Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another Place, Another Time: A U-Boat Officer's Wartime Album

Another Place, Another Time: A U-Boat Officer's Wartime Album

By Werner Hirschman with Graves, Donald E (Foreword by Timothy P Mulligan, Maps B Hirschmann (Author)

Hardcover: 256 pages Robin Brass Studio / Chatham Publishing Toronto 2004 978-1896941387

8.1 x 8 x 0.7 inches

One of the services with the highest casualty rate during World War II was the German U-Boat service. Of the 40,000 men who served in that branch, 28,000 were killed. Werner Hirschmann was one U-Boat officer that entered the German Navy in 1940 and served until 1945 when he and his boat surrendered to Canadian forces.

This book covers several different subjects. The first few chapters deal with his joining the Navy and the training he received. Then it's to see on a destroyer, including escort duty for the Bismark when it left for the Atlantic raid. Finally he is transferred to U-Boats with more training followed by going to war. Finally came the sixth and last patrol, ending in surrender.

There are two appendices to the book. The first is a Pictorial Tour of the authors boat, the U-190 and the U-889, both type IXC long range boats. The type of submarines that were used in the patrols to North America, the Caribbean, the southern Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Orient. This pictorial tour is well illustrated. Mr. Hirschmann was the engineering officer on the boat, so as you would expect, these pictures feature most of the technical aspects of the boat. There is even a picture of the quite rare four rotor Navy Enigma machine.

The second and somewhat smaller appendix is titled Life on a U-Boat. Again, it is fairly technical in nature.

This is a splendid book, especially for the technically minded.

SEA LOGISTICS: Keeping the Navy Ready Aye Ready

By Mark Watson

Hardcover: 280 pages Publisher: Vanwell Publishing (April 2004) Language: English ISBN-10: 1551250810 ISBN-13: 978-1551250816 Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.3 x 0.9 inches

The history of the navy's Supply Branch has often been passed over for more exhilarating aspects of naval warfare such as submarine hunting or the latest marvels of naval technical engineering.

The important contribution of the men and women who make up the Supply Department is nonetheless an essential element of the Canadian Navy. It affects every soldier's ability to carry out his or her role in combat or in peacetime. Without effective logistics service people would not be transported to battle, fed their dinner, or supplied with their ammunition. Every member of the ship sees its impact on a daily basis - from food services, pay and spare parts to replacement of clothing, posting arrangements and canteen services.

This book examines the development of the Accountant, Supply and Secretariat, and Logistics Branch from the Navy's earliest days through the busy peace enforcement operations of the 1990s, up to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Along with the extensively researched and documented history the author has provided profiles of some of the support personnel whose service was outstanding, and humorous anecdotes from various contributors.

This book looked good at first glance, but reading it left one with a real sense of disappointment. The “history” is mostly anecdotal and riddled with numerous errors. A few examples of the errors include:

• Rear Admiral Cossette photo captioned with the rank Commodore

• Staged photo on page 67

• HMCS Cape Breton was made into an artificial reef and not scrapped

• The AOR concept was trialed by the US and Royal Navies with captured German tankers in the late 1940s long before Canada planned them for inclusion in their fleet

• A mast is misidentified as a yardarm in one photo

• HMCS Preserver operated off Somalia and not HMCS Protecteur

• And most shocking of all, use of “the HMCS” instead of the grammatically correct “HMCS”

This book is rubbish and definitely NOT recommended.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

By Thomas F. Berner


128 Pages Arcadia Publishing 1999

Price: $21.99

Not much larger than a few city blocks (219 acres, plus 72 acres of water), the Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of the most historically significant sites in America. It was one of the U.S. Navy’s major shipbuilding and repair yards from 1801 to 1966. It produced more than 80 warships and hundreds of smaller vessels. At its height during World War II, it worked around the clock, employing some 70,000 people. The yard built the Monitor, the world’s first modern warship; the Maine, whose destruction set off the Spanish-American War; the Arizona, whose sinking launched America into World War II; and the Missouri, on whose deck World War II ended. On June 25, 1966, the flag at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was lowered for the last time and the 165-year-old institution ceased to exist. Sold to the City of New York for $22.4 million, the yard became a site for storage of vehicles, some light industry, and a modest amount of civilian ship repair.

In The Brooklyn Navy Yard, author Thomas F. Berner restores what were fast-fading memories of the yard’s days of glory. An attorney who practices law in New York City, Berner presents stunning photographs to illustrate the vital role of this small yard. His sources include the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, and the United States Naval Institute.

With seemingly never ending redevelopment of the former Brooklyn Navy Yard still ongoing 11 years after this book was first published, it still holds up as a nice reference tool. A pictured of the never completed aircraft carrier USS Reprisal (probably the best warship name ever!) under construction in the yard was the first I had ever seen.

The book is well illustrated with photos of both the yard and the ships built and repaired there. One historical piece of trivia missed by the author was the requirement until the 1960s that US warships had to be able to fit under the Brooklyn Bridge. The last aircraft carrier built at the yard, USS Constellation was also the last ship built with this capability which was a fold down mast.

One small criticism was the use of the commonly misused grammatical error “the USS” when just “USS should’ve been used.

This was the first book we have reviewed from Arcadia Publishing and hope their other titles are as enjoyable.


By Robert Adleman and George Walton

9781591140047 US Naval Institute Press Annapolis MD


Number of Pages: 270 Number of Photos: 25 Number of Line Art: 10 Total Illustrations: 35


The first special service forces of World War II were known as the Devil's Brigade. Ferocious and stealthy combatants, they garnered their moniker from the captured diary of a German officer who wrote, "The black devils are all around us every time we come into line and we never hear them." Handpicked U.S. and Canadian soldiers trained in mountaineering, airborne, and close-combat skills, they numbered more than 2,300 and saw action in the Aleutians, Italy, and the south of France.

Co-written by a brigade member and a World War II combat pilot, the book explores the unit's unique characteristics, including the men's exemplary toughness and their ability to fight in any terrain against murderous opposition. It also profiles some of the unforgettable characters that comprised the near-mythical force. Conceived in Great Britain, the brigade was formed to sabotage the German submarine pens and oil storage areas along Norway's coast, but when the campaign was cancelled, the men moved on to many other missions. This World War II tale of adventure, first published in hardcover in 1966 and made into a movie not long after, is now available in paperback for the first time.

A curious choice for reprint by USNI Press; however it was an enjoyable read.

AT CLOSE QUARTERS PT Boats in the United States Navy

AT CLOSE QUARTERS PT Boats in the United States Navy

By Robert J. Bulkley

9781591140955 US Naval Institute Press Annapolis MD


Number of Pages: 604 Number of Photos: 109 Number of Line Art: 7 Total Illustrations: 116

Small though they were, PT boats played a key role in World War II, carrying out an astonishing variety of missions where fast, versatile, and strongly armed vessels were needed. Called "weapons of opportunity," they met the enemy at closer quarters and with greater frequency than any other type of surface craft. Among the most famous PT commanders was John F. Kennedy, whose courageous actions in the Pacific are now well known to the American public. The author of the book, another distinguished PT boat commander in the Pacific, compiled this history of PT-boat operations in World War II for the U.S. Navy shortly after V-J Day, when memories were fresh and records easily assessable. The book was first made available to the public in 1962 after Kennedy's inauguration as president of the United States interest in PTs was at a peak.

Bulkley provides a wealth of facts about these motor torpedo boats, whose vast range of operation covered two oceans as well as the Mediterranean and the English Channel. Although their primary mission was to attack surface ships and craft close to shore, they were also used effectively to lay mines and smoke screens, to rescue downed aviators, and to carry out intelligence and raider operations. The author gives special attention to the crews, paying well-deserved tribute to their heroism, skill, and sacrifice that helped to win the war.

Robert J. Bulkley, a retired USNR captain now deceased, commanded PT boats in the southwest Pacific, mostly in New Guinea and the Philippines, from June 1942 to war's end. This truly is reflected in the command of the subject he displayed.

The text flows well and being someone who thought he had a fairly good grasp on Second World War naval operations, was amazed at how much I learned. One example – a curious case of naval protocol, the individual boats were not commissioned ships but squadron units as in aircraft squadrons – but still flew the naval jack when moored.

This book represents the US Naval Institute Press at its best. This is why many long for a return to the days of the publisher being synonymous with high quality naval history instead of the various tangents that have been explored in the past several years.

The illustrations were truly impressive with one small error noted – a photo of a Royal Navy MTB was misidentified as a PT.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names

Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names

A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia

by Andrew Scott

978-1-55017-484-7 • 1-55017-484-3

$49.95 • Hardback

7 x 10 • 664 pp • September 2009

In 1909 Captain John T. Walbran published one of the most beloved and enduring of all BC books, British Columbia Coast Names. Harbour Publishing celebrates the hundredth anniversary of that landmark work by presenting the first book to update Walbran's classic, Andrew Scott's Raincoast Place Names. Like its progenitor, Raincoast Place Names is much more than simply a catalogue of name origins because it tells the often fascinating stories behind the names and in so doing serves as a history of the region in capsule form. It is also a monumental work, twice the size of Walbran's and including more than three times as many places. Four thousand entries consider, in intriguing detail, the stories behind over five thousand place names: how they were discovered, who named them and why, and what the names reveal. It describes the original First Nations cultures, the heroics of the 18th-century explorers and fur traders, the grueling survey and settlement efforts of the 19th century, the lives of colonial officials, missionaries, gold seekers and homesteaders, and the histories of nearly every important vessel to sail or cruise the coast.

The book also examines—for the first time—the rich heritage of BC place names added in the 20th century. These new entries reflect the world of the steamship era, the ships and skippers of the Union and Princess lines, the heroes of the two World Wars and the sealing fleet, Esquimalt's naval base and BC's fishing, canning, mining and logging industries.

Richly illustrated with photos and maps, this book is an essential reference work, a must-have guide for boaters and mariners and a standard companion for anyone interested in BC history. It also makes a fine shelf-mate for the Encyclopedia of British Columbia.

Not much more needs to be said of this, a true labor of love. The book makes a welcome update to the classic work that preceded it a century ago. It was interesting to note that certain places on the British Columbia coast are named after Captain Walbran in honor of his 1909 work.

One minor criticism is the overuse of the term “First Nation” – a Canadian political correctness term for natives that is not in use in other countries. Hence it may cause some confusion with foreign readers.

With that said, we proclaim Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names the 2009 SeaWaves Magazine Book of the Year.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010 The Centennial Story

The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010 The Centennial Story

By Richard H. Gimblett

October 2009
256pp, Hardback
$39.95 CAD

Canada proudly celebrates 100 years of naval service in 2010. This lavishly illustrated commemorative volume chronicles the full century of the Canadian Navy as a proud national institution. The editor, Dr. Richard Gimblett, is the command historian of the Canadian Navy. The foreword is by Governor General Michaƫlle Jean (as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces) and the 11 contributors are highly recognized authorities on their particular period. The comprehensive coverage includes the origins of the Canadian Navy back to 1867, both world wars, the Korean conflict, the postwar period, and a look at the navy of the future.
A couple of illustrations of note in the book: a view of the four DDH 280-class ships from the 1970s when they were referred to as the “sisters of the space age.” An addition to this would have noted that class leader Iroquois was the third oldest front line combatant in the world at the time of the book’s publication in 2009. Another was a Fairey Aircraft advertisement from the 1960s optimistically but ultimately vainly hoping that Restigouche-class destroyer escorts would be converted to helicopter carrying DDH status.
There is also a section on naval war art as well as profiles of ships and aircraft through the years in Canadian naval service. Unfortunately this is where the book ultimately disappoints historcial purists.
The artist who made the profiles obviously put lots of work into them but they are marred by sloppy research. On page 47 the artwork of HMCS Champlain shows the World War II hull number for HMS Hasty and the one of HMCS Saguenay on page 51 shows the World War II hull number for HMS Hotspur and the aircraft carriers on page 147 shows HMS Nabob’s hull number as 77 instead of the correct D 77.
While a sharper eye would have improved the final product, the book is worth recommending.