"Canada and Its Navy"
Lund, Wilfred G. D., Naval War College Review
Hadley, Michael L., Rob Huebert, and Fred W Crickard, eds. A Nation's Navy: In Quest of Canadian Naval Identity. Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1996. 460pp. $49.95
Miller, Duncan, and Sharon Hobson. The Persian Excursion: The Canadian Navy in the Gulf War. Clementsport, Nova Scotia: The Canadian Peacekeeping Press, 1995. 239pp. $35
THE EDITORS OF A NATION'S NAVY regard it as the third volume (after The RCN in Retrospect , and The RCN in Transition ) of a Canadian naval trilogy. Like the earlier volumes, it is a compilation of essays presented at a conference-in this instance the 1993 Fleet Historical Conference at Halifax. The essays were published in book form to make better known to the Canadian public its navy and its naval heritage. The book's subtitle reflects the conference's theme, to explore the identity of the Canadian navy.
The editors are Michael Hadley, a professor of Germanic studies at the University of Victoria and author of several histories on German submarine warfare and the Canadian navy during the first and second battles of the Atlantic;
Rob Huebert, an assistant professor of political studies at the University of Winnipeg and a commentator on naval affairs; and Fred Crickard, a retired rear admiral. The essayists are academicians, which reflects the maturation of the field of Canadian naval history as a distinct area of scholarly interest.
For contemporary Canadians, particularly "English-Canadians," defining their own identity has become somewhat of a national pastime, second only to hockey. It usually takes the form of an intellectual exercise in comparative analysis of what it means to be Canadian as opposed to American. In short, it is about cultural definition. Happily, Hadley, Huebert, and Crickard have concluded that identity lends itself to "description and celebration" but eludes definition, because in the Canadian context it is a continuing process of refinement, "changing and unclear." Instead, A Nation's Navy is an exploration of subjects and issues that constitute the evolving Canadian naval culture, and its main appeal is in its variety of description. The editors do not purport that lessons of history will be found in its pages, instead simply explanations that reflect various socio-political developments within Canadian society. The reader will better understand Canada through this study of its navy.
The essays cover a broad spectrum of interest from 1890 to the present. Organized into five parts, each addresses a specific area of naval interest or endeavour. Part One is an overview entitled "Soundings," which includes essays by three noted Canadian navalists: Marc Milner on historiography, Michael Hadley on the popular image of the navy, and Fred Crickard on strategy. The next three parts explore the navy as an instrument of national policy, as a fighting service, and as a component of Canadian society. The concluding section includes a comparative analysis of the Canadian and Australian experiences, and predictions for the way ahead.
These essays present a wide variety of views. Two examples are Fred Crickard's provocative piece on the "strategic culture" of the naval officer corps, and the authoritative study of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, the "WRENS," by Barbara Winters, challenging some of the patent conclusions of feminist military historians. Winters' essay is one of five sociological studies presented by historians that include a statistically based analysis (by David Zimmerman) of the background of the wartime navy. Richard Gimblett provides useful impressions of modern coalition warfare in his discussion of the Canadian navy's experience and lessons learned (as a "lesser" naval power) during the Gulf war. The concluding piece is an essay by the then Maritime Commander, Vice Admiral Peter Cairns, on the future of the navy.
The overall impression conveyed throughout the book is that the Canadian navy, like Canada itself, has experienced a realignment of its cultural affiliation from the United Kingdom to the United States. …