Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Seabound Coast The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy 1867-1939 Volume I

Dundurn January 2011 1014 pp 978-1-55488-907-5 7 in x 9.25 in

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 RCNs establishment in 1910, its tenuous existence following the Laurier governments 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 services very survival.
From confederation of all but one of the remaining British colonies in North America in 1867, the thought of Canada having a naval service was one of the furthest things from the minds of political leaders. Being colonies, they had long been used to having the Royal Navy protect them from foreign intrigues as required and the Monroe Doctrine whereby the USA would come to the defense of any nation in the Americas from foreign attack lead to complacency.
However in 1905, Royal Navy commander Jackie Fisher in London put into a place to modernize British forces. This resulted in the withdrawal of British naval and ground forces from Canada, forcing Ottawa to finally attempt to come to terms with their own defense.
Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier attempted to create what became the Royal Canadian Navy but his implementation plans came to naught with the defeat of his government in 1911.
This book, written by an authoritative and respected team, is certainly a welcome addition to Canadian history.

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