Never Was So Much Owed By So Many To So Few

27 Aug
Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. (L-R...

Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. (L-R): Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King (Canada), General Jan Smuts (South Africa), Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill (United Kingdom), Rt. Hons. Peter Fraser (New Zealand), John Curtin (Australia). Location:London, U.K. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Winston Churchill became such a great hero to Canadians in World War II that it was forgotten or forgiven that his name had been anathema to many people before and after World War I.

In the great naval controversy between Liberals and Conservatives from 1911 to the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, had openly supported the Conservatives’ position: that Canada should not try to create a navy, but should spend the money strengthening the Royal Navy.

In 1922 Churchill burst upon the Canadian political scene again.  This time W. L. Mackenzie King and a Liberal government were in power.  Turkey, as an ally of Germany, had been defeated in the war.  Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies had kept control of the Dardenelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus, dividing Europe and Asia.  An international commission, on which Sir Robert Borden represented British interests, gave Gallipoli and Smyrna to Greece.  A young Turkish officer, Mustapha Kemal, organized a government of his own to free Turkey.  On August 27, 1922, Canadians read that Kemal had launched an all-out attack on the Greeks in Smyrna.  Within two weeks, Smyrna had been captured and the British garrison at Chanak, headquarters of the army of occupation was trapped.  Would Kemal go on and attack the British?

Winston Churchill, who had become Colonial Secretary, and Lord Chancellor Birkenhead, issued a press statement, without Cabinet approval, that Britain had invited the British Dominions to send troops to help defend the British position at Chanak.  Prime Minister Mackenzie King read of the cabled request in Toronto newspapers, while absent from Ottawa.

During the war, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden and Prime Minister Smuts of South Africa had established the position that as the Dominions had made such a big contribution, they must be consulted in decisions about foreign affairs in which they would be involved.  So Prime Minister Mackenzie King replied that he could not commit Canada without the approval of Parliament.

Fortunately it all blew over without Britain’s or Canada’s going to war.  A peace conference settled the situation in the Middle East.  The importance of the “Chanak Crisis” was that Prime Minister King established Canadian relations with Britain on an orderly basis.


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8 responses to “Never Was So Much Owed By So Many To So Few

  1. seeker

    August 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Ehem… I happen to dislike Churchill because of the knowledge that he approve dropping those atomic bombs that Richard Feynman regretted in helping out built it.

    • tkmorin

      August 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      My goodness but I’m learning a lot today with this post! I love learning! 🙂

  2. weggieboy

    August 27, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Of course, the English electorate tossed his party under the bus after the war, and it took a bit more time for the old fellow to regain ground in popularity. I think he became a WWII hero to Americans and never lost his glow. Of course, his mother was American, and one of the hymns played at his funeral was “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, that rousing Civil War hymn.

    • tkmorin

      August 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      You just sent. Me to a world of research and learning. – thank you, by the way for that. I love it! 🙂

  3. michaeldouglasbosc

    August 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    yes and it has taken all these years to make sure all of them got their just thanks.

    • tkmorin

      August 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Better late than never, crosses my mind. But I agree, they should get our thanks! 🙂

  4. L. Marie

    August 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

    An interesting page in history. As they say, there are two sides to every coin. Glad Winston’s reputation improved.

    • tkmorin

      August 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

      I agree. Amazing (not really) how hindsight helps …


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