who have given their lives in a great cause, and we hope that those whom they have left behind may be comforted by the reflection that they died as heroes die, in the course of their duty and in the service of their country. They came from every part of Canada, though our eastern coast has suffered most. By the loss of the Margaree alone twenty-five homes in the city of Halifax are bereaved and saddened. It will be idle to say to the wives and mothers of these men that our contribution is pitiful or negligible in this struggle. They will bear their loss bravely, as befits the kindred of heroes; but they, dwelling in that old and gallant city, within daily sight and within constant sound of the sea, will never again look upon the broad Atlantic or listen to the plaintive music of its waves and tides without sorrowing for those who lie forever in its depths.
We do not know exactly what fate befell the Bras d'Or, and we fear now there is no survivor left to tell the tale of her going. But we do know the story of the Fraser and the Margaree, and to lighten the gloom of our sorrow we can say that those who survived behaved with the utmost coolness and gallantry. There was no panic, no fear among them, and everything that men could do to help one another was done. They quitted themselves like men and were strong. In the case of the Fraser the greatest praise must be given to her sister ship, the Canadian destroyer Restigouche, which disregarded great risks to her own safety and to the safety of her crew in order to effect the rescue of many of the Fraser's men. It was a misty night off the coast of France, a night when ships had to run without lights in order to avoid the risk of drawing enemy attack. When the Fraser was struck by another and much larger ship, the Restigouche, without hesitation, turned on her searchlights in order better to carry on her work of rescue. The position was such that the Restigouche had to back toward and alongside the Fraser, a very dangerous operation; but Lieutenant-Commander
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
Lay of the Restigouche took the risk, and by the exercise of great skill and commendable gallantry he succeeded in bringing off to safety 14 officers and 104 men of the Fraser's crew.
I should like to say here that Lieutenant-Commander Lay's Christian names are Horatio Nelson, and that he is a collateral descendant of the great admiral. So that there is something in a name after all. I should also like to add another and more intimate fact about Commander Lay's ancestry. He is a close relative by marriage of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Other noteworthy actions performed by Canadian ships were the rescue by the destroyer St. Laurent of 850 persons from the steamer Arandora Star; the assistance given by the Canadian destroyer Skeena to a Liverpool merchant vessel, for which the Canadian captain received hearty thanks from the Liverpool owner; the assistance which the Canadian destroyer Assiniboine gave to a British cruiser in the capture of the German ship Hanover in the Caribbean sea; the capture of the Italian ship Capo Noli by the mine sweeper Bras d'Or in June last, and finally the spectacular capture by the armed merchant cruiser Prince Robert of the 10,000-ton German express cargo boat the Weser.
It is only natural that the good work of the Royal Canadian Navy, which I have described inadequately here, should have been noted and commended in Britain. Four members of the Canadian naval service have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. One petty officer, who I regret to say perished in the Margaree disaster, was awarded the medal of the Order of the British Empire. Nine officers and men have been mentioned in dispatches. The King's Dirk, one of the most coveted of prizes, was won in July last by Cadet Ralph M. Lawrence, a native of the province of New Brunswick, who is training in England. A Canadian naval officer and a Canadian electrical artificer have won cash prizes under the Lott Naval Trust Fund for inventions which they designed or improvements which they made in ship's equipment or armament.
On more than one occasion high British naval authorities have paid unsolicited tribute to the work of our officers and men. The most recent of these tributes-and it comes from a very authoritative source indeed-was pronounced only a few days ago by Commander Reginald Fletcher, a member of the British House of Commons and parliamentary under-secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty. Speaking over the British Broadcasting Corporation network on Thursday night last Commander Fletcher said:
We have received invaluable help from the dominions and especially Canada.
Hon. members of this house, who are inclined to make invidious comparisons between Canada's war effort and the war effort of other dominions, should ponder these words, " invaluable help from the dominions and especially Canada." Continuing, Commander Fletcher said:
The Canadian destroyers have worked alongside our own on equal terms in every way. They have entered fiercely into their work with great zeal and efficiency.
I ask hon. members to note the words " Canadian destroyers have worked alongside our own on equal terms in every way." What higher praise could be given to naval officers and men than to say that they are equal to the officers and men of the British navy? Commander Fletcher went on to pay tribute to the crews of the two Canadian destroyers, the Fraser and the Margaree. Those who were lost, he said, had died in the line of duty, and the survivors had distinguished themselves by their gallantry. Then he continued:
But more ships carrying the maple leaf on their ensigns will come to join, and be welcomed by, our navy.
More ships will join, more ships will carry the colours of Canada with the white ensign of Britain, and they will carry with them the traditions which officers and men of the Canadian navy are now building so gallantly and so soundly. Commander Fletcher concluded this part of his broadcast by saying that the Hon. A. V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, had visited the Canadian ships and had been impressed by the bearing of their personnel.
There you have the views of two people in England who are as well qualified as any two people in the world can be to appraise the work and the worth of the Canadian navy.
I should like also to put on record here a paragraph from a letter written by the master of the ship which struck the Margaree, and later rescued some of the destroyer's crew. This letter was written to the commander in chief of the West Indies station, and, speaking of the men of the Margaree who were saved, he makes this remark:
I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the pleasure it gave us-would that the circumstances had been different-to have these men with us and to get to know and appreciate their fine qualities, and cheerfulness even in such tragic circumstances.
These words, Mr. Speaker, and the other facts to which I have made reference show, I think, beyond all doubt that the Royal
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
Canadian Navy is not making a mere pitiful contribution in this struggle. It is making an important contribution, and it is earning the pride of all Canadians and the approval of British naval officers in the process.
I pass now to some discussion of plans which the naval staff and I have in mind for the future of the Royal Canadian Navy.
We now have, as I said a moment ago, a total strength on active service of some 13,000 officers and men, and of ships we have 155. By the end of the next fiscal year we hope to have added some 100 ships and 10,000 men to our strength. That will give us, if our plans materialize, a Canadian navy of 23,000 men manning 250 ships. When we reach that stage of development we shall, of course, be able to make a contribution much greater than that which we are making to-day.
The rapid growth of the Canadian navy, from the beginning of the war up to the present, and the plans that we have in mind for its enlargement, bring before us certain considerations to which I should like to refer briefly.
Thirty years ago the project of a naval college was advanced in this country, and the college was actually established at Halifax in January, 1911. The great Halifax explosion in 1917 so damaged the building that it was unsuitable for its purpose. Classes were then continued for a year at the Royal Military College, Kingston, and for a few years subsequently in a temporary building at Esqui-malt on the Pacific coast. Since 1922, however, Canada has lacked even this meagre draining centre, and, in consequence, for eighteen years past we have relied for the training of our officers and higher ratings entirely on British schools. They receive there, of course, an excellent training. In .England these young Canadians were in the very heart of the world's naval life. They were surrounded by the great traditions of the British navy; they saw before them every day the proofs and the symbols of that navy's might. I hope that link between Great Britain and Canada will always continue. I hope that for all time Canadians may have recourse to British ports, British ships, British naval skill and British naval tradition.
But yet, recognizing all these things, and eager as I am to retain these things, I believe that something more is required for the full development of the Canadian navy. I have just given to the house some figures which show the estimated size of our navy by the spring of 1942. If I interpret aright the feelings of the Canadian people in this respect, these figures are significant of two things. The first is that we in Canada are determined
to put forth on the sea, no less than on land and in the air, our fullest efforts for defence of the British commonwealth, including Canada, and for attack on the common enemy.
That is the first thing. The second significant thing is this. The dignity of Canada demands that we should have a navy worthy of our importance in the world of nations, adequate to the needs of the great trading nation which Canada now is, and which she is bound to become in greater measure after the war; a navy sufficient to meet the obligations which rest upon us as members of the British commonwealth, and as a country in close association with the United States in the matter of the joint defence of this continent.
Under the Ogdensburg agreement, and with the appointment of the joint defence board, representatives of Canada and the United States have undertaken the joint study of measures for the common defence of both countries. These measures involve defence by sea, by land and by air. We in Canada must assume our full share of responsibility in this regard. We have long enjoyed the sheltering protection of the British navy. We stand high on the list of the world's trading nations; yet we have never had a navy whose strength was commensurate with our trading position. The trade routes of the world are kept open for us, as they have been kept open for centuries, and as they will be kept open for centuries to come, mainly by the navy of Britain, assisted 'by the navies of other friendly and democratic countries.
I do not believe, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian people wish to indefinitely continue a policy which demands of Britain the sole responsibility of guarding our trade routes, or which, on the other hand, takes shelter behind the existence on this continent of a great and friendly power. I believe that Canadian pride, Canadian dignity, Canadian consciousness of present greatness, Canadian hope for increased stature among the nations of the world, all demand that we should assume our proper share of the burden of naval service hitherto borne so largely by the motherland.
We cannot hope, of course, to have in Canada at this time or in the near future a navy comparable to that of Great Britain, or to that of any one of several of the other great powers I might mention. In all things we must be guided by our means and our capacity; but we can, and, in common sense and in honour, I think we must, build a navy that will be not unworthy of Canada, and that will enable us to play our proper
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
part as a member of the British commonwealth of nations and as a friend and ally of the United States.
The building of such a navy will carry with it the necessity of having trained officers and trained ratings. As I said a moment ago, at one time we had a naval college in Canada, but vicissitudes of one kind or another led to the closing of that institution. I am happy to be able to say in this house to-day, with the concurrence of the Prime Minister and of my colleagues, that we propose to reestablish a Canadian naval college. To this college will resort young men who wish to adopt the naval profession as their life's work. During the war period no other type of work can be attempted at such a college. Indeed, there is high authority for the opinion that a naval college should never concern itself with anything else than the training of men for service in the navy. As yet the whole project is far from being fully developed in my own mind. It may be that the institution will be exclusively a naval institution. On the other hand, it may well be that after the war, it will become a place to which young men who wish to train for the merchant service can go and receive the training necessary to fit them for that important line of seafaring work. It may be, too, that it will be found possible to have in attendance at this college young Canadians who do not contemplate a career in either the navy or the merchant service, but who wish to take advantage of the training which this college will provide as a general preparation for their lives as citizens of Canada. These are all matters to which the naval staff even now is giving its closest attention. One thing is sure. We shall bend our utmost efforts to see that the foundations of the college are laid on sound and broad lines, so that in its conception, in its training, and in its results, it may be a strength and a pride to Canada.
Besides the decision to build, equip and staff a naval college in this country for our Canadian youth, there is another implication which is carried in the decision to enlarge greatly the Canadian navy. It is this. We have built already in Canada some of the smaller ships required by the Canadian navy, and we have built some ships of similar type for the British Admiralty, just here I should like to pay tribute, in which I am sure my hon. friend the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) will be glad to join, to the work that has been done already by the shipbuilding yards in this country. On the whole, the programme of building ships for the Canadian navy is well ahead of schedule, and this fact reflects the greatest credit on the loyalty, the diligence and the
skill of the shipbuilders of Canada, and on the manufacturers of other essential equipment for ships.
But, Mr. Speaker, we intend to go further.
It is our hope that in the Canadian yards we shall be able to build destroyers and perhaps cruisers as well. The building of these craft requires a high degree of skill; they have never before been built in this country. In the early stages of this development we shall require the assistance of skilled men from Admiralty dockyards or from private yards in Britain, and we have asked for that assistance.
With the establishment of a Canadian naval college, and the building in Canada of the larger types of ships of war, we shall come to the day, and I think that it will be a proud day for this country, when our Canadian naval effort will be directed by Canadian men, trained in Canada and operating in ships built in this country.
As I survey, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian naval effort, or indeed, the whole Canadian war effort, I see no reason to blush. I find no cause for shame. It is true that we were unprepared for war, but yet our very unreadiness may in the end prove to be one of our greatest assets. The nation that is unprepared does not seek a fight. Before the high court of history we shall take our stand with Britain, and with our other associates in the British commonwealth of nations, in the certain hope that our ground is impregnable, in the sure knowledge that we did not desire war. Before the tribunal of the present, before our own people to whom we are responsible, we say that we went to the very edge and brink of honour in our effort to preserve peace. It was only when discussion, negotiation, and even concession had failed, and when there was left no other alternative, it was only then that we took up arms. We took them up with great reluctance. We shall bear them with even greater firmness. We shall not lay them down until honour walks the earth again, until we and the rest of the democratic world are safe from the menace of nazi attack and the threat of nazi thraldom.
The struggle, as the Prime Minister said in his eloquent speech a week ago, will be longer, harder and more terrible than any of us can believe at this time. Such a struggle will demand sacrifices; it will require, as Mr. Churchill said, its full meed of sweat and toil, blood and tears. But if any of us in this country should falter along the hard road, we shall look to Britain for resolution and inspiration, and we shall see there a whole people at war for the
The Address-Mr. Macdonald (Kingston)
first time in modern history. We shall see the young, the middle aged and the very old, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, all ages, all sexes, all classes, equally in danger of enemy attack, and all facing that danger with equal courage and equal coolness, with a humour almost a gaiety, that has challenged and won the admiration of the world and the support of free men in every land. The people of Britain, soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, are adding now the newest and the brig-hbest page to the proud story of the British peoples.
Some two months ago I listened to a radio commentator from London who said that one of the amazing sights in that great city, was the number of flags that could be seen flying there. Most touching of all, I thought, was his statement that in instance after instance these flags could be seen floating over ruined buildings, many of them the humble dwellings of the poor. These people, forced to see their homes destroyed, their personal possessions gone, sometimes members of their families maimed or killed, digged themselves out of the wreckage and at once they planted above it the flag of Britain. That act seems to me symbolic. They plant that great flag there, not only to defy Hitler, not only to encourage the weak and inspire the faltering among themselves, but also as an emblem of hope and of prophecy. And the hope and the prophecy are this: that just as the flag of Britain rises over the physical ruins of some of its homes, so out of the wreck and welter of this war there will arise a greater Britain, a Britain strengthened and stiffened by its heroic struggle, a Britain which will lead the world into better and fairer ways of life, not for one class or group, but for all people.
So long as that spirit remains we need have no doubt as to the ultimate outcome of this war. The whole of Britain is under attack now, but in her own time She and her dominions will take the offensive. They are on the offensive even now; for our gallant airmen are carrying the war to the heart of enemy countries and to the territories which Germany has conquered, and our incomparable fleet still commands the seas. Her soldiers at Dunkirk have proven their quality. We shall see Britain triumphant, and long after the name of Hitler will have become nothing but an unpleasant memory, the same flag which now waves over disordered heaps of crumbled brick and stone and mortar will be flying freely and proudly in the airs of heaven, sheltering liberty and justice and freedom and truth in its benevolent shade.
That is the hope and the promise of the British flag flying over the ruins of British homes.