Friday, August 14, 2009

Halifax at War

By William D Naftel
Formac Publishing 2008 ISBN 9780887807398
Much has been written on the Royal Canadian Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic and the1945 Halifax Riot, it is believed that no work to date has looked at Halifax from the civic perspective. The book delves into the inadequate resources for the expansion of the Canadian war effort on Halifax, which was known as a “Canadian East Coast Port” for most of the war for security reasons.
Naftel looks at housing, transit, electricity, heating and life for both the average Haligonian and service personnel who had little or nothing to do while in port due to Draconian liquor and entertainment laws. Only one swimming pool even existed in Halifax and a few movie theaters. For young men wishing to vent steam after surviving a passage through dangerous U-Boat infested waters, this was unbearable and lead to much rensentment.
The work of the Wartime Prices & Trade Board was interesting as this was where my parents met in the Vancouver office. At the end of the war my father was an RCNVR lieutenant on the staff of a commodore at HMCS Scotian and witnessed the explosion of the Bedford Magazine.
A couple of historical inaccuracies were in the text such as HMS Royal Oak misidentified as Ark Royal and claiming the US was not mobilizing before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The author also employs the term “here” throughout the work as if only locals would be reading the book. For those interested in Canadian and naval history, this book makes a fine addition.

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