§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move,That the thanks of this House be accorded to all ranks of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Marines, for the untiring vigilance and resource with which they have frustrated each new stratagem of the enemy; for their courage and devotion to duty which beat the U-Boats by which the enemy planned to reduce these Islands to starvation" and submission; for the unflagging zeal which they brought to the arduous duties of protecting the flow of food and materials vital to the life and work of our people and Allies; and when the long period of defence at last made way for attack, for the matchless skill and courage with which the great forces for the assaults were landed, supported and maintained in campaigns in both hemispheres:That the thanks of this House be accorded to all ranks of the Army for the indomitable resolution with which they met early adversity; for the thoroughness and patience with which they trained and planned for the assault; for their cheerful endurance of the perils and trials of warfare in many lands; for the gallantry and enterprise with which they wrested the initiative from the enemy and routed him from the shores of the English Channel to the furthest limits of Asia; and for to-day assisting in the restoration of those lands which have been liberated and in the administration of occupied enemy territory; and to the Home Guard for the keenness and self sacrifice with which they undertook voluntarily and in addition to their normal work the defence of these Islands against the threat of imminent invasion;That the thanks of this House be accorded to all ranks of the Royal Air Force for the dauntless heroism with which, in 1940, they faced overwhelming odds and in doing so, saved our beloved country and all humanity; for the resolute courage with which, undeterred by heavy losses, they harried the enemy's war industries and communications and crippled his powers of resistance; for the bravery with which they co-operated with the Navies and Armies seeking out and destroying the forces of the enemy wherever they could be found; and for their sustenance of those who carried on the fight for liberty behind the enemy's lines; and to the air transport crews for their resource and endurance in keeping the air routes open; and to the Royal Observer Corps for their ceaseless vigil in defence of their homeland:That the thanks of this House be accorded to all those who, as volunteers in peace-time, sacrificed their leisure in order that, when the time came, they could give the greatest possible service to their country:That the thanks of this House be accorded to the forces of the Dominions, India and the Colonial Empire who, in gallant comradeship with their brothers from these Islands, shared to the full the dark hours of adversity, the arduous toil of the struggle and the honours of final victory:250That the thanks of this House be accorded to the women of the Auxiliary and Nursing Services for the ready self-sacrifice and efficiency with which they performed their arduous duties of sustaining their brothers in action against the enemy:That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers and men of the Merchant Navy for the steadfastness with which they maintained our stocks of food and materials; for their services in transporting men and munitions to all the battles over all the seas; and for the gallantry with which, though a civilian service, they met and fought the constant attacks of the enemy; and to the skippers and crews of the fishing fleets who in the face of every danger went about their business undismayed and brought back urgently-needed food for the nation:That the thanks of this House be accorded to the Police, the Fire Service, the Civil Defence and Hospital Services and to all those who worked with them in combating the effects of Air Raids; for the relief and comfort they brought to many thousands in suffering and distress; and for their unflinching endurance of hardship and dangers; and to the ferry pilots for their resourceful courage in keeping the fighting lines supplied with aircraft:That this House doth acknowledge with humble gratitude the sacrifice of all those who, on land or sea or in the air, have given their lives that others to-day may live as free men and its heartfelt sympathy with their relatives in their proud sorrow:That Mr. Speaker do signify the said Resolutions to the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, and to the Army Council and the Air Council; to His Majesty's Secretaries of State for Dominion Affairs, for India and Burma, and for the Colonies; for the Home Department and for Scotland; and to the Ministers of Health, War Transport, Agriculture and Fisheries and Supply and Aircraft Production to communicate the same to the persons referred to therein.I rise to move, with all humility and sincerity, this Motion of Thanks to the Services which stands in my name and in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. We have in this House on many occasions expressed our admiration of, and our gratitude to, the fighting Forces of the other nations which with us formed the Grand Alliance that delivered the world from tyranny. To-day, I am inviting the House to give thanks to our own people, the men and women of these Islands and of the Commonwealth and Empire, to those who were the first to take up arms, who for more than a year stood alone, who endured until ultimate victory, in the West and in the East, was achieved.
Six years ago, at the call of honour and duty, we took up arms. More than honour and duty were involved—our very existence as a nation was at stake. More 251 even than this, the ideals and principles of conduct by which mankind has been guided for the last 2,000 years were in danger of being submerged in a new tide of barbarism. Perhaps in those days this was hardly realised, save by the few, but as time went on and the designs of our enemies became clearer, and as their actions in the countries which they overran were made known, all came to realise the magnitude of the danger which threatened the world.
When Mr. Lloyd George moved a similar Motion to this after the first World War he said that if we had not responded to the challenge we might have become a prosperous people, but we would have become a despised people. But in 1939, if we had not fought and won, we should have ceased to exist as a people in any real sense of the word. Our Commonwealth and Empire would have passed away. We should have been the slaves of the self-styled master race. Therefore, I move this Motion of thanks with an even deeper sense of gratitude, realising how great is the debt we all owe to the men and women without whose courage and self-sacrifice none of us would be here to-day. The Motion which I move to-day is longer than that moved by Mr. Lloyd George. It is more all-embracing, for the simple reason that, great as was the effort in the first World War, thesecond has involved a greater proportion of our people, and more intimately than ever before. Never, I think, in the whole of our history has the whole nation been devoted so single-mindedly to so great a cause. It is, indeed, difficult to draw a line of distinction where the services of so many contributed to a common end, where so many lives were hazarded, so many sacrifices were made. But in this Motion we desire to express our thanks primarily to the Armed Forces and to those civilian Services, which, in the performance of their duties, ran greater risk of physical injury than the bulk of the civilian population.
Looking back over these six long years of war, it is difficult for us to estimate the contribution made to our victory by the various Services or by particular Commanders. We cannot weigh in any balance the value of those who endured in the dark days of defeat and those who conquered when the sun of victory shone on our arms. History sometimes does but scant justice to the former. Yet perhaps 252 it is to those who in the days when our equipment was scanty and our full strength unmobilised, when our enemy was strong and flushed with victory, and when our first Allies were beaten down, that our gratitude is especially due. We recall to-day the dauntless work of the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine, when the whole of the Western shores of Europe were in enemy hands and the long drawn-out Battle of the Atlantic seemed to hang in the balance. We remember that to them came the added task of the battles in the Mediterranean and later, too, in the Far East. Never before in our history had the Royal Navy to hold the seas in such adverse circumstances with so much at stake. And our minds, too, go back to the epic of the little ships at Dunkirk.
There were long years when our Armies were outnumbered and under-equipped; when, as always, the British soldier showed himself never more valiant than when facing great odds. In Belgium and France, in Norway and in Greece, in Burma, and Malaya, we had to face defeat. This Island was in danger and the Home Guard sprang into existence, gradually getting the arms to match its spirit. I think that we shall always recall how, when the enemy everywhere seemed too strong for us on land, our Armies in Abyssinia and North Africa brought us good cheer when they smashed Mussolini's ambitious designs. In the days of disaster on the Continent our slender Air Forces had a hard task. A few weeks later came the ever-memorable Battle of Britain, one of the crucial battles of the war. There a great victory was won, but elsewhere, in Greece and in the East, our Air Forces were often contending against superior strength. We owe our gratitude to all those who, in the dark days endured and strove and never lost their faith, and with them we may fitly remember all the Civil Defence Services and the Police, who, without any powers of retaliation, stood up to the worst that the malice of our enemies could bring against them and upon the civil population whom they served.
It is fitting to recall what the men and women of these Islands, and of the Commonwealth and Empire, did in those hard times. In this Motion we rightly, I think, acknowledge our debt to those who, in peace-time, voluntarily sacrificed their 253 leisure to be ready should occasion come. It came and they, with our regular Forces on land, on sea, and in the air, bore the brunt of the enemy's first assaults and stood up to him when he was at his full strength. This grim phase of the war came to an end in the last months of 1942. Its passing was marked by three great victories—Stalingrad, El Alamein and Guadalcanal. In his Address to both Houses of Parliament in October of that year, that great and prescient soldier and statesman, Field-Marshal Smuts, said:The stage is set for the last, the offensive phase.Indeed, from that time on, victory followed victory with ever-increasing speed. It is not my intention to trace in detail the events of the years that followed, or to attempt to particularise the branches of the Servicesor to select their highest achievements. History will recall them, but as the war proceeded it became ever more and more plain that victory depended on close co-operation between all the Services. The great drama of the invasion of Normandy exhibited a perfect co-ordination of Navy, Army and Air Force, backed by the provision of every kind of weapon and equipment required to make this great enterprise a success. But this, though the greatest example, was not unique. It was the culminating point of combined operations which led in a few months to the downfall of Hitler's Reich. It was the same co-operation which brought our Forces from Egypt, through North Africa and Italy, to the Alps. It was this, too, which brought about the liberation of Burma and the downfall of Japan. Success in modern warfare depends upon the co-operation of all arms, and their support and maintenance by the labour, skill and invention of the civil population.
I think it is well, in paying tribute to the Fighting Forces and their battle leaders, to remember those who planned and directed, and those who forged the weapons which delivered the mortal blows against the enemy. There is yet another thing that was essential for victory—the harmonious working together of the principal Allies. That, too, was effected. Unity of action was achieved, and it is symbolised by three names which were on all lips during the period of the war from the days when the tide turned—Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin. 254 I have not attempted in my speech to deal in detail with every phase of the great struggle in which our Forces were engaged. I have not mentioned every category of service rendered. I have not singled out particular leaders of the Fighting Forces. To do justice to such a great theme would take me far beyond the limits of a speech in Parliament. To speak of individuals and to attempt to estimate their services would be to anticipate the verdict of history. Every single man and woman to whom we render thanks to-day can look back with pride on the part, small or large, in this greatest of all deliverances. They have all earned the gratitude of their fellow countrymen.
There are circumstances in this war which sharply differentiate it from all those which have preceded it Those at home have shared, and have been proud to share to some extent, the dangers which in times past have only been faced by those who have gone overseas. The contribution made by women has been greater than ever before in our history. Not only in homes and factories, on the land, in transport, and in the nursing services, have women played a great part, but in Civil Defence and in the Fighting Forces and even in the operational branches of the Fighting Forces. Let me again emphasize that, in expressing our gratitude to those who have delivered us, we thank not just those who come from these islands, but all the peoples of the Commonwealth and Empire. We can never forget how, in the hour of trial in 1939, the call to save civilisation met with an instant response from the Dominions. We cannot forget the splendid services of the people of India and the Colonies. Hitler, like the Kaiser before him, learned that there are bonds of the spirit much stronger and more enduring than any material ties, and that freedom units more thoroughly than domination.
Above all, to-day we are expressing our gratitude to all those who laid down their lives in freedom's cause, to all those who have suffered from wounds and imprisonment, to all those who have bravely borne the loss of those dear to them. We cannot pay the debt which we owe to them for our salvation. The least we can do is to seek in every way to ensure that their sacrifice shall not have been in vain. The duty of every one of us is to keep always in mind those men and 255 women who died for an ideal. They died to defend what mankind has won in the past and what might be won in the future. They had, I believe, a vision of a world of peace, of freedom and brotherhood. It is for us to realise that vision. Let us all resolve to rise in the days which lie before us, to the same heights of courage, singleness of purpose and self-sacrifice as these men and women did during the war. The task before us is hard, but if we do this, we cannot fail.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
I beg to second the Motion.
I cordially associate myself, and those for whom I speak on this side of the House, with the Motion which has been moved in such fitting and comprehensive terms by the Prime Minister. I must, however, express my regret at the announcement which he made yesterday that the tradition which existed in this Island of voting monetary rewards to famous victorious commanders should have been abandoned on this occasion, and that no special mention of those commanders should be made in the Motion, which is certainly contrary to precedent in one respect. I should have thought that, at least, the two most famous soldiers whom we have produced since the Duke of Wellington would have received, by name, the thanks, at least, of this House, together with such leaders of the Navy and Air Force as might, upon consideration, have been found appropriate. The theory that the mass is everything, and that individuals are little or nothing, is not one which finds its most successful application in war. Once some equality in force has been achieved between two sides, it is leadership that counts, above all, and which, in fact, decides.
In the 52 months of the last war, we lost over 1,000,000 killed. Although this war extended to 68 months, and the weapons of destruction were incomparably more formidable, such was the leadership, strategic and tactical, that the total loss of life did not exceed 400,000, including the civilian casualties from air bombing. Some part of the credit for this inestimable boon, which has leftso many hundreds of thousands of homes unstricken by the loss of dear ones, should surely be ascribed to the commanders in the field 256 and afloat, who bore the direct responsibility for handling the Forces.
I have said that the latest precedents do not seem to have been followed, so far as mention of the commanders is concerned. On 6th August, 1919, the House passed a Motion very similar, if not identical, in terms with that before it now, but, immediately after, the House proceeded to recordits profound sense of admiration and gratitude for the supreme services rendered to the British nation by Marshal Foch, Marshal of France, as Generalissimo of the Allied Armies, in which great position he displayed a military genius worthy of the foremost captains in history."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1919; Vol. 119, c. 415.]I should have thought that the name of General Eisenhower might have been found in our proceedings at some stage, for never did a Generalissimo, a supreme commander, from another country more sedulously labour to efface all possible differences arising from different nationalities; never did a man labour more to wield the whole of the forces at his disposal into one whole, and never did a man receive more confidence and good will from his British comrades than General Eisenhower. I should have thought that it was a pity to depart from precedent in that respect.
So far as the commanders are concerned, they, of course, received, not merely thanks but the monetary rewards—to British commanders—and a Resolution follows immediately afterwards on the last occasion assigning to them those rewards. But now, having lost the rewards, they are not even to receive the thanks by name. In the last war, Admiral Beatty, Admiral Jellicoe, Admiral Madden, Admiral Sturdee, Rear Admiral Keyes, Vice Admiral de Robeck and Commodore Tyrwhitt were all thanked by name and rewarded, which is what I may call a more substantial and convincing form of according thanks. In the Army, Lord Haig, Lord French, Lord Allenby, Lord Plumer, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Lord Rawlinson, Sir Julius Byng, Sir Henry Home—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Tommy Atkins"]—Sir William Birdwood, Sir Maurice Hankey, as well as Tommy Atkins, and Lord Trenchard, all received grants.
§ Mr. Stubbs (Cambridgeshire)
On a point of Order. What did Tommy Atkins get? They put him on the dole.
§ Mr. Churchill
That is not a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman shows his ignorance in obtruding such a statement—
§ Mr. Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is seconding the Motion or moving an Amendment to the Motion?
The Question has not been put, and the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is seconding the Motion.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am seconding it, and deploring its shortcomings. As I was saying, it seems to me a great pity that no thanks should be given by name to a similar set of commanders, about equal in number, who have carried our name with very great credit all over the world, and if hon. Members who interject cries of "Tommy Atkins" would believe it—and I think I know as much about the Army as they do—there is no set of His Majesty's subjects who would be more gratified than the Army to know that this House had, at any rate, given its thanks to the distinguished commanders who have led them to victory.
The fact that it is my duty to make this comment in no way detracts from the sentiments of gratitude to our Forces—airmen, soldiers, sailors—which are expressed in this Motion, which I second—[An HON. MEMBER: "The greater includes the less."]—That is almost metaphysical. I suppose this Motion covers at least 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 men and nearly 1,000,000 women, thousands of whom have served with men in the batteries, or on the searchlights or in hospitals, under fire or air bombardment from the enemy. To all of those our hearts go out in deep thankfulness. If we had not in this Island produced a race capable of facing every danger, surmounting every difficulty and enduring every hardship which the varied ordeals of this war have presented, we should have been utterly destroyed and our name and story would, as the Prime Minister has said, have come to a final end.
Neither in qualities of body nor of soul was the British nation found wanting in its supreme hour of trial. To-day, we give the thanks of the House of Commons to those who are comprised in this Motion, and we are sure that those thanks will be re-echoed, not only by future generations in this Island and in the Empire and 258 Commonwealth ranged about it, but that our men and their deeds will be respected wherever the cause of freedom is held in honour throughout the world.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
On behalf of those associated with me, I desire to support the Motion in the names of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. This is a day of devout and reverent rejoicing, and we, the Commoners of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in this Parliament assembled, meet together to render thanks, sincere, heartfelt and most grateful, to all who, by the splendour of their matchless service, under God's mercy delivered us from terrible and terrifying dangers, saved our liberties, our traditions, and our homes—and more than that.
On Sunday morning, 3rd September, 1939, Britain, not for the first or even the second time in her long and noble history, took up the challenge—a challenge harsh and unconscionable which menaced not only her own liberties and those of others, but threatened all the nations and peoples everywhere throughout the world. The issue was freedom itself. Democracy—the right of men to choose and determine freely and consciously their own form of Government, and even to order their own lives—was at stake. The very nobility of man and his individuality were in the balance. The people of Britain, her sons and daughters overseas, and all who are united to this mighty Commonwealth and nation, were not found wanting. We knew the cost of the horror and mutilation of war. We could also imagine the dread and humiliating alternative. We chose the path of honour, and preferred death rather than slavery. We remember the dark days when we were on the defensive. The days were dark, but through them shone the grandeur of stubborn, resolute and dauntless people. Succeeding generations will recall how Britain and the British Commonwealth were then standing sublime and alone, holding the bastions of civilisation itself.
Then came, with the advent of our strong and powerful Ally, the turn from defence to the advance. Forward, surely, steadily and inevitably, from victory to victory, to the final triumph when Germany, Italy, Japan and their satellites lay humbled in complete and utter ruin. 259 As we recall those days we pass through every phase of emotion, and a thousand incidents rocket through our memories with dazzling vividness. To all those who mourn we extend our tender and loving sympathy; with them we grieve. We realise, however, that they who made the supreme sacrifice did not lose their lives; they gave them. They gave them so that we and those who follow us in this great heritage may live in freedom and in honour. So, with humble but with full hearts we render our united thanks and reverent tribute to all those who gave service on land, on sea, and in the air, in gratitude for our preservation, in the abiding hope and with a sincere prayer that by their noble and sublime sacrifice and effort, God willing, there shall be established peace and happiness, truth and justice, amongst us all for all generations.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
There is really nothing to add to the moving words which have already been spoken by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me, except, perhaps, to say, that in view of the wholly exceptional war contribution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) we might well have incorporated in this Motion some precise reference tohis service. It is too late now, perhaps, but if it would meet with the general acceptance of the House, as I have every confidence it would, I would respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that a separate Motion be tabled attributing gratitude to theright hon. Gentleman, and coupling with his name the names of the few but great commanders who have led our Army, Navy, and Air Force to this astounding victory. I think we should all regret it in after years, if such a tribute were not recorded with due formality and solemnity by this House and this country.
The Leaders of the two great parties, on whose initiative this Motion has been presented to the House, have expressed themselves in language which none can better, and which fully reflect the high purpose of the House on this historic occasion. But this is a matter which affects the hearts and conscience of all sections of the community, and all groups and parties in this House, and I would 260 like in a few simple sentences formally to associate myself and my hon. Friends with this message of thanks to those who have served.
I suppose after every great war and famous battle, the victorious nation has sought to acknowledge the prowess and sacrifice of its fighting men, and to claim for them that their deeds have been unsurpassed in courage and endurance and in lasting benefit to mankind. I am quite sure the people of Scotland felt just like that of their soldiers after the battle of Bannockburn and indeed, even today, 600 years after that astounding andhighly satisfactory event, their thoughts are much the same. But as war succeeds war, bravery and endurance are put to ever greater tests and as such the nature of our people, these qualities seem to flourish and grow and display themselves in ever more dazzling colours. For example, who, a century ago, would have denied Collingwood's assertion that the strain upon his crews during the Napoleonic wars was such that human nature was scarcely able to bear it? Yet Lloyd George, on the occasion similar to this,25 years ago, was able to claim—and we would all think with greater justice:I doubt whether in the history of war such multitudes of men have ever displayed such sustained courage.…Britain fought better in, the last year of the war than she ever fought before.…Her blows were more vigorous, more mighty, more shattering, more terrible in their effect than ever before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1919; Vol. 119, c. 404–6.]He was right at that time, as those of us who fought in the last war well know; and yet looking back, as the Prime Minister did, upon these last six years through which we have lived—the blitzkrieg, the bombing, aerial battle, sea warfare, the long strain of ceaseless toil in the factories and the imminent threat, for a time, of invasion—looking back upon that ordeal, may we not claim for our present generation that they have gone through trials unsurpassed at any time in the long history of man, and borne themselves throughout like giants? Surely that is a claim we may well make?
This is, indeed, a sad but a proud occasion and I know the House will forgive me, if, in the last moment or two, I linger upon the feats of my own countrymen. It has been said of Scotsmen by a great Welshman, that their only fault in time 261 of war was that there was never enough of them. This House, of course, in the time of peace into which we are passing, may conceivably take another view. However, I feel sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford—who, after all, is the best judge of these matters—will agree that in this war Scotland has done its duty nobly and mantained the highest traditions of its long and gallant story. When I reflect upon the continuous, tense labour in the shipyards—of which the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) speaks so well—in the mines and in the factories; the devoted, racking strain of women, to which the Prime Minister so eloquently referred, in the home and outside in transport, in works and on the land; the long exhausting watch of Home Guards, of Observers and others; the fierce enduring vigil of sailors, seamen, fishermen and airmen; but above all when I remember the magnificent achievements of the historic regiments of Scotland, the same regiments of the line that assaulted citadels and won glory under Marlborough, under Wellington, under Haig, and now under Montgomery—when I reflect upon the achievements of these men and women, I bow my head in wonder and reverence. It is to these men and their fellows throughout these islands and beyond, throughout the Empire and Commonwealth, that we offer our humble tribute of thanks to-day. I pray that in our labours in this House in the coming years we may not prove unworthy of the imperishable achievement of these men and women in man's march to progress.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I want to say only a few words and to mention something that may be considered unmentionable by other speakers in connection with this Motion of thanks. I want to associate my party with the thanks, and with the speech made by the Prime Minister, and I want to make the observation that it is good that the Government should decide not to mention or to reward individuals. No stronger argument has ever been submitted in support of the Prime Minister and of the Government than that submitted by the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I will come to the right hon. Gentlemen's question later. The right hon. Gentleman said that our leaders of the present day have been so brilliant—and I recognise and pay tribute to their brilliant characteristics—that they have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and homes in this country to-day are happy that might have been mourning. In other words, in the last war hundreds of thousands of lives were uselessly lost because of the incompetent leadership. Yet these were the list of names read by the right hon. Gentleman to whom tribute was paid and to whom money awards were given, but unless there was incompetent leadership in the last war, there is no sense in claiming special credit—
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
As one who had the honour of serving in the last war, I would like—[An HON. MEMBER: "You were not the only one."]—No, I was not the only one, but there were not so many on the other side, as some of us would have liked to see. Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to say who were these generals in the last war who needlessly massacred their men? It is a most improper suggestion.
§ Mr. Gallacher
—he must address himself to the leader of his own party, for it was the leader of his own party who claimed that the present generals, by the ability of their leadership, saved hundreds of thousands of lives in comparison with what happened in the last war. If I were asked the reason, I would not make such a statement as that made by the Leader of the Opposition. I would face the matter honestly and say that the reason for the small percentage of sacrifice was the fact that the Red Army had already broken the strength of the German army before we got at them. But I do not want to deal with that, I only wanted to deal with the argument raised by the Leader of the Opposition. The Noble Lord can talk the matter out with him whether there were competent generals in the last war or not. What I want to come to is:That the thanks of this House be accorded to the Police, the Fire Service, the Civil Defence and Hospital Services, and to all those who worked with them, in combating the263effects of Air Raids; for the relief and comfort they brought to many thousands in suffering and distress.In the early days of the blitz I made a tour of the shelters, and I was struck by the readiness of these men and women to give service to those who were suffering during the blitz. I myself, I might say, was in fear and trembling most of the time I was out, but I could not help noticing the strength and courage evidenced by men and women facing danger that was enough to give any ordinary man or woman a complete nervous breakdown. I remember going home one day to my home town, glad toget away from London, and when I was talking about the blitz with some of my neighbours, they said, "Were ye no feart, laddie?" "Feart?" I said, "I should say I was feart, but I was feart that people would get to know that I was feart."
I never failed to observe the courage of the men and women, some of them very young men and women, who were ready at all times to give their services to those who were in danger. I know it is very difficult to draw a line and say where you should stop in offering thanks. The Motion says that the thanks of the House should be accorded…for relief and comfort…brought to many thousands in suffering and distress; for…unflinching endurance of hardship and dangers; and…for…resourceful courage in keeping the fighting lines supplied with aircraft.It is impossible to pass a paragraph of that kind without paying tribute to one of the finest, bravest bodies of men who ever gave service to this country, service that was of inestimable value. It is impossible to pass this Motion without paying tribute to the dockers of this country, for whom so few are prepared to say a word to-day. Never were ships turned round with greater speed, no matter whether the bombing planes were overhead or not. In Liverpool, in London, or wherever the fight was on, the dockers did their job. Because there is some feeling against them at the moment we should not fail to pay them the tribute to which they are entitled. To all those mentioned in the Motion my party and I give thanks, but I desire that the dockers should be included among them.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
I rise to associate myself with this 264 Motion. Looking back over the last 6½ years of my own military service I do so with a very solemn feeling in my heart. I remember that of the men to whom we are giving thanks in this Motion, I counted many as my friends, and I advisedly say "counted," because it was revealed by the Chief of Bomber Command that 50,000 out of 110,000 in that Command, in which I served, gave their lives for their country. They will no longer be my friends. Not only Bomber Command of the Air Force, and isolated, units in this or any other part of the Service, but men and women, and many children, too, have done battle with the enemy in the last six years in a way which defies description.
I am not interested at this moment in any kind of debate or argument as to whether one man is greater than another. I feel that I have the backing of the House when I say that I am an ordinary individual, and that millions of ordinary individuals have fought and suffered with me during this war. It is to the whole of them that we must give thanks on an occasion like this. I went, on Sunday last, to a religious service in support of a Thanks giving Savings Campaign in one of the towns in my constituency. My party gives unqualified support to these campaigns. There, I had thoughts of the men I knew, men whose courage and morale was without any question during the difficult period in which we served. Those thoughts were in my mind when we were singing the hymn "O God, our help in ages past," the fifth verse of which runs:Time like an ever rolling stream,Bears all its sons away.They fly forgotten, as a dreamDies at the dawning day.There is a danger that the sons who have been borne away during the last six months may be forgotten, and the responsibility of this House is to see, first of all, that the war from which we have just emerged will be the last in which this country will ever be engaged; and then to put all questions of prejudice and nationalistic pride on one side and carry out a reorientation of all our ideas so that never again will young men and women be called upon to fight. The only way in which we can give thanks to the people who died and suffered is to make sure, by every endeavour of which we, individually, are capable, that we create a 265 world in which those who took part and who remain with us, and their dependants, can seek full measure of self-expression in the years to come.
§ 4.35 P.m.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I did not intend to participate in this Debate; indeed, my view was that it would have been better if it had finished with the speech made by the Prime Minister, having regard to some of the subsequent happenings. I rise now only because every party and fragment in the House has felt it necessary to say a word, and that because the antagonism of my two hon. Friends and myself to the late war was so well known that silence, now, on our part, might easily be misinterpreted. I think our attitude towards the war in no way prevents us from appreciating the tremendous courage of the men and women who faced the primary dangers of the war. We associate ourselves fully with the thanks which have been attributed to them.
When I think of the casualties of war I think of a young fellow who was parachuted down on Arnhem to deal with the wounded, and who was unarmed, except for a bag of bandages and plasters. I do not know how many there may be—a few thousands or many thousands—but in all the Services there were a certain number of men who fell by the way, who could not stand the racket, and who came under Service discipline in one way or another, and who are now in the various prisons and detention barracks of this country. I asked the Prime Minister the other week if he would consider giving a general amnesty to these men. God knows what were the various effects which produced the state of mind that led them into committing Services offences. But thewar is over now; we are offering thanks to the whole of the Services, and I ask the Prime Minister now if he cannot grant to those who fell by the way the general amnesty which I have already asked him for, and, further, whether he will see that there is a drastic cutting down of the terms of imprisonment imposed on these men.
§ Question put, and agreed to nemine contradicente.
I need hardly say to the House with what pride I shall sign this Motion to signify its thanks.
§ Mr. SPEAKER to signify the said Resolutions to the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, and to the Army Council and the Air Council; to His Majesty's Secretaries of State for Dominion Affairs, for India and Burma, and for the Colonies; for the Home Department and for Scotland; and to the Ministers of Health, War Transport, Agriculture and Fisheries and Supply and Aircraft Production to communicate the same to the persons referred to therein.