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Book Reviews

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CANADA’S NAVY: THE FIRST CENTURY, SECOND EDITION

Reviewed by Jurgen Duewel

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CANADA’S NAVY: THE FIRST CENTURY, SECOND EDITION
by Marc Milner
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010
391 pages, $35.00
ISBN: 978-0-8020-9604-3

Reviewed by Jurgen Duewel

In 1999, Marc Milner published Canada's Navy: The First Century. The book was considered by many to be one of the best and most readable books on the history of the Canadian Navy. Unfortunately, it arrived 11 years too early. Milner has now completed his work with the Second Edition, which adds a 16th chapter, entitled Global Reach 1991-2010, to the original publication. This final chapter, along with a new preface and epilogue, does an admirable job of explaining the turmoil that existed during the early 2000s, and the chaos that erupted in the world in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, the Canadian Forces (CF) and the Canadian Navy were still trying to recover from an "age of darkness" and massive cuts to the Armed Forces when the terrorists struck. All of a sudden, the leadership was required to change focus and was now compelled to ramp up personnel and equipment in order to respond to the new threat. As luck would have it, Milner explains, the navy's newly launched frigates arrived just in the nick of time. The Chrétien Government, while not wanting to be drawn into a ground war in Iraq, nevertheless wanted to be in step with the rest of Canada's NATO allies and the collective reaction to al Qaeda. Unfortunately, the ‘Ready Aye Ready’ attitude would turn out to be a ‘double-edged sword,’ and the navy would soon become a victim of its own successes. As good as the frigates and their crews were, and they were very good, there were too few hulls and too few people to constitute a sustainable presence for even the limited, two- year mandate of Operation Apollo, imposed by the then-Chief of the Maritime Staff. Due to the navy's ongoing high tempo commitments, the midlife refit for the frigates, which had been planned to start in 2002, would be delayed until 2010. In addition, the cuts to personnel from 1995 establishment levels would continue to haunt, and the navy would continue to ‘hollow out.’ Despite increased funding from the Conservative Government, the long-promised ship borne helicopter still has yet to arrive, and the replacements for the two replenishment vessels, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur, appear to have stalled. As Milner reminds the reader, the present situation for the navy is sadly all too familiar. In order to be relevant to Canadians, the navy needs to remain engaged in the world and demonstrate its value as an instrument of government policy. However, due to its commitments over the past years, the navy finds itself in the unenviable position of needing to recover with respect to both personnel and the refitment of her ships, while still maintaining operations at the four corners of the globe: i.e., chasing pirates off the coast of East Africa, providing humanitarian aid to Haiti, supporting NATO, and conducting sovereignty patrols in the Arctic.

The book contains a couple of editing errors, such as placing the timing of the London attacks in 2002 vice 2005, and an overly-simplified explanation of transformation and its impact upon the navy. Notwithstanding, this book, like the first edition, provides an outstanding narrative of the history the Canadian Navy, and should hold a place of honour on every naval officer's bookshelf.

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Lieutenant-Commander Jurgen Duewel is a Maritime Surface Officer on staff at the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston, responsible for Officer Professional Development, Period 3. He has a Master's Degree in War Studies from the Royal Military College, and is currently working on a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

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