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Book Reviews 199 repeated tales of horror, he insists that Canadian soldiers accepted the tedious, meticulous gas discipline that kept them functioning amid deadly or crippling chemicals. More than adjoining British divisions and the insouciant Americans, Canadians took their gas drills seriously. As a result, from Vimy Ridge to the Canal du Nord, they could be 'the shock troops ofthe British Empire.' Like the Canadian Gas Services whom he rescues from historical oblivion, Cook has the persistence ofa one-string fiddle. In the eyes ofits devotees, any weapon is the most fearsome in the war. The author exploits a scary topic with an ill-controlled taste for hyperbole. One result is that when he does cite figures, they are sometimes anti-climactic. Statistics compiled at war's end showed that Canada lost 6036 dead, wounded, and prisoners in April 1915. The notorious chlorine cloud was credited with only three dead and 286 sick. Doubtless, as Cook says, true figures were higher, but why would the CEF undercount the victims ofso spectacular a horror? The French, incidentally, reported seven dead. Still, chemical warfare was such a matching horror for belligerents that neither side in the Second World War saw any point in using it. Almost half a century later, chemical agents are still available as war weapons. Tim Cook's book reminds us of their role in the First World War and their potent horror for our future. DESMOND MORTON McGill Institute for the Study ofCanada Canada's Navy: The First Century. MARC MILNER. Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1999· Pp. xiv, 356, illus. $45.00 Canada's Navy provides a superb overview ofthe often chequered history ofthe Royal Canadian Navy during the twentieth century. Based primarily on his own published works and the research ofscholars such as G.N. Tucker, Roger Sarty, and Michael Hennessy, Milner argues that the RCN has been shaped by four key factors. First, domestic political and economic conditions played the most important role in determining the size and mandate of the RCN. Second, the ambition of naval planners frequently pushed the RCN beyond its effective organizational and operational capacity. Third, the international strategic situation allowed the RCN to play a pivotal role in world affairs, particularly after 1939· Finally, changing technology forced the RCN to adapt constantly to protect the country's national security. Milner divides his book into three parts. The first deals with the early decades of the Canadian Navy. While the origins of the RCN lay in the need to police Canada's fisheries, Britain applied increasing pressure on 200 The Canadian Historical Review Canada to assume a fair share of imperial naval defence before 1914. Despite the prominence ofthe naval question in the Laurier and Borden governments, Canada entered the First World War with only two serviceable warships. According to Milner, the wartime experience of the RCN was a lamentable failure compared with the exploits ofCanadian soldiers in France. The unrestricted escalation of submarine warfare in 1916 forced the RCN to defend the country's east coast with a motley collection of vessels after promised Royal Navy assistance was not forthcoming. Despite the obvious need for a sovereign national navy in the light of Canada's wartime experience, the interwar period saw the RCN teeter on the brink ofextinction. Milner devotes almost one-third of his book to the ordeals of the Canadian Navy during the 1940s. Two themes illuminate his discussion ofthe wartime experience ofthe RCN. First, Milner justly emphasizes the remarkable contributions ofthe RCN corvette escort fleet in the battle to protect vital North Atlantic convoy routes. Second, Canada's Navy provides ample evidence that naval planners and politicians routinely bungled the opportunity to place the RCN on a sound operational foundation . RCN officials based their long-term plans on the development of a distinct fleet unit oflarge surface ships at the expense of maintaining a cutting-edge corvette force. In an attempt to gain political prestige, Mackenzie King frequently pushed the RCN into active roles for which it was not prepared. Milner persuasively demonstrates that this muddled thinking had both disastrous and comical results. In the immediate postwar era, the escalation of Cold War tensions, the need to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 199-201
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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