February 11, 1944

NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I ask the minister one question?

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James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Well, I wonder if my hon. friend would allow me to go on.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

It is a pretty pertinent one.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I know, but there will be plenty of time.

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

If the minister would rather not have any questions asked about General McNaughton's retirement until he completes his statement-

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I have completed my statement as to General, McNaughton.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

With deference, I do not think it is. I am endeavouring to make a connected statement.

Now with regard to the army overseas-

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I was just endeavouring to help the minister clear up the whole situation. I was going to ask him one question by which I think we can entirely clear the air.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

If my hon. friend would permit me-

Mr. GRAY'DON: It is for the minister to say, but I think it would be preferable if he would permit the question now.

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James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Now with regard to the army overseas, in England the work and preparation go on. We have there an army headquarters, army troops and a corps. I want the committee to realize, if I can bring it home to them, just what that means-an army headquarters, army troops and a corps. A corps consists normally of two or three divisions. Then there are corps and divisional troops. We have over there reinforcements, the hospitals, the forestry corps, base installations, ordnance workshops and depots, the Canadian Women's Army Corps, and administrative services. They all have their tasks and they are training to fit into the plan of operations. I had an opportunity, both before I went to North Africa and the Mediterranean area and after I came back, particularly the latter to visit quite a number of units and formations which form the Canadian army overseas in England. I cannot tell this committee how keen they are or how hard they are working to put their years of training and preparation to the test. The waiting time for them is past. At last they can see ahead the prospect of striking the blow which will tell to shorten the war and hasten the day of return.

There is a lot written and a lot said about the army, and with all due respect I am not sure that even this committee understands just what is the composition of our forces overseas.

TMr. Ralston.]

I should like to put on record a very brief explanation of what constitutes that army, so that there will not be the apparent misunderstanding and, I submit, sometimes misrepresentation with regard to that organization.

In the first place-I am dealing with an editorial which I saw the other day-the army overseas does not consist of six or seven divisions. Some editor said that just the other day. Second, the army in Italy does not consist of three divisions. The army that is in England and in Italy consists of one army headquarters, that is officers and other ranks, signallers and so on, having to do with the operational and administrative services and the necessary troops in order to carry on those services. In addition to army headquarters, there are army troops-I will explain that in a moment-two corps headquarters, corps troops, and five divisions. That is the army overseas, both in England and in Italy. I want to make it quite clear that while for organizational purposes we divide the troops into groups, and have troops known as divisional and corps and army and line of communication and G.H.Q. troops, it does not necessarily follow that units included in those groups fight with and serve only the units within that particular group.

Whenever formations are organized, and particularly the larger formations of divisions and corps, it is always necessary to provide, with the units of the division or of the divisions forming the corps, a certain proportion of units which are required to support those formations.

What is a corps? A corps consists of a headquarters, certain corps troops, and two or more divisions. The corps headquarters is so organized that it can direct and administer two or more divisions. Corps troops are provided on the basis of a certain proportion for each division allotted to the corps. Quite often the division itself throws off a certain number of troops of certain units and hands them over to the corps commander in order that he may use them to serve either one division or the other, or both perhaps if they happen to be in the line. It may be signals, it may be artillery, it may be line of communication troops, contributed by the two divisions to the corps headquarters to serve the divisions which are in the line, and if one is in a tough spot, extra corps artillery may be put behind them.

As I have said, we have two corps, each with a headquarters. We have allotted two divisions to one of these corps, the one in Italy, and three to the other. One corps with its two divisions and an armoured formation and an appropriate proportion of army troops is in Italy under the command of Lieutenant-

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General Crerar. The other corps with its three divisions and another armoured formation is in the United Kingdom.

But we have something more in the United Kingdom. This is what seems to confuse people. We have the First Canadian Army headquarters and the remainder of the army troops which have not been allotted to the corps in Italy.

What is an army? I have said that a corps is an organization which administers, supports and directs two or more divisions. An army is an organization consisting of a headquarters, and army troops supporting, servicing, directing two or more corps. The army headquarters and the army troops in England at the present time-let the committee not forget this-were authorized and organized two years ago when we expected major activities across the channel. And there was not a single objection to it at that time. Then what happened?

Until the middle of 1943 the army stayed as a whole in England, because it was represented to us that that was where the job was. Some people said it was because the government were afraid of having the army do any fighting. Other people suggested that it was because the army commander wanted to keep it together. The truth is that the Canadian army overseas was there to be used, in whole or in part, as would best serve the allied cause. As has been said again and again, the army' overseas was kept in England because we were given to understand that that was where it could serve the best in those lean days when Britain had to stand on the defensive. But if we kept these troops in England until the time came to strike across the channel it meant that the whole Canadian contribution in land forces overseas would be thrown into battle without any of them ever having any experience under battle conditions or having heard a shot fired in anger, except the very few who might be attached for short periods to British formations in other theatres. That was the situation which we had to face in the early days because the allies were on the defensive, but it was a situation we could cure when the allies assumed the offensive and we took Steps to do it.

In November, 1942, the North African show came along. Canadians were not in, it. I was in England at the time and went immediately to inquire why, and was given, as I have already stated in the house, what I considered were good and sufficient reasons for not adding a Canadian component to the British and American forces at that time. Once more I underline the flexibility of our

organization, and that our willingness to serve did not mean "all or nothing"; that it meant "in whole or in part."

In the spring the Sicilian operation was planned and the government learned of it in due course. The Canadian government suggested that Canadian troops be employed as part of the force and eventually a request was received for a division. The division went.. It joined the redoubtable Eighth Army. The story of thirty-nine days' fighting in Sicily and six months in Italy is a golden page in Canada's war history.

After prospects faded for activity across the channel in 1943, we sought opportunity to give battle experience to more of our officers and men, not only to another division but to a corps headquarters, corps troops and army troops as well. It would be, we thought, a direct contribution to victory in driving out the enemy, but as well, it would give the Canadian army battle-trained officers and men to be available to be drawn on to help season and steady and inspire our troops in England when their job came.

We pressed for the inclusion of another division and of a corps headquarters in Italy. The arrangement was made. Another division was sent. The corps headquarters was sent, corps and army troops were sent, and to-day we have a self-contained formation on that front as part of the Eighth Army. In England we have the other corps headquarters, corps troops, three divisions and the remainder of the army troops.

As I have said, we have in England army troops and an army headquarters. What do we do with them when we have only one corps remaining in England? The answer is that those who are conducting operations are extremely glad indeed to have that army headquarters there with those army troops in order that they may direct and administer and support the Canadian corps along with other formations of British or other allied troops which may 'be put into the same army organization.

What were the alternatives? Well, there were two. One was to disband the army headquarters and the remainder of the army troops. If we did that it simply meant throwing away the benefit of long training of a highly efficient team at army headquarters and putting our corps in England under some new headquarters completely strange to our personnel and conditions. The disbandment of Canadian army headquarters would simply leave a vacancy in the order of battle of the combined armies, and would require replacement by another headquarters drawn from British or allied sources. It would do no

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good to our common cause to disband a headquarters, which through long training with our troops had become a well coordinated and highly efficient team. By the disbandment of the remainder of the army troops we would to that extent be injuring the common cause, by dispersing trained and hardened fighting and administrative troops, and, at the same time, we would be creating a fresh demand upon the already heavily burdened British or allied forces for exactly the same units which must come from some other source, in order to support our forward formations of corps and divisions.

The other alternative-the first, as I have mentioned, would be to disband the army headquarters and troops-would be to hand this headquarters organization and these army troops over to the allies and let them officer it to suit themselves. We have chosen neither of these alternatives. We propose to keep our army headquarters and our army troops to serve our own Canadian corps in the United Kingdom, and whatever formations of our allies are included with ours. It follows that any allied formations placed under the control of our army headquarters would bring with them the appropriate proportion of corps and army troops for their support.

In a word, we have an army headquarters to control and administer, and army troops to support our corps, and we have the reinforce-_ ments for them. We are going to use that army headquarters and these army troops as a Canadian organization to add to our contribution to victory and to provide the world with further demonstration that Canada is "all-out" in her war effort.

I believe that Canadians will feel that Canada is hitting on all six cylinders with a self-contained corps in Italy with autonomy and self-dependence equivalent to the Canadian corps in the last war. In England we have another corps with its proportion of army troops, and in addition to that we have an army headquarters which we expect will have the distinction of having under its control, not only our own corps and army troops but such other formations and units of the allied countries as may be allotted to it.

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Joseph-Arthur Bradette (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Shall I report progress?

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Mr. Chairman, in rising to a point of order I think it is only fair that I should give notice of the question that I intended to ask the minister who did not seem to want to answer it this afternoon. My question is whether or not any factors, other than that which he mentioned of ill-health, entered into the resignation of General McNaughton?

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Shall I report progress?

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James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

Before you leave the Chair, Mr. Chairman, I think I should say something about the suggestion made by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar and concurred in by the hon. member for Lethbridge, namely, that we should change our procedure this year and by general consent conclude the discussion on the resolution at an early stage.

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Joseph-Arthur Bradette (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Has the minister the unanimous consent to continue?

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James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

Do I need unanimous consent to continue?

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

Yes; I think that we are prepared to agree with the suggestion, but I am just a little doubtful whether the discussion would cease as early as it is hoped that it would. However, I agree with the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar that discussion on the resolution should be short.

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February 11, 1944