July 28, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)

NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

That relieves the Minister of National Defence for Air of any responsibility whatsoever.
I can well remember General Crerar, in an address in 1940, in the Chateau Laurier, advocating a thirty-day training period for the men called up. I recall the arguments that were made by this group at that time urging that the men be given at least four months training, but considerable discussion had to take place before that became the law. I am happy to think that at last it was done and that many improvements in training have taken place since, but there are many improvements still to be made.
The argument of the Minister of National Defence last night as to firing practice not being necessary is just propaganda; with his fine record in the last war I know he agrees with me that firing practice is absolutely necessary.
The reference in this report to what General McNaughton said on individual training is just splitting hairs. When I think of what was said yesterday >by the hon. member for Wey-burn (Mr. Douglas) who appeared as a witness before the commission, as to the prejudice which had been shown in this report concerning his evidence, I say that I should like to discuss with General McNaughton, for whom I have great respect, many things which are mentioned in this report. Brigadier LawsoD

Hong Kong Inquiry
was a very fine soldier, and I am sorry he will not be back to tell his story that many of these men who were handed over to him for the Hong Kong expedition were untrained and unequipped.
The minister spoke last night [DOT] of the reorganization of his department, but he admitted that the transport controller, who is a civilian, and had vetoed the shipment of mechanical transport, was still on the job. I do not think it is sound organization to have a civilian transport officer in charge of the movement of troops and their equipment in this country. We have proof of this in what happened to this expedition as regards their shipping difficulties.
On page 17 of the report I read:
It was also not unreasonable to expect some assistance from the landward side by the Chinese forces. A telegram from Canadian military headquarters in London, dated October 26, 1941, stated that the Chinese government had undertaken to attack the Japanese in the rear of Canton if the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, and were prepared to use ten divisions for this effort.
From that it would appear that they considered war was quite possible.
There was a good deal of discussion at the hearings touching political changes in Japan which occurred a little more than a week before the expedition sailed. On October 16, Matsuoka left office and Tojo became premier. It was known that Tojo was sympathetic with the axis powers and there was an impression in Ottawa that his accession to poMrer might increase the risk of war in the Pacific.
As I have already stated, not many days after that the armed forces of the United States of America were so informed.
On page 2S, referring to training, the report states:
Practice in firing the tommy-gun was not possible to Canadian battalions before October, 1941, as they have only recently been equipped with them. There are 42 tommy-guns in the establishment of a battalion. This gun is a useful weapon for close fighting. It is simple to understand and use.
The anti-tank rifle is a high velocity, single shot rifle capable of firing armour-piercing bullets. In general, in its mechanism and use, it is similar to an ordinary rifle. There are now 25 anti-tank rifles in the establishment of a battalion; these are carried and intended to be used by the headquarters personnel of each platoon and by various platoons of the headquarters company. Until recently, this weapon and its ammunition have not been available to Canadian units.
As to the grenade, or Mills bomb, I am satisfied. on the evidence, that a soldier practised in the use of "dummy" bombs (which are similar in all respects to "live" bombs, except that they contain no charge of high explosive) would be capable of effectively using "live" bombs in actual operations. Training both in Canada and in England in fact is given with the "dummy" bomb and "live" bombs are reserved for use against the enemy.
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It may be necessary to use dummy grenades in that fashion, but it would be much more beneficial to the troops to have training with live bombs if they were available. I do not think any ex-service man would deny that.
Then on page 31:
According to the report made by Colonel Sutcliffe on October 6, 1941, all elementary training in musketry had been completed anil refresher courses taken. With regard to the Bren and Lewis guns, the mechanism, drill and tactical handling of the guns had been thoroughly covered by the rifle companies and the anti-aircraft platoon, while the remainder of the personnel had been given elementary training. No range practice had been done with these weapons.
I maintain, and I know the minister will agree with me, that range practice is most essential in the training of these men.
On page 32, General Stuart, the present chief of the general staff, was questioned, and on page 33 the following question and answer appear:
Q. Then your opinion is, from what you have said, that any weapon training or anything of that sort that these units may have been short in as laid down in the books, could have been made up prior to the 8th December?-A. I not only think it, I know it.
Any ex-service man who has been transported on these boats knows how little opportunity there is for training on a boat. He knows what a short time these people had, the difficulties they experienced in unpacking their equipment when they landed in Hong Kong, and the limited time which elapsed before they were actually in battle.
At page 35 appears "Additions to the strength of the two battalions":
The higher rifle establishment for a Canadian infantry battalion provides for 34 officers and 773 other ranks-a total of 807 for all ranks. The "first reinforcements" for a battalion consist of 6 officers and 150 other ranks-a total of 156 for all ranks. Thus, a battalion with its "first reinforcements" comprises 40 officers and 923 other ranks-a total complement of 963.
Further on, on the same page, it states:
The Winnipeg Grenadiers, who had just returned from the West Indies, were under full strength by more than 100 men. To bring both battalions up to strength 136 men were required, in addition to 300 for first reinforcements. In obtaining these men there were two conditioning factors-rapidity and secrecy.
On page 36:
There were added (150 as first reinforcements) to the Royal Rifles 154 men from military district No. 2, of whom 52 came from the Midland regiment ... To the Winnipeg Grenadiers were added (156 as first reinforcements) 282 men and 12 officers; of the 12 officers and 189 men came from advanced training centre No. 15 at Winnipeg, 30 men from the advanced (machine gun) training centre at Dundurn, Saskatchewan, 40 from the
Hong Kong Inquiry

No. 10 district depot at Winnipeg (including 23 men formerly on the strength of the 18th reconnaissance battalion), and 23 men from the basic training centre at Portage la Prairie.
On page 39, dealing with "Additions to the Winnipeg Grenadiers", it states:
Brigadier Riley discussed the matter with Lieutenant-Colonel Sutcliffe (the officer commanding the Winnipeg Grenadiers) and Lieutenant-Colonel Graham (the officer commanding the Advanced Training Centre No. 15 at Winnipeg). There was some uncertainty as to the exact number of additional men required, but Colonel Sutcliffe estimated on October 10 that between 150 and 200 additional men would be required.
I know these officers very well, and have soldiered with them at times. I have been looking for the evidence of Colonel Graham, because I think I know his opinion on the matter of the training essential for men, but I have not found what he said about these men being ready to go into action; I cannot find evidence on this point in the report. Yesterday afternoon we heard the statement of the hon. member for Weyburn as to what had happened to his evidence, reference to which is made on this same page. Most of the page deals with the matter of reinforcements of the Grenadiers.
On page 40 it is stated:
Before examining in detail the qualifications and training of the men added, one further general comment should be made. It was decided that the Winnipeg Grenadiers should be brought up to the required strength by volunteers from mid-western Canada, through military district No. 10. This decision appears reasonable in view of the fact that this regiment had originally been mobilized in this district. The primary responsibility for the additions to the strength rested on the adjutant-general's department and its execution was committed to Colonel Ilennessy, the director of organization.
This would lead one to believe that all these reinforcements had been taken from district No. 10. I have already pointed out that men were taken from Dundum in Saskatchewan, which is in military district No. 12.
Then, on page 41:
In the period immediately prior to October, 1941, the advanced training centre No. 15, from which these men came, had, for training purposes, an adequate supply of rifles, bayonets, light machine guns, anti-tank rifles, tommy-guns and dummy grenades. This centre, in common with other training centres and units in Canada, was at that time without 2-inch and 3-inch mortars for training purposes.
Further down the report says:
Permission was accordingly obtained from headquarters in Ottawa to seek volunteers at the district depot. The district depot receives all men when they are recruited and also men who are being transferred from one unit to another. It was described as a "manning pool" for the district. At the time that volunteers

for the Winnipeg Grenadiers were being sought, there were 23 men at the district depot who had been left behind by the 18th reconnaissance battalion when that unit left the district. These men had had considerable training with their unit, but had been left behind because they were thought not suitable for the specialized work of a reconnaissance battalion.
Ou page 42 we find this statement:
The evidence as to the 23 men who joined the Grenadiers from the basic training centre at Portage la Prairie is as follows: One had been in a reserve battalion for one year, being attached to the training centre; one enlisted November 24, 1939, and had been a staff clerk receiving some training until his transfer to the training centre on October 3, 1941; one had been in a militia regiment for nine months; one had been called out in September, 1940, and was attached to a militia training centre until his enlistment on June 17, 1941, when he went to the basic training centre; two were qualified instructors attached to the training centre; one had been a member of the King's Own Scottish Borderers from 1915 to 1919; one had been in a reserve battalion from August, 1940, to May, 1941, when he was called out and attached to the basic training centre.
The remaining fifteen men without previous military experience served in the basic training centre for periods varying from three to eleven weeks-two served three weeks; three served five weeks; eight served six weeks, and two had served eleven weeks. All these men also were personally accepted by Colonel Sutcliffe, or his second-in-command, after inspection.
I understand that for the purpose of increasing the strength of the Grenadiers it had been found necessary to lower the medical standard.

Topic:   HONG KONG INQUIRY-AMENDMENT OP MR. GREEN TO MOTION FOR COMMITTEE
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