Sir Winston Churchill, Minister of Munitions, was in Leeds 100 years ago today, visiting the munitions factory for which the city and indeed the region was famous.
He was later “entertained to luncheon” at the Queens Hotel.
Mr John McLaren, chair of the board of control of the Leeds Ordnance Factories was in attendance, as were other dignitaries.
Responding to a toast to his health, Sir Churchill said he was indebted to his friend Mr Rupert Beckett, whom he said had given a start to the setting up of munitions factories in this area, adding they had “played a most important part in the general output of munitions”.
He added he was impressed with the organisation he had seen at the factory “and with the work of the women.”
He went on to praise the British Army, whom he called “unequalled” in all the world, citing their bravery but also the great losses they had incurred during the European War.
Churchill said that during the “four or five months which followed the disaster of March 21 (the Ludendorff Offensive), we had lost in killed and wounded and missing between 300,000 and 400,000 men. Yet such was the stout-hearted endurance and determination of the troops, and such the skill and endurance of their commanders, that in spite of those prodigious losses, the British Army not only hurled back the German attack but after a brief breathing space, was found to be capable of continuously victorious offensive action.” This last statement brought loud applause from all gathered.
Some statistics were also revealed during his speech. The Allies lost over 1,000 guns in one week and yet these were replaced within a month, plus 30 per cent. The Army had discharged over 12,000 tons of shot and shell per day.
He finished by saying the war might escalate further, saying: “We are by no means out of the woods yet... every preparation must be made for continuing the war on a still larger scale, and with greater resources during 1919.” He dubbed Germany “deadly and crafty” and vowed to make them pay for “their crimes”.
And it was here he vowed not to let Germany “during protracted peace negotiations, to recover”.
Churchill even said they were making preparations for an “unexampled” munitions supply in 1919.