We now come to the army. We were told that the active force would be of about 25,000, and I presume it will be recruited to only seventy-five per cent of that number. According to press reports, it was said there would be adjustments made in the airborne force. I wish to give a warning that those adjustments should be made most carefully, because an airborne force must be carefully balanced. If cuts are made here and there the whole organization will be thrown off balance, and become useless. The active army is to consist of the various headquarters, regularly employed personnel assisting the reserve army, and an airborne brigade or field force, whatever it may be called.
We now come to a consideration of the reserve army, and in this connection I would call attention to some observations respecting that force. It is a force with which I know many hon. members have been closely connected in the past. I read from page 1135 of Hansard for October 16, 1945, where the then Minister of National Defence said:
Reorganization of our military forces will proceed on the basis of a plan which contemplates that an organized citizens' part-time reserve army will form the source from which a field force would be found in the event of war.
He goes on to say that this force-
. . . will reflect the military potential of the country and whose staffs and units will form the basis of mobilization of a field force.
Then he goes on to say:
In so far as the reserve army is concerned, it is to be organized as a force of six divisions with supporting armoured elements and selected corps and army troops for an army of two corps. In addition the reserve army will include our operational coast and anti-aircraft artillery units and supporting services necessary for the static defence of the country.
And he states further:
Adequate equipment of the latest type will be available on a generous scale to ensure that the training of the reserve army is realistic and interesting. It is intended to assist commanding officers of reserve army units in the training and administration of their personnel by providing for each unit full-time (active force) officers and other ranks on an adequate scale.
The Address-Mr. Pearkes
Then again last year, speaking about the same force, he mentioned that the reserve army, or as it was formerly known, the nonpermanent active militia, has been the-
. . . backbone of onr fighting force in two wars, and I cannot contemplate any future war in which it would not carry out a similar role.
A little later on, he said that he hoped to make the service "more attractive than it was before the war"-and he was referring to the second world war.
I expressed some doubt at the time as to the effectiveness of this force. As reported at page 5046 of Hansard for August 19, 1946, I said this:
I believe the organization is faulty because the government has not taken a realistic view of the up-to-date requirements of the type of defence which Canada needs to-day.
Apparently others were thinking along the same lines, because last December a conference of defence associations met here in Ottawa. This is a group of non-professional soldiers, men who have been successful in other walks of life, and who have devoted their time to furthering the interests of the reserve army. At the Ottawa conference they expressed themselves in a resolution in these terms-and I shall read only part of it because it is lengthy:
. . . the present plan could not be effectively and adequately achieved under the provisions outlined by the government.
Then the resolution went on to urge that the plan be reconsidered in order to produce an "army it requires when needed".
It was disclosed in the press conference held recently by the Minister of National Defence that the force which originally had been designed as one of six divisions, with those other corps and the armoured troops to which I have referred, aggregating a strength of 180,060, is now being restricted or, shall we say, is not to be recruited beyond a force of
50,000. That is a. big reduction, from 180,000 to 50,000 in the force which is to provide the defence of this country, and one which the previous minister had described as providing the bare minimum necessary.
I cannot help recalling a toy I had when I was a little boy. It was a rubber balloon which, when inflated, took the form of an animal, and when gradually the air leaked out of it most realistically sank to the floor with suitable moanings and winnings. Eventually it became nothing but a little heap of rubber on the floor.
I suggest that all the substance has been taken out of our defence force and that today there remains only the wreckage of the overhead framework. I cannot help feeling that those stupid and boastful statements made a
year and a half ago have now been debunked.
I do not wish to appear wise after the event, because I did say when the discussion of the estimates took place last year that I felt they were definitely wasteful and unwarranted, because they would not be effective. The force which was designed as the army to meet aggression, if aggression ever came, the force of these six divisions, is now reduced to
But that is not the end of it. We must examine whether a force of that nature could ever have been efficient. Schemes which provide for the mobilization of a first division to take the field six months after the outbreak of war or after mobilization has been ordered certainly bear no relation whatever to modern warfare. I do not think there is anyone who will deny that it would take at least six months for the first division to be ready to take the field, twelve months for the second and third divisions, and nobody can estimate how long it would take to have the fourth, fifth and sixth divisions made ready.
There were no six months left to the United States after Pearl Harbor. There were no six months left to Poland in the early days of the war. I believe that if this question of national defence were faced fearlessly and the problem viewed in a realistic manner, forgetting old worn-out formations and systems which served their time in the past, it would be possible for this or any other government to prepare a defence force which would be capable of meeting the requirements I mentioned early in my remarks and which could be organized, trained and equipped within the means which it would be reasonable to expect the taxpayers of this country to provide.
I feel quite certain that plans based merely upon tradition, based merely upon old formations of the time of the first great war will never be effective in meeting the problems of today. I suggest that a scheme for the defence of this country which pictures the first division being ready to take the field six months after the outbreak of war is of as much value as would be a system of calling for the annual muster of rangers and fencibles such as we had a hundred years ago.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY