Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, in the brief review of the progress of the war which I gave to this house on Friday morning last, I said that the North African campaign had marked the triumphal close of an important chapter in the war. I also said that the new German offensive against Russia launched earlier in the week, along with recent intensified bombings of the strategic areas over Europe, marked a place of new beginning. I intimated too that the aerial and commando assaults against Italy and the islands of the Mediterranean were parts of a single strategy which the immediate future might be expected rapidly to unfold and of which the liberation of the French empire in Africa was both an essential and a memorable prelude.
Since the house adjourned on Friday evening, events in the new phase of the war of liberation have unfolded with great rapidity. Hon. members, I am sure, will wish to have on the records of our parliament the text of the communique which announced the attack which has, as its ultimate objective, the unconditional surrender of Italy and Germany, and- the beginning of the first major land operation in which Canadian forces have taken part in the present war. The communique was received at midnight from allied force advance headquarters in Algiers, North Africa. It was
made public immediately, which was July 10, Ottawa time. It reads:
Allied forces, under the command of General Eisenhower, began landing operations on Sicily early this morning. The landings were preceded by allied air attack. Allied naval forces escorted the assault forces and bombarded the coast defences during the assault.
A supplementary communique was issued by the war department at Washington at 12.20 a.m., July 10. This disclosed that the allied forces concerned were Anglo-American-Cana-dian forces.
Following the issuance of the communique from General Eisenhower's headquarters, an avis or notice was read on General Eisenhower's behalf to the people of France making clear that the offensive launched against Sicily was the first stage in the liberation of the European continent, but equally clear that the general invasion of Europe had not as yet begun. The people of France were asked to remember this, to remain calm and not expose themselves to reprisals by acting too quickly. They were told that when the time for the general invasion came, they would be informed accordingly.
The text of this announcement to the Frenchmen of metropolitan France was in the following words:
Anglo-American-Canadian armed forces have to-day launched an offensive against Sicily. It is the first stage in the liberation of the European continent, there will be others. I call on the French people to remain calm, not to allow themselves to be deceived by the false rumours which the enemy might circulate. The allied radio will keep you informed on military developments. I count on your sang-froid, and on your sense of discipline. Do not be rash, for the enemy is watching. Keep on listening to the allied radio, and never heed rumours. Verify carefully the news you receive by remaining calm, by not exposing yourselves to reprisals through premature action, you will be helping us effectively. When the hour of action strikes, we will let you know. Till then help us byfollowing our instructions-that is to say, keep calm, conserve your strength. We repeat when the hour of action strikes, we w-ill let your know.
For all time, Canada will be justifiably proud of the fact that, when the attack for the liberation of the conquered and enslaved countries of Europe was launched by the armed forces of Britain, the United States, and Canada, on European soil, units of the Canadian army were at the spearhead of the attack.
As to the size and composition of the Canadian forces taking part in the invasion of Sicily, I am, for reasons of security, limited to saying that the force is a substantial one, and that Canada's fighting men, in this assault, have been drawn from every province of the dominion. They include both Frenchspeaking and English-speaking Canadians.
The knowledge that the force is representative of so many parts of Canada will heighten our pride in their selection for so important a task.
It is a further source of satisfaction for our country to know that squadrons and formations of the Royal Canadian Air Force had a significant place in the operations against Sicily.
It is too early to make a statement on the progress of operations in Sicily in which our forces, together with forces from the United Kingdom and the United States, are engaged. The first reports of the allied landings indicate that the initial phases of this vital operation have proceeded according to plan, and that the allied forces are now striking deeply into Sicily. The success of the initial landings is a tribute to the careful planning which preceded this vast undertaking and to the close cooperation of the land, sea and air forces under General Eisenhower's command.
The most that can be said at the moment is that the first critical period has passed. The most critical .period has still to come. It will be when the enemy counter-attacks. When that time comes we must expect severe action. There will be heavy fighting. Counterattacks, I believe, have already begun.
Here may I say a word about the nature and extent of the information which it will be possible for the government to give hon. members regarding military operations. We are fully conscious of the deep and legitimate interest of the house and the country in operations in which Canadian troops are engaged. We should, however, not lose sight of the fact that in the present operations in Sicily British and United States troops are engaged as well as our own. All three governments must be guided largely by the judgment of the military commanders as to what information can be made public with due regard for military security. That information is necessarily and rightly made available on the spot to the press.
There is no way in which the government on day to day military operations, can be better informed than the press, except to the extent that information is available which in the opinion of the military commanders should be kept secret in order to ensure the safety of their troops or the success of future operations. I shall not attempt therefore to give day to day summaries of the progress of operations. From time to time, as circumstances warrant, statements will be made in the house either by myself or by the Ministers of National Defence as to the significance of
events. In that respect the practice here will be similar to the practice followed in the parliament at Westminster.
As to information regarding the progress of operations from day to day, the army, like the air force, has made what are confidently believed to be effective arrangements to provide information as fully and rapidly as security permits. In this connection, no doubt many hon. members heard the broadcast given from Algiers by Flight Lieutenant Leslie Powell of the Royal Canadian Air Force public relations branch. Because of the excellent arrangements made by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation it was heard in Canada on Saturday morning, less than an hour after the first news of the landing was released. Hon. members will also have seen or heard the report by Ross Munro of the Canadian Press direct from Sicily, which followed shortly thereafter.
The assault upon Sicily marks for Canada the beginning of a new phase of the war. The Canadian army thus far has had few opportunities for active combat with the enemy. After Dunkirk, it became a living shield of defence against the threatened invasion of Britain. For a time, the first Canadian division was almost the only land force in the United Kingdom equipped to meet an invader. In this way, Canada's troops came to have the role of defenders of Britain. As successive divisions and reinforcements crossed the Atlantic from Canada, they were fitted into that role. For the three years since, the Canadian army in Britain has helped to maintain the security of Britain. All this has been in accordance with the strategy planned by those who have had the supreme direction of the war. From the outbreak of war, our government has adhered to the position that Canadian forces, in whole or in part, should be used where and when they can make the best contribution to the winning of the war.
The presence of our army in Britain has been a means of holding in western Europe, German forces many times its size. There were combined operations of a minor character in which Canadian troops were engaged during 1941 and 1942, but it was at Dieppe that units of the Canadian army in Britain first went into action against the enemy. Dieppe was a preparation for further combined operations. More recently, in order to gain experience in leadership under fire, officers and non-commissioned officers from our army in Britain went into battle with the British first army in Tunisia. That experience was also a part of the preparation for coming days.
As I said in announcing the present attack upon Sicily, the soldiers of Canada have gone
into battle exceptionally well trained, superbly equipped, keen and full of spirit, ready for offensive warfare.
In this new phase of the war for Canada, the army will share with the navy and the air force, the heat of combat and also inevitable sufferings and losses. We can expect no easy victories and no quick successes. Rather must we be prepared for fierce fighting and for a long struggle.
In thinking of the hour when a part of Canada's army would go into full scale action against the enemy, we have never imagined that there would be either an easy victory or an early victory. We realize that the enemy is strongly entrenched in his European fortress, and that so long as Hitler can draw upon a storehouse comprising occupied Europe, his forces can be provisioned for a lengthy war.
For the Canadian people, it is only human that the centre of our interest in the coming weeks should be the battle for Sicily, but all of us must careful to keep a sense of proportion. Let us not forget the much greater battle on the plains of Russia. In two years of fighting on the most titanic scale in history, the Soviet armies have inflicted grievous wounds on nazi military power. Without that weakening of German strength, the operations now in progress would have been foredoomed to failure, if indeed they could have been attempted at all. We should remember, too, that Sicily is only an outpost of Europe. Many other bridgeheads will have to be established before the final struggle even begins. These outer ramparts of nazi Germany are very strong. To reach the centres of nazi power on German soil will require a long and fierce struggle in all the occupied lands. The war, moreover, will not be ended when nazi power has been crushed. The military might of Japan will still have to be destroyed.
The battle of Europe is now joined. It must now be fought to a finish. It will be a hard fight. It will be a long fight. Something in our hearts, something emerging in the very soul of our nation must tell us that this is the greatest cause upon which we have ever been embarked.
In conclusion, I should like to repeat what I said to the press and over the radio on Saturday morning:
The fighting men of Canada, on land, at sea, and in the air, are risking their lives to preserve everything that all of us hold dear. They are joined together, in the cause of freedom, in the service of their fellowmen, and by an abiding attachment to their homeland. All Canada will share the pride of their loved ones in their courage and in their achievements. Of one thing we may be assured. They will not fail us. We
must not fail them. They will fight better for the assurance of the support of a united Canada. We, too, shall need all the strength that comes from a deep feeling of unity. I repeat, we must not fail our fighting men. In the name of Canada, I give to them the assurance that Canada will not fail her fighting men.
That assurance, I repeat this morning in this House of Commons on behalf of the parliament of Canada. Hon. members, I am confident, will all wish to join in this assurance.
Subtopic: LANDING OPERATIONS IN SICILY-PARTICIPATION OF CANADIAN FORCES