As Canada celebrates its naval centennial in 2010, an Ottawa resident and command historian for the Canadian Navy has released a new book chronicling its last century.
“The navy has been around for 100 years,” said Dr. Richard Gimblett, who is also a former serving officer. “It’s made important contributions to the security of our country, through two world wars, the Cold War and in the modern period. The navy made a lot of history and is continuing to make history.”
But a reason why the Canadian Navy doesn’t get as much attention as the army or air force, he said, is because “when ships leave port, you don’t see them anymore.
“It’s hard for people to relate to what the navy does. It operates out of sight of land, and ships operate miles apart from each other. It doesn’t make good visuals.”
The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010: The Centennial Story — of which Gimblett is a contributor and the editor — starts at the establishment of the navy in 1910.
“It was a major step in Canada’s rise to nationhood within the British Empire,” said Gimblett. “Prime Minister (Wilfrid) Laurier decided that as a part of Canada’s growing autonomy, it needed to have its own navy.”
It was a very controversial decision at the time, said Gimblett.
“Many people thought it was an expense that a young country didn’t have to go through. Ships and people both cost a lot of money. Because of its complexity, the navy is a very expensive undertaking. Most people said the Royal Navy could look after us quite nicely, but... we needed a separate navy to look after separate Canadian interests.”
The book leaves off at the modern day-anti piracy patrols in Somalia, he said, where high-speed powerboats go out and highjack merchant ships.
“The navy has been an important element in Canada’s contribution to global security,” said Gimblett. “We have ships deployed around the world almost all the time.”
Gimblett and Chief of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, will be launching the book at the Armories downtown next Monday.