Friday, August 14, 2009

Betrayed Scandal, Politics, and Canadian Naval Leadership

by Richard O. Mayne $85.00 Hardcover ISBN: 9780774812955 $29.95 Paperback ISBN: 9780774812962
With this book, Richard Mayne has shown that he is one of Canada’s up and coming pre-eminent naval historians. The book is aptly titled “Betrayed Scandal, Politics and Canadian Naval Leadership.
In just over five years, the Royal Canadian Navy went from one of the world’s smallest to the third largest. The strain on both political and uniformed leadership was enormous.
Various political intrigues are detailed with behind the scenes intrigues than can almost be described as Machiavellian in nature. The two leading uniformed figures were Jones and Nelles and most of the prewar regular force officer cadre was beholden to one or the other. These fights eventually led to the ouster of Nelles as Chief of Naval Staff and his replacement by Jones.
At the height of the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942-43, the Royal Canadian Navy was built around the Flower-class corvette. Adapted from the Southern Pride whaler in the UK, the simple to build corvettes were easy to construct in Canadian yards which had previously rarely built anything larger than fishing vessels. However while these ships were being put into service, two things had taken place which pretty much made these ships obsolete - airpower and the Enigma code breaking efforts. The Canadian ships were urgently in need of refit but the navy agonized over the merit of refitting obsolete ships.
Londonderry in Northern Ireland became a major base for Canadian warships but virtually no support was offered to them. Small touches as a Canadian shore staff and recreational pursuits would’ve been wonderful for morale.
These two major issues which directly contributed to the effectiveness or lack thereof for ships of the Royal Canadian Navy were of secondary importance to the political intrigues playing out in Ottawa.
A few minor criticisms of the book are noted:
303 machine gun was misidentified as a .50 caliber
No coverage of the contempt felt for the officers assigned to Fairmiles by other officers
A comparison of the high quality refits of Canadian-manned but UK owned corvettes provided under the US Lend-Lease program in US yards would have been beneficial
Use of ``the` on a consistent basis before ship names is a definite no-no according to David Freeman, author of the authoritative Canadian Warship Names.
These minor points aside, this work is highly recommended for anyone interested in Canadian naval history. I look forward to Mr. Mayne's next work.

No comments:

Post a Comment