Tales of the North Atlantic
Contains Illustrations, Index
Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
Hal Lawrence is the author of Bloody Wars. He is also a part-time instructor at the University of Victoria, and he spent 28 years in the Royal Canadian Navy.
Tales of the North Atlantic is partly autobiographical, but that is not the main purpose of the book. Lawrence has collected anecdotes dating back to the formation of the R.C.N. in 1910, when the Canadian government acquired two British cast-off warships and stationed one on each coast. He has grouped these anecdotes around common themes, including the early years, heroism, and the Battle of Dunkirk. Some readers may be troubled by the lack of transition within chapters from one story to another. Reading Tales is somewhat akin to being at the same table as a group of navy veterans telling their old standard stories, which have undoubtedly improved with aging. Yet these “salty dips,” as Lawrence calls them, range from the poignant to the amusing to the very surprising. There is also some very good and useful Canadian history. A chapter on combined operations, for example, details the largely ignored World War II campaign against German U-boats in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It is a story that is both amusing and frightening, when one considers how ill-equipped and ill-prepared Canadian forces were for this endeavour.
This is obviously, as the dustjacket hyperbole claims, “a love story.” Lawrence is proud of his association with the R.C.N., and those who have shared his experience will thoroughly enjoy this work. So too will those who are simply interested in entertaining anecdotal history.