If someone would have suggested to me that a history
of Halifax OR the Royal Canadian Navy could even be remotely contained within 198 pages, I would have scoffed at them. Yet,
that is exactly what former soldier and military historian John Boileau has achieved in Halifax & the Royal Canadian Navy
Boileau takes us from the very
humble beginnings of Canada’s naval service to the acquisition of the Halifax class patrol frigates and the Victoria
class submarines. He also touches on women in the navy and the vital role they have played in its history.
By focusing on the main events throughout the navy’s
history and expounding on those where necessary, we are taken on a historic voyage of discovery witnessing the birth and coming
of age of the Royal Canadian Navy and its symbiotic relationship with Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Canada’s lead in submarine hunting, invention of the bear trap allowing heavy
helicopters to operate from impossibly small destroyers in almost all weather, and the important role played by the navy’s
men and women during the Cuban missile crises (in spite of the Prime Minister’s wishes) are all well documented. For
most readers, this will be their first taste of the Canadian Navy’s actions then.
We are also shown the navy from a personal perspective. John shows us how the lives
of sailors changed over the decades, and how history and politicians affected the life of everyone, from lowly seaman to admiral.
Boileau does not hide his contempt for unification, nor should
he, but on a happy note, his wish that ‘with a stroke of a pen’ the Conservative government had re-established
the historic names of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, was granted, albeit too late to be included in
Well researched, well written
and peppered with quality images, Halifax & the Royal Canadian Navy belongs on every Canadian’s book shelf as a
reminder that in some things, Canada was and still is a world leader. For those who seek further information on the history
of the navy and Halifax, Boileau has included a lengthy Bibliography in its usual place at the back of the book and to add
even further to an already great work, the author has thoughtfully included a chapter titled ‘Naval Nomenclature for
the Novice’ at the front of the book. Bravo Zulu Mr. Boileau!
With the new ship building program well on the way, and HMCS Victoria’s recent live firing of a torpedo, finally
establishing the ‘new’ submarines as an operational part of it, the future does indeed seem bright for Canada’s
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