[British Library of Information.]
Alike in times of peace and war the annual civic festival we have observed to-day has been, by long custom, the occasion for a speech at Guildhall by the Prime Minister upon foreign affairs. This year our ancient Guildhall lies in ruins. Our foreign affairs are shrunken, and almost the whole of Europe is prostrate under the Nazi tyranny. The war which Hitler began by invading Poland, and which now engulfs the European Continent, has broken into the north-east of Africa, and may well engulf the greater part of Asia-nay, it may soon spread to the remaining portions of the globe. Nevertheless, in the same spirit as you, my Lord Mayor, have celebrated your assumption of office with the time-honoured pageant of Lord Mayor's Day, so I, who have the honour to be your guest, will endeavour to play, though very briefly-for in war-time speeches should be short-the traditional part assigned to those who hold my office.
The condition of Europe is terrible in the last degree. Hitler's firing parties are busy every day in a dozen countries-Norwegians, Belgians, Frenchmen, Dutch, Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Greeks, and above all, in scale, Russians are being butchered by thousands and by tens of thousands after they have surrendered, while individual and mass executions in all the countries I have mentioned have become part of the regular German routine.
The world has been intensely stirred by the massacre of the French hostages. The whole of France, with the exception of that small clique whose public careers depend upon a German victory, has been united in horror and indignation against this slaughter of perfectly innocent people. Admiral Darlan's tribute to German generosity falls unseasonably at this moment on French ears, and his plans for loving collaboration with the conquerors and murderers of Frenchmen are quite appreciably embarrassed.
Even the arch-criminal himself, the Nazi ogre Hitler, has been frightened by the volume and passion of world indignation which his spectacular atrocity has excited. It is he, and not the French people, who has been intimidated. He has not dared to go forward with his further programme of killing hostages.
This, as you will have little doubt, is not due to mercy, to compassion, to compunction, but to fear and to a dawning consciousness of personal insecurity rising in a wicked heart. I would say generally that we must regard all these victims of the Nazi executioners in so many lands, who are labelled Communists and Jews-we must regard them just as if they were brave soldiers who died for their country on the field of battle. Aye, in a way their sacrifice may be more fruitful than that of the soldier who falls with his arms in his hands. A river of blood has flowed and is flowing between the German race and the peoples of nearly all Europe. It is not the hot blood of war, where good blows are given and returned. It is the cold blood of the execution yard and the scaffold, which leaves a stain indelible for generations and for centuries.
Here, then, are the foundations upon which the "new order" of Europe is to be inaugurated. Here, then, is the house-warming festival of the Herrenvolk. Here, then, is the system of terrorism by which the Nazi criminals and their quisling accomplices seek to rule a dozen ancient, famous cities of Europe, and if possible all the free nations of the world. In no more effective manner could they have frustrated the accomplishment of their own designs. The future and its mysteries are inscrutable, but one thing is plain-never, to those bloodstained, accursed hands, will the future of Europe be confided.
Since Lord Mayor's Day last year very great changes have taken place in our situation. We were then the sole champion of freedom in arms. Then we were ill-armed and far out-numbered even in the air. Now a large part of the United States Navy, as Colonel Knox has told us, is constantly in action against the common foe. Now the valiant resistance of the Russian nation has inflicted most frightful injuries upon German military power, and at the present moment, the German invading armies, after all their losses, lie on the barren steppes exposed to the approaching severities of the Russian winter. Now we have an Air Force which is at least equal in size and numbers, not to speak of quality, to the German air power.
Rather more than a year ago I announced to Parliament that we were sending a Battle Fleet back into the Mediterranean for the destruction of the German and Italian convoys. The Admiralty brings us to-day news of the destruction of another Italian destroyer. The passage of our supplies in many directions through the sea, the broken morale of the Italian Navy-all these show that we are still masters there.
To-day I am able to go further. Owing to the effective help we are getting from the United States in the Atlantic, owing to the sinking of the Bismarck, owing to the completion of our splendid new battleships and aircraft carriers of the largest size, as well as the cowing of the Italian Navy already mentioned, I am able to announce to you that we now feel ourselves strong enough to provide a powerful naval force of heavy ships, with its necessary ancillary vessels, for service if needed in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
We stretch out the long arm of brotherhood and motherhood to the Australian and New Zealand people, and to the Indian people, whose army has already been fighting with so much distinction in the Mediterranean theatre. This movement of our naval forces, in conjunction with the United States main Fleet, may give practical proof to all who have eyes to see that the forces of freedom and democracy have not by any means reached the limit of their power.
I must admit that, having voted for the Japanese Alliance nearly 40 years ago-in 1902-and having always done my very best to promote good relations with the island Empire of Japan, and always having been a sentimental well-wisher of Japan and an admirer of her many gifts and qualities, I would view with keen sorrow the opening of a conflict between Japan and the English-speaking world.
The United States' time-honoured interests in the Far East are well known. They are doing their utmost to find a way of preserving peace in the Pacific. We do not know whether their efforts will be successful, but if they fail, I take this occasion to say-and it is my duty to say-that should the United States become involved in war with Japan the British declaration will follow within the hour.
Viewing the vast, sombre scene as dispassionately as possible, it would seem a very hazardous adventure for the Japanese people to plunge, quite needlessly, into a world struggle in which they may well find themselves opposed in the Pacific by States whose populations comprise nearly three-quarters of the human race.
If steel is a nation's foundation of modern war it would be rather dangerous for a Power like Japan, whose steel production is only about 7,000,000 tons a year, to provoke quite gratuitously a struggle with the United States, whose steel production is now about 90,000,000 tons a year. And I take no account of the powerful contribution which the British Empire can make in many ways. I hope devoutly that the peace of the Pacific will be preserved in accordance with the known wishes of the wisest statesmen of Japan, but every preparation to defend British interests in the Far East and to defend the common cause now at stake has been, and is being, made.
Meanwhile, how can we watch without emotion the wonderful defence of their native soil, and of their freedom and independence, which has been maintained single-handed for five long years by the Chinese people under the leadership of that great Asiatic hero and commander, General Chiang Kai-shek. It would be a disaster of the first magnitude to world civilization if the noble resistance to invasion and exploitation which has been made by the whole Chinese race were not to result in the liberation of their hearths and homes. That, I feel, is a sentiment which is deep in our hearts.
To return for a moment to the contrast between our position now and a year ago. I do not need to remind you here in the City that this time last year we did not know where to turn for a dollar across the American Exchange. By very severe measures we had been able to gather together and to spend in America about £500,000,000 sterling. But the end of our financial resources was in sight; nay, had actually been reached. All we could do at that time-a year ago-was to place orders in the United States without being able to see our way through, but on a tide of hope, and not without important encouragement.
Then came the majestic policy of the President and Congress of the United States in passing the Lease-Lend Bill, under which, in two successive enactments, about £3,000,000,000 was dedicated to the cause of world freedom, without-mark this, because it is unique-without the setting up of any account in money. Never again let us hear the taunt that money is the ruling power in the hearts and thoughts of the American democracy. The Lease-Lend Bill must be regarded without question as the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history.
We for our part have not been found unworthy of the increasing aid we are receiving. We have made unparalleled financial and economic sacrifices ourselves, and now that the Government and people of the United States have declared their resolve that the aid they are giving us shall reach the fighting lines, we shall be able to strike with all our might and main.
Thus we may, without exposing ourselves to any charge of complacency, without in the slightest degree relaxing the intensity of our war effort, give thanks to Almighty God for the many wonders which have been wrought in so brief a space of time, and we may derive fresh confidence from all that has happened and bend ourselves to our task with all the force that is in our soul and with every drop of blood that is in our veins.
We are told from many quarters that we must soon expect what is called a peace offensive from Berlin. All the usual signs and symptoms are already manifest, as the Foreign Secretary will confirm, in neutral countries, and all those signs point in one direction. They all show that the guilty men who have let Hell loose upon the world are hoping to escape with their fleeting triumphs and ill-gotten plunder from the closing net of doom.
We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our Russian Allies and to the Government and people of the United States, to make it absolutely clear that whether we are supported or alone, however long and hard the toil may be, the British nation and his Majesty's Government at the head of that nation, in intimate concert with the Governments of the great Dominions, will never enter into any negotiations with Hitler or any party in Germany which represents the Nazi regime. In that resolve we are sure that the ancient City of London will be with us to the hilt and to the end.