Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review White Ensign Flying - Corvette HMCS Trentonian

White Ensign Flying - Corvette HMCS Trentonian
By Roger Litwiller

Paperback March 2014 192pp 9781459710399 8.25 in x 10.875 in
eBook – ePUB February 2014 192pp 9781459710412

The book sets out to tell the story of HMCS Trentonian, (named for Trenton, Ontario and a member of the second to last batch of Canadian Flower Class corvettes) from building in Kingston to ultimate loss in UK waters in 1945.
Numerous photos were obtained by the author and would have given a much better look to the book if they'd been displayed in a higher resolution. 
Having read the author's previous book, Warships of the Bay of Quinte, I was hoping to see an improvement in this book. Alas, it was not to be. A lack of good proofreading is displayed with some very sloppy mistakes such as non-existent date of February 29, 1943 and HMCS Drumheller listed as a corvette and frigate on the same page.
Like the author's previous work, there appears to be a lack of knowledge on types of ship. In this latest book HMCS Winnipeg is erroneously identified as a Bangor Class minesweeper. In addition, a lack of distinction between Royal Canadian Reserve (RCNR) and Royal Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) displayed with statement that Trentonian's first commanding officer, Lt Harrison RCNR, was a member of the RCNVR.
A good looking book that could've been much better. If Mr Litwiller wishes to continue writing, and we certainly encourage any and all to research Canadian naval history, a sharper effort next time would be appreciated.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

British Warships & Auxiliaries 2014/15


British Warships & Auxiliaries 2014/15
The Complete Guide to the Ships & Aircraft of the Fleet

By Steve Bush
Maritime Books 120 Pages Softcover 2014

One of our yearly treats is the release of the latest edition of British Warships and Auxiliaries and this year’s version by Steve Bush lives up to the standards. Profusely illustrated with almost all color photographs, a description of all current and planned warships, submarines, aircraft and auxiliaries are listed with their particulars. In addition, the book covers British Army and Border Force vessels. This books is a must for naval bookshelves.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lost Black Sheep: The Search for WWII Ace Chris Magee

Review by Jim Bates

When most people think about VMF-214, aka "The Black Sheep," they remember either Pappy Boyington or the fictional characters from the 1970s TV show. Few know that a member of VMF-214 was not only an ace, but his life was probably more interesting than the fiction they remember with nostalgia. His name was Chris Magee.

Robert T. Reed's book, Lost Black Sheep: The Search of WWII Ace Chris Magee, is written in two parts; the first, a biography of Mr. Magee, the second, a search for Mr. Reed's roots, and the two turn out to have significant crossover.  Chris Magee grew up in Chicago and, as a young man, tried to get to Europe to become a fighter pilot in World War II. He failed at first, but did end up training in Canada with the RCAF. After graduating with his wings from the RCAF he joined the United States Marine Corps and became the second highest scoring ace with the Black Sheep. Mr. Magee was not the typical fighter pilot as portrayed on screen. He was a deeply intellectual man, who was a voracious reader and a great writer.  Several of his letters are included in the book and they are well written, observant, and quite amusing at times. Post-war, Mr. Magee continued flying as a mercenary with Israel, later became a bank robber and then spent some time as a guest of the Federal Government. After paying his debt to society, he dropped off the face of the earth.

The second section of the book is more personal for Mr. Reed. He discovered that the man he grew up calling "Dad" was not his biological father; it was actually Mr. Magee.  Robert tracked down Mr. Magee and set out to establish a relationship. What does an ace, robber, and mercenary do in old age? Apparently, settle down to a life in a small apartment outside of Chicago to continue his intellectual quests, spending most of his time with his nose in a book. The story continues as Mr. Reed becomes acquainted with his father and reintroduces Chris to both his fellow Black Sheep and Mr. Magee's remaining estranged family members.

Lost Black Sheep is quite interesting and enjoyable. After finishing it, I longed for more insight into what made Mr. Magee tick.  Clearly he was far from the stereotypical fighter pilot and certainly no two dimensional underscripted TV character.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Juan de Fuca's Strait: Voyages in the Waterway of Forgotten Dreams

By Barry Gough 9781550176179 Harbour Publishing Paperback and maps 288 pp August 2013

I was looking forward to reading this book, having read some of Dr Gough's earlier works. The text starts well recounting the lives and feats of the seafarers, merchants, naval officers and explorers who searched for the fabled passage from Pacific to Atlantic which of course never existed. About halfway through the whole gist of the book seems to shift to a political correctness theme and thus causes the book to fall apart. This caused me to give up reading the remainder. When a writer wants to include 21st Century terms such as "First Nations", "Salish Sea" and "Haida Gwaii" brings the rest of the manuscript into question. What other parts of this book has history been assuaged to change events to make people appear either bad or good for political correctness? This book belongs in the trash bin. Very disappointing.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th Ed

Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th Ed
Naval Insitute Press Annapolis March 2013 9781591146872 Hardcover 688 pages

Very happy to see the publishing of the 19th Edition of this Naval Institute staple and that the considerable talents of Richard Burgess has been added to the production. As usual the book is profusely illustrated and with many excellent lists and tables in a large format. The one think I could do without are the numerous listing of retired classes of ship, which seems to fly in the face of the intent of original editor James C Fahey. Apart from this, the book is highly recommended and should be added to the bookshelf of military and civilian personnel with an interest in the US Navy, US Coast Guard, NOAA and Military Sealift Command.

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The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Ed

The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Ed
Naval Institute Press Annapolis August 2013 9781591149545 Hardcover 1,008 pages 

Called “the nation’s premier naval reference book,” The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World is internationally acknowledged as the best one-volume reference to the world’s naval and paranaval forces. Updated regularly since 1976, it has come to be relied on for all-inclusive, accurate, and up-to-date data on the ships, navies, coast guards, and naval aviation arms of more than 170 countries and territories. Large fleets and small maritime forces get equally thorough treatment. Comprehensive indexes make the book easy to use and allow for quick comparisons between ships and fleets.

This new 16th edition, presents information on all the major and minor maritime developments that could impact the world scene in the years to come. Heavily illustrated with 4,450 black & white  photos and 179 multi-view line drawings, Combat Fleets  provides the user with the most detailed views available for identification and comparison purposes. Additional aids for the user include a section on how to use the book, lists of terms and abbreviations,an informative ship-name index, and more. An expanded chapter on the Chinese navy provides major updates on the status of their new aircraft carrier and the latest Chinese submarines, surface ships and naval missiles. Dozens of detailed line drawings depict exactly where weapons and sensors are located on the world’s combatants such as the Iranian Ghadir-class submarines, the French Forbin-class destroyers, and the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The ship data section for each country provides full coverage of all ships, from the largest aircraft carriers to the smallest training and auxiliary craft. The vessels of the world’s coast guards and customs services are given thorough treatment as well. But the book is much more than a ship encyclopedia. It includes information on the personnel strengths of each country’s naval forces, major base locations, and details on maritime radar, sonar, naval aircraft, and weapon systems currently in service.
For the Canadian section, I was disappointed in the section not being up to date. 

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Asian Maritime Strategies

By Bernard D Cole 9781591141624 Naval Institute Press Hardcover & eBook 320 Pages October 2013

An analysis of the current state of maritime defense in Asian waters. With the financial capacity of the US to maintain a permanent presence in the region in doubt, the strengths and weaknesses of the nations in the region is what should be examined in detail. The smaller nations are also covered as well as the larger ones such as China, India and Japan. The one disappointment of this books was the lack of illustrations and tables to put things in perspective. This book is a timely addition to current geopolitical thought processes.

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