Saturday, November 15, 2014

Oakville's Flower The History of HMCS Oakville

Cover for Oakville's Flower

Oakville's Flower The History of HMCS Oakville

By Sean E. Livingston
October 2014 Dundurn Toronto 144 pp 9781459728417 8.25 in x 10.875 in

This look at corvette HMCS Oakville and the later Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Oakville, named for one of the towns in Ontario that were once considered the economic engine driving Canada. Author Sean E Livingston is a serving Sea Cadet officer in Oakville and this is believed to 
be his first book. The author has done a credible job with the text and makes a fine addition to Oakville and Royal Canadian Navy history. 
The major disappointment from the book was the printing. While color images were included, the reader is left with the feeling it was run off on the office photocopier and sent off to have a perfect binding cover added.
Would make a good Christmas gift for Sea Cadets in the Ontario region.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Edge of Valor

Naval Institute Press 9781612515199 Hardcover & eBook 344 Pages 344 Pages Fiction July 2014

While we don't normally review works of fiction, this book looked interesting so did peruse it. The book is set in the summer of 1945 on a  US Navy destroyer in the Pacific which suffered a Kamikaze hit with the CO, XO and Squadron Commander in recurring roles. The CO, after getting his ship back to port, is transferred to special duty.

The CO, Todd Ingram, becomes intimately involved in early Cold War intrigues, a time overshadowed at the time by the rush to demobilize. Being the fifth in a series of novels, the characters are fairly well developed by this point.

Taking over a series at book five in a series is usually either a sign the author is popular and commands fees the publisher cannot meet or the previous books have not been good sellers. Indeed this was the case with the late Tom Clancy, whose first novel, Hunt for Red October, was shepherded through the production process by editor Fred Rainbow of Naval Institute Press. The book was a great success which had the deleterious effect of pricing the author on to a larger publishing house. However in the case of this book, we'll leave judgement on this to the reader.

The only complaint I had with the book was the page layout. Reading fiction is supposed to an enjoyable experience and the text was too bunched together with a small font, which would make the book an uncomfortable read for older readers.

Nauticapedia List of British Columbia’s Floating Heritage (Volume One 1892–1959)

Book - British Columbia's Floating Heritage

Nauticapedia List of British Columbia’s Floating Heritage (Volume One 1892–1959)

John M. MacFarlane Nauticapedia 978-0-9936954-0-7 240 Pages

This work, the first work in a compendium of seagoing vessels over the years in British Columbia waters. Written by former Maritime Museum of BC head and Nauticapedia founder John MacFarlane, this book is an essential addition to the bookshelf of nautical history buffs. The only quibble we might have is a lack of illustrations in the manuscript, which would have made a nice addition.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fire on the Water

Naval Institute Press 9781612517957 Hardcover & eBook 288 Pages September 2014

This timely book is a look at potential war plans for China in the Indo-Pacific region. With the rise in Chinese naval power and the continual decline of the US Navy's fleet, just what could happen must be examined.

Author Haddick cites as example if the Forward Strategy of Cold War era CNO Thomas Hayward and adopted by then Secretary of the Navy John F Lehman. However the timeline of how this came about is in error; Hayward's plan was first articulated to the public by US Naval Intelligence Analyst and former USNI author and Editorial Board member AD (Dave) Baker III in the Pages of Proceedings. Having read Baker's article and in subsequent meetings, Lehman appointed Baker his special assistant to implement the strategy.

The text brings up the major shortfall in US carrier aviation yet again, the lack of range of the aircraft. This has been a problem since going to the all Hornet force which has been exacerbated by the retirement of dedicated refueling aircraft. This state of affairs will not be any different when the F-35C is introduced to fleet service with carriers still having to operate close enough to hostile shores that would put them in range of Chinese ballistic missiles.

The author advocates for new missiles to replace now outdated Tomahawk and Harpoon variants with longer range supersonic missiles which minimize risk to aircraft carrier battle groups.

Well done Mr Haddick for bringing forward this matter that requires serious study.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unflinching Zeal

9781612511115 Hardcover & Ebook Naval Institute Press 368 Pages 

This consequential work by a pioneer aviation historian fills a significant gap in the story of the defeat of France in 1940. Higham also more fully explains the Battle of Britain and its influence on the Luftwaffe’s invasion of the USSR. The author provides a comparative analysis of the French, German, and British air forces and then dissects their campaigns, losses, and replacement abilities. His research led to an important finding: the three air forces actually shot down only 19 percent of the number of aircraft claimed, and in the RAF’s case, 44 percent of those shot down were readily repairable, contrasting with only 8 percent for the Germans and zero for the French. Higham concludes that awareness of consumption, wastage, and sustainability were intimately connected to survival, and his book emphasizes the necessity of realistic assessments.
Having a late relative who was the only RCAF pilot assinged to RAF 601 "Millionaires" Squadron (so named as from its prewar home for some of the wealthiest members of the Royal (Auxiliary) Air Force, I was engaged in the narrative.
Most French aircraft of the prewar era were of poor design and were unsurprisingly massacred by the Luftwaffe in 1940. From Versailles to Dunkirk, France blamed the army for the loss of five million deaths in the First World War. This feedling lead to pitiful attention to the military which was unprepared for war in 1939.
The UK funded the Royal Air Force slowly and unevenly through the 1920s and 30s and spent much to their air resources in India and other outposts of the British Empire. Poor decisions on acquisitions produced disastrous aircraft such as the Fairey Battle, which like the French designs, was massacred in 1940 by the Germans. 
Kudos to Mr Higham for producing this fine work.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Through a Canadian Periscope Second Edition

Canadian submarines; cover of Through a Canadian Periscope, 2nd ed. by Julie H. Ferguson

Through a Canadian Periscope: The Story of the Canadian Submarine Service

by Julie H. Ferguson Dundurn 2014 ISBN 9781459710559 

Julie Ferguson, a well known figure in the west coast writing community, has done an excellent job updating her first edition of this book to coincide with the 2014 Canadian Submarine Centennial.The well written text brings to life what deplorable conditions onboard most submarines, until recent years, with little or know sanitation, privacy or personal hygiene possible. The first Canadian submarines were bought by the British Columbia Government in 1914 to reassure local citizenry that they were safe in spite of no credible defences from marauding German cruisers. The reader can really appreciate the hardships of serving on these early vessels, originally ordered in Seattle by the Chilean Navy.Two submarines were obtained from the UK after the First World War which were soon retired from service with Ottawa unwilling to spend on defence. Much of the book details the experiences of Canadian officers serving in the Royal Navy submarine arm, the only time Canadian submariners experienced combat.In the Second World War, Canada lacked any submarines and soon learned they were desperately needed for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training and eventually convinced the Royal Navy to base training submarines in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Bermuda. Postwar, the Royal Canadian Navy financed the basing of the Royal Navy Sixth Submarine Squadron in Halifax for ASW training. This arrangement was never quite satisfactory and Canada eventually began to pursue their own boats.These early efforts, much like acquisition projects of today, were victims of either bureaucratic bungling or a naval leadership afraid to speak up. Two former radar picket submarines from the US Navy were earmarked for sale to Canada from their reserve fleet, USS Burrfish and Tigrone. The former was successfully purchased and assigned for ASW training at Esquimalt in 1961 and the latter, intended for Halifax, fell through by ineptitude in Ottawa by naval leadership. (Ironically, USS Tigrone visited Halifax after participating in a 1970 ASW exercise.)By 1970, three obsolete Oberon Class submarines were built in the UK and another was obtained to replace Grilse on the West Coast. The boat obtained, USS Argonaut, had just finished a four year assignment in the Mediterranean was actually in worse shape than Grilse.And therein lies the problem with Canada even having submarines. Naval leadership still plans and trains to refight the Battle of the Atlantic from the First and Second World War. Submarines are intended for ASW training and are never employed in an operational role. Submarine officers had great difficulty passing the multinational commanding officer course, known as Perisher, as they only been operating in support of training surface ships.When the four Upholder Class submarines were obtained from the UK in 1998 after a number of years dithering over it, the first thing Canada did was removed two thirds of their weapon capability, meaning they can no longer fire missiles or lay mines. Back to ASW training.A few small errors noted in the text:
  • Russian submarines built in the First World War in BC were constructed in Burnaby and Vancouver and were disassembled for ease of shipment. The latter batch were completed after the Russian Revolution and were sold to the US Navy, which commissioned them in Bremerton.
  • In 1939, Canada did not declare war until September 10th.
  • In 1944, Newfoundland was a British Crown Colony and not part of Canada. In fact, service personnel from Canada based in Newfoundland were awarded overseas benefits by Veteran's Affairs.
  • When boarding a naval ship, you enter at the brow, not the bow.
  • HMCS Rainbow listed as SS7S instead of SS 75.
Mrs Ferguson is truly the unofficial Canadian submarine historian and is congratulated on this effort. Book is most definitely recommended.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review White Ensign Flying - Corvette HMCS Trentonian

White Ensign Flying - Corvette HMCS Trentonian
By Roger Litwiller

Paperback March 2014 192pp 9781459710399 8.25 in x 10.875 in
eBook – ePUB February 2014 192pp 9781459710412

The book sets out to tell the story of HMCS Trentonian, (named for Trenton, Ontario and a member of the second to last batch of Canadian Flower Class corvettes) from building in Kingston to ultimate loss in UK waters in 1945.
Numerous photos were obtained by the author and would have given a much better look to the book if they'd been displayed in a higher resolution. 
Having read the author's previous book, Warships of the Bay of Quinte, I was hoping to see an improvement in this book. Alas, it was not to be. A lack of good proofreading is displayed with some very sloppy mistakes such as non-existent date of February 29, 1943 and HMCS Drumheller listed as a corvette and frigate on the same page.
Like the author's previous work, there appears to be a lack of knowledge on types of ship. In this latest book HMCS Winnipeg is erroneously identified as a Bangor Class minesweeper. In addition, a lack of distinction between Royal Canadian Reserve (RCNR) and Royal Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) displayed with statement that Trentonian's first commanding officer, Lt Harrison RCNR, was a member of the RCNVR.
A good looking book that could've been much better. If Mr Litwiller wishes to continue writing, and we certainly encourage any and all to research Canadian naval history, a sharper effort next time would be appreciated.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

British Warships & Auxiliaries 2014/15


British Warships & Auxiliaries 2014/15
The Complete Guide to the Ships & Aircraft of the Fleet

By Steve Bush
Maritime Books 120 Pages Softcover 2014

One of our yearly treats is the release of the latest edition of British Warships and Auxiliaries and this year’s version by Steve Bush lives up to the standards. Profusely illustrated with almost all color photographs, a description of all current and planned warships, submarines, aircraft and auxiliaries are listed with their particulars. In addition, the book covers British Army and Border Force vessels. This books is a must for naval bookshelves.