October 2, 1945

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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LIB
PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Where is the point of order? Who has the floor now?

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Withdraw.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I do not have to withdraw anything for the hon. member for Hal-ton (Mr. Cleaver).

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

The Chair is asking you to withdraw. Are you going to?

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

What is the remark the hon. gentleman just made?

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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

The Chair has asked the hon. member to withdraw an objectionable remark.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

What have you to do with it. I will bow to the ruling of the Chair at any time. I have no desire whatever to be discourteous in any debate in this chamber, whether the Speaker is in the chair or whether we are in committee with the Chairman in the chair. I will bow to the ruling that is given at any time.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Even when it is wrong.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Yes, even though it may be wrong. I would like hon. members to read what appears on Hansard and judge whether it was becoming for the leader of the government to object at this stage as he has. I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, if I have said anything unbecoming to the dignity of this parliament.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BROOKS:

I should like to call attention to what the leader of the opposition said at that time. He said:

I am sure that the house has listened with a great deal of interest-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BROOKS:

I am speaking on a point

of order. I continue:

-to what the minister has had to say. It is not my intention to speak at this time.

The leader of the opposition did not speak at that time. He gave way to the hon. member for Vancouver South. I think the mistake

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that was made to-night was that the Speaker put the wrong motion. I believe it was the intention of hon. members on the other side to give unanimous consent and I think they expected that the Speaker would put that motion. But the Speaker put the other motion and thus the leader of the opposition could not speak.

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@Acting Chair(man)? of Committees of the Whole

I would point out to hon. members that the incident is now closed and the leader of the opposition has an opportunity to present his point of view in regard to this matter.

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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

You may be sure you

will hear it. Now that the house with its rules has put us into committee of the whole we propose to hear what the government has to say in justification of these expenditures. I suggest with all deference that it is the responsibility of the government to give that statement now.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Mr. Chairman, let me say

at the outset that I had a certain personal interest in hoping that the house would give unanimous consent to the leader of the opposition, because frankly I am reluctant to commence my statement with respect to the navy, which I propose to do, at almost twenty minutes to eleven o'clock.

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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

I am not responsible

for that.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I am quite ready to do

it, but as I say I would have preferred to start at a time when I could deliver my statement all in one piece, as it were. However, I shall go as far as I can this evening, and the committee can have the deferred pleasure of listening to the rest of my statement at some later date.

It has been the practice in past years during the war to commence the statement with respect to the various service departments with a brief operational summary, and I should like to follow that practice to-night. This is probably the last occasion on which a service minister will make a report on operational matters. The last report of this kind was made by my predecessor, the Hon. Mr. Macdonald, on April 3 which, as the committee will realize now, was not very far from V-E day.

From the beginning of April on the Canadian navy continued its primary function of convoy duty on the north Atlantic, and this was continued until after all danger of German submarines was over. As the committee will recall, two of the U-boats surrendered to our forces, one off Nova Scotia

and one off Newfoundland. One was brought into Saint John and the other to Shelburne. Mine-sweeping operations were continued in the channel up to very recently, but our minesweepers have now been withdrawn from that duty and are on their way back to Canada.

In addition, during the past four or five months ships of the Canadian navy have been engaged in ferrying operations. Six old river-class destroyers have been employed between the United Kingdom and Canada and between Newfoundland and Canada. In addition, a number of our frigates have assisted in transporting Canadian service men from Newfoundland to Quebec. The anti-aircraft cruiser Prince Robert was in Sydney at the time of the Japanese surrender. She was then and had been for some time operating with the British Pacific fleet under the command of Sir Bruce Fraser. She was able to proceed and did proceed to Hong Kong with the units of that fleet to accept the surrender of that port, at the same time carrying badly needed supplies for our prisoners who were there. She is now at Manila, refueling, still under the command of the commander in chief of the British Pacific fleet. Our latest information is that she will return shortly to Esquimalt, bringing with her a number of prisoners of war. I cannot say definitely when she will be there, but it will probably be in three or four weeks time, according to the latest information we have.

The cruiser Uganda, as the committee knows, was serving with the British Pacific fleet for several months. She went out early in January and participated in several actions, taking part in the bombardment of Shaki'himo island and Dublon island and in the engagements off Okinawa. She returned to Canada a few months ago to enable those of her personnel who had not volunteered for Pacific service to be replaced by others. In the circumstances, it turned out that she got back to Canada just about the time of the Japanese surrender.

Our second cruiser, the Ontario, was commissioned in April. After her working out in the Mediterranean she proceeded to the far east, arriving about a month or six weeks ago. At that time she proceeded to Hong Kong where she is at the present time. She has been and will continue for the immediate future under the command of Admiral Fraser, with the British Pacific fleet.

I feel that I should not leave this summary of operational matters without referring to two incidents which do not relate directly to operations but which have been much in the public eye during the last three or four months.

I refer particularly to the disturbances at Halifax on V-E day and to the explosion

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which took place later on in the naval magazine in Bedford Basin. I have no particular comment to make on the V-E day disturbances. As I said in the statement which I issued after the findings of the royal commission had been made known, no one could do other than regret those disturbances, but I am sure that all Canadians will remember that many of the naval ratings who took part in those disturbances were the same men who had earned their country's gratitude for their courage and endurance in the long and arduous Atlantic campaign. The government appointed, as the committee knows, Mr. Justice Ivellock a royal commissioner to inquire into the causes of that disturbance. He made his report, which has been tabled in the house, and I have no particular comment to offer upon it. He found in substance that the naval command had not done all that it should have done and that the discipline of the navy in Halifax was not perhaps all that it should have been. But those of us who served in the last war know that one's emotions on the day of victory are likely to run fairly high and that if a thing of that sort is not checked in the early stages it is apt to run to extremes, and that I am afraid is what happened in Halifax.

The findings of the royal commissioner were that the causes were those for which the navy should be held responsible, and the government accepted financial responsibility for the loss to Halifax merchants and residents caused by the disturbances. Personally I hope that it is sufficiently remote in time that the people of the country will realize that there were extenuating circumstances and that the high reputation which the men of the navy have justly earned during six years of war will not be imperiled as a result of the unfortunate incidents of that one day.

The explosion in the Bedford magazine- both of these unfortunate incidents took place shortly after I had been appointed minister- coming as it did so close after the V-E day disturbance, must have made the people of Halifax regret that they were living in a naval port. The consequences of this explosion so far as damage to property was concerned were rather extensive, but fortunately the loss of life was slight. There was only one man killed. He was a naval rating who had been a watchman on the jetty on which the initial fire apparently took place. He was killed, but there was no other loss of life.

Immediately after the explosion a naval court of inquiry was set up, and when the report of that inquiry was received I gave a statement to the press, since the house was not sitting at the time, summarizing the findings. At the same time, with the collaboration of my colleague the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe), a committee of explosive experts was appointed, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ogilvie, charged with the responsibility of investigating the arrangements at the magazine, of inquiring into the design and location of the present buildings, and of reviewing the circumstances and conditions leading up to the explosion. That committee visited Halifax shortly after the explosion took place. I asked them first to make a preliminary inquiry to ascertain whether in their opinion the steps which were being taken to clean up the magazine area and to dispose of damaged ammunition and the like were being properly taken and were satisfactory. I am glad to say that they reported that in their opinion the steps which were being taken to clear up the danger area and to remove the damaged ammunition were completely satisfactory, and they complimented highly the officers in charge of that work. The committee has now returned to Halifax and is carrying on the main purpose of its inquiry, namely, to inquire into the design and arrangements of the magazine itself and to report whether or not any changes should be made in those arrangements to ensure so far as humanly possible that there would be no recurrence of such an explosion.

In addition to these measures Rear Admiral Brodeur was appointed inspector general of naval ordnance and has been charged with the duty and responsibility of examining naval magazines throughout the country and reporting as to their sufficiency, and in addition reporting on the quantities and methods of stowage of naval ammunition.

I mention those points because in view of the unfortunate explosion in the Bedford magazine I thought that perhaps the people who may live near other magazines may feel that the design or arrangements are not all they should be, and I wanted to make sure so far as possible that every precaution is taken to see that they are. So much for the operations and activities of the navy since the report was made by my predecessor on the 3rd of April last.

On the question of operations may I say that early in the war it was felt that attention should be paid to the matter of making the story of the navy permanently available to the Canadian public. Accordingly, in 1941 a fulltime naval historian was appointed to collect material and' to write an official history of the navy.

Present plans envisage three volumes. The first volume will cover the period from 1909 to 1939. The second volume will deal with the

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shore side of the navy after 1939, with particular emphasis on the work of getting the ships to sea properly manned, armed, and supplied and of maintaining them there. The third volume will be devoted to operations and it may be that some of the photographs produced in the .navy's photographic section will be used to illustrate the text.

At the time the last report on naval affairs was made to the house by my predecessor on April 3, 1945, the service had reached the peak of its expansion in personnel. It then had some 95,000 men and women on active service both afloat and ashore. Within a period of little more than three months from the time that report was made, both Germany and Japan had surrendered and the need for maintaining the war-time strength of the Royal Canadian Navy was over. Recruiting and training for war were abandoned. The problems of demobilization, rehabilitation and readjustment took their place. It required almost six years to increase the Canadian naval strength fifty-fold. It is expected that by March 31, 1946, the personnel in the service will have been reduced to about 10,000, and that number will include the members of the permanent force supplemented by members of the reserves who engage for service during a two-year period.

The navy's plans for participation in the Japanese war called for the employment afloat of some 13,500 men, plus a reserve pool of some 3,500. Actually, some 38,000 had volunteered for Pacific duty. Of the remaining

57,000 in the service on V-E day, May 7, some would have been required for continuing commitments elsewhere than in the Pacific; the balance were to be discharged.

By mid-August, however, Japan had surrendered and partial demobilization gave way to a policy of general demobilization, based, as in the other services, on the principle of " first in, first out." This principle applies generally but the service must of course reserve the right to retain certain few key men essential to the orderly demobilization and disposal of surplus ships and establishments. In common with the other services, some exceptions to the general rule are necessary to expedite discharges on compassionate grounds, the discharge of students returning to their studies, of farmers, of ex-prisoners of war and the like.

On September 26, more than 19,000 personnel had been discharged from the navy, and almost 22,000 were on leave awaiting discharge, representing in all close to one-half of the total strength as it stood on V-E day. Within the next four months an average of

10.000 should go out each month, and by March 31 next the size of the service in men should be down to approximately 10,000.

Recruiting for the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service was discontinued early this year. Demobilization of the women's service has been proceeding for some time. Since April 1 of this year, approximately

1.000 W.R.C.N.S. officers and ratings have been demobilized. As of August 31, the total strength of the group was 5,424. Some 50 per cent of this strength will be required until the end of 1945 principally for work connected with demobilization. I should say here, that the work of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service in connection with the demobilization organization has proved to be most valuable to the service. By the end of the present fiscal year, however, all W.R.C.N.S. should be demobilized.

The authorized strength of the permanent Royal Canadian navy is 771 officers and 8,003 ratings. The actual strength is 534 officers and 3,383 ratings. It is now proposed to supplement this permanent force by the addition of volunteers from the reserve now on active service who will engage for a two-year period. In due course, it is expected that permanent transfers from the reserves, new enlistments and cadet entries from the Royal Canadian Naval College will supply the men required for the force

The committee may be interested in an outline of the discharge procedure followed by the navy. A man designated for demobilization is drafted from his ship or establishment to a discharge transit centre. The main discharge transit centres are at Halifax, N.S., and Esquimalt, B.C., although there are certain other small centres elsewhere. At the discharge transit centre he undergoes a complete physical examination, including X-ray; blood test; teeth inspection, et cetera. If medical care is required, the necessary arrangements are made with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gear and clothing on loan is turned in; service papers and records put in order; leave due is authorized and transportation to the naval division nearest his home is arranged.

At the naval division, upon completion of leave, the discharge routine is concluded. All back pay is received; civilian ration books, national registration cards, discharge certificate and war service badge are issued. Rehabilitation grant and plain clothes gratuity are paid and final medical check is made. The application for war service gratuity is completed and if the dischargee lives outside the point where the division is located, he is provided with transportation to his home. Re-

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habilitation officers and employment counsellors are provided at the discharge transit centre and at naval divisions and are available for advice and help with reference to schooling, employment, references to the reemployment officers of selective service and to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I turn now from the subject of men to the subject of ships. A very large percentage of the ships in Canada's navy and of the equipment in those ships was produced in Canada by Canadian workmen of Canadian materials. With .the exception of the Tribal destroyer building programme which was in progress in Halifax on V-E day, all major warship construction for the Canadian account had been completed. There were a few orders outstanding for auxiliary vessels when Germany surrendered, and these were cancelled immediately.

Before sending out ships to the Pacific war we had to equip them for conditions to be encountered in the tropical waiters there. Considerable readjustment was necessary for these vessels which had been serving in cold weather of the north Atlantic. Arrangements were accordingly made to "tropicalize" them.

Upon the surrender of Japan this work was stopped. The effect of this action was to reduce public expenditures but it will of course curtail employment in shipyards which have done great service in the cause of the war at sea.

The Tribal destroyer building programme has not been interrupted. On September 14, H.M.C.S. Micmac, the first Canadian-built destroyer, was accepted by the navy at Halifax. Two more Tribals will be completed in 1946 and the fourth should be available in 1947. All these Tribal destroyers will be of value to Canada's post-war fleet and it is consistent with the government's policy to complete the programme.

At the time of Germany's surrender last May, Canada had the fourth largest fleet actively engaged in the cause of the united nations. In six years there had been a sixtyfold increase in its size, and this increase was a modem record. The fleet on V-E day included some 374 fighting units and over 566 auxiliary craft. Twenty-four Canadian ships of war had been lost up to V-E day, but on the other hand, the ships of Canada's fleet destroyed or assisted in the destruction of seventy-five enemy surface and submarine vessels and in the damaging of forty-three others.

At no time during the European war was there a surplus of naval craft available to the united nations. Canada did all she could to

help supply this great need. Early in the war 47696-45

we decided to build naval craft, and we turned our hand to the type of ship which would be of most value for the work which we felt we could do best. That work was convoy, and the naval craft required was the escort ship.

We began with the building of single screw corvettes which proved their value in the emergency. Our shipyards later produced larger escort vessels, notably the frigate. Both corvette and the frigate are in the category of relatively small specialized naval vessels. They proved their worth as the figures on convoys show, but many of them were pretty well worn out when the war ended. Escort craft are not the type of ship which could be retained as the main component of a naval force.

Gradually the Canadian navy commissioned larger warships and at the end of the German war we possessed cruisers, carriers and destroyers as well as escort vessels.

The plans of the Royal Canadian Navy for the Japanese war called for the operation of a modern force of some sixty warships. In this number were to be included two carriers, two cruisers, one anti-aircraft cruiser, at least twelve destroyers, and about forty frigates. It was proposed that the remaining warships of the fleet, with the exception of a few training ships, some ships for patrol on Canada's west coast and the necessary auxiliaries and harbour craft, were to be paid off.

It is now little more than a month since Japan capitulated and the process of paying off ships has developed rapidly. To date 178 ships of war have been de-stored and laid up. These include destroyers, corvettes, minesweepers, converted yachts and motor patrol vessels. In the neighbourhood of 100' auxiliaries and harbour craft have been removed from service. It was originally expected that the navy could dispose of an average of one major and one minor ship of war per day. In point of fact the rate achieved has been three major craft and two minor craft per day.

The end of hostilities has called for the closing down of many bases where there has been a very high level of employment maintained during the war. I am aware that local business interests and local labour groups will be affected by this policy. The committee will realize, however, that it cannot be otherwise. The navy's size will be considerably curtailed and, accordingly, the requirements for the services which these bases provided in war time will no longer exist.

At Halifax, the main fleet base on the east coast will be operated. So, too, will H.M. Canadian dockyard on a scale necessary for the

Questions

requirements of the base there. The main fleet base on the west coast will be at Esquimalt,

B.C., and the scale of its operations will be governed by requirements as they exist from time to time. The principal ammunition depots of the service will be at Renous, N.B., and at Kamloops, B.C. Naval service headquarters will remain in Ottawa. No policy has yet been formulated with reference to the future use of the building Which now houses naval headquarters.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Eleven o'clock.

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October 2, 1945