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24 June 2010

100 Years of Our Navy

The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010 : The Centennial Story

Dr. Richard Gimblett, command historian of the Canadian Navy will at The Victory on Saturday, July 17 from 1pm to 3pm to sign copies of his book, The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010: The Centennial Story.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a wonderful introduction to the Canadian Navy that will facilitate widespread understanding of its significance to Canadian history and culture for the past century. As Gimblett explains, this book is not an official history, but one that is accessible in both content and price which will expose readers to the wide variety of scholarship on the Canadian Navy written by Canadians. The authors are of considerable import in their fields, many of whom, including Isabel Campbell, Donald Graves, William Johnston, and Bill Rawling, are co-authors of the forthcoming official history of the Canadian Navy issued by the Directorate of History and Heritage.

The Naval Service of Canada is a beautiful volume, first evident in the two paintings by CSMA artists John Horton and Peter Rindlisbacher that grace the front cover. The book is organized chronologically, including a painting of a naval scene of the period under discussion by a Canadian artist as the centrepiece for every chapter. In addition to being on the front cover, Rindlisbacher's HMCS Niobe at Daybreak is the feature painting of the second chapter on the RCN during World War I. The cruiser Niobe, the RCN's largest warship, was primarily engaged in patrolling the American coast. Rindlisbacher's painting depicts the vessel going out to sea. John Horton's paintings, in addition to being on the front cover, illustrate four chapters on various periods. Notable among them are West Coast Squadron Leaving Esquimalt, Horton's watercolour of Canada's west coast naval base during the interwar years, and Halifax - The Spring Board, Horton's painting portraying the busy Halifax dockyard as myriad RCN ships come and go during World War II. Colour profiles of major vessels from each period by Karl Gagnon, large reproductions of photographs and documents pertinent to the area of discussion, an entire section on naval art from the Canadian War Museum, and additional marine paintings by Doug Bradford, Donald Connolly, David Landry, and Richard Rudnicki make this volume worth the price for the pictures alone.

But this book's merit does not just rest in the pictures. An inspiring foreword by current Governor General and Commander-in-Chief MichaŽlle Jean outlines the principal motivation behind the volume, "to build and strengthen in Canadians an appreciation for their navy and its contributions over the past 100 years." The multi-author format exposes the reader to diverse perspectives; while Gimblett's editorship involved maintaining a certain level of consistency on a stylistic level, he was careful not to eliminate the individuality of each author's voice.

In short, The Naval Service of Canada achieves all three aspects of the RCN centennial slogan: it COMMEMORATES the vitality of RCN traditions with photographs of the vessels and those who served on them; it CELEBRATES the RCN's 100 years of operation with vibrant artistic interpretations of each period under discussion; and, it COMMITS the contributions of the RCN to public memory with engaging articles by prominent scholars.

Dr Gimblett's book The Naval Service of Canada 1910 - 2010: The Centennial Story, published by Dundurn Press, ISBN 978-1554-88472-8, was recognized in June 2010 by the Canadian Nautical Research Society with an honourable mention for the prestigeous Keith Matthews Awards; the Awards Committee described the work as a "handsome and scholarly book that raises the profile of the Canadian navy and its role in our history."

Natalie Anderson


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