Hitler's Forces Still Strong
OUR OFFENSIVE AND COOPERATION POLICIES
By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Delivered before Parliament, London, February 22, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 297-303
THIS is no time for sorrow or rejoicing. It is time for preparation, effort and resolve. The war is still going on. I have never taken the view that the end of the war in Europe is at hand or that Hitler is about to collapse and I have certainly given no guarantee, or even held out any expectation, that the year 1944 will see the end of the European war, nor have I given any guarantee the other way.
On the whole my information—and I have a good deal—goes to show that Hitler and his police are still in full control and that the Nazi party and the generals have decided to hang together. The strength of the German Army is about 300 divisions, though many of these are substantially reduced in numbers. The fighting quality of the troops is high. The German General Staff system which we failed to liquidate after the last war represents an order comprising many thousands of highly trained officers and a school of doctrine of unbroken continuity.
It possesses great skill both in handling troops in action and in their rapid movement from place to place. Recent fighting in Italy should leave no doubt on these points. It is true that the results of our bombing have had a noteworthy effect on German munitions productions. In the people they have produced a dull apathy which also effects munitions production and all air raid precaution services.
Foes Losses In Russia Immense
The splendid victories of our Soviet ally on the eastern front are inflicting immense losses upon the enemy. The fact that so many enemy divisions have been drawn into Italy and into Yugoslavia, while other large bodies of his troops are held in France and the Low Countries by fear of invasion has been a help to these victories. Moreover, Anglo-American bombing of Germany, absorbing as it does about 3,000,000 Germans, has together with other British and American activities drawn four-fifths of the German fighter forces to the British and American fronts, and I believe even a larger number of bombers are against us and our American allies.
This also has been of assistance to the Soviet Union, and I think these statements should be made in justice to the Western allies. They in no way detract from the glory of Russian arms. It must also be borne in mind in surveying the general foundation of the scene as we see it today that as the German troops retreat westward they will find many opportunities of narrowing their fronts, and if they choose to cut their losses in the Balkans or on the Italian Peninsula at any time a considerable number of the divisions can be made available for the purpose of strengthening their central reserve.
Britain's Part in the War
It is far from my wish to make any boastful statement about the part which this island is playing in the war. It has, however, been borne upon me that the interests of the alliance as a whole may be prejudiced if its other members are left in ignorance of the British share in the great events which are unfolding. The Dominions also have a right to know that the mother country is playing its part.
I think it therefore my duty to state a few facts which are perhaps not generally realized. For instance, since Jan. 1, 1943, up to the present time in the middle of February, ships of the Royal Navy and aircraft of the RAF—that is to say, forces of the mother country only—have sunk more than half the U-boats of which we have certain proof in the shape of living prisoners. And they have also destroyed 40 per cent of the very large number of other U-boats, of which either corpses or fragments provide definite evidence of destruction.
Again on the naval side, apart from enemy U-boats, we have sunk by British action alone since Jan. 1, 1943, nineteen enemy warships and also a large number of E-boats, escort vessels, minesweepers and other auxiliaries. British action has been predominantly responsible for sinking during this period 316 merchant ships aggregating 835,000 tons.
In the same period 7,677 officers and men of the Royal Navy and about 4,200 Merchant Navy officers and men have lost their lives in British ships. This last, however, does not at all represent the total war sacrifice to date of our merchant seamen, because matters have improved very much lately. Since the beginning of the war the proportion of merchant seamen hailing from these islands alone who have been lost at sea on their vital duty has been about one-fifth of the average number engaged in this service.
The total personnel, officers and men, of the Royal Navy lost since the war started is just over 30 per cent of its prewar strength, the figures being 41,000 killed out of 133,000, which was its total strength on the outbreak of war. Since January 1, 1943, ships of the Royal Navy have bombarded the enemy coast on 716 occasions. In the same period we have lost in action or had disabled for more than one year—serious disablements—ninety-five ships of war.
RAF and Army Achievements
Turning to the air, the honor of bombing Berlin has fallen almost entirely to us. Up to the present we have delivered the main attack upon Germany.
Excluding Dominion and Allied squadrons working with the RAF, British Islanders have lost 38,300 pilots and air crews killed and 10,400 missing and over 10,000 aircraft. Since the beginning of the war they have made nearly 900,000 sorties in the north European theatre.
As for the army, the British Army was little more than a police force in 1939, yet they have fought in every part of the world—in Norway, France, Holland, Belgium, Egypt, Eritrea, Abyssinia, Somaliland, Madagascar, Syria, North Africa, Persia, Sicily, Italy, Greece, Crete, Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong.
I cannot now in this speech attempt to describe these many campaigns so infinitely varied in their characteristics, buthistory will record how much the contribution of our soldiers has been beyond all proportion to the available manpower of these islands.
The Anglo-American air attack on Germany must be regarded as our chief offensive effort at the present time. Until the middle of 1943 we had by far the largest force in action. As a result of enormous transportations across the Atlantic which have been made in 1943 the United States bomber force in tin's island now begins to surpass our own and will soon be substantially greater still, I rejoice to say.
The efforts of the two forces fit well together, and according to all past standards each effort is in itself prodigious. Let me take the last example. During forty-eight hours beginning at 3 a. m., Feb. 20, four great raids were made upon Germany. The first began against Leipzig the night of Feb. 19-20 by the RAF, when nearly 1,000 machines were dispatched, of which seventy-nine were lost. On Sunday morning a tremendous American raid, nearly 1,000 strong, escorted by an even greater number of fighters—American and British, but mostly American—set out for German towns, including; Leipzig, in broad daylight.
Losses in this raid were greatly reduced by the fact that enemy fighters had been scattered beforehand by British operations the night before. Fighters descended at bases other than their own and could not be so readily handled. In the ensuing action the full effect of American precision bombing was therefore realized. Following hard on this night, Feb. 20-21, another British raid was delivered, this time on Stuttgart, and again in very great strength, some 600 to 700. The effect of the preceding twenty-four hours of bombing relieved this third raid to a large extent. And finally the American force went out Monday again on a big scale and drove home in a most effective manner our joint air superiority over the enemy.
Worse to Come for Germany
Taken together these four raids, in which over 9.000 tons of bombs were dropped on Germany by the two Allies, constituted the most violent attack yet made upon Germany. They also proved the value of saturation in every aspect of air war. That aspect will steadily increase as our forces develop and as the American force comes into its full scope and scale. The spring and summer will see a vast increase in the force of the attack directed upon all military objectives in Germany and German-occupied countries. Long-range bombing from Italy will also penetrate the southern part of Germany.
We look for great restriction and disclocation of the entire German munitions supply, no matter how far the factories are withdrawn. In addition the precision of American day-, light attacks is giving exceptional results upon particular points, not only in clear daylight but now, with the development of navigational raids, through clouds. The whole of this air offensive constitutes the foundation on which our plans for overseas invasion stand in the scales, and the degrees of attack will reach far beyond the dimensions of anything yet employed or indeed imagined.
The idea that we should fetter or further restrict the use of this prime instrument for war will not be accepted by the governments of the Allied Nations. The proper course for German civilians and non-combatants to take is to quit the centers of munitions production and take refuge in the countryside. We intend to make war production in its widest sense in all German cities, towns and factory centers impossible.
Retaliation by the enemy has so far been modest but we must expect it to increase. Hitler has great need to exaggerate his counter-attacks in order to placate his formerly deluded population.
New Attacks on Britain Planned
Besides these air attacks there is no doubt that the Germans are preparing on the French shore new means of attack on this country, either by pilotless aircraft or possibly rockets, or both, on a considerable scale. We have long been watching these with the utmost vigilance. We are striking at all evidence of these preparations on every occasion when the weather is suitable and to the maximum extent possible without detracting from the strategic offensive against Germany. An elaborate scheme of bombing priorities upon which a large band of highly skilled American and British officers are constantly at work in accordance with directions of the combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington have governed our action for some time past.
It is continually kept up to date in relation to our strategic schemes and aims. I do not believe that better machinery could be devised. It is always flexible enough to allow us to turn aside for some particular objective, as for instance Sofia, capital of hated Bulgaria.
Weather, of course, remains the final factor in the decision where each day or night's activities shall be employed, and that puts a very great responsibility in the hands of the officers who actually handle these great, enormous masses of aircraft. The use of air power also affects the general war situation by the toll which it takes of the enemy's fighter aircraft both by day and night, but especially by the Americans by day, because they have very great actions with their formations of Flying Fortresses and enemy fighter aircraft.
Foe's Fighter Strength Whittled
Already we have seen the German air program concentrate mainly on fighters, thus indicating how much they have been thrown on the defensive in the air. Now, this new German fighter strength is being remorselessly worn down both in the air and in the factories, which are the object of continual attack. Every opportunity is and will he sought by us to force the enemy to expend and exhaust his fighter aircraft strength. Our production of aircraft, fighters and bombers, judged by every possible test, already far exceeds the Germans'. Russian production is about equal to ours and American production alone is double or treble German production.
When I speak of production I mean not only that of aircraft, not only that of machines, but of all that vast organization—training schools and auxiliary services which minister to our power—without whose efficiency air power could not manifest itself. What the experience of Germany will be when her fighter defense has been almost completely eliminated and our aircraft can go all over Germany by day and night, with nothing to fear but flak, has yet to be seen.
The same is true of the air power of Japan. That also is being overmatched and worn down, and production is incomparably small compared to that of the great powers whom Japan has assailed.
Whereas on former occasions when I have addressed the House and tried to give a general picture of the war in its scale structure and proportion I have always set the war against the U-boat menace in the forefront. I deliberately on this occasion give primacy to the great developments in air power which have been achieved and which are to be expected. This air power was the weapon which both marauding states selected as their main tool of conquest. This ma the sphere in which they were to triumph. This was the method by which nations were to be subjected to their rule.
I shall not moralize further than to say there is strange and stern justice in the long swing of events.
Offensive in Italy
Our other great joint Anglo-American offensive is in Italy. Many people have been disappointed with progress there since the capture of Naples in October. This has been due to extremely bad weather which marks the winter in a supposedly sunshiny land and which this year has been worse than usual. Secondly, it is because the Germans, bit by bit, have been drawn into Italy and have decided to make extreme exertions for retention of the city of Rome. In October they began to move a number of divisions southward from the valley of the Po and construct a winter line south of Rome in order to confront and delay the advance of the Fifth and Eighth Armies and their General Alexander.
We were therefore committed to a frontal advance in an extremely mountainous country which gave every advantage to the defense. All rivers flow at right angles to our march and violent rains often turn these rivers in a few hours into raging torrents, thus sweeping away ail military bridges drawn across them and sometimes leaving part of the assaulting force committed to attack on the far side and beyond reach of immediate support.
In addition to these difficulties there has been need to build up large supplies of stores and vehicles of all kinds in Italy; and also a strategic air force which is being developed for an attack on southern Germany made extremely large priority inroads on our transportation, and especially those forms of transportation most in demand. An immense amount of work has been done and results will be apparent later on.
Among the Allies we have much the larger army in Italy. The American' air force in the Mediterranean on the other hand is larger than the British, and the two together possess enormous superiority quantitatively and also we believe qualitatively, over the enemy. We have also complete command of the sea, where an American squadron is actively working with the British fleet.
Such being the position, many people wonder why it was not possible to make a large amphibious turning movement either on the western or eastern side of Italy to facilitate the forward march of our armies.
Need for this was of course obvious to the commanders, British and American, but the practicability of carrying it into effect depended upon the fleet being properly fitted in with the general Allied program of the year. This program comprises larger issues and forces than those with which we ore concerned in Italy.
Difficulties which hitherto obstructed action were removed at conferences at Carthage at Christmas and at Marrakech in January. The plans were approved by the President of the United States and the combined Chiefs of Staff in supreme direction of the war in the first week of January. Preparations had already been begun in anticipation of surmounting the final difficulties and January 22 was fixed as the zero date by General Alexander, on whom rests direct responsibility for fighting the battle.
lt was certainly no light matter to launch this large army of 40,000 to 50,000 with all the uncertainties of winter weather and all the unknowable strength of the enemy's fortifications—to launch it upon the seas. The operation itself was a model of combined working. The landing was virtually unopposed, but subsequent events did not take the course which had been Hoped or planned.
In the upshot we got a great army ashore equipped with masses of artillery, tanks and very many thousands of vehicles, and our troops, moving inland, came into contact with the enemy.
Reactions of the Germans
The German reactions to this descent have been remarkable. Hitler has apparently resolved to defend Rome with the same obstinacy which he showed at Stalingrad, in Tunisia and recently in the Dnieper Bend. No fewer than seven extra German divisions were brought rapidly down front France, Northern Italy and from Yugoslavia and a determined attempt has been made to destroy the bridgehead and drive us into the sea.
Battles of prolonged and intense fierceness have been fought. At the same time the American and British Fifth Army to the southward was pressing forward with all its strength, and another battle is raging there on both fronts.
There has been in the last week most severe Sind continuous engagements, very full accounts of which have been given every day in the press and official communiques. Up to the present moment the enemy has sustained very heavy losses but has not shaken the resistance of the bridgehead army. These forces are well matched, though we are definitely stronger in artillery and armor and, of course, when weather is favorable our airpower plays an immense part.
General Alexander has probably seen more fighting against the Germans than any living British commander, unless it be General Freyberg, who is also in the fray. Alexander says the bitterness and fierceness of the fighting now going on both in the bridgehead and on the Cassino front surpasses ail his previous experience. He even uses in one message to me the word "terrific." On the southern Cassino front British, American, Dominion, Indian, French and Polish troops are fighting side by side in noble comradeship. Their leaders are confident of final success.
I can say no more than what I have said, for I would not attempt to venture any overconfident predictions, but their leaders are confident and the troops are in the highest spirit of offensive vigor.
Hitler's Effort Welcomed
On the broad grounds of strategy Hitler's decision to send into the south of Italy as many as eighteen divisions, involving, with their maintenance troops, probably something like a half million Germans and his decision there in Italy to make a large secondary front is not unwelcomed to the Allies. We must fight the Germans somewhere in this war unless we are to stand still and watch the Russians.
This wearing battle in Italy occupies troops which cannot be employed in other greater operations and it is an effective prelude to them. We have sufficient forces at our disposal in Africa to nourish the struggle as fast as they can be transported across the Mediterranean. The weather is likely to improve as spring approaches, and as the skies clear Allied air power will reach its fullest manifestation.
This time last year, Feb. 22 to the day, when I remember I was ill in bed, I was deeply anxious about the situation in Tunisia where we had just sustained an unpleasant check at Kasserine Pass. I placed my confidence then in General Alexander and in the British, American and French troops who were engaged in battle. I placed my confidence in that leader and in those troops, and that is how I feel about it now.
I discussed at Cairo, and during my enforced stay amid the ruins of Carthage I was able, by correspondence, to settle with the President and the War Cabinet here the remodeling of the command for our joint operations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
The principle which bad obviously been followed between two allies working together as closely as we and the United
States is that the nationality of the commander should in general follow the majority of troops in any theatre.
In Generals Maitland Wilson and Alexander we have at once the supreme commander in the Mediterranean and the righting head of the army in Italy. We and our American ally have full confidence in these officers, under whom United States General Devers and General Clark—that most daring and gallant leader of the Fifth Army—are the corresponding American chiefs.
In Britain, on the other hand, where forces are being assembled for future operations of the greatest magnitude, General Eisenhower, with whom we have worked so long, so happily and so successfully, has been placed at the summit of the war direction, with Air Chief Marshal Tedder as his deputy, and with his brilliant United States Chief of Staff, trusty Gen. Bedell Smith.
These are the central figures in this command under whom many distinguished commanders, British and American, are serving, including General Montgomery, and these officers will when the time comes and in accordance with the engagement that has been made lead our armies to the liberation of Europe.
As certain statements have been made in America—unofficial statements—about the relative strength of the armies to be employed from here, I think it necessary to state that British and American armies at the outset of the struggle will be approximately equal, but that if its duration is prolonged the continuous inflow of Americans, built up at an enormous rate, will naturally give them the superiority in numbers which we would expect from the great resources and manpower of which they dispose and which they desire above all things to bring as speedily as possible into contact with the enemy. Therefore it is right that the supreme command should go to the United States.
Armies' Cooperation Perfect
I would turn aside one moment to emphasize how perfect is the cooperation in the British and American armies. Nothing like it ever has been seen before between allies. No doubt language is a great help, but there is more in it than that. In almost all previous alliances the staffs have worked with their opposite numbers in each department, with liaison officers and so on, but in Africa General Eisenhower built up a uniform staff in which every place was filled with whoever was thought to be best man, and they all ordered each other about according to their rank without the slightest regard to what country they belonged.
The same unity and brotherhood are being instituted here throughout the forces which are gathering in this country. I cannot doubt it will be found most serviceable and unique also in all the history of alliances.
I must now turn from actual military operations to the European political scene, which influences all military affairs so vehemently planned. In this present war of so many nations against Nazi tyranny there has at least been a common principle at work throughout Europe and among conquered peoples—their unity of hatred and desire to revolt against the Germans, such as has never been known against any race before.
The penalties of Nazi defeat are vital. After the blinding flash of catastrophe, the stunning blow, the gaping wounds there comes an onset of diseases of defeat. The central principle of a nation's life is broken and all health and normal control vanishes. There are few societies that can withstand the conditions of subjugation. Indomitable patriots take different parts. Quislings and collaborationists of all kinds abound. Guerrilla leaders, each with their personal followers, Quarrel and fight. There are already in Greece and Yugoslavia factions engaged in civil war one with another and animated by hatreds more fierce than those which should be for the common foe.
Safest Course to Follow
Among all these varied forces the German oppressor develops his intrigues with typical ruthlessness and merciless cruelty. It is hard enough to understand the politics of one's own country. It is almost impossible to understand those of foreign countries. The sanest and safest course for us to follow is to judge all parties and factions dispassionately by the test of their readiness and ability to fight the Germans and thus lighten the burden of Allied troops. This is not a time for ideological preferences for one side or the other, and certainly we, His Majesty's Government, have not indulged ourselves in this way at all.
Thus in Italy we are working for the present to aid the Government of the King and Badoglio. In Yugoslavia we give aid to Tito. In Greece, in spite of the fact that a British officer was murdered by the guerrilla organization Ellae, we are doing our utmost to bring about a reconciliation, or at least a working agreement, between the opposing factions.
I would say a word or two about each of these unhappy countries. I wish to show first of all the principle which should govern us and which we are certainly following.
We signed the Italian armistice on the basis of unconditional surrender with King Victor Emmanuel and Marshal Badoglio, who were and up to the present are the legitimate Government of Italy. On their authority the Italian Navy, not without risk and loss, surrendered to us, and practically all Italian troops and airmen who were not dominated by the Germans also obeyed the orders they received from the Crown.
Cooperation by Italians
Since then these Italian forces have cooperated with us to the best of their ability. Nearly 100 Italian ships of war are discharging valuable services in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Italian troops have entered the front line in Italy, and though on one occasion they suffered severe casualties they continue to fight alongside our men. Very much larger numbers are engaged in indispensable services to the Allied armies behind the front. Italian airmen are also fighting on our side.
The battle for Italy, for reasons I have already explained, will be hard and long. I am not yet convinced that any other government can be formed at the present time in Italy which would command the same obedience from the Italian armed forces.
Should we succeed in the present battle and enter Rome— as I trust and believe we shall—we shall be free to review the whole Italian political position and we shall do so with many advantages which we do not possess at the present time. It is from Rome that a more broadly based Italian government can best be formed.
Whether such a government—and I throw this out as a thought—will be as helpful to the Allies as the present dispensation I cannot tell. It might, of course, be a government which would try to make its position good with the Italian people by resisting as much as they dare the demands made upon them by the Allied armies.
I should be sorry, however, to see an unsettling change made at a time when the battle is at its climax, swaying to and fro. When you have to hold a hot coffee pot it is better not to break off the handle until you are sure that you can get another equally convenient and serviceable, or at least that you will find a dishcloth handy.
Party Leaders at Bari
Representatives of the various Italian parties who assembled a fortnight ago at Bari are, of course, eager to become the government of Italy. They will have, of course, no electoral authority and no constitutional authority until the present King either abdicates or he or his successor invites them to take office. It is by no means certain that they would have effective authority over the Italian armed forces now fighting with us.
Italy lies prostrate in her miseries and her disasters. Food is scarce. Shipping to bring it is voraciously absorbed by the ever-expanding military operations. I think we have gained 12,000,000 tons this year, yet the shortage continues because our great operations absorb every ship as it comes and the movement of food is difficult. It would be a mistake to suppose that the kind of political conditions or forces exist in Italy such as have worked so happily in the unbeaten lands and in the countries that have not been shattered by war or stifled by a prolonged period of Fascist rule. We shall see much more clearly how to proceed and have much more varied resources at our disposal if and when we are in possession of the capital city. The policy therefore which His Majesty's Government have agreed on, provisionally with the Government of the United States, is to win the battle for Rome and take a new view when we are there.
Resistance in the Balkans
On the other side of the Adriatic in the vast mountain regions of Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, an area of peraps 800 miles from north to south and 300 to 400 miles from east to west, a magnificent resistance to the German invaders is in full and violent progress. With the surrender of Italy, with which I think Britain had something to do having fought the Italians since the summer 1940, with that surrender sixty-two Italian divisions ceased to be a hostile fighting factor.
Forty-three were disbanded and enslaved, apparently without any of the safeguards which attach to prisoners of war, by the Germans. Ten were disbanded by guerrillas in the Balkans and nine which were stationed in south Italy or in Sardinia and Corsica came over to the Allies.
Confronted with this situation, Hitler decided to reinforce the Balkan Peninsula heavily, and at the present time no fewer than twenty German divisions are engaged in the Balkans. That is to say there are twenty-five German divisions in Italy, of which eighteen are in the present battle in front of Rome, and another twenty over the vast area of the Balkans. They might be worse employed.
In Yugoslavia, in spite of the most ferocious and murderous cruelties and reprisals perpetrated by the Germans both against hostages and village populations, including women and children, the Partisan forces have the upper hand. The Germans hold the principal towns and try to keep the railways working. They can march their columns hither and thither about the country, they own the ground they stand on, but nothing else; all the rest belongs to the valiant Partisans.
German losses have been very heavy and as far as actual fighting is concerned have greatly exceeded the losses of the Partisans. But the killing of hostages and civilians in cold blood adds to the Germans' score—and it adds to our score against the Germans.
Rivalry in Yugoslavia
In Yugoslavia two main forces are in the field. First there are guerrilla bands under General Mikhailovitch. These were the first to take the field and represent to a certain extent the forces of old Serbia. For some time after the defeat of the Yugoslav armies these forces maintained guerrilla warfare. We were not able to send any aid or supplies except a few droppings from airplanes. The Germans retaliated for any guerrilla activity by shooting batches of 400 and 500 people together in Belgrade.
General Mikhailovitch, I much regret to say, drifted gradually into a position where some of his commanders made accommodations with Italian and German troops, which resulted in their being left alone in certain mountain areas and in return doing nothing or very little against the enemy.
However, a new and far more formidable champion appeared on the scene. In the autumn of 1941 Marshal Tito's Partisans began a wild and furious war for existence against the Germans, and they wrested weapons from German hands. They grew in numbers rapidly. No reprisals however bloody, whether of hostages or villages, deterred them. For them it was death or freedom. Soon they began to inflict heavy injuries on the Germans and became masters of wide regions. Led with great skill and organized on the guerrilla principle, they were at once illusive and deadly. They were here, they were there, they were everywhere.
Large-scale offensives have been launched against them by the Germans, but in every case the Partisans, even when surrounded, escaped after inflicting great loss and toil upon the enemy.
Tito's Army Formidable
The Partisan movement soon outstripped in numbers the forces of General Mikhailovitch. Not only Croats and Slovenes but large numbers of Serbians joined with Marshal Tito, and he has at this moment more than a quarter of a million men with him and large quantities of arms taken from the enemy or from the Italians. These men are organized without losing their guerrilla qualities into a considerable number of divisions and corps. The whole movement has taken shape and form without losing its guerrilla qualities, without which is could not possibly succeed. These forces are at this moment holding in check no fewer than fourteen out of twenty German divisions in the Balkan Peninsula.
Around and within these heroic forces a national and unifying movement has developed. Communist elements had the honor of being the beginners, but as the movement has increased in strength and numbers a modifying and unifying process has taken place and national conceptions have supervened. In Marshal Tito the Partisans have found an outstanding leader, glorious in the fight for freeom. Unhappily, perhaps inevitably, these new forces came into collision with those under General Mikhailovitch. Their activities upset his commanders' accommodations with the enemy. He endeavored to suppress them.
Many tragic fights took place and bitter feuds sprang up between men of the same race and country whose misfortunes were due only to the common foe. At the present time the followers of Marshal Tito outnumber manyfold those of General Mikhailovitch, who acts under the name of the royal Yugoslav Government.
Of course the Partisans of Marshal Tito are the only people who are doing any effective fighting against the Germans now. For a long time past I have taken particular interest in Marshal Tito's movement and have tried and am trying by every means to bring him help.
Aided by British Missions
A young friend of mine, an Oxford don, Captain Dorian, now Lieut. Col. Deakin, DSO, entered Yugoslavia by parachute nearly a year ago and was for eight months at Marshal
Tito's headquarters. On one occasion they were both wounded by the same bomb and became friends.
From Colonel Deakin we derived a lively picture of the whole struggle and its personnel. Last Autumn we sent a larger mission under Brigadier MacLean, member (of Parliament) for Lancaster, he having joined the Foreign Secretary and me at Cairo to report. He has now entered Yugoslavia by parachute.
I can assure the House that every effort in our power will be made to aid and sustain Marshal Tito and his gallant bands. The Marshal sent me a message during my illness and I have since been in constant and agreeable correspondence with him. We intend to back him with all the strength we can draw on having regard to our other main obligations.
What, then, is the position of King Peter and the Royal Yugoslav Government in Cairo? King Peter is a boy of 17 escaped from the clutches of the Regent and with a new royal Yugoslavian Government found shelter in this country. We cannot disassociate ourselves in any way from him. He has undobutedly suffered in the eyes of the Partisans by the association of his government with General Mikhailovitch and his subordinate commanders.
Situation Is Complicated
Here in this island we are attached to the monarchical principle and we have experienced many blessings of constitutional monarchy. We have no wish or intention of intruding our own ideas upon any particular country. Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy all will be perfectly free to settle the forms which their governments shall take so far as we are concerned once the will of the people can be obtained under conditions of tranquility.
In the meantime the position is a somewhat complicated one and I hope to have the confidence of the House in working with the Foreign Secretary to unravel it as far as we can in concert with our Russian and United States allies who are, I am glad to say, sending missions to Marshal Tito.
Our feelings here and elsewhere follow the principle of keeping good faith with those who have kept good faith with us and of striving without prejudice or regard for political affections to aid those who strike for freedom against the Nazi rule and inflict the greatest injury upon the enemy.
I have now given the House the fullest account of this difficult and somewhat delicate situation in Yugoslavia and I do not desire to add to it in any way at the present time. I have to pick my words with great care because the situation is complicated.
The saddest case of all is that of Greece. Everyone recalls with sentiments of admiration the way she met the attack upon her by Italy and then by Germany. It is painful to see the confusion and internecine strife which has broken out in Greece attended by so many instances of treachery and violence, all of which have been to the advantage of the German invader who watches with contemptuous complacency Greek killing Greek with munitions sent to them for the purpose of killing Germans.
Here the situation, like that of Yugoslavia, is obscure and changing. But it can be said beyond a doubt that the great mass of the Greek people wait for the time when they will be liberated from the servitude and bondage into which they have been thrown. So far as we are concerned they will not wait in vain.
Cairo and Teheran Meetings
A very full account was given in the House in December by the Foreign Secretary of the meeting of the heads of Governments in Cairo and Teheran and of the meetings which the Foreign Secretary had previously held in Moscow. Things move so fast nowadays that these meetings now seem ancient history and I have little to add.
It was a great advantage to meet for the first time Generalissimo Chiang-Kai-shek and his wife. The generalissimo is a world figure and the main hope and champion of China. Mme. Chiang Kai-shek is also a remarkable and fascinating personality whose perfect command of English and her complete and comprehensive grasp of the world struggle make her the best of interpreters in matters in which she herself plays a notable part.
Most of our time in Cairo before we visited Teheran was taken up in discussing the policies to be pursued against Japan, the best means of pressing forward the war in India and the Pacific theatre with the utmost energy and the fitting of plans into the priority requirements of the Atlantic and Mediterranean theatres.
At Teheran the long-desired triple meeting between Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt and myself was at length achieved. Personal contacts were established which will prove helpful to the common cause. There would be very few differences between the three great powers if their chief representatives could meet once a month.
At such meetings difficulties can be overcome and most delicate matters discussed without risk of jars and misunderstandings such as too often arise when written negotiations are the only channel. Geography offers the most baffling obstacles. Although further meetings may be possible I have nothing at the moment to announce.
Allies Solidly United
The question is asked, I have heard, if the good relations established at Moscow and Teheran proved durable or if they faded during the weeks that have passed. Does the Pravda statement, for instance, or do articles which are appearing in various organs of the Soviet Government, imply a cooling off in Anglo-Russian or American-Russian friendship and a rebirth of suspicion of her Western Allies on the part of Russia?
I feel fully entitled to reassure the House on that all-important point. None of the ground made good at Moscow and Teheran has been lost. The three great Allies are absolutely united in their action against the common foe. They are resolved equally to pursue the war at what ever cost to a victorious conclusion and they believe that a wide field of friendly cooperation lies before them after the destruction of Hitlerite tyranny. It is upon such prolonged intimate and honorable association that the future of the world depends.
I took occasion to raise personally with Marshal Stalin the question of the future of Poland. I pointed out that it was in fulfillment of our guarantee to Poland that Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, that we had never weakened in our resolve even during the period when we were all alone and that the fate of the Polish nation holds a prime place in the thoughts and policies of His Majesty's Government and the British Parliament.
Stalin for Strong Poland
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 these declarations in public, and I am convinced they present a settled policy of the Soviet Union.
Here I may remind the House that we ourselves have never in the past guaranteed on behalf of this Government any particular frontier line to Poland. We did not approve
of the Polish occupation of Vilna in 1920. The British view in 1919 stands expressed in the so-called Curzon Line, which deals at any rate impartially with the problem.
I have always held the opinion that all questions of territorial settlement and readjustment should stand over until the end of the war and that the victorious powers should then arrive at a formal and final agreement governing the articulations of Europe as a whole. That is still the wish of His Majesty's Government.
However, the advance of the Russian armies into Polish regions in which the Polish underground army is active makes it indispensable that some kind of friendly working agreement should be arrived at to govern wartime conditions and to enable all the anti-Hitlerite forces to work together with the greatest advantage against the common foe. During the last few weeks the Foreign Secretary and I together have labored with the Polish Government in London with the object of establishing a working arrangement upon which the righting forces can act and upon which, I trust, an increasing structure of good-will and comradeship may be built between the Russians and the Poles.
Sympathy With Russian View
I have intense sympathy for the Poles—that heroic race whose national spirit centuries of misfortune cannot quench. But I also have sympathy for the Russian standpoint. Twice in her lifetime Russia has been violently assaulted by Germany. 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 are going all the way with her to sec that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations.
The liberation of Poland may presently be achieved by the Russian armies after these armies have suffered millions of casualties in breaking the German military war machine. I cannot feel that the Russian demand for reassurances about her western frontiers goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable or just. Marshal Stalin and I also spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the north and in the west.
Here I may point out that the term "unconditional surrender" does not mean that the German people will be enslaved or destroyed. It means, however, that the Allies will not be bound to them at the moment of surrender by any pact or obligation. There will be no question, for instance, of the Atlantic Charter applying to Germany as a matter of right and barring territorial transferences or adjustments in enemy countries. No such arguments will be admitted by us as were used by Germany after the last war, saying that they surrendered in consequence of President Wilson's Fourteen Points.
Meaning of Surrender
Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand. It does not mean that they are entitled to behave in a barbarous manner nor that they wish to blot out Germany from among the nations of Europe. If we are bound, we are bound by our own consciences to civilisation. We are not to be bound to the Germans as a result of a bargain struck. That is the meaning of "unconditional surrender."
It may be that I shall have a further statement to make to Parliament about Poland later on. For the present, what I have said, however incomplete, is all that the Government are able to say upon the subject, and I hope that we shall not be pressed further in debate, because matters are still under discussion.
I thank the House very much for giving me their attention and so much consideration. There are many dangers and difficulties in making speeches at this moment. First, it is a time for deeds and not words. Secondly, I must find a narrow line between reproof of complacency at home and encouragement of the enemy abroad. One has to confront the country with the grave times through which we are still passing without depressing the soldiers who will have to fight and win the battles of 1944.
Moreover, this should be remembered: There was a time when we were all alone in this war and when we could speak for ourselves. But now that we are in closest relations on either side with our great allies, every word spoken has to be considered in relation to them. We have lived through periods of mortal danger and I cannot say that the dangers are mortal now. But they are none the less very serious and we need all the support and goodwill that attended us at the time when everyone felt that the national existence was at stake.
There is, I gather, in some quarters a feeling that the way to win the war is to knock the Government about, keep them up to collar and harry them from every side. That I find hard to bear with Christian patience.
Election Fireworks in U. S.
Looking further abroad, it is also election year in the United States, and that is a time when naturally a lot of rough things have to be said about Great Britain and when popularity is to be gained in that vast community in demonstrating Americanism in its highest forms. We are ourselves accustomed to the process of elections and I think we should not allow ourselves to be unduly concerned by anything that may be said or written there in the course of the great constitutional process which is taking place.
All this atmosphere at home and abroad accords none too well with the responsibilities and burdens which weigh upon His Majesty's Ministers, which I can assure the House are very real and heavy.
We are in the advent of the greatest joint operation between two allies that has ever been planned in history. There is a desire in this country in many quarters to raise old controversies between different parties. There is also a mood in the Anglo-American alliance to awaken slumbering prejudices and let them have their run.
Yet Liberals, Labor men and Tories are at this moment fighting and dying at the front and working in a thousand different ways at home, and Britons and Americans are linked together in the noblest comradeship of the war under the fire and flail of the enemy.
My hope is that generous instincts of unity will not depart from us in these times of immense exertion and grievous sacrifice and that we shall not fall apart abroad or at home and so become the prey of the little folk who exist in every country and flock alongside the juggernaut car of war to see what fun or notoriety they can extract from the proceedings.
There is one thing that we all agreed on at Teheran above all others to which we were bound in solemn compact, and that is to fall upon and smite the Hun by land, sea and air with all the strength that is in us during the coming spring and summer.
It is this task to which we must vow ourselves every day anew. It is to this ordeal that we must address ourselves with all the moral virtues we possess. The task is heavy, the toil is long, the trial will be severe. But let us all try to do our best, to do our duty. Victory may not be so far away and will certainly not be denied us in the end.