The British War Efforts
WE ARE GUARDING THE TREASURES OF MANKIND
By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Delivered to the House of Commons in London, July 29, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 646-649.
ON January 22 of this year I explained to the House the system of administration and production it was proposed to adopt. That is the system which we have followed since, and it is the system to which in general and in principle I propose to adhere.
Changes in personnel are enjoined from time to time by the march of events, and the duty of continual improvement. Changes of machinery are enjoined by experience, and naturally while we live we ought to learn.
Change is agreeable to the human mind and gives satisfaction—sometimes shortlived—to ardent and anxious public opinion.
As Parliament on the whole is convinced, and those to whom it has given its confidence are convinced, that the system is working smoothly, then change for the sake of change is to be deprecated in wartime. * * *
If we are to be perpetually altering our system we may achieve the appearance of energy and reform not only at the expense of the authority of the individual but to the detriment of the full working of the machinery and heavy cost in output itself. * * *
In my capacity as Minister of Defense I prepared for the War Cabinet during the first three months of this year a revised general scheme bringing together the whole of our munition production and the whole of our import program and prescribing the just and reasonable targets at which we ought to aim. * * *
The general scheme received final approval by the WarCabinet on March 31 and therefore became mandatory. * * *
Execution of this scheme on the Ministry side is confided to the three great supply departments with the Admiralty, Ministry of Supply and Ministry of Aircraft Production.
Work has been parceled out and it remains for them to do it.
Denies Confusion in Supply
The picture so luridly drawn of chaotic and convulsive struggles of the three supply departments without guidance or design is one which will no doubt be pleasing to our enemies, but happily has no relation to the facts.
The question arises, however, whether in their execution of the approved scheme the three supply departments have been wanting in energy, or through excess of zeal quarreled with each other or trespassed on each other's domains.
There are no doubt instances of friction on the fringes of these powerful organizations, but I do not believe they bear any proportion worth mentioning to their individual and concerted efforts. * * *
At the point which we have now reached in our munitions development almost all firms and factories are working under complete control of the government at fulfillment of an approved and concerted program.
There are no doubt a number of minor aspects of our national life which have not yet been effectively regimented, but when and as they are wanted their turn will come.
We are not a totalitarian state, but we are steadily, and I believe as fast as possible, working ourselves into a total war organization. * * *
A year ago, six months ago, there were a lot of troubles with the Purvis Committee, but latterly my information is that they have very largely died away.
We have, of course, come to very clean-cut agreements with our American friends and helpers.
They are making immense efforts in the common cause and they naturally ask for the very fullest information as to what is happening to their goods and whether there is waste and misdirection.
It is our duty to satisfy them that there is no muddle or that muddle is reduced to a minimum and that they are getting value for their money.
We welcome their criticism, because it is at once searching, friendly and well informed.
Improvement in ordering of imports and of British purchases in the United States is in relation to the very large number of competent persons at work on both sides of the ocean. It is, I am glad to say, steady and progressive. * * *
At this point I will deal with a suggestion that a Ministry of Production should be formed. * * * Some are for complete merging of the supply departments of the Admiralty, Air Ministry and War Office—one great common shop serving all fighting needs. * * *
Who is this superman who will dominate the vast entrenched and embattled organization of the Admiralty * * * teach the present Minister of Aircraft Production how to make aircraft quicker and better than they are now being made, or who is going to interfere with Lord Beaver-brook as Minister of Supply?
When you have decided on the man, let me know his name. I shall be very glad to serve under him provided I am satisfied that he possesses all the Napoleonic qualities required. * * *
In the conduct of a vast nation-wide administration there must be a division of functions and a proper responsibility assigned to departmental chiefs. * * * I do not deny many things go wrong, but can any one in his senses suggest that it should be the task of a superminister to take up these cases by direct intervention from above? All he could do would be to refer complaints and scandals to the heads of three supply departments, and if he did not get satisfaction he would have to come to see me. * * *
We do not stand here to defend the slightest failure of duty or organization, but a kind of whispering campaign has been set on foot.
There is a flood of anonymous letters, vague charges are made and all this gets into the shop window, greatly to our detriment.
Answers Laborite Member
The charges made by Mr. Garro-Jones (Laborite member from Arberdeen) is quite untrue, so far as aircraft on British order are concerned.
All these aircraft are supplied with spare engines and spare frames. There is no failure or oversight of this kind in ordering British aircraft. * * *
It is those of the French kind (planes ordered in the United States before the fall of France) that were lacking.
Mr. Harry Hopkins dwelt upon the trials and difficulties attending modification of aircraft from the United States on the French account and he expressed satisfaction with arrangements we have made for overcoming them.
But, apart from the circle where all facts are known, outside in the United States there is a vigorous campaign against the policy pursued by the President. I fear that harm has been done. It cannot be easily overtaken or healed. * * *
I am glad to tell the House that our Spring and Summer fashions in aircraft this year are farther ahead of contemporary German production than they were last year. The enemy borrowed many ideas from our fighter planes when they felt their mettle a year ago and we borrowed some from them. * * *
I come now to the more general charge of slackness andinefficiency in factories, whether due to local lack of management or to lack of zeal on the part of the working people.
There are members of all parties who feel their war work should be to belabor the government and to portray everything at its worst in order to produce higher efficiency.
Deprecates Interpreting House
I see a motion has been put on paper calling for appointment of a Minister of Production. That is a perfectly proper question and I regret that the motion cannot be moved in that form today.
No one in wartime should be deterred from doing his duty merely because he is voting against the government.
We are often told "the House thinks this" or "the general feeling was of grave uneasiness and there was much disquiet in the lobby."
All this is telegraphed all over the world with evil effect; but no one has the right to say what is the opinion of this House unless there be a division. * * *
It is a very heavy burden if, without a vote being cast, the idea should be spread that, in the opinion of Commons, our affairs are being conducted in an incompetent and futile manner and that the whole gigantic effort of British industry is a muddled flop.
Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne said our people were only working up to 75 per cent of their possible efficiency. He had no wish to harass national defense, but this sentence has been wrested from its context.
It is serious when it is broadcast apart from its context. I have to think of its effect in Australia, where party politics are pursued with the robust detachment exhibited by our forerunners in this House in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Australian troops are bearing with great distinction much of the brunt of fighting in the Middle East, and it must be very painful to Australia to be told that we are only making a three-quarters effort here at home to put the proper weapons in their hands.
In America such a statement is meat and drink to isolationists.
Americans are asked to pay higher taxes, to give up food, to alter their daily lives, to reduce their holidays and go without pleasure of all kinds in order to help Britain, and they are deeply disturbed when they are told, on what seems to be a high British authority, that we are only making a three-quarters effort to help ourselves.
What is important is whether this statement is true. Two questions arise, whether it is 75 per cent and 75 per cent of what?
I take the datum line of the three months after Dunkerque, when our people worked to the utmost limit of their powers—men fell exhausted at the lathes and working men and women did not take off their clothes for weeks at a time. Are we working at only 75 per cent of that?
There are a few reasons why we cannot maintain indefinitely the intensive personal effort of a year ago. If we are to win this war, and I feel solidly convinced that we shall, it will be largely by staying power.
For that purpose there must be one day in seven for rest as a general rule, and there must be one week's holiday a year. We have relaxed to that extent since Dunkerque. Ifwe had not done so, we should have had a serious crash. * * *
First, allowance must be made for the very severe change in diet of the heavy manual workers, which it far less stimulating than a year ago.
We want more meat in the mines and foundries and more cheese. Why should that gratify "Lord Haw Haw?"
Will "Lord Haw Haw" also bear in mind the statement of Mr. Hopkins the other day on the intent of the U. S. A. to see that our people get food and to keep the sea lines secure by which food can be brought.
I know the great arrangements that have been made to send us food, and in variety and more interesting qualities. So I do not think I need to be told I am helping "Lord Haw Haw."
If he never gets any more consolation than he gets from me, his luck will be as hard as his deserts. * * *
I wish it to be known all over the U. S. A., how encouraging is their action.
War Plants in Small Units
Look at all the dilution we have had. It is estimated one-third more people are working on war industries than a year ago. Many of them are trainees and dilutees.
There were extraordinary blitzers at ports and manufacturing centers, restrictions of blackout interruptions and delays of transportation which all played their delaying and dislocating part.
Remedy and counter-measures proposed and carried through when possible with such vigor by the supply departments, with Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production in the van, took the form of dispersion.
This was a matter of life and death to the aircraft industry.
A great Bristol firm was dispersed into forty-five sub-centers.
I can give instances of dispersion of twenty, thirty or forty sub-centers. All this was achieved at a cost of production, but it has placed us in a position when we have paid the cost where we are immune from mortal damage in our aircraft production, and in other branches of munitions, from enemy air raids.
We may suffer, we may be retarded but we can no longer be destroyed.
Work people may have to be moved from their homes, plants have to be moved, domestic affairs have somehow to be adjusted at great sacrifice or hardship.
What has been done to overcome these grievous and novel difficulties is a marvel. That they should lessen the pace and intensity of production was inevitable.
I should like to give some facts and figures to show how improved organization and the smoother running of our machines has overcome adverse currents. * * *
This is rather easy money for critics who can oil a two-day debate with disparaging charges against our war effort. Over-ardent or disaffected sections of the press can take it up and the whole give cry to a dismal cacophonous chorus of stinking fish all around the world.
But despite all troubles, the Ministry of Supply output in the last three months has been one-third greater than in the three months of the Dunkerque period.
Although our army, navy and Air Force are larger, the Ministry has one-third more people working in its factories, and despite dislocation, blackouts, dispersal, and so on, each man is turning out, on the whole, each day as much as he did in that time of almost superhuman effort. * * *
We have made in the last three months more than twice the field guns we made in the Dunkerque period. Munition output is half as much again.
The combined program of merchant and naval shipbuilding now in active progress is bigger than in any period of the last war, although work now is immeasurably more complex than then.
In aircraft it is foolish to calculate by numbers of machines, because of the difference of time in man-hours needed to produce them.
But the increase even above the first period of a year ago is substantial. The increase since this government took office is enormous.
I should be proud to tell the House, but I am not going to do so, because the enemy does not tell us their figures which we would like to have. * * *
As to bombers, British production alone—without taking into account American—has doubled our power of bomb discharge on Germany at 1,500 miles range.
In the next three months, taking in American reinforcement, we shall double it again, and in the next six months after that we shall redouble it. * * *
We are told how badly labor is behaving from a number of people who never did a day's work in their lives.
We had many devastating stoppages and strikes in the last war. In the last two years of it nearly 12,000,000 days were lost through labor disputes.
During the whole course of this war—twenty-three months—we have lost less than 2,000,000 days.
At 11 o'clock today there was no stoppage of work of any kind arising from a trade dispute in any part of Great Britain.
When I look out on the whole tumultuous scene of this ever-widening war I think it is my duty to give a serious warning to the House and country to be on guard equally against pessimism and against optimism.
There are no doubt temptations to optimism.
It is a fact that mighty Russia, so treacherously assaulted, has struck back with such magnificent strength and courage and brought prodigious and well-deserved slaughter on the Nazi armies.
The United States, the greatest single power, is giving us aid on a gigantic scale and is advancing in rising wrath and conviction to the very verge of war.
It is a fact that German air superiority has been broken and air attacks on this country, for the time being, have almost ceased.
It is a fact that the Battle of the Atlantic, although far from being won, is—partly from American intervention-moving progressively in our favor.
It is a fact that the Nile Valley is much safer than it was twelve or three months ago.
It is a fact that the enemy has lost his pretense of theme and doctrine and has sunk ever deeper in moral and intellectual degradation and bankruptcy so that almost all his conquests have proved burdens and worse.
Would Not Relax Efforts
But all the massive towering facts which we are entitled to dwell upon must not lead us for a moment to propose that the worst is over.
The formidable power of Nazi Germany, the vast mass of destructive munitions which they made or captured, the courage, skill and audacity of their striking forces, the ruthlessness of their centralized war direction, the prostrate condition of so many great peoples under their yoke, the resources of many lands which may, to some extent, become available to them—all these restrain rejoicing and forbid the slightest relaxation.
It would be madness for us to suppose that Russia or the United States are going to win this war for us. The invasion season is at hand. All the armed forces have been warned to be at concert pitch by Sept. 1 and to maintain the utmost vigilance meanwhile.
We have to reckon with a gambler's desperation which, by a mere gesture, decreed the death of three or four million Russian and German soldiers.
We stand here, still the champion. If we fail, all fail. And if we fall, all fall.
It is only by a superb, intense and prolonged effort of the whole British Empire—with a great combination of about three-fourths of the human race—that the fight against nazism will come into vehement and dynamic life.
For more than a year we have been all alone. All alone we have had to guard the treasure of mankind. Although
there may be profound and encouraging changes in the situation, our own final and commanding responsibilities remain undiminished and we shall only discharge them by continuing to pour out in the common cause the utmost endeavors of our strength and virtue and, if need be, to proffer the last drop of our heart's blood.