May 26, 1919 (13th Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Duff

Laurier Liberal


That is not an answer to the statement I have just made, but for the benefit of the hon. minister I willquote further from my speech later on; and as to the naval officers in Halifax in their relationship to the Lux Blanca, I haveabsolute proof that they did nothing torelieve the situation that existed on the occasion to which I referred. While, perhaps, they might not at that precise
moment have been attending. pink teas or playing bridge, I can substantiate the statement that this condition of affairs generally prevailed in Halifax at that time; and if the minister would grant the investigating committee which he refused this afternoon I could prove my charges to the hilt. I am quite aware that there are good men in the so-called Canadian Navy. For instance, there is young Silver of Halifax, who was lost on the H.M.S. Good Hope off the coast of Chili. No brighter boy ever donned the uniform than this young man, who went to his death as a hero in battle against German ships in the Pacific Ocean. Or. take my good friend, the hon. member for Temis-couata (Mr. Gauvreau), would anybody say for a moment that his son is not a credit to Canada-a young man who has been for four or five years in the Naval Service in command of a submarine chaser? No man, certainly not myself, wTould ever think of saying anything derogatory of young men such as these. Again, there is the son of Mr. Justice Brodeur. Would any one sug-

'gest that he does not deserve the utmost credit? What I do say, Mr. Chairman, and I do not think it can be controverted, is that there were certain men in the so-called Canadian Navy who were not fit to be in it, and this fact I shall prove in a 'few moments.
The hon>. minister was disposed to sneer at my knowledge of marine affairs, and he said I did not know much about the sea. Well, I do not profess to, but I think I know more about naval affairs than a gentleman who was bom in the city of Montreal and had the odour of paint in his nostrils for the last ten or fifteen years. I was born with the smell of salt spray in my nostrils and have been familiar with the sea ever since I could toddle, and I should be the last to say anything disrespectful of men in whom I have taken an interest all my life. For this reason it did not become the Minister of Naval Affairs to sneer at me and to suggest that I was unfriendly to the fishermen or those whose- calling is to follow the sea. I presume the minister likely derived his knowledge of the sea on a gump-head in Montreal, while I, on the other hand, got my knowledge of the sea on the sea itself, however little that knowledge may be. The entire speech of the minister consisted in sneering inuendoes and insinuations, and it was painfully evident to all present, as he read his essay, that he had not learned his lesson as perfectly as he might have done, for he did not even lay the emphasis on the proper portions of his address-; he- j.ust recited his statement with the aid of the two officials at his side who coached him from time to time. He also suggested that the charges which I made in my speech some time ago were not prepared by me. Well, what about the answer of the minister himself? Did he prepare the statement he made this afternoon? Was there very much of a suggestion that the work was his own, or did it not rather appear that he was repeating what the officials of his department had prepared for him? I do not think that any one sitting beside me when I made my charges could question the originality of them, and I can prove and substantiate them in their entirety.
But I do not wish the admiral of the fleet to take my words alone for what 1 have said; I am quite prepared to give him some more evidence on this matter, and for this purpose I will first quote a gentleman well known in this country, Mr. J. W. Wilkinson, R.N.A.V., of Toronto. Let us see what he says-and I am' willing to

admit that this gentleman knows more about naval affairs than I do myself. This is what Mr. Wilkinson says:
It has always been to me a source of disappointment and regret that Canada has ever failed to realize her duty with regard to assuming her full share of responsibility in connection with Naval Defence
When considering Canada's weakness with regard to her naval obligations, I would ask, could anything be more grotesque than the ceremony which took place opposite the City Hall during " Sailors' Week," when under the auspices of the Navy League of Canada a dummy ship was christened the Victory, and at which the Premier of Ontario, the Lord Bishop of Toronto, and His Worship the Mayor, were present, while simultaneously the Captain of the steam trawler Triumph at the Toronto Exhibition, tells his pitiable story or how he was captured by a German submarine, of how guns and a wilreless were placed on his steamer, and how he and his crew of twenty were crowded into a small boat, and after being insulted, had the humiliating experience of seeing his own boat steam away manned by a German crew, with the object of sinking the rest of our fishing fleet, and of which they were successful in destroying some twelve vessels. No effort was available from the Marine Department in the way of .defending our fishing fleet against & cruel and relentless foe, who simply destroyed at his own free will. To use a well-worn quotation, "Nero fiddled while Rome was burning"
I may vary the quotation and say that " Mr. Desbarats fiddled while our fishing fleet was being 'sunk on the banks of Newfoundland and off the coast of Nova Scotia." Mr. Wilkinson proceeds:
After four years of war, to appear to get busy over the British navy about the glorious work it has and is doing, would practically be an admission of ignorance, and to do so at the present time would have a tendency to place Canada in a false light by advocating the necessity of the British navy, when Canada, as a matter of fact, has no navy of her own to talk about.
Further on he says:-
Notwithstanding that we thus have the enemy in our own waters, performing deeds of piracy and destruction at his own free will, without let or hindrance, as far as Canada's ability to defend herself is concerned, we read in the newspapers that the Naval Department at Ottawa calmly makes the statement that "all steps possible are being taken to meet the situation," and that a fleet of submarine chasers from the United States and British navies had put off after the enemy submarines. Are we to understand from this that Canada still refuses to assume any responsibility whatsoever as regards naval defence, but merely assumes the right when attacked by German U-boats to call for help to the United States and British navies? What greater proof is our present Union Government waiting for to make them realize that the great need of Canada to-day is a navy of her own? .
When we remember the indifference displayed by Canada in the past with regard to her naval responsibility, any thoughtful person must surely look on with amazement that even

after four years of war, and the enemy sinking our ships at his own free will in our own waters, that no action appears to be considered neoessary for our Govelhiment to take in the way of providing a navy for our own protection.
He says further:-
There never has been a time when the want of a Canadian navy has been more keenly felt than at the present. We are at war and we want a navy to drive the enemy from our shores, and protect our ships sailing in Canadian waters. Is it not a fact that the very type of vessel is at present being built in Montreal for the British navy, which we require for our own coast defence, viz, the submarine chaser? Would it. not, therefore, be advisable to get some of these or similar craft included in our Canadian navy, in order that they might be placed in commission with as little delay as possible? It would also be advisable in my opiniop to have guns placed. on all. fishing vessels of sufficient size, which would at least give each boat a fighting chance. These are, however, all matters which I trust will be taken into consideration at an early date by the Marine Department.
Unless something of a definite nature be done while we have an enemy to fight, there will be a strong tendency with a very large section of the Canadian people to come to the conclusion when the war is over, that a navy as far as Canada is concerned, will not be necessary.
Those are the words of Mr. Wilkinson; they are not mine. Yet the minister this afternoon said, in effect, that I was the only person in -Canada with the audacity to get up and say one word in this House against the Naval Department- of which he is the head. He also quoted from a letter which he cut out of the Montreal Star. I wonder if the admiral of the naval forces also cut out an editorial which appeared in the Star on Saturday morning, to show to Ills leader on his return to-day? The letter which the minister read was no doubt written in good faith; I have not one word to say against the writer, but I noted this sentence which the minister read: " The patrol fleet had notified sixty iLunenburg vessels to go to port.55 Now, if there is one thing I know it is about the Lunenburg fleet, and particularly what happened last summer on the Atlantic coast, and I happen to know what happened to the fishing fleet. So if that is the only evidence the minister can adduce his defence of the Canadian navy is very badly supported.
I have also received some letters, and one of them happens to be from Montreal. I want to be fair to the Canadian navy. Any criticism I made was made in good faith. I made it as a business man who did not want to see the money of this country wasted. When I can say a good word for the Canadian navy I shall be only too glad
to say it, and to be absolutely fair I shall read this letter in full:-
Dear Mr. Duff,
I read with interest the comments in the papers on your speech in the House regarding the Canadian naval situation, also your criticisms.
As a demobilized member of the R.N.C.V.R.,
I do not wish to make any remarks one way or the other, but I think that, while the question is up, it is only fair for me to draw your attention to what I consider the brightest spot in the whole service, namely, the Naval Hospital in Halifax. During the influenza epidemic last fall I was unfortunate enough to be one of the victims and was sent to this hospital for treatment, and I cannot speak highly enough of Dr. Rousseau, Dr. Irwin and the two nursing sisters, and, in fact, every one connected with the institution. I was in the hospital itself for about two weeks, and during that time every patient with whom I came in contact, had the same feeling of appreciation.
With regard to your remarks on the Naval College, while never having met Commander Nixon, I can only repeat to you what appeared to be the general opinion among the men I met while in the service, namely, that the Naval College was efficient, that it did splendid work and turned out efficient officers, and that those officers wdio had graduated from the Naval College and who were serving with the imperial Fleet were highly thought of and efficient.
With regard to Lieutenant Julian's views on the general administration, I had the privilege of serving on the same ship with this officer and know him very well personally, and am sorry to say that both myself, and, I think fully ninety-nine per cent of the officers and men in the service are forced to agree with him.
Now, what has the minister to say about Lieut. Julian? He insinuated this afternoon that Lieut. Julian was no good, that he was not a good officer. I say that he was a good officer. He served four and a half years in the naval service and had a splendid record, with not one black mark against him. I say it was most unfair for the minister to insinuate that this man was not a good officer and a good Canadian. The writer continues:
I trust that in all fairness you will, while drawing attention to the dark spots, also draw attention to the bright ones. In October, 1917, I with a number of other officers, was sent from Halifax to Esquimalt, and we one and all were greatly impressed with the difference in the atmosphere prevailing at the latter station. In Half ax there was nothing hut discontent and what seemed to us practically chaos, whereas at Esquimalt everything was efficiency itself and every one seemed well content.
On my return to Halifax in the spring of 1918, after having put in six months at Esquimau, the difference in the atmosphere was d-oubly impressed on me. I think it was sufficient to say that every officer who was trained at the Esquimalt base feels the same towards it, and it was a heartbreaking experience to find that all the "esprit de corps" that had been created at Esquimalt was absolutely crushed

out after the men had been a very short time at Halifax.
Will the minister deny that this is true? This afternoon he flapped the flag and tried to make out that I was simply insinuating -that there was nothing in my charges. I have another letter which might interest the Minister of the Naval Service and the Admiral of "the Bum Boat Fleet." This writer says:
It is all true, and further, the half has not
been told. I think would give you
some information along that line as he is pretty sore at them for the way he says they used him. He appears to be' ready to squeal on them as he is awfully sore.
These are not my words. I could talk all night about the way naval affairs were conducted at Halifax. You must have noted, Mr. Chairman, that the minister this afternoon, trying to get some applause from his own side, endeavoured to make it appear that I had introduced politics into this question. 'Nothing was farther from my thoughts, and although Lieut. Julian in making his charges blamed the Borden Government, I was not responsible for that. After saying that I had introduced politics into this question, the minister in his next breath went on to say that I was making charges against ships built by the Laurier Government. If I was introducing politics, why should I introduce charges against ships built by the Laurier Government? 1 think that is a complete answer to the minister's insinuation. The truth is he was simply floundering around like a seal on ice and did not know where he was half the time.
He also objected to my remarks about the Niobe. He tried to make out that there was nothing wrong with this steamer's boilers. I tell you that the Niobe was compelled to come back from her cruise because her boilers were no good, the result of having been allowed to rust. It is quite true that for four or six weeks after the war was declared they did manage to patch the boilers up, but I would ask the minister how much money was spent for repairs on the Niobe from September 1, 1914, until she finally played out in 1916. The only reason she played out was that her boilers were out of condition. Will the minister, or anybody connected with the naval base at Halifax, deny that?
He tried to make out that I was getting my information from outside sources, and that it was second hand. I want to tell the minister that this is not the fact, and further that I watched operations proceeding and that any information I got was from

the officers themselves and the men of the so called 'Canadian navy.
The minister also tried to make out that I had said that the men on the Hochel-aga had run away from the submarine.
I did not say any such thing. If the minister knew anything about marine matters he would know that the cook, steward, cabin boy and marines have nothihg whatever to do with navigating the ship but that that is a duty which is left entirely to the captain. To make such an assertion shows very little knowledge of naval and marine matters on the part of the minister. He tried to make out that I had said the men were guilty of cowardice. I said no such thing. The men were all right. 'If I could only repeat some of the conversations that the men had with me on their return I would tell you how, with tears in their eyes, they told me that they wanted to fight the submarine but that they were not allowed to do so by the captain. The men are not to blame; they are all right. The men are all young Canadian boys, they thought they were going to do something for their country, they went into the Naval Service prepared to do it but -they were prevented by the naval officials.
The minister also tried to make out that this captain of the Hochelaga was a great man. I hate to say anything unkind about anybody but if the minister knew where the captain of the Hochelaga came from and what service he had had, the information would make him hang his head in shame. I know all about the captain of the Hochelaga. I know how long he has been in the Naval Service, I know where he came from; and I say he never should have been put in command of that boat and I can prove it.
Then the minister talked about the Lady Evelyn and he practically said I was not telling the truth about that steamer when I said that she had gone to the Magdalen Islands to deliver six pencils. I beg the hon, minister's pardon. She not only delivered the pencils, but she also delivered some pads for the wireless operators. I have the facts from the officers who were *on board the Lady Evelyn. I intend to repeat what these officers said and if the minister does not want to take my word I will give him that of somebody else. On August 20, 1918, the day that the Triumph was captured, the Lady Evelyn was in a Nova Scotia port. A wireless message came stating 'that the Triumph, a steam trawler owned by the National Fish Company of Halifax, had been captured by a German submarine on the Middle Ground,

a fishing bank off the Nova Scotia coast. Word also came that the German submarine commander had equipped the Triumph with guns and manned her so '.that she could be used as what- is known as a raider. This word came to the Lady Evelyn. The captain immediately sent a wireless to the man in charge of the naval dockyard at Halifax asking permission to go and try to capture the Triumph. The men on the Lady Evelyn did not sleep all night, they kept steam up and they waited minute after minute and hour after hour for the expected word from the Halifax authorities to go and recapture the raider which had been previously a fishing boat. No word came from Halifax but the Lady Evelyn with Commander Shenton in command was sent to the Magdalen Islands to deliver six pencils and a few pads for the wireless operator.
Let me give a little more information about the Lady Evelyn. In a few days the *Lady Evelyn returned from the Magdalen Islands and reported to the base at Sydney. The flash came over the wires that on a certain night a German submarine was coming up the strait of Canso. The Minister of Naval Affairs, of course, with his knowledge of marine matters and geography, knows where the strait of Canso is, 'but for the benefit of hon. gentlemen who may not have that information I will explain its location. The strait of Canso divides the island of Cape Breton from Nova Scotia and connection between either side of the strait is maintained by the operation of a steam ferry between Mulgrave and Point Tupper. That is practically the only means of communication between the great coal mining and steel districts of Cape *Breton and Nova Scotia and the Test of the world. The situation was considered so serious that the Government ferry was laid up at Point Tupper. It was not allowed to cross the straits for fear the submarine might come up and attack it. The Lady Evelyn was lying at Whitney pier at Sydney with steam up waiting until *word came from Halifax. The men were all on tenter hooks. They wanted to engage the submarine. They were anxious to go, and suggestions were made that they should not wait for orders but that they should take the Lady Evelyn and go to the strait of Canso. You can understand the state of mind in which these young men were when they were deliberately talking of mutiny, of taking charge of the ship, taking her up to the straits of Canso and fighting the submarine. This is what an officer said about it:
We were in Cianso a few weeks ago and all our old Mends were there to welcome us and renew olcl acquaintances. While there one evening a party of young 'ac'es from Canso came on hoard and entertained us with music and singing. We left next morning. We now hear they are being shelled, while we are lying comfortable at Sydney. Perhaps these same young ladies that entertained us are being murdered by the German beasts, while we, lying at anchor, steam up, ship ready with a lot of damn, stupid Englishmen preventing us from slaying the murderers of our friends and sweethearts less than a 100 miles away.
Would the minister be kind enough to tell this Committee why the Lady Evelyn was left at Sydney and why she was not dispatched to Canso to try and catch that submarine if submarine there was?
The Minister of Naval Affairs also endeavoured to contradict my statement in reference to the steamer Lux Blanca. I wish to tell the minister that if the officials gave him the information that he gave here this afternoon there is only one thing to he done with these officials and that is to get rid of them. The minister said that there was a fog that day. I was on the Nova Scotia coast and I never saw a more beautiful summer day than that on which the Lux Blanca was sunk. There may have been a fog in Ottawa and if so it was around the Naval Department.
But, Mr. Chairman, he went on to say that there were patrol boats that had gone out in answer to the Lux Blanca's S.O.S. call. I said they did not, and I think I can prove it in a few minutes. The minister this afternoon deliberately contradicted my statement, and said that patrol boats went out to help the Lux Blanca. But he had to admit that those patrol boats lost their way, and they tried to get their course from a fisherman, but the fisherman could not give them their course. Well, Mr. Chairman, I do not know very much about marine matters, but I will say this-and I am looking at my hon. friend from Halifax (Mr. A. K. Maclean) while I say it, because he had something to do with putting buoys and lights at the entrance to the mouth of Halifax harbour-that from my little experience of marine matters I can leave Halifax in a boat on -a dark night or a foggy morning, feel my way out to the Fairway buoy, and can shape my course to where the Lux Blanca was sunk. If that is the kind of men the Minister of Naval Affairs had on his boats-if'with their lead lines, their compasses, their horns, and everything

else, they could not find their way out in the fog,-my charge in that connection is proved out of the lips of the minister himself. But, Mr. Chairman, I do not want the minister to listen to anything I say; I am going to give him the evidence of somebody else. I would not expect him to accept the correctness of my statements, after what he said this afternoon I am almost afraid myself to believe that I know what I am talking about; but I will give him the testimony of other men. When the Lux Blanca was sunk, what happened in Halifax? I am going to recite a conversation which took place between a master mariner, who is the agent of a very large insurance company in Halifax, and who knows all about marine matters, and certain other parties. I will give what he said about the sinking of the Lux Blanca. This gentleman-he is a reliable man and I will give his name if necessary-said:
I was informed of the sinking of the Dorn-fontien off the Bay of Fundy and shortly after of the sinking of another vessel up the coast towards Cape Sable. I saw at once that the U Boat was headed towards this part of the coast and of course expected that the Dockyard was watching the course of events and would be preparing to look after her. Great was my surprise next morning when going to my office on finding Long Distance frantically trying to locate me. I at once took up the phone and
found Captain of a fishing vessel
speaking from down the shore, he said, I have just been sunk by a large German submarine a few miles of Cape LaHave. We are all out this morning, he is going towards the eastward and will probably get all of us who are out, for God's sake get in touch with the Dockyard and send help.
This marine insurance man continued:
I asked him the particulars and then rang off, calling up the Dockyard and giving them the information. I do not know who answered the phone but it was some stupid idiot who wanted to know how he could be sure the information was authentic and he also replied that everything that was possible was being done.
That day (I am not sure whether he said that day or the next day) a prominent merchant of Halifax called me up on the phone and told me a German submarine was1 shelling an oil tanker a few miles off Sambro, he said,
I am going to call for you in my car and we will rush to the Dockyard and interview the "powers that be" and see if we can do any good, I replied, "I will be waiting for you." _
A few minutes later the Halifax gentleman arrived in his car and we drove to the Dockyard and went at once to see Admiral Storey. He appeared a very sociable chap but I was not there on social calls that day.
I do not know whether this Admiral Storey gave the two gentlemen pink tea or not, but you will notice, Mr. Chairman, that this insurance man says "he appeared
to be a very social gentleman." He wenfc on:
We went over the situation with him as quickly as possible and then asked him what he was doing. He replied very calmly that he was sorry but that he had nothing he could send out to engage a modern submarine. I replied, "Great God ! do you mean to tell us that with all those patrol beats" (pointing to a mass of boats I could see from his office) "you will calmly let a steamer be shelled to pieces by a German submarine and never lift your hand to stop them, and this almost before your eyes?" He replied, "Gentlemen, as I said before, I have nothing which can engage a modern submarine." We had a few more words and we left, and what we thought of the Dockyard I had better not say.
Now let us see what the captain of the Lux Blanca himself said:
When the Captain of the Lux Blanca arrived in port with his survivors he at once came to see me and I can tell you he was a very hot boy. He gave me the full particulars of the fight and he ended with. "Had I thought that the Dockyard of naval people would not send me help I would) never have tried to do what I did. I was expecting help to come every moment from around the point but never a sign of assistance came. My ship was sunk underneath my very feet and two of my gunners killed almost in sight of the forts of Halifax and with all the patrol boats and everything else, not a sign of anything came to help me. What in Heaven's name can they be thinking of there? I put up an unequal fight for hours, but I might better have tried to save our skins for all the assistance I got from the Canadian navy.
Now, Mr. Chairman, let us go on a little further.

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