§ LORD ADDISON rose to call attention to the war situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name was put on the Paper after conference with the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, because it was felt that some noble Lords would wish to have the opportunity of discussing the war situation after we had had the advantage of hearing or reading the statement of the Prime Minister in another place. It was not that I myself was specially anxious to discuss the matter, but there are noble Lords in this House with first-hand knowledge of these affairs who may feel disposed to contribute to the debate.
§ As these great events follow one another all over the world, I think that we are apt to lose sight occasionally of some of them which are of first-rate importance but not so near to our minds and vision as others. With that in mind, I am sure it is right to say That we do not fail to remember the efforts which are being made in the Pacific by our fellow-citizens of the Dominions under conditions of immense difficulty and, so far as New Guinea and some other places are concerned, in perhaps the most atrocious climate in the world. In conjunction with our great Ally, the United States, we recognize that, having mobilized their forces, they are now breaking into the outer defences of Japan with singular effectiveness, and with what seems to some of us to be surprising speed. For all that, we do not fail to recognize what is in front of the United Nations in that part of the world. The soldiers of the Indian Empire and of our own country who are now fighting in Burma, struggling 958 against a dreadful climate in the few months of the year when it is bearable at all, are not absent from our minds, and we recognize the efforts which they are making.
§ It seems to me that there are three outstanding contributions to the war effort which we ought specially to remember before we deal with our own operations on land. The first and the most outstanding is the wonderful record of the great Russian Armies. I do not pretend to be a student of war, although I may be reasonably well informed; but I should think that there is nothing in the whole history of war comparable to the achievements of the Russian Armies on a front of more than a thousand miles, in a winter of an unusual character and faced with almost indescribable difficulties. Their achievement is, I am sure, quite unprecedented in the history of war; and what it means and must have meant in the bringing together of supplies and the utilization of all manner of transport in exceedingly difficult conditions impresses every one of us with a realization of the consummate skill and thoroughness of the organization which must accompany and be behind these efforts all the time.
§ In the last war, some of us who had first-hand knowledge of these matters were not accustomed to regard the military chiefs in Russia as particularly efficient; in fact, sometimes we could justly say that the contrary was true. During these last four years, however, we have seen the fashioning of a military instrument of unprecedented power and efficiency in Russia which, apart from being a remarkable contrast to anything in the previous history of that great nation, stands out conspicuously in comparison with the German General Staff. It is only fair to say that the Staff work of the Russian Armies has clearly excelled by far the Staff work of the German Armies. That is a wonderful achievement when you remember that for the greater part of a hundred years at any rate the worship of militarism and the special cult of it has been an outstanding feature of the German race, or at least of the Prussians. We know that what this particular class devoted itself to, whether in victory or in defeat, has been the survey of how they can most quickly and most efficiently kill other people. That has been their object in life for nearly a hundred years. They 959 differ from the gorillas in their organization, but I cannot recognize that they are in any way superior in their mentality. Anyhow, that is the German General Staff and there is no hope for the world until it is eradicated. We all agree in that. And a nation that in three or four years has created a staff that has beaten this instrument is responsible for a marvellous achievement. I was glad to read the tribute that the Prime Minister paid to them.
§ There is one other feature of the war effort which has not figured much in recent announcements and I am sure your Lordships will bear it in mind: that is that the war against the U-boats has had continued success. Though little has been said about it, we know very well that, if it were not for the heroism and vigilance of our sailors and the airmen who work with them, and all the complex of Services, no oversea land operations would be possible at all. Another outstanding fact of the last few months has been the enormous increase of our air power so far as attacks upon Germany are concerned. It is rapidly approaching a magnitude which we know it would some day attain, and I am sure the efficiency which is behind the conduct of these vast air operations has provoked the admiration of every one of us. For my part, notwithstanding anything that has been said in this House lately, I sincerely hope that this great attack by air on German centres will increase in vigour and in volume as rapidly as possible. I am sure that is the right way to shorten the war, because the German race, ever since the time of Frederick the Great, has been able to carry on wars against other people without suffering the consequences itself. Now, for the first time, it has been brought home to them what some of these pernicious doctrines really mean in the lives of the people. One cannot but think that that was a very necessary part of our effort. In fact, if is vital to rid the German nation of this spirit.
§ So far as our land operations in Italy are concerned, of course everything depends upon what was their real objective. If their real objective was to attract and contain as many German troops as possible, I should say that they have achieved a large measure of success. Not knowing the precise objectives one recognizes that 960 one's comments may not be as well directed as they otherwise would be; therefore I do not make them very strong. But I think most of us have experienced some disappointment at the operations following the recent landing. They do smack a little bit of some of the operations which were not very fortunate in the Dodecanese. But one cannot help thinking that, in the three or four days when we do not appear to have met with very much opposition, some of these splendid men that we have in our different aggressive sections could have made a lot of havoc in the German lines of communication, if they had been so directed. However, the only comment I will make is that the operation has been clearly successful in containing a large number of German troops—a fact which must be immensely valuable. While I think one is bound to confess to a certain measure of disappointment, after all this is a mere incident.
§ I was glad that the Prime Minister made the reference he did to Russo-Polish relations and to the Russian frontier question. I make no reference, except to say that I regret them, to the unfortunate wrangles and disputes which have broken out in Greece, and I hope that the international instrument which the Government are fashioning will be really helpful in abating some of these suicidal feuds. At any rate I am glad that the Government, without qualification, are helping those who help us to fight the Germans.
§ I do not know whether the noble Viscount will be able to tell us of any progress that has been made with the fashioning of the post-war organizations which were dealt with at the Teheran Conference and on which various statements have been made, but I am not asking him to give us any information if he is not so minded. Perhaps, however, he can tell us something of the work of the European Advisory Council, which is a body of first-class importance, and I am glad to know that it is already getting to work. That is a Standing Council which has before it from day to day the difficulties that arise in the countries that are progressively occupied, difficulties that have to be faced sooner or later. We welcome the creation of this Council, and if the noble Viscount can tell us anything about what it is doing I am sure the House will be glad to hear it. And behind all these things is something which I am sure is in 961 the minds, of all of us. We are well aware that before very long we shall ourselves be engaged in a greater and even more strenuous effort, and we know that all our people—whether they are in the Fighting Services or are workers in the factory, on the farm and in the home—will face the struggle with the same unflinching confidence which has hitherto characterized all our people. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that the procedure adopted by the Leader of the House on this occasion is preferable to that which has hitherto been usually adopted—namely, that we should have a discussion on a statement such as that made by the Prime Minister on a subsequent day from that on which the statement was made, instead of simultaneously. No doubt when some important official statement is made in another place it is advisable that this House should have a similar statement made to it on the same day in order that there may be equal opportunity for early comment; but where it is a case of a general survey, to a great extent retrospective, of the whole situation, then I think the course adopted this week, of giving us an interval during which we can read the statement of the Prime Minister and reflect upon it, is the preferable course. We now have an opportunity to express, our warm appreciation of, and our full concurrence in, the speech made by the Prime Minister as we do with regard to all his remarkable series of war speeches. He has a very strange and unusual influence on public opinion. If at some time the nation is unduly depressed, as in the case of the alarmist reports concerning the Anzio beach-head, he supplies an immediate corrective. If, on the other hand, everyone is thinking that the war is coining to an almost immediate end, he puts them right on that. I happen to have been reading Sir Richard Livingstone's excellent new edition of the history of Thucydides, and last night, by a strange chance, I came across this passage:Perieles, by his rank, ability, and known integrity, was able to exercise an independent control over the masses—to lead them instead of being led by them. …When he saw them unseasonably and insolently elated, he would with a word reduce them to alarm; on the other hand, if they fell victims to a panic, he could at once restore their confidence.962 There is a strange parallel in this, as in war oratory in general, between the two statesmen of such different dates.
In all great conflicts there are two factors, the military and the political. They are different but intertwined. A war may be lost by either, but it can only be won by a combination of both. We have before us to-day many matters military and political. The campaigns proceed slowly, except on the Eastern Front, but satisfactorily, and Britain seems likely to continue her tradition, which has been almost invariable in her history, of proceeding through a succession of defeats to victory, while Germany in these two wars is establishing a new principle of proceeding through victories to defeat. It is to the political side only that I would address myself, and on that side I would ask your Lordships' attention simply to one point. The essence of the whole situation is the fact that this war is being waged by an alliance—an alliance established between three great Powers. Many wars, as all history shows, have been lost through bickerings, misunderstandings, quarrels, sometimes defections, among Allies. The most important of all considerations in this war is surely that our alliance, especially among the three main Powers, should remain solid, cordial, unbreakable.
So far as our alliance with the United States is concerned, no one entertains any doubts, but there has been in some sections of the public some anxiety with regard to our Russian Ally—an anxiety seldom expressed but, as we would probably all in candour admit, existing in some degree and in some sections of society. Happily there is full personal confidence between the leaders of the two nations. Those who have had an opportunity of conversations with Marshal Stalin tell us that he has the highest esteem for our own leader, Mr. Winston Churchill, and full confidence in his intentions. The two Governments also, I am sure, completely understand one another, and that most important of all agreements contracted during the war—the twenty years' Treaty of Alliance between Great Britain and Russia—is a proof of that. Furthermore, the understandings reached at Moscow last October and at Teheran in December are clear evidence of the full and warm understanding between the three Governments on all the main issues. Yet in some sections of opinion, and 963 possibly among individual members of this House, there is a feeling of doubt whether that alliance will remain in its full strength throughout the war and in the years which will follow the war. I venture to offer some arguments why any such feeling is mistaken, and why we can have full confidence in the complete sincerity of our Russian Ally.
Many of us formed our opinions with regard to Russia twenty or twenty-five years ago, at the time of the Revolution or soon after, and such suspicions as may be entertained date largely from that time. I confess that at that time I to a great extent shared those suspicions, but since then, and more speedily in recent years, there has been a great change in Russia itself. The Russians had then just passed through a tremendous Revolution—a Revolution not only political but social, religious, and economic, affecting industry and agriculture. They were passing through a great civil war in which this country and other Western Powers took sides at the outset. There had been, through these disturbances, a terrible dislocation of production, transportation, and supplies, leading to a very terrible famine over a large part of the country, and all the time they were exposed to the danger of war both from Japan in the East and from their neighbours in the West. They had indulged in many acts of extreme violence, and although the ultimate purpose may have been to establish a better state of society, it has been well said that violence does even justice unjustly. All these things gave rise to a considerable feeling of antipathy in this country, leading to a certain degree of political antagonism. Furthermore, as the result of their indignation at the intervention of the White Armies and the assistance the latter had received from this and other countries, the Russians, largely in self-defence, made it their business to stir up revolutionary feelings in other countries, including various parts of the British Empire, through the Comintern.
All that was twenty or twenty-five years ago. Now these difficulties and dangers in Russia are largely overcome. In any case all these problems have been subordinated to one supreme issue—their danger of conquest by Germany and the rending away of a large part of their homeland. This change in the situation in 964 Russia has led to a number of changes in their policy. They are no longer isolationist. At first they withdrew entirely from the community of nations in Europe, except in so far as the Communist movement was international with the cry "Workers of the world, unite." But they formed no part of the League of Nations, and withdrew their contacts of all kinds so far as possible. Later they joined the League of Nations, and Russia was a loyal member of it. At the same time they have surrendered their extreme isolationism and a kind of vague international humanitarism. They have developed the same kind of national patriotism in Russia as other nations have.
You may see from present-day literature or Russian films a number of signs that they are reviving their sense of old Russian patriotism, with their heroes like Alexander Nevsky and Suvorov and others. Another small significant gesture was the adoption of a new national anthem in place of the Internationale. Secondly, with the overthrow of Trotsky, who was an international revolutionary, they have abandoned their policy definitely and formally of intervention in the affairs of other nations in support of Communism. And indeed the dissolution of the Comintern is the overt sign of that. Furthermore, with regard to the attack upon religion, the Anti-God League and other manifestations of that kind, there has been a reversal of policy and something in the nature of a concordat has been reached in Russia. The Church of Russia has definitely been separated from the State and has undertaken not to engage in activities hostile to the State. Younger men have come in to assume leadership of the Church and they conduct its affairs in a different spirit from that which was customary in Tsarist days. Now those who go back to Moscow tell us the churches are crowded with worshippers, who can go there in full freedom, and that the practice of religion is now little restricted.
Within the last few weeks there has been a declaration in Russia of a delegation of much larger powers to the units of the federation. This is not really very new. Russia has always been, since the revolution, a federation and not a unitary State. Russia has been "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics". Indeed, to grant large powers in international affairs 965 to the different Republics is a natural and proper thing to do, seeing the vast extent of territory within which they are comprised and with Russia having as its near neighbours China and Japan at one end and Sweden and Austria on the other. Furthermore, the extension of the powers of the individual States would make their connexion with Russia more acceptable to various political units which are now in the west and north-west being brought closely within the orbit of Russia. It has been suggested this is some ingenious trick to enable them to get a large number of votes at any international conference, but that is an absurd contention if only for the reason that international conferences never reach their decisions according to voting strength, but must always reach them by agreement.
Another great change in Russia, as a consequence of those that have preceded it, is the one that has been mentioned by the noble Lord who has just spoken, the extraordinary increase in the efficiency of the country. Previously a Russian alliance might have been regarded as likely to be a liability rather than an asset, but no one would dream of saying that now. Not only is their success evident as a result of the valour of the Russian soldier, which has always been of high quality, but also by that of which they have been previously lacking, the skill of the tactician, and the efficiency of the transport and supply services.
Still, there are certain features in Russia which are not congenial to the British mind and which seem to resemble those that prevail in Nazi Germany. The country is governed by a single Party; only the members of that Party are able to hold important positions; and the expression of opinion is controlled by the State. But neither of these two features is likely necessarily to be permanent and I think there is a desire and a tendency in the ruling circles in Russia to modify both those factors. And there is this, fundamental difference between the Soviet Republics and Nazi Germany: that at the end, and in regard to ultimate purposes, the Russians do wish well to mankind. All through their literature, not only in Tolstoy but in most of the Russian writers, you find a very strong strain of humanitarian idealism, while with Germany that certainly is not so. There is all the difference between the two that there is between 966 the philosophy of a Karl Marx and the philosophy of a Nietzsche.
Then the question arises in the minds of all of us, will this remain after the war? Will Russia, when the extraordinary strain of war and of this vast struggle in which she is engaged is over, still adopt this attitude of reasonableness and desire to co-operate with the other Western nations? There is, of course, the possibility of some change. No one can be sure that any policy in any country is necessarily permanent. After the great Revolution in France there was a reaction in the interests of stability and security. It was followed by a Napoleonic militarism, and that process has proceeded elsewhere. It might have happened in Turkey but for the wisdom of Ataturk, who, unlike Napoleon, knew when and where to stop and thereby conduced to the happiness of his people in a way that Napoleon never did for France. It is possible that when the war is over a strong and united Russia might become militarist under the chieftainship of some great General and engage upon wars of conquest in Europe. It is possible; but surely it is in the highest degree improbable, considering the underlying ideas of the people and also the immediate interests of the population.
Secondly, it is also possible that the spirit of the Comintern might be revived, and that Communist Parties in this country, or in other countries, not making a great success of their own strength, might appeal to Russia for moral support, perhaps even financial support, and that the Comintern might be revived. Certainly that is a possibility, and if it did occur it would no doubt give rise here and elsewhere to resentment and antagonism. But is there any probability of it? Is there such a probability of it that we must now adopt a policy which otherwise would be wrong, for fear of a danger such as that? For my own part I feel quite convinced that, if such a contingency should arise, the people of this country would be well able to deal with it by their own political methods, without being in the smallest degree embarrassed. Meanwhile, we can rely upon the provisions in the twenty-year Treaty, which was signed two years ago, in which both nations declare that they will act in accordance with the principles of not seeking territorial 967 aggrandizement for themselves and of noninterference in the internal affairs of other States. Similarly there was an agreement at Moscow that after the termination of hostilities they will not employ their military forces within the territories of other States, except for the purpose envisaged in this declaration and after joint consultation.
There is on this question of Russia a marked difference in the trend of opinion between the older generation in this country and the younger generation. Such differences exist in all countries and at all times. The younger generation is often wrong because it refuses to learn from any experience but its own, and that is necessarily limited; the older generation is often wrong because it refuses to adapt its opinions when conditions have changed. That seems to me to be the case to a great extent in this country, and possibly even among certain members of your Lordships' House. The conclusion to which I would ask your Lordships to agree is that all of us, young or old, should recognize that close and cordial relations between this country and Russia are not only an absolute requirement for success in the war but are also justified on the merits of the case.
Finally, I would like to refer to one important incident which has arisen since our last debate on these subjects—namely, our relationship with Poland. The situation in Poland is of course one of great difficulty on account of her geographical position and there has been historic antagonism between Poland on the one hand and both Russia and Germany on the other, which came to a head when these two combined against her and Poland was divided. There followed a long period—many generations—of constant rebellions of the Poles against Tsarist Russia and the repression of those rebellions, but in more recent times the leading and wisest Poles have realized that they must make friends either with the one neighbour or with the other. Certainly General Sikorski recognized that. The present Polish Government here in exile is regarded by the Russians as being on the whole anti-Soviet; and Russia was gravely offended when that Government lent credence to the accusation against the Soviet of having murdered many thousands of Polish officers and publicly demanded the intervention of the Inter 968 national Red Cross to hold an inquiry. That, as I say, caused great offence and ruptured diplomatic relations between the two countries.
As the Russian Armies advanced and were about to cross—they have already crossed—the frontier between their State and Poland as it was in 1938, it became urgent to reach some accommodation. The British and United States Government laboured to achieve that, they being allied to both parties. All agree that a strong and independent Poland is essential in the post-war world. The Prime Minister, in his speech two days ago, said, as your Lordships may remember but perhaps will allow me to recall to your memory:It was with great pleasure that I heard from Marshal Stalin that he too was resolved upon the creation and maintenance of a strong, integral, independent Poland as one of the leading Powers in Europe. He has several times repeated his declarations in public, and I am convinced that they represent the settled policy of the Soviet Union.So there is general agreement on that fundamental matter of principle.
The British Government induced the Polish Government to make a statement in conciliatory terms, and they were so pleased with it that the Foreign Office made what appears to me to have been a grave diplomatic blunder. When I read that the British and American Governments had offered their mediation to reconcile Poland and Russia, I thought that was a splendid statement and eminently satisfactory, because, as I thought, and indeed said to others, the Government would never have dreamt of making that statement publicly unless they had ascertained beforehand privately from Moscow that such mediation would be welcome. It appeared that they had not done so, but thought it enough to inform the Soviet Government of the offer which was about to be made in public. However, it proved that an assurance had not been received from Russia that such intervention would be in fact welcomed—if I am wrong perhaps the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will deal with it later—because Russia made no response to that offer of mediation.
On the other hand, there was a very unpleasant paragraph in Pravda, which was generally taken to be a hint of dissatisfaction, repeating a rumour that had emanated I think in Cairo or Spain, 969 that some private negotiations were proceeding between the Germans and the British Foreign Office in preparation for a separate peace. The fact that that rumour, which was obviously inspired by the Nazis, should be published in a Russian paper which can only publish what has been passed by the censor was regarded as a hint of dissatisfaction from Russia, and there was a very considerable and unpleasant smell of fat in the fire all over Europe. The Russians are very suspicious; they always have been, and they are to-day. We regard our British Foreign Office as usually rather naive and we are very glad if in the end we manage to muddle through somehow; but over Europe, and also in Russia, the British Foreign Office is regarded as being extraordinarily subtle and cunning and indeed incredibly clever. This public announcement that we had offered mediation must have been regarded in Moscow as a sign that they would be faced by a new diplomatic front, the alignment of Britain and the United States and what they regarded as an anti-Soviet Polish Government. Hence the paragraph in Pravda. If these assumptions on my part, for they are nothing more than assumptions, are incorrect, I sincerely hope the noble Viscount will put the matter right, because I am sure the view is widely held. In any case the matter is being put right in the wider diplomatic sphere, and we know that negotiations are going on with regard to the establishment of a really just line between a powerful Poland and the Russian Soviet State.
It must not be forgotten that East of the Curzon Line there are several million white Russians and Ukrainians, not Poles at all, and it is not by any means a foregone conclusion that the Polish Government have any rightful claim to the 1938 frontiers on geographical grounds. Surely the Russians have the right to feel deeply concerned about the fate and the status of their immediate neighbours. We ourselves for centuries were greatly concerned about the Low Countries—Holland and Belgium—and were continually intervening in the politics of Europe in order to safeguard our own position and to prevent our having hostile neighbours in those territories. Equally, Russia has the right to consider her own interests in relation to her immediate neighbours. That was fully recognized by the Prime Minister in his speech two days ago, from 970 which I should like to make this last quotation:Many millions of Russians have been slain and vast tracts of Russian soil devastated as a result of repeated German aggression. Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West, and we arc going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations.If I had to choose the most important sentences in the whole of the Prime Minister's speech, it appears to me that those are the sentences which should be chosen. I have drawn special attention to these matters, and I trust that the conclusions to which they lead will commend themselves to your Lordships, for they are designed to help to consolidate that system of alliances on which successful war and a stable peace must primarily depend.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long. The noble Viscount who has just spoken has dealt with the political side of this matter, but your Lordships would not expect me to do so; I am more qualified, if I am qualified at all, to speak on the military side. I am not going to take any critical view of the Government's actions, but there is one assurance which I should like to ask the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, to give us in his reply. I welcome the fact that he is to speak last. I am more interested, as I said, in the military side, and in particular in those two parts of it in which I spent most of my life, the Army and the Air Force. If I may speak about the past for a few moments, I sometimes feel that what the Army has done and is now doing has not been sufficiently recognized. I was very glad that the Prime Minister, in his recent speech in another place, referred to the Army as it used to be. He said that it had been little more than a police force. I would say that it was even less than a police force, because it was unequipped; yet it had to hold on and fight all over the world—in Somaliland, Aden, Egypt and many other places. I well remember going to France in the early days of this war and seeing my own regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, making advanced lines on the Belgian border and making gun-sites for machine-guns which did not exist; they were not there. I saw another battalion of my regiment, which went out as a Pioneer battalion and within a week was told to become an ordinary fighting battalion. Its organization had 971 to be completely different, and it was unequipped for it. There must have been many other cases of the kind at that date.
I do not want to talk too much, however, of the past. The tide has turned. At that time we stood alone, and it was largely owing to the efforts of the Army, under General Alexander and General Montgomery, with a great deal of help from the Air Force, under Sir Arthur Tedder and Sir Arthur Coningham, that we were able to do what we did. It was the Army and the Air which saved Egypt, then turned the tables on the enemy, and drove them right across Africa and finally out of Africa altogether. But that is all past history. What are they doing at present all over the world? Look at what the Air has done with regard to the submarine menace in the Atlantic. The Prime Minister said the other day that the ships of the Royal Navy and the aircraft of the Royal Air Force of the Mother Country alone had since January of this year sunk more than half the German U-boats sunk since that date, and destroyed 40 per cent. of the other U-boats of whose destruction we had definite evidence. The Prime Minister also said that at one time he put the U-boat menace in the forefront of the war, but that now he gave primacy to the developments of air power which had been achieved and which are to be expected.
What can be expected? The sustained attacks on the stronghold of Germany show the spirit and the determination of the air crews of the United States Army Air Force and of our own Air Force, which are magnificent. There is bound to be a loss of life—I say of life, because that is more important than machines, although the machines are important. The casualties which the Air Force has suffered have been stated by the Prime Minister, but I think that they bear repeating. The British Isles alone have lost 38,000 pilots and air crews, with over 10,000 missing. Think of what that means. It is a heavy price, but it shows that they are prepared to pay it. Look at their efforts in Italy. If they maintain the battles based on this country and based on Italy, as they will; if they maintain the spirit, as they will; and if they maintain the determination to destroy the power of Germany, as they will, then the work of our Army will inevitably be made 972 easier, and, what is more important, the losses which our Armies will have to sustain will be lessened. Although the task of our Army under General Montgomery, in conjunction with the American Armies (the whole of them under the supreme command of General Eisenhower), will be arduous, I hope that the bombing of Germany both from England and from Italy will render it less arduous and less costly than is generally assumed. I believe that it will do so, provided—and here I ask for the attention of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House—that nothing is allowed to influence the timing of the operations in the future, neither political considerations nor anything else except one military consideration, the choosing of the right moment. When that moment arrives, they must strike—as they will—with all the vigour they possess.
I have recently returned from a short visit to America, a visit which I was invited to pay by the American Army Air Force. I saw the standard of their training, and I know the standard of our own. The standard of training of their pilots and of ours is higher now than it was at the beginning of the war. That is very different from the last war. It is wonderful to see how the standard of training has been kept up in America and over here. I saw many of the boys who had been flying in the Pacific, and also over Germany from this country, from Italy and from North Africa, and who had returned for a well-earned rest. Their spirit was magnificent. I talked to many who had been in the Pacific area and who described the war there. It is a very different war from fighting the Germans, but it is one which requires the greatest determination, particularly in view of the long distances involved. I saw there one of the greatest airman I have ever met, whom I knew in the last war, and I heard his description of what the pilots and air crews of the Pacific Air Forces were doing. It is magnificent. The pilots and air crews realize to the full that the German foe is stubborn, and still has not been beaten. He still has a lot of fight in him. But the pilots and air crews of our Forces and of the American Air Forces are certain that they will be the spearhead and the support of the army of invasion, and that they will share in the honour and glory of wielding the decisive weapon of victory in this war.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down is, I think, fortunate among mankind. He has lived to see his prophecies in course of fulfilment, his dreams coming true, his ideas tried out on a maximum scale and with tremendous effect—and much more to come. To the solid foundations that he laid and to his missionary zeal in the early days—Athanasius contra mundum—the Air Force owes much of its great efficiency. In spite of the tremendous effect of Air Forces—which I should be the last to underrate—and their future potential effect in this war, the victory will be won sooner or later by the successful combination of the three Services, the Navies, Armies and Air Forces of the United Kingdom, with the Dominions, India and the Colonies, the United States of America and Russia. To the Armies will fall the task of gathering the fruits of victory, and among them the first place at the present time must unquestionably be assigned to the Russian Army, which celebrated its twenty-sixth birthday yesterday.
I share in everything that my noble friends Lord Addison and Lord Samuel have said as to the vital importance of our continuing to work very closely with Russia. But in saying that, the first attempt of the Western nations on the continent of Europe must not be underrated. This invasion of Italy has achieved the main results that it set out to win. First, the Mediterranean has been made safe for our shipping, and the long voyage round the Cape is no longer necessary. Secondly, a great deal of weight has in fact been taken off Russia in three different ways: first, by drawing directly to Italy some twenty-five German divisions; secondly, by bringing about the withdrawal from the Eastern Front of the Italian forces and considerable forces from Hungary and Rumania; and thirdly, by the stimulus that the expedition has given to the underground war in Yugoslavia and the Balkans, which has compelled the Germans to keep no fewer than twenty divisions there. If all that is added together, and if it is borne in mind that a great number of German divisions are contained, waiting in anxious expectancy for the attack from the West, there must be about one hundred divisions kept away from the Russian Front. The third object of the expedition was the elimination of Italy from the war, and that also has hap- 974 pened. The Italian Navy is now co-operating efficiently with our own, and we have obtained invaluable bases in South Italy for our Air Forces.
I submit that there is no other theatre in which a force of the size that was available after the North African operations came to an end in the Mediterranean could have been used with anything like the same effect, or could have produced anything like the same result as was possible in Italy. I do not want to look a gift horse in the mouth when there has been so great an achievement, but it does seem possible that even more might have been gained with better luck, and possibly with better management. As to luck, we have had the worst of the weather, but I think rather too much is being made of that. The real bad luck was the break in the weather in October. All the guide books tell you that fine weather may be expected in October, but beyond that fine weather is certainly not to be expected. I consulted some Italian meteorological statistics, and it is clear that the rainfall between Rome and Naples is much greater in autumn than it is even in winter, and it is pretty high in winter, and there are warnings against the rigours of the Abruzzi Mountains. So we could not expect good weather, except perhaps in October.
I should not dream, of course, of criticizing the men on the spot and their conduct of these operations, even if I had the knowledge. But I do not find myself in agreement with those critics who suggest that after the landing our troops ought to have dashed in and tried to cut the communications of the enemy, and mess things up generally. It is not a very good country for that sort of thing. We read that even on the flats of the Anzio bridgehead the tanks can only work on the roads, and behind the bridgehead there is a mountainous country—mountains and valleys—without very much room for tanks to use their mobility. Of course, a dash might have been made for Rome, but I have never been able to discover what our Forces would have done when they got to Rome. Hannibal tried that plan. When he could not relieve Capua, which was being besieged, he made a dash for Rome, and Rome closed its gates. He could not stay there, he had not any siege train, and he had to go back. He had hoped to relieve the siege, 975 but when he came back he found Capua still under siege. I am sure our Forces would have fallen into misfortune if they had tried that plan.
Coming to the higher management, I know that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, does not agree with me here. My own belief is that we could have obtained a much more whole-hearted cooperation from the Italian people and Army both in Italy and in the Ægean, in the Dodecanese, if we had adopted the formulœ used at one time, "Honourable capitulation" and "We are coming as liberators" instead of the ignominious "Unconditional surrender." But I am not going to pursue that theme to-day. Another point is the amphibious warfare. As the Prime Minister told us on Tuesday, the need for this was recognized by all the Commanders, British and American. If that is the case it does seem rather strange that as part of the original plan the necessary provision was not made. A A hold-up either on the Volturno or in the Mignano Gap or at Cassino was to be expected because that has happened before historically in the past.
I have already mentioned the case of Hannibal. Belisarius got through without opposition the first time, but the second time he attacked Rome he was careful to go by sea. Garibaldi never got beyond the Volturno. It seems rather strange that the Germans were given time to convert the Mignano Gap and the Cassino position into an almost impregnable fortress before a turning movement was made from the sea. We were told on Tuesday that the practicability of carrying it into effect depended on the effort being fitted in with the general Allied programme for the year. That is very understandable when one remembers the importance of the coming attack in the West and the campaign in the Pacific; but still one would have thought there would have been means to adjust the programme either at Quebec or at one of the Cairo Conferences or at Teheran. Still, I know these things are very difficult and I shall not pursue that point.
It is quite clear, however—there is plenty of evidence on that—that the obstacle that had to be overcome was shipping and perhaps landing craft, and that is the point I wish to make this afternoon. The men, the guns, the tanks, the 976 Air Forces were all there and yet, after four and a half years of war, the two greatest maritime Powers in the world were unable to muster in time at the decisive point enough ships or enough landing craft for a decisive operation. After all our debates and prayers and warnings of two years ago, that measures should be taken to stop the tragic losses of 1942, we were caught, in 1944, without enough shipping—enough elasticity in shipping—for all Fronts. As always in this war our troubles come back to shipping and its protection, which must always remain in the first order of priority because it is the foundation of our strategy, the foundation of those Forces which have the striking power. I believe that that is the lesson to be drawn from this episode. I trust that the fact which the noble Viscount mentioned just now, that the Prime Minister gave first place in his speech to the vitally important air operations, does not mean that shipping and its protection is liable to fall into second place. What does arouse just a little misgiving in my mind is that, according to some information published early in February in the newspapers, the ship deliveries in the United States fell to 124 compared with 208 in December. It was also stated that Admiral Land, Chairman of the Maritime Commission, told the Senate Military Forces Commission that the 1944 production goals were threatened unless appropriate steps were taken.
To conclude, therefore, while fully recognizing the great results of the invasion of Italy and the very favourable position in which we stand, viewing the war as a whole, I do want to urge the supreme importance of maintaining the proper balance in the disposition of our resources between the three Fighting Services. I appeal to my noble friend the Leader of the House to give your Lordships an assurance that the high priority given with such excellent results during the last year to shipping and its protection will be maintained.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, having listened to the Prime Minister's speech and having read it since, I feel that the main thing for which we have cause to be grateful in that speech is the stark realism of it. The Prime Minister certainly does keep our noses to the grindstone of war and that is a good thing when probably the severest part of the 977 war still lies ahead. I confess that as I listened to the speech I thought of Dr. Johnson, who once invited his readers to survey mankind from China to Peru. We have made great strides in knowledge, science and civilization since those days. We can now invite mankind to survey a war that extends not merely from China to Peru but right round the world—a very striking testimony to how human wisdom continues to progress and advance. I recognize that the speech must have been prepared long in advance and that events must inevitably overtake a speech of such a nature. I should, however, have welcomed more references to the campaign that is being carried on in the Pacific. I feel that to be a most remarkable campaign and most striking successes are being won there. Russia has accustomed us to news of victories but this news of great successes in the Pacific is particularly welcome. If we pay tribute to our American Allies for what is being achieved there, we nevertheless remember that Dominion troops are also engaged in that great campaign.
As regards what was said about our own share in the war, nobody would complain of pride of place being given in this instance to the Royal Air Force, which certainly has earned its place to be right of the line in such a speech. But the Navy also has a very tine story to tell. If I recall the two actions against the "Scharnhorst" and in the Bay of Biscay, it is only to point to the lesson underlying the actions. In the case of the "Scharnhorst" there was demonstrated our strategical ability to bring overwhelming force to bear at the appointed spot at the appointed time, and in the Bay of Biscay was demonstrated our own willingness to fight and a certain reluctance to fight on the part of the Germans. Had the positions been reversed in the Bay of Biscay, and had it been II British destroyers which encountered 2 German cruisers, I think there is very little doubt that the destroyers would have seen the cruisers off. As I am mentioning something of the work of the Navy during the period under review, I think we all must have read with great pleasure and with great pride the announcement of the awards of the Victoria Cross to those two officers who carried out the submarine attack upon the "Tirpitz."
I would like if I might in a sentence to reinforce what my noble friend Lord 978 Hankey said upon the subject of shipping, and if I may I. will read to your Lordships a very short extract which came to my notice yesterday from the Journal of Commerce in New York, which said that theexpected demands of the Armed Forces for additional auxiliary craft, with new plans calling for the construction of special-type combat ships, indicate a continuity and possibly a more intensified shortage of shipping space, as the Allied war machine presses forward in Europe and the Pacific in 1944.I think that is a quite effective confirmation of what Lord Hankey said. I trust his plea will be listened to and that no change in the priorities which have been accorded to shipbuilding will be countenanced for a moment. Shipping must surely continue to be the crux of the matter as these campaigns develop. It has been most satisfactory to see that the losses in convoy in recent months have been reduced almost to a nil figure. I hope the same can be said of the losses of our ships sailing unescorted. At one time very severe losses were being suffered by ships sailing unescorted while the losses among escorted ships were low. I trust the losses among unescorted ships are now also at a low figure.
As I see the noble Lord, Lord Bruntis-field, here, perhaps I might mention two points in regard to this question of shipping losses. I think it would be a great advantage if the statements of shipping losses gave the losses quite clearly in gross tonnage or dead weight tons. They are merely announced as so many tons, and that may lead to confusion as we are concerned with our American Ally in this matter. I also think it is most necessary that in giving accounts of the losses of enemy merchant ships that that very misleading category of "damaged" should be omitted from the gross total. At the present moment that total includes sunk, captured and damaged. Damage may be anything from very trifling to very serious damage, and I do not think we can get a true picture of the enemy's merchant shipping losses unless the category of "damaged" is separated from the gross total. I feel that the U-boats are bound to make a fresh effort. After all, they cannot allow our invasion to proceed without doing so, and when invasion comes they will be presented with immense targets. I believe there is not the least reason to think that 979 we cannot maintain the mastery that we have already attained over the U-boats.
As regards events in Italy, especially with regard to the Italian beachhead, I think opinion about that has been much too jumpy. Some of the speeches have been most unfortunate, especially the one in which a leading statesman said we were witnessing the possibility of terrible reverses in Italy that might prolong the war, not for days or months, but for years. If speeches of that description are made by very responsible statesmen it is not really to be wondered at that opinion in this country gets a little bit jumpy. But, if the critics have been too critical, some of the excuses which have been made for what has gone wrong have been very amusing. We have heard something about it to-day—the mountains and the weather and the state of the roads. But the mountains have been there for a very long time indeed. I believe in fact their positions and their heights have been most accurately fixed and Pliny the Elder left some observations about the weather in the Alban Hills. Anybody who has motored in Italy has no illusion as to the condition of Italian roads in mountainous regions. Really these things should not be advanced as excuses, for they must all have been very well known.
I find the part of the Prime Minister's speech about the Italian campaign difficult to follow owing to obscure chronology. There have certainly been great disappointments. People were dancing in September in Piccadilly when Italy surrendered, but things have gone slowly since. The Prime Minister's own words that "subsequent events did not take the course which had been hoped or planned" were certainly a masterpiece of understatement. It was disconcerting for the Prime Minister to say that "difficulties which had hitherto obstructed action were not surmounted until last January." Nevertheless, in the upshot Germany has been involved in a vast new effort. It is evidently part of her grand strategy to put up a great resistance south of Rome, and as the Prime Minister has confidence that we shall hold on we evidently have the opportunity of causing great damage to the German plans. The Prime Minister stated that he had great confidence. I am sure we all have. I remember, after the defeats our Armies had sustained in North Africa, 980 there was a debate in this House and at that time there was a good deal of criticism of the Army. A speaker in the debate in this House said that what we wanted to do was to send out, not words of criticism of our Army, but of sympathy with them in their reverses, and of our confidence that they would restore the balance and achieve victory. That was fully justified, and I am certain our confidence on this occasion will be equally fully justified.
If I had any criticism to make about the Italian campaign it would be far more in regard to the Dodecanese operations than in regard to the fighting on Monte Cassino and in the bridgehead. Operations were designed against Cos, Leros and Rhodes, but one would have thought that Crete should have been our first objective. Crete, after all, has probably not more than 20,000 German troops in it and is only about 200 miles from our North African airfields. I should have thought that Crete would have been the first stage in any plan contemplated against the Dodecanese. As it was, those operations were doomed to failure because when they were undertaken the Germans had complete air control in the Ægean.
They have had unfortunate political results as well as unfortunate military results. Conversations with Turkey have recently been broken off. The Turks are fully alive to the possibility of future bombings from the Dodecanese and from Lemnos, where the Germans are very firmly installed. Compare these operations against the Dodecanese with the operations being undertaken in the Pacific. We leave Crete unattacked, but in the Pacific the Allied Commanders proceed methodically from New Guinea to New Britain, and" they occupy the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands before final operations are undertaken against the great base of Truk. To imagine we could do anything in the Dodecanese by by-passing Crete was surely great folly.
However, ups and downs are inevitable, and my mind dwells rather upon two things, first of all the admirable co-operation which has been achieved in the Mediterranean between the Allies and between all forces. I had only this week a letter from a very high Allied officer in the Mediterranean who said:There is one bright spot in the set-up here. We have a very keen, energetic and able group of R.A.F. officers in the organiza- 981 tion who arc most experienced in this theatre. This augurs well for continued success in the operations here.The second thing upon which my mind dwells is that the men of our Navy, our Army and our Air Force have demonstrated not only that their technical ability but also that their fighting qualities are superior to those of the Germans. That being so, I feel that we can have great and full confidence in the ultimate result.
But what is our duty to these incomparable fighting men? Surely one of the chief duties of Parliament is to see that they have the equipment in the quantity and the quality which they need. I hope that they are getting all that in every direction. In the case of the Navy I hope the Fleet Air Arm is getting the aircraft that it needs. So far as I know, during the whole of this war the British aircraft industry has only produced one new machine, the Barracuda. I will not go into contentious points about that, but looking ahead to the operations which are bound to take place in the Pacific, where the Fleet Air Arm will be working alongside the Americans, I hope they will have the proper machines. Dive-bombers are very important indeed in these Pacific operations. I cannot help feeling there is a great deal to be said for standardizing the machines of our Fleet Air Arm and those of our American Allies. Let aircraft carriers of the two countries carry exactly the same types of machine. I believe that might be of very great value to future British operations.
In regard to the Army, some of the officers who have come back from the fighting stall do not seem very happy about tanks. I will not go at great length or at great detail into the question of tanks, of which I have made an exhaustive study. This is not the occasion for that, but I think that if all the facts were debated your Lordships would recognize that the story of the tank in this war and of cur failure to produce what is wanted is a scandal almost approaching the scandal of the shells in the last war, only on this occasion we have no Northcliffe to blow the thing open. Then there is the question of air-borne troops who were employed on a large scale I believe in Sicily with not very satisfactory results. Is it the case that air-borne troops are now fighting as infantry because trans- 982 port for carrying them as air-borne troops does not exist?
As to the Air Force, it is very difficult to discuss questions of aircraft production. Such discussion would probably have to take place in secret. I should feel it inadvisable to mention certain things, but they are disquieting. I do not like output figures being quoted in terms of weight. What matters is the number of aircraft which are delivered to the Service as compared with the programme. I understand that what was called a realistic programme was drawn up at the end of 1942, which allowed for all holidays and all contingencies, and I understand also that the raw material situation has been completely equal to that so-called realistic programme. I wonder how far that programme has been met. No programme can be met one hundred per cent., but I hope very much that things are better than I have heard, that we have been nearer completing that realistic programme than I am told has been the case. As I say, possibly these are matters which it is inadvisable to discuss except in secret debate, for which I think there might be some reason.
Turning from the military side, I think the political side of the speech was rather more disappointing. The Prime Minister said, "This is not a time for ideological preferences." I fully appreciate the Prime Minister's single-minded concentration upon the defeat of Germany, but I believe that many military difficulties spring from our political failures. The political results that we want and the setting up of this international organization to which the Allies agreed at Teheran are, I believe, far more likely to be attained during the war than after the war. I cannot subscribe to the idea that during this war what are called ideological preferences or political questions are not of importance and ought to be put on one side. Certain things did emerge from the speech on the political side, certain things in regard to Poland. I will not deal with that subject for two reasons: firstly, because the Prime Minister asked us not to press the matter; and secondly, because it has been already fully dealt with by a previous speaker in this debate. I notice that on the question of Italy the Prime Minister said, "The sole constitutional authority in Italy is the King." The King, to the best of my knowledge, 983 betrayed his constitutional oath by allowing Mussolini to come into power and by his action produced much of the trouble with which we have to deal at the present moment. It does indeed seem a remarkable state of affairs when we have to recognize the man who produced the trouble toy betraying his constitutional oath as the sole constitutional authority in Italy.
I hope we may find—I am not sure that we can in the Prime Minister's speech, but perhaps we may in the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday—an intention to take a rather firmer tone with neutrals. I do not mean aping Hitler or anything like that, but we are in a position now to speak in rather firmer tones to the neutrals, and in the interests of our own fighting men we really on occasion should do so. I am constantly reading that Portugal is our oldest ally, but I also read that very important supplies of war material are passing from Portugal through Spain to the enemy. This is not merely a matter of diplomacy or Foreign Office negotiations. The passage of this raw material means that the war is prolonged and more of our men lose their lives. Surely with the war in its present situation we are entitled—more than that, it is our duty—to take a rather firmer tone in these matters than we have taken hitherto.
Take the case of Spain. Before Italy came out of the war last September, very strange things were happening at Gibraltar. A great deal of damage was done to merchant shipping in Gibraltar during a certain period. That is known; I do not know whether it has been published or not, but it is a fact. There was an Italian merchant ship anchored off Algeciras. She had Italian naval officers and personnel on board—I do not know whether they were disguised or not—and from that Italian ship torpedoes of some type were used which damaged this merchant shipping in Gibraltar. A very considerable tonnage indeed of merchant shipping was damaged in Gibraltar harbour by torpedoes launched from this Italian merchant ship anchored off Algeciras.
I understand that in Parliament it is not in order, or at any rate not advisable, to make accusations against a foreign Government. I do not wish to do so; I do not wish to insinuate that members of 984 the Spanish Government were aware of what was happening. I do say, however, that it points to very deplorable security methods on the part of the Spanish Government. I think I am right in saying—although here I speak very much subject to correction—that Spain is responsible for the damage done in such circumstances, and I should like to know whether any claim has been, or is being, pressed against the Spanish Government for this damage to our merchant shipping in Gibraltar harbour. What can be the use of treating such a matter as that gently? If the facts are as I have narrated them—and I believe them to be so, in view of the authority from which I had them—surely that is a case where we should proceed robustly with the Spanish Government.
I think that this failure to grasp political nettles abroad is having its repercussions at home. Disquiet is manifesting itself at by-elections, and all the mistakes at these by-elections are not being made on one side alone. My own view, for what it is worth, is that the Coalition has certainly not yet exhausted its value, and the more I think about what may lie ahead of us when invasion comes, the more I am inclined to the view that Coalition Government still has a value for us, and that the political truce should be either formally denounced or kept. There is no doubt whatever, however, about the unpopularity of the Coalition Government at the present moment. I shall not weary your Lordships with quotations, but the Government Press is full of articles emphasizing the unpopularity of the Coalition Government.
If the Coalition still has a value, as I think it has, and if it is to survive, then it seems to me important to try to render it rather more popular than it seems to be at the present moment. I would throw out one suggestion. The Prime Minister referred to the very happy state of affairs in the Allied Staff in the Mediterranean where, he said, the sole qualification for a position on the Staff is to be the best man for the job, and no question of nationality or anything else is allowed to interfere with that simple rule. I think that nothing would do more to restore confidence in the Coalition Government in this country than the adoption of the same principle in regard to that Government. So long as we see appointments made on the score of old personal 985 likes and dislikes, and so long as we see the process continued of some job or reward being found for every Minister who is dropped from the Government, I am certain that the sense of unreality which is manifesting itself at present at these by-elections will continue.
I think that the Prime Minister has no reason to complain about the loyalty, and in fact the devotion, with which he is followed both by the public and in Parliament, but I confess that I did not feel happy about the simile which he used in his speech of the Car of Juggernaut, because, if I remember rightly, the procedure there is that people unthinkingly, in a spirit of blind fanaticism and adulation, throw themselves down and the car rolls over them. That theory of politics will never go down in this country. I have heard of the devotees of some heathen religion who carry little images of their gods in their waistbands, and when things go wrong—if they pray for rain and it does not come, or something like that—they take their gods out and slap them; but they remain their gods. I think that is very like politics in this country. I think that our leaders are well followed, especially in war-time, but an Englishman does like to take out his leader and slap him from time to time. At any rate that is very much more to his mind than this Juggernaut idea of abandoning his own opinions and ideas and lying down and letting some political Juggernaut roll over him.
I am certain that, whether the Coalition is popular or not, under the strains and stresses which invasion will bring, a spirit of complete national unity will assert itself. A general survey of the present war situation gives ground for confidence. If Hitler were to make a general survey of the war situation to-day, I do not think that he would be able to feel that confidence. I noted with great interest that, having got a large body of his Army into a completely impossible situation as a result of his famous intuition, he then sent an order to them to commit suicide. I wonder whether the end of that man may be that he will find himself left alone in a room with a revolver, with a number of hard-faced men outside the door who have told him what he is expected to do with it. If that happens, 986 he may think of these soldiers whom he has ordered to commit suicide.
A general survey, as I say, gives confidence. Nothing is more heartening in these days than to read again the war speeches of William Pitt. I venture to remind your Lordships to-day of something that Pitt said in one of those speeches in 1804:Amid the wreck and misery of nations we have continued superior to all that ambition and despotism could effect, and our still higher exaltation ought to be that we provide not only for our own safety, but hold out a prospect to nations now bending under the iron yoke of tyranny of what the exertions of a free people can effect.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, I propose to detain you for a very few minutes only, but there are just one or two things on which I think perhaps I might make some observations. In the first place your Lordships may say that the Motion has achieved its object; it has in fact drawn the attention of this House and of the Government to the war situation. It is true, I thought, inasmuch as most of your Lordships have referred already to the speech of the Prime Minister last Tuesday, that there was evidence that the Government had at least had their attention drawn to the war situation. Nevertheless, it is just as well that things should be completely clear, and perhaps the Leader of the House will be able to tell us that he for his part is aware that there is a war on.
The speech of the Prime Minister was, in the opinion of everybody who has spoken yet, a most valuable contribution to the views of the country on the subject of the position of the war, and I cannot for myself understand the state of mind of people who think that, because he mentioned some difficulties and dangers and terrible trials that we have before us, the speech was one of a depressing character. There are people who frankly state that they are disgruntled. I think perhaps your Lordships would like to know the derivation of the word "disgruntled" if you have not yet had time to investigate it. "Gruntled" is a very old word. It goes back to Elizabethan times; it is quite a mistake to think that it was recently invented by American speakers. The prefix "dis" in "disgruntled" is an intensive, and "disgruntled" means excessively gruntled. There are a number of examples given in the Oxford Dic- 987 lionary and one seems to be rather apposite. It comes from a novel which I confess I have never read, called Conyers Lea, written by a gentleman named Thornton, and published in 1862. The example given is this:The fair Tabitha retired to her room somewhat disgruntled.I think some of those who are disgruntled by such a speech as that of the Prime Minister on Tuesday last might imitate the example of the fair Tabitha in the year 1862 and retire to their room without any vocal utterances.
The passage in the speech of the Prime Minister, to which, in addition to those already mentioned, I particularly wanted to call attention, because I think it is one of great value, is a passage with regard to the term "Unconditional surrender," which he said did not mean that the German people would be destroyed, but did mean that the Allies would not be bound at the moment of surrender by any pact or obligation. He pointed out that we are bound by our own consciences to civilization and we are not in any way stating that destruction or anything of that sort awaits the Germans at the end of this war. I venture to think, from a long study of German utterances, that it is very largely the fear of what is going to happen to them at the end of the war that keeps the soldiers fighting with determination and obstinacy, and with such spirit as undoubtedly they showed in Stalingrad and elsewhere in Russia, while the Russian forces were gaining victory after victory and destroying them in enormous numbers.
Having regard to the view of all of us as to the certainty of victory—a view which is shared, as he says himself, by the Prime Minister, and which is founded on all sorts of events which have happened both in Russia and elsewhere, and on the enormous preponderance of air power, which is increasing every day—I have formed the opinion that it is very desirable to let the Germans know, and know by deliberate statements from people of great authority in this country, that the longer the Germans go on the worse it is going to be for them. Not because we shall desire to wreak further revenge on them for what they have done and for their barbarity, but 988 from the very nature of the case. A continuance of this war must mean in the case of Germany a continual destruction of cities, of factories, of machinery, of all the things which made Germany great before the war. It will not be in our power or the power of any of the Allies to replace those things after the war and to enable Germany to begin once more as a great manufacturing country. Accordingly I want the Germans to realize the position. I want eminent speakers to say, in order that their views may reach the Germans in due course, "We are convinced, and you in your hearts know, that you cannot win this war. The recapture of the Ukraine alone is sufficient to destroy all your hopes for the future. That, and the blasting to which you are exposed all over Germany, and will be all the more exposed during the rest of this year, must have fatal consequences to your power of resistance. The moral is that, as it is certain that the continuance of the war will not lead to better terms for you, the best thing you can do is to realize that fact and not continue a perfectly hopeless struggle."
There was no reason why any of us should expect the Prime Minister to tell us that we had before us an easy year, or that complete victory awaited us in the course of the year 1944. You cannot expect the Prime Minister to suggest, however remotely, to the people of this country that they should throw their hats into the air, sit back and say "We have won." The Prime Minister could not say so; we have not won yet. There is yet another difficult row to hoe, but I think we may say that at the end of the speech he made it perfectly clear that he had no doubt—as none of us have—as to the result, and, that being so, I see not the smallest occasion for our people to be disheartened.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Winster said when he spoke of the importance of the ideological war, the war of ideas, and the importance of grasping the nettle of foreign politics in Europe. The particular passage that I have in mind was that part of the Prime Minister's speech in which he gave a description of what is going on in Greece to-day. I must confess that that passage distressed me as 989 it seemed to give a very wrong picture of what actually was happening in that most unfortunate country. The picture that was drawn for us was of various guerrilla bands originally fighting against the Germans, but now fighting against each other in complete discord and irresponsibility. I think that is very far from the truth. In fact one might draw a very close parallel between the case of Greece and that of Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia at the start there were some forces under Marshal Mihailovich, which represented, perhaps the old and rather conservative Serbian party. Little by little these forces were outnumbered and outstripped by the growing forces of Marshal Tito, which formed themselves into a great popular liberation movement. For many months we did not recognize this fact, and we went on supporting the Government of King Peter in Cairo and proclaiming Marshal Mihailovich as the great leader of the Anti-Fascist forces. I am glad to see that we have recognized this enormous popular movement in Yugoslavia, this great historic resistance of the guerrillas, and that we are now supporting the partisans in every possible way.
Although almost the equivalent position exists in Greece, we are not supporting to any extent this popular movement. We are, in fact, unfortunately, adding to any discord that may exist. Greece also has developed a popular liberation movement which goes under the initials A.E.M., and they have now an army of partisans under the initials of E.L.A.S., who probably have the support of three-quarters of Greece. They have done heroic work in fighting the Germans in that most difficult of all forms of warfare—guerrilla warfare—where you have to attack enemy lines of communication and disrupt his bases, and then disappear into the mountains and hills again. The Greeks have continued to do this with extremely great success, and I understand that in the month of January these attacks by the Greek forces of liberation, the A.L.E.S., reached a pitch hardly contemplated before. In one engagement, which lasted for three days, over one thousand German dead paid the penalty for their advance against the guerrillas. This movement has got the great support of the Greek population, but as in all countries, we must recognize that there are Quislings who can be bought and can be controlled by the German occupying forces. In Greece the 990 Germans now have enrolled security battalions of Greek soldiers, I am sorry to say, who are supporting the occupying authorities.
It is against these security battalions that the army of liberation is fighting, and in this sense one must admit that Greek is fighting Greek; but it is the Quislings who are being fought by the army of liberation. The man to whom apparently Cairo gives its support is Colonel Zervas, who has a small band in the north-west territory of Greece, and it was in a clash between these men and the general forces of liberation that a British officer was killed. That is a most regrettable event, but I suggest it is a very strong term to accuse an army of liberation of murdering a British officer when this officer was killed in error in an engagement. Such a thing cannot be described as murder, however unfortunate it may be.
To draw the parallel a little further, I am reliably informed that General Sarafis, who is one of the great commanders of the Greek army of liberation, has actually exchanged a sort of military mission with Marshal Tito. Curiously enough, there is supposed to be a kind of exchange of information between Zervas and Mihailovich. I think you will find in this case that the sentiments of the Greeks are very ably expressed, that the popular movement is not only a movement of the Left or Socialist Party, but is a movement of all the Greek Parties who are determined to resist German aggression and the German invader. For months they have undertaken this colossal struggle, and it must be with absolute despair that they find their mild request for some representation in the Greek Government, or that they should be recognized and supported in some way, brutally and drastically refused.
It seems in a way, watching this struggle, that we have made the same mistake consecutively with different nationalities. We began with the French, for reasons of military expediency, by asking Darlan to take over; and little by little we came to realize that our real friends in France are again the popular movement fighting against the enemy. From Darlan we proceeded eventually to a combination of Generals de Gaulle and Giraud. We have proceeded to a Committee, and further we have at last accepted a Consultative Assembly, which 991 is the nearest thing to popular representation that this war will allow. The same course of action has happened in Yugoslavia, where we began by recognizing the Government of King Peter and his Ministers, and we are at last forced to find our real friends, who are the popular movement of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes fighting against the common enemy. I suggest that we have a similar case in Greece. Can we not try to take a step forward and not wait until we are forced to accept this popular movement, hold out a helping hand towards them, and give them all the encouragement we can? It is a bitter irony that England, which has always, historically, stood as the great traditional defender of Greek liberty, should now be refusing help, assistance, and encouragement to the great popular movement in Greece to-day.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
My Lords, it has been the custom in this war, as I believe in the last, for the spokesmen of His Majesty's Government in both Houses of Parliament to give at appropriate intervals as graphic and complete an account as they can,, and as security considerations will allow, of the progress of operations and other political developments in the international sphere. It will be universally agreed that that is an admirable practice. It is the essence of the political system which we have built up over a great many centuries that the British people are not governed—they govern themselves. How can they do this unless they are put in full possession of the facts and allowed to form their own conclusions? It is, I suggest, above all in the interests of the Government that as full an account as possible should be given of events both to Parliament and to the people generally. One of the main difficulties which Ministers have in times like these, as I expect many of your Lordships realize, is not that they have to divulge so much, but that they cannot divulge more, that they cannot expose all those considerations which have led them to their conclusions. The more Ministers can tell, the more likely they are to be able to justify their actions to the electorate. In the nature of things, there is only one member of the Government who is in a full position to decide exactly how much of the story 992 can be told, and that of course is the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. He carries the ultimate responsibility both for the conduct of military operations and our relations with foreign Powers. Those others of us who have the honour of serving His Majesty merely do so as deputies and that is the reason why I think those notable speeches to which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred this afternoon, have always been awaited both in Parliament and throughout the country with such eager expectancy.
In the past, as your Lordships know, we have always tried to arrange simultaneous debates in the two Houses, in your Lordships' House and in another place, but it never was a very satisfactory procedure. Your Lordships, I know, were yourselves anxious to hear the Prime Minister's statement and to give it the full consideration it deserved before expressing views. That is the reason why, as Lord Addison said, after consultation with the leaders of the various Parties, I adopted a new procedure and arranged for a debate in your Lordships' House two days after the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons. I knew your Lordships would want to consider that speech before you spoke, and I am very glad therefore that it has been generally agreed this afternoon that in the present abnormal circumstances—because one does not want to make a permanent practice of it—this alteration or modification of our traditional procedure has led to a more informed and more valuable discussion.
I certainly think it has been an extremely effective debate. It has covered nearly all aspects of the international situation of the war, and it has led to notable tributes to the Armed Forces of the Crown, to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, from, such experts as Lord Trenchard, Lord Hankey and Lord Winster. It follows from what I have said that I shall not attempt to reiterate at length all that has been said in far more authoritative and picturesque language by the Prime Minister two days ago. I propose to confine myself, if the House will allow me, merely to answering specific points raised in this debate. As one would have expected after so comprehensive a review as my right honourable friend gave, these are really not very many. General satisfaction I think has been expressed—certainly was expressed 993 by the leaders of both the Labour Party and the Liberal Party—with the progress of events as exposed by the Prime Minister. I think these events are steadily and inexorably moving in the right direction. With the full development of the might of the Allies, ever heavier blows are being struck, month by month, almost day by day, at our enemies. There arc, however, certain aspects which have been the subject of special comment, and from some quarters to an amount of modified criticism, and perhaps I might deal with those.
First, there is the situation in Italy, regarding which there was clearly some disappointment—if very moderately expressed—that the operation had not met with more immediate success. In order to get a true assessment of the present position in Italy it is necessary to remind the House very briefly once more of the events that led up to it. When I last spoke to your Lordships—I forget how long ago, but about two months ago I think it was—it was still doubtful whether the Germans would stand in front of Rome or whether they would retire to some other line, either north of the city or right back in the plains of Lombardy. It is possible that at that time the Germans themselves were in doubt. It is quite clear now that Hitler has made up his mind and given orders to hold the present line with all the resolution in the power of his Armies. He has taken his decision and, as your Lordships know, a bitter and bloody battle has developed at the approaches to the city. At first the main fighting took place on what was known as the Gustav Line, which hinged on Cassino. Here it was that the British, American and French Forces—and I will pay an especial tribute to the French Forces who have fought with extraordinary courage and resolution—were for some time conducting a frontal attack upon the enemy positions. It is, as I think Lord Hankey said, a very powerful line. It is a line in a mountainous country, where it is very easy to blast out defensive positions from the living rock, and normal difficulties of communications have been very considerably intensified by the bitter wintry weather. Though the Allies have succeeded in making certain advances there, it is evident to us all that the battle has swayed to and fro without any 994 decisive advantage to either side. It was for that reason that the bold step was taken by the Allied Commanders of landing considerable forces by sea further north in the neighbourhood of Rome, in the hope of turning the enemy line.
I do not think anyone would question the wisdom of that step. Certainly, it has been approved from all quarters this afternoon. It was clearly right to do this, if the deadlock on the main line was to be broken. The operation was launched on January 22, and in the initial stages, as everyone knows, it met with a success beyond all expectations. It appears to have come as a complete surprise to the Germans. The first wave of troops and stores succeeded in landing, with little or no opposition from the enemy. Since then, the German commanders have succeeded in regrouping their forces and have held our further advance, though they have been unable, in spite of tremendous losses, to drive the Allied Armies back to the sea. It is idle to pretend that this failure of the beachhead landing to achieve the immediate destruction of the main German Armies in Italy has not led to serious disappointment among large sections of the general public in this country. No doubt, very high and indeed unjustifiable hopes were raised, partly by articles in the Press, and partly from the original lack of enemy opposition; and speculation was rife as to the possibility of cutting the main enemy lines of communication, of occupying the Alban Hills, and even sweeping straight through to Rome. At the same time—and I think it is fair to say this—those in command on the spot never took so light-hearted a view of the prospects ahead. They were clearly satisfied—and I think they have had the support of Lord Hankey this afternoon—that a reckless rush forward before the main defences of the bridgehead had been secured might have obtained initial successes but would have courted later disasters possibly of a most serious kind. I do not think we have any of us any reason to quarrel with that view. General Alexander is not an unduly cautious General, as the final battles in Tunisia have shown. But he is an extremely experienced General and he knows perhaps better than anyone the quality of the troops he is fighting against.
That is why neither he nor His Majesty's Government lent themselves at any time to inflated expectations. They 995 recognized the hazardous nature of the operation. They acclaimed to the full, it is true, the success of the original landing, which was remarkable, but they did not lend themselves to extravagant prophecy. So, as they were not unduly elated, they are not now unduly depressed. They recognize that there is heavy fighting ahead, that there may be heavy casualties ahead, and no one of course can know the exact course of a battle. But I understand that General Wilson and General Alexander are entirely confident of the result. Moreover, my Lords—and this is an important point—the strategy which they adopted has already achieved one of its main purposes; not the only one, perhaps not the most important, but one of the main purposes. It has pinned down, and is pinning down, an ever increasing number of the hard-pressed German divisions on the Italian Front. It has forced the German Command to bring troops not merely from the North of Italy but from further still, and I should have thought that the ferocity of Marshal Kesselring's attacks on the beach-head shows clearly how painful a thorn our landing there has been in the side of the German Command. If our object—to use an expression now almost too hardworked—has been to create a Second Front, we are certainly succeeding in Italy as a preliminary to later and more extensive operations elsewhere. I am sure your Lordships' House will agree that our position would have been absolutely indefensible—our moral and political position—if we had just sat still and allowed the Germans to concentrate their whole might against our Russian Allies.
The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, in his speech gave valuable support, I thought, to the general conduct of the Italian campaign. He did, however, raise one question to which I think an answer is desirable. As I understood his speech he approved the conception of the Anzio landing; but he asked why had it not taken place earlier. That is a perfectly fair question. We all should have liked it earlier. The Commanders on the spot would have liked it earlier, and the Prime Minister would have liked it earlier. But the answer must be found in the Prime Minister's own speech, from which I would like to quote two or three sentences. 996 He said:The need for this was, of course, obvious to all the Commanders, British and American, but the practicability of carrying it into effect, depended upon this effort being properly fitted in with the general Allied programme for the year. This programme comprises larger issues and forces than those with which we are concerned in Italy.Lord Hankey, with his vast experience in these matters, will know what elaborate adjustments are necessary to ensure the needs of vast operations, both proceeding and in preparation, being properly supplied. It is only when these adjustments are made that the operations can take place. The noble Lord in one sentence said he himself fully recognized these difficulties. He will not expect me to go into details, because they are essentially of an operational character, but I am sure he will believe me when I say they were very real.
The noble Lord mentioned the great importance he attached to the adequate provision of shipping of all the types that might be necessary. I can tell him that His Majesty's Government fully share that view. Though, happily, our shipping losses are becoming very much lower, our needs still seem to grow from month to month, and shipping is after all our very life-blood in this war. The degree of priority—this, I think, is the specific point to which he referred—must to some extent depend on the type of shipping which has to be built, but I can assure him that, subject to that proviso, a high priority is being given to shipping generally, and the very highest priority is being given to those types most essential for the purposes of the war. In particular, I can assure him that landing craft and other vessels which are used for amphibious operations have for a long time had very high priority in planning production. I think that answers the question he put to me. There was one other point which he made in his speech which perhaps I may deal with now. He asked whether meteorological officers are attached to the High Command in Italy. The answer is Yes, they are at the disposal of the High Command.
Now I would pass to the other side of Europe, to Russia and the Russian Front. First of all, I would like very warmly to associate myself with what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, as to the cordial relations subsisting between this country and our Russian Allies. Those 997 relations, which I think one may hope have been permanently confirmed by the Moscow and Teheran meetings, must be a source of immense satisfaction to us all. Any disagreement between our two countries would be a disaster, not only for both of us but for the world. I have no doubt your Lordships followed, as I did, with very deep attention the thoughtful analysis of the noble Viscount as to the causes of the improvement in our relations. I thought it a most valuable and interesting contribution to the debate. I would also like to echo the expressions of wonder and admiration at the feats of our Allies in the military field. There can be very few of us who do not turn on our wireless every evening in order to hear what now victory there is to report on the Russian Front.
I remember a time, as most of your Lordships must, early in the last war, when there was talk of the Russian steamroller. At that period it turned out to be rather a misleading phrase and it fell rapidly into disuse; but it is coming into its own now. We used to wonder not long ago whether Kiev would ever be recaptured or Leningrad ever freed. Now those two great cities are miles behind the Russian lines and almost out of the war zone altogether. The Dneiper line appears to be finally smashed and the Russians have driven a wedge far beyond the 1939 frontier of Poland. Steadily and inexorably the Russian steam-roller is moving forward. Already, to the south, they are almost within sight of the borders of Rumania, and there are signs that the weakest bastion perhaps of Hitler's European fortress is beginning to quake at their approach. It may well be a possible explanation why the Germans stayed so long in the Dneiper bend, which from the military point of view appeared to be great folly, that the reason was a political one and not a, military one. They knew the weakness of some of their southern allies and they did not wish to expose them to any further strain upon their loyalty. Equally, at the northern end of this immense line it is clear that the profound impression which is being made by the Russian advance along the southern shore of the Baltic is being reflected in the attitude of the Finns.
We may happily claim, as the Prime Minister said two days ago, that we too have been playing some part in these great Russian victories. There is not the slight- 998 est doubt that the increasingly heavy air attacks both by the Royal Air Force and by the United States Air Force have contributed to these successes. I do not want to go again into that aspect of the war; we had a full debate on it in your Lordships' House only about ten days ago. But I would repeat once more—because the figures are very relevant—that at present 80 per cent. of the German Fighter strength is held on the Western and Mediterranean Fronts and, what is more, the further production of aircraft and other war material is being seriously crippled, more seriously crippled every day, by our campaign from the air. There too we may say that a Second Front is in being.
I should like now to pass for a moment or two to the Far East. As I think some noble Lords have remarked, little has been said about the Pacific campaign, but it is one of the most remarkabe features of this vast struggle. The eastern tip of New Guinea is now largely, if not entirely, free of the enemy. I should like, as Dominions Secretary, to record the profound admiration which we must all feel for the Australian and New Zealand troops who have been playing a predominant part in that campaign. The conditions are frightful. They have to fight in almost impassable jungle, in tropic heat and racked by disease. I have heard the description of men going through the jungle with knives, hacking their way through solid tropical vegetation and making a path for the rest of the column to follow. They have, under these dreadful conditions, shown a courage and a resolution unsurpassed in their history.
Within the last few weeks, too, we have seen some very remarkable amphibious operations by the United States Army, Navy and Air Force. They have established themselves in the Marshalls, and have gone into the tiger's mouth and bombarded the great naval base at Truk. This morning there is news of yet further operations. It is a remarkable fact that the main Japanese Navy has never come out to interfere with these operations, although they represent a threat to one of its main lines of communication. Their only reaction has been to sack their Chiefs of Staff. That may be wise, but it cannot be very encouraging to the Japanese people.
999 There are certain other questions which have been raised in the debate. The Polish problem was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. About this, I propose to say nothing more than was said by the Prime Minister on Tuesday last. He gave a full and balanced statement, broadly indicating the considerations which all those concerned must bear in mind in dealing with this difficult question, and I do not think there is much which I can usefully add on the general issue. There is, however, one misapprehension which I should like to remove, because it is a dangerous misapprehension. It found a place in the noble Viscount's speech, and I am sure that he will be as glad as anybody if I relieve his mind about it. As I understood it, he suggested that in some respects with regard to the Russo-Polish problem His Majesty's Government had acted unilaterally and contrary to the wishes or the interests of the Soviet Government. I can assure him that that is not the case. We have kept in the closest touch with the Russian Government throughout this affair, and there are no grounds for any suggestion that we have taken any action at any time which is unwelcome. I am very glad to have the opportunity of making that quite clear, because I agree with the noble Viscount that it would be deplorable if unfounded rumours gained currency and gave the impression that there was any lack of confidence between the two countries.
I do not propose to make any general comments with regard to Yugoslavia or Greece, but I would say one word. To attempt to judge the various factions in the two countries by the yardstick of our own domestic politics must be unwise and might be disastrous. It is impossible to divide them quite crudely into the categories of Right, Centre or Left, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, attempted to do, and to give our support to this or that faction on such a basis as that. That has no relation to the facts at all, and to make such an attempt could only tend to mislead people in this country and in the Balkans themselves. The House will, I am sure, agree with Lord Addison, that there is only one way to make up our minds whom to support in this very chaotic situation: we support the people who are fighting the Germans, and we do not support the people who are 1000 not fighting the Germans. If we keep to that simple rule we shall not go very far wrong.
The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, expressed serious doubts about the position in Greece. I must confess that as I listened to him I did not recognize the situation as it was known to me; it seemed to me that he was giving an absolute travesty of the facts. I cannot accept his account of E.L.A.S., and I cannot accept his account of Colonel Zervas. Colonel Zervas, whatever his merits or demerits, has throughout, as far as I know, wholeheartedly opposed the Germans. I know that the noble Earl spoke from the highest motives, but I rather regret that he made the speech he did at a moment when we are taking all the steps possible to try to ensure that the Greeks form a united front to fight the Germans instead of each other.
We cannot but sympathize with the situation of that distracted country. It is not in the least surprising that its national unity is disturbed. Greece has been through the most shattering experience, I suppose, which ever befell any nation. But the way to cure that situation is not to back one faction against another. That is not going to do any good at all; the only chance of a rapid cure is to get the factions to agree and to unite them against the enemy. That is the purpose to which Allied policy is directed, and it has the support of the United States and of Russia. At the present moment I think that the omens are somewhat more favourable than they have been in the past. I shall not say more than that. But I hope that nothing will be said in this House or elsewhere which will make what is inevitably a difficult situation more difficult still.
I was asked by Lord Addison a question of a more general character. He asked whether steps are being taken to carry out the decisions of the Moscow Conference with regard to the immediate future and the post-war period. He will not expect me to go into details on matters which at the present stage are inevitably confidential, but broadly I can assure him that such steps are being initiated. In particular he will have seen that the European Committee have already started work. It may have seemed that there has been a slight delay, but in fact there was an inevitable period for preparation, to 1001 allow of the assembly of the staff and the collection of the documentary material and the putting forward of papers by the various Governments—all the preliminary necessities. The Committee are now getting into their stride, and have already held three formal meetings. For obvious reasons, your Lordships will not expect me to state the subject for their deliberations, because this is a confidential body; but I made inquiries—because the noble Lord was good enough to give me notice that he was going to ask this question—and I find that they are regarded as having made a good start, and as entirely justifying the view of His Majesty's Government that this Committee would prove one of the major results of the Moscow Conference and a hopeful new experience in the international sphere.
I was asked one extremely pregnant question by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, regarding future operations. As I understood it, he asked for an assurance that political considerations would not interfere with military operations. I should have thought that was a question which could be answered by one man and one man alone, and that is the Prime Minister. I will not seek to answer for him, but I think I can say this. I should have thought it was impossible altogether to dissociate political and military considerations in a war of this type and scope, but it must be evident to all concerned that military success is one of the most important political considerations, and no doubt that consideration must be uppermost in the minds of those concerned in decisions that may already have been reached, or may have to be reached in the future. I do not think I can go farther than that this afternoon.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Winster, made certain rather caustic remarks regarding neutral countries in Europe, and urged us to take a stronger line with them. He referred in particular to Portugal and Spain. With regard to Portugal, I must say I thought he was a little unfair. He said no word about the most valuable facilities which lately were given to us by the Portuguese Government in the Azores, by virtue of our very ancient alliance with them. At present, the Allies are gaining great advantages, especially on the sea, from the facilities which have been granted to us. The noble Lord, 1002 I am sure, knows that from his naval experience, but he did not mention it in connexion with his remarks this afternoon. With regard to wolfram, which he did mention, I do not think he has in fact had time to read my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary's speech yesterday, but if he does so he will see that conversations on this question are at present proceeding, and I suggest we had better await the results. I am not going to say anything about Spain, because the Foreign Secretary dealt with that fully yesterday. He mentioned that we are in negotiation with Spain on a number of extremely important issues, some of which were mentioned by the noble Lord this afternoon. I only hope it will be possible for us to come to a satisfactory solution, because there is no doubt that the present situation is not satisfactory. The noble Lord also raised, finally, one or two points of a technical character regarding the types of tanks and aircraft at present in use by the Armed Forces. He did not give me any detailed notice of the points he proposed to raise, and I do not expect that he intended me to answer, especially as this is a general debate upon the war; but I will see that what he has said is noted by the Departments concerned.
And now I think I have answered the main points which have been raised in this debate. I hope I have shown that events are proceeding in a manner generally favourable to the Allied arms. There is, however, one general observation which I would like to make in conclusion, and which I am encouraged to make by some of the concluding remarks of Lord Winster. There is undoubtedly a suggestion at the present time in various quarters that national unity is being impaired. I have seen it widely suggested that it could only be preserved by a rapid acceleration of our reconstruction policy at home. All of us will agree as to the vital importance of taking every practicable step to bridge the gap between war and peace and to prepare for the future. That was the essence of some of the main decisions which were taken at the Teheran Conference, and it should be, and I believe is, the keynote of our own domestic policy. Indeed, at this very moment, if those who are somewhat critical would only credit it, almost as much time of Ministers is occupied with plans for the transitional and the post-war periods as by the war 1003 itself, and my belief is that future generations will regard it as a very considerable feat that time has been found in the middle of the greatest war in history for the production of comprehensive schemes of education and of national health—schemes which, in normal times, would have taken months, and possibly years, to prepare. Those, as I know full well, are only some of the questions which are being considered. We must not forget the realities of our position.
I thought I might perhaps quote to your Lordships this afternoon a conversation from Through the Looking Glass which seems to me very relevant to our present position. The conversation in question occurred during a pause after the Red Queen had been whirling Alice rapidly through the air from square to square, and this is what was said:'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you generally get to somewhere else if you run very fast for a long time, as we have been doing.''A slow sort of country,' said the Red Queen, 'Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that.'That seems to me very much our situation at the present time. We are not yet at the end of our troubles. We have got still greater operations impending, we have got still more tremendous victories to be won, still heavier losses to be incurred, before conditions can be produced in which reconstruction can take 1004 place. We shall require the very greatest efforts to maintain our present position, and we shall require supreme efforts to win through.
There seem to me certain sections of opinion at the present time so engrossed with the future that they almost forget these sombre facts. It would certainly be a most unedifying sight for the unhappy peoples of occupied Europe if they were to begin to see us disputing over the future, like dogs over a bone, while they were still ground under the enemy's heel. In this House, at any rate, I hope we shall never forget that national unity must be maintained, not only by hopes for the future but by the needs of the present. This is the testing time, and it is not by the past nor by the future but by our bearing, here and now, that we shall be judged.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I am sure everyone will have appreciated the character of the reply of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, which forms a fitting conclusion to what I think hereafter will have to be regarded as a very worthy and most profitable discussion. I feel some satisfaction too about this: if he will compare his speech with mine—much less eloquent, of course, and much less forcible than his—he will see that I ended with an almost identical sentence to his. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned.