William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)
Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, before proceeding further with the business of the house I should like to express a word with respect to the outstanding victory of the allied forces in Africa.
In the statement I issued on November 8 of last year, when the allied forces landed in Northwest Africa, I said: "The war of liberation to-day entered the stage of active offensive combat." On Friday last, almost six months to the day since the allied landings, Tunis and Bizerte, the last axis strongholds in the whole of Africa, were captured. The news since Friday indicates that the remnants of the axis forces still in Tunisia, which have sought refuge in the Cape Bon peninsula, will be pursued and hunted until all German and Italian resistance is ended. Offensive warfare from El Alamein to Tunis, and from Casablanca and Algiers to Bizerte, has now brought North Africa, 'from the Atlantic Coast to the Red sea, under the power of the united nations.
It should not be forgotten that these successes have come only after six months of sustained fighting in the western desert, and in the mountain of Tunisia; also that, behind this sustained fighting were months of planning and preparation which occupied the time from June to October of last year.
The advance by the Eighth Army of more than 1,200 miles in 80 days, from El Alamein to Tripoli, was a marvellous achievement. It was the counterpart of the other remarkable advance, from Casablanca to Bizerte, which led from the allied landings early in November. Both offensives were part of a planned single whole. The victory at Tunis and Bizerte is the crowning triumph of the battles that have been waged, see-saw fashion, back and forth across the desert for two and a half years. Victory has been the more impressive because of the extent to which it was shared by armed forces of so many of the united nations and all three services. War in North Africa from the outset has been war on land and sea and air combined.
The campaigns of the past six months have been the final stage in the struggle for the whole continent of Africa. This struggle really began when Italy entered the war nearly three years ago. It has been waged
Allied Victory in North Africa
actively since the first British invasion of Libya in December of 1940. The whole of Italian East Africa was captured and Ethiopia freed from the Italians in 1941. The destruction of the Italian empire, and the liberation of the French empire in Africa, both of which began in 1940, have now been completed. The whole continent of Africa, with the exception of the colonial possessions of Portugal and Spain is now united in the allied cause.
The liberation of the French empire in Africa brings closer the union under one authority and one battle flag of all Frenchmen fighting with the united nations.
When French North Africa, after brief resistance, passed to the allied side, in November, Admiral Darlan undertook the maintenance of French interests generally throughout North Africa. After Darlan was assassinated on Christmas eve, General Giraud took up this task as head of the.French forces.
A first meeting between General de Gaulle and General Giraud took place on January 22, during the Casablanca conference. Negotiations between representatives of these two leaders have since continued, both in North Africa and in London. Since the fall of Tunis, General Giraud has named an officer of the Fighting French to be Resident-General in Tunisia.
French forces in North Africa-at least eleven divisions strong, according to the latest announcement-have now been consolidated, and are being equipped with weapons supplied by the united nations. Not only will this new French army stand as guardian of a part of the united nations from which Hitler's forces have been driven out, but it will also stand ready to fight in the further offensives which even now are in prospect.
In relation to the war as a whole, it would be difficult to overestimate the victory of the united nations in Africa. It marks the end of the first stage of the offensive from the west against the European axis partners. It has assured the united nations control of the Suez canal, of Egypt, of the Atlantic ports of west Africa, and, now, of the whole southern shore of the Mediterranean. North Africa, in fact, becomes a base for much greater offensives, which will gain in striking force because of the concentration of sea and air power in conjunction with land forces now available in that area.
Speaking in Montreal on October 16, last, less than a month before the military occupation of French North Africa by the allied forces. I felt obliged to point out that after three
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years of war, nowhere had the balance been turned decisively against the enemy. Here was the position as I then described it:
In 1940, Britain held; in 1941, Russia held; at the present stage of war, Britain is still holding; Russia is still holding; China, despite the years of her resistance, is still holding. A precarious balance is being maintained on the Atlantic, in the middle east, and in the Pacific. Very critical battles are at the moment in progress. Others loom upon the horizon. There is, however, no sign that, as yet, the tide of war has definitely turned.
. The victory of the united nations in North Africa is a decisive victory. It may well come to mark the definite turn of the tide of war in the whole struggle against Italy and Germany. How strongly the tide had set in the opposite direction will be realized when we recall that to-dav is the third anniversary of the nazi invasion of the low countries and of the real assault upon France; and when we reflect upon the successive acts of successful aggression which followed that day.
In paying a tribute to-day to the victors of Tunis and Bizerte, we remember the feats of arms of all ranks, also the skilled and patient generalship which inspired confidence and dared to wait until every detail had been perfected before a victorious offensive was launched. We may, I think, recall with pride the share Canadian airmen have taken, over the past two years, in all the campaigns in the western desert. We remember, too, that ships and men of Canada's navy were among those that, in November last, helped to escort the great armada which carried the British and American armies to North Africa. In the months since, many of our ships have given a good account of themselves. Two have been lost in action in the Mediterranean. Nor do we forget the officers and non-commissioned officers of Canada's army who have been gaining battle experience with the British first army.
It is also a matter of pride for Canadian workers and Canadian industry to remember that they provided a large part of the transport and armoured vehicles which carried the British eighth army from Egypt and Tunisia.
I have felt that hon. members would wish to have on the records of this house a formal expression of the feelings of the people of Canada upon the signal victory of the united nations in Africa. Accordingly, I have prepared a resolution which, with the permission of the house, I should now like to move. I
Allied Victory in North Africa
have shown the resolution to my hon. friend the leader of the opposition who has kindly agreed to second it.
We, the members of the House of Commons of Canada, in parliament assembled, desire to express our great satisfaction at the decisive victory which has attended the arms of the united nations and destroyed axis power on the continent of Africa.
We desire also to record our admiration of the courage and skill of the sea, land and air forces of the united nations so admirably combined into a single fighting unit.
We wish also to convey to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, to the President of the United States, to General Eisenhower, the Commandey-in-Chief, and to the other allied commanders, and to all ranks serving under them our congratulations on the telling results achieved by the careful planning and effective coordination of allied efforts in Africa.
Subtopic: VICTORY OP ALLIED FORCES IN NORTH AFRICA- RESOLUTION OF CONGRATULATIONS