War at Sea

Canada and the Battle of the Atlantic

Reviewed by Danile Bohemier

Posted September 15, 2016

In War At Sea, Ken Smith, a history writer from Bathurst, New Brunswick, and the author of previous books about Canada’s East Coast, recounts the Royal Canadian Navy’s role and expansion during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Before the Second World War, Canada largely depended on Great Britain’s Royal Navy. Canada’s own navy was illequipped and had few of the combat ships that would be needed to escort convoys destined for Great Britain. However, fol-lowing the outbreak of hostilities, Canada increased its fleet in order to protect the country’s ports, naval facilities, and mer-chant ships.

Instead of relying on larger combat vessels such as destroyers, the navy favoured corvettes, which were smaller, faster, and well-suited for both combat and escort duties. Smith provides details about ships, their armaments, and technological developments such as radar.

For War At Sea, Smith made use of the Historica Memory Project, a website that features the personal accounts of veteran Canadian sailors. “I was knocked thirty feet and landed against a gun platform,” one sailor said. “As I crawled toward the rail I kept yelling for my pal, Stoker Rod MacKenzie, of Sydney. MacKenzie had been torpedoed six times before.”

Through these personal accounts, as well as an impressive selection of photographs, Smith provides a vivid account of Royal Canadian Navy ships and crews as they embarked on dangerous convoy missions and battled German U-boats.

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