Friday, August 14, 2009

Commanding Canadians The Second World War Diaries of AFC Layard

by Michael Whitby Softcover ISBN: 0774811943 $29.95

Edited by famous Canadian naval historian Michael Whitby, this book details wartime activities of passed over Royal Navy commander AFC Layard. Diaries and photography were definitely against regulations in wartime.
Whitby has focused primarily on Layard’s time in command of Canadians, both in Canadian and UK waters. Layard had a fondness for most of the RCNVR officers he commanded while considering most RCNR commanding officers (with the exception of Clarence A King, one of Canada’s best U-boat killers) to be too old and ineffective.
Layard disliked being senior officer of an escort group in a ride along capacity; instead preferring the old Royal Navy tradition of commanding a ship at the same time.
What I liked the most about this book was the view of Halifax and Canada from an outsider’s perspective as well as the inshore U-boat campaign in UK waters in 1944-45.
By 1944, waters around the UK were saturated with shipwrecks and U-boats would use this to their advantage by sitting on the bottom. To combat this accurate charting of wrecks was required coupled with the advent of the electronic navigation system that would later evolve into systems such as Decca, LORAN and Omega. By 1945, navigation was so reliant on electronic navigation that radar fixes were rarely considered unless no signal was available. Never before did I realize just how far navigation evolved during the Second World War.
For those interested in naval history, this work is highly recommended.

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