Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Seabound Coast

Cover for The Seabound Coast

The Seabound Coast
The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1867–1939, Volume I
By Richard H. Gimblett, William Johnston and William G.P. Rawling
January 2011
1014pp, Hardback
From its creation in 1910, the Royal Canadian Navy was marked by political debate over the country’s need for a naval service. The Seabound Coast, Volume I of a three-volume official history of the RCN, traces the story of the navy’s first three decades, from its beginnings as Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s “tinpot” navy of two obsolescent British cruisers to the force of six modern destroyers and four minesweepers with which it began the Second World War. The previously published Volume II of this history, Part 1, No Higher Purpose, and Part 2, A Blue Water Navy, has already told the story of the RCN during the 1939–1945 conflict.
Based on extensive archival research, The Seabound Coast recounts the acrimonious debates that eventually led to the RCN’s establishment in 1910, its tenuous existence following the Laurier government’s sudden replacement by that of Robert Borden one year later, and the navy’s struggles during the First World War when it was forced to defend Canadian waters with only a handful of resources. From the effects of the devastating Halifax explosion in December 1917 to the U-boat campaign off Canada’s East Coast in 1918, the volume examines how the RCN’s task was made more difficult by the often inconsistent advice Ottawa received from the British Admiralty in London. In its final section, this important and well-illustrated history relates the RCN’s experience during the interwar years when anti-war sentiment and an economic depression threatened the service’s very survival.
The amount of information, graphics, photographs and maps in this book is indeed mind-boggling.
A couple of interesting things I learned from reading this book – Britain wanted to give Canada a coal-burning Bristol Class cruiser instead of HMS Aurora and the senior destroyer commanding officer of the RCN in the 1930s had a broad black funnel cap as per the Royal Navy leader tradition.
A very big well done to Dr Gimblett and his co-authors.

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