Maritime Command Pacific

Maritime Command Pacific
The Royal Canadian Navy’s West Coast Fleet in the Early Cold War
By David Zimmerman

UBC Press 2015 Paperback ISBN:9780774830355 Hardcover ISBN:9780774830348 PDF ISBN:9780774830362 EPUB ISBN:9780774830379

As a big fan of Professor Zimmerman’s “Great Naval Battle of Ottawa” I was looking forward to reading this latest work.

The Canadian naval fleet in the Pacific has pretty much been ignored in most histories to any extent and this book certainly helps to rectify that situation.

Often treated with derision by the Atlantic Fleet as a “Yacht Club” or for “Sandy Bottom Sailors”, the Royal Canadian Navy’s Pacific Command and later Maritime Forces Pacific after 1968, the ships were used a lot. The Fourth Escort Squadron, later Canadian Training Squadron, would routinely spend over 250 days per year underway.

This purposeful account is very good, but could have been excellent with more events recounted. Missing were the deployment of the fleet in 1962 to ride out Typhoon Frieda off Cape Flattery, the spotting of a Soviet submarine off the coast of BC in 1981 by HMCS Kootenay’s obsolete SPS-10 radar, the RCMP recruiting station in Naden during unification of the armed services as so many personnel departed. These are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are several that could be added.

A better account of outlying facilities would have been nice such as the research center (which was moved to Quebec by Jean Chretien),  the short-lived refueling depot in Prince Rupert, the North Vancouver supply facility, Patricia Bay (never commissioned as was East Coast HMCS Shearwater) as well as moorings in Mayne Bay, Beecher Bay, Albert Head, Plumper Sound and Patricia Bay as well as the joint testing facility with US Navy at Nanoose Bay and the civilian-manned ships ranging from tugs to sonar trials ship.

A few errors of note in the book: There was no Canadian Coast Guard in 1960. The three Prince Class (Thornton’s Folly) liners taken into naval service were from the CNR and not CPR. First commanding officer of HMCS Rainbow in 1910 was Commander (not Captain) Walter Hose. The location south of Esquimalt is “William Head” and not “Williams Head.”

These small beef aside, this book is a welcome addition to the historical record of the Canadian naval services.