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Edited by James A. Boutilier.

Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, c1982.
373pp, cloth, $28.00.
ISBN 0-7748-0152-2.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Neil Payne.

Volume 10 Number 4.
1982 November.

         The twentieth century has been a naval century...
         It has witnessed the rise and fall of mighty navies...
         It has highlighted the value and versatility of sea power.

         The Royal Canadian Navy was part of that great maritime
         tradition. It was shaped by and helped to shape this naval
         century. The RCN in Retrospect is a study of the commanders,
         warships, and engagements of Canada's navy. It traces the
         rise and fall of that gallant service, highlighting its various
         roles and remarkable accomplishments.

These words from the preface set the tone for a rich, proud, and well-organized history of Canada's navy from its origins leading to the Naval Service Act of 1910 to its decimation by unification and the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act of 1967.

The RCN in Retrospect tells of the valiant struggle in the early years when the very survival of a Canadian navy was very much in doubt. At the low point in 1922, the budget was slashed to only $1.5 million. This required drastic cuts in strength and a complete reorganization. The fleet was reduced to only one destroyer and two minesweepers on each coast and a total of 402 officers and men. At the same time, a Naval Reserve of 500 was established. From that base, there was very slow growth until Canada's navy went to war in Sept. '39 with a total strength, Regular and Reserve, of 397 officers and 2,276 men.

In the six short years of World War II, the Canadian navy grew to a fleet of 775 vessels and over 107,000men and women. It became the third largest navy in the world and played a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Then the problems after the war: the steady shrinking of the fleet; the mutinies in 1947 on HMCS Ontario and in 1949 on HMCS Athabaskan, Crescent, and Magnificant and the changes resulting from the Maingay Report of 1949.

The last chapter outlines the enormous blow to Canada's navy of the unification crisis when it not only took severe cuts in ships and manpower, but also lost its uniform, its traditions, and its identity. This blow is one the navy has been unable to recover from. In the fourteen years since unification, the fleet has steadily become smaller and older to the point where, this past winter, for several weeks, only four of Canada's twenty-four aging warships were operational.

The RCN in Retrospect is the only history of Canada's navy since Gilbert Norman Tucker's Naval Service of Canada published in 1952. It should be considered a supplement to and updating of that work rather than a replacement for it, since it is not a complete history but a series of articles on the major themes of that history.

The editor, Dr. James Boutilier, is very well qualified to originate this work. He is an historian who has specialized in naval history and British colonial policy. He is currently lecturing in history at Royal Roads Military College and the University of Victoria. He has assembled a blue ribbon group of contributors consisting of senior Naval officers who were personally involved in the events and several naval history specialists. The result is a lively and personal account of what happened, that tells far more than any strict statement of the facts could do. This book is a treasure. It can be read profitably simply as a true story well told. Yet, while maintaining the interest level and easy storytelling of the "salty dips" traded in Navy messes, it manages to provide excellent history, well documented, and well supported by 105 photographs and fourteen maps and charts.

Very highly recommended for any public, high school, college or university library with an interest in Canada's military or with a significant Canadian history collection.

Neil Payne, Kingston C. V. I., Kingston, ON.
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