Naval History Articles

by Rob Fisher

To reprint or use any of these articles please contact the author for permission. All articles are Copyright © Rob Fisher unless otherwise noted.

  1. "Heroism on the North Atlantic", Legion Magazine, Vol. 77, No. 3 (May/June 2002), pp.15-19.
  2. Max Bernays received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for the action in which HMCS Assiniboine destroyed U-210 in August 1942. This article describes the fierce battle between the U-boat and the destroyer and the failed campaign of the Canadian Government to have the British award the Victoria Cross to Bernays. [Legion Magazine Archive].
  3. "'Numbers are Essential': Victory in the North Atlantic Reconsidered, March-May 1943", pp. 309-316, in Yves Tremblay, ed., Canadian Military History Since the 17th Century: Proceedings of the Canadian Military History Conference, Ottawa, 5-9 May 2000 (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2001).
  4. This paper discussed recent literature on the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic in May 1943 and argued that, contrary to most historians who have attributed success to developments in Allied technology, tactics and codebreaking, a sudden infusion of anti-submarine resources-escorts, support groups, escort carriers and long-range aircraft-achieved a sudden and dramatic victory over the wolf packs. [Full article]
  5. "Navy, Canadian", "Günther Prien", and "Laconia Order", Encyclopedia entries in David T. Zabecki, ed., World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1999), pp. 103, 456, 714-716.
  6. These entries were written for an American encyclopedia of the Second World War. The two entries with German naval subjects are quite brief but that for the Canadian Navy is a fairly substantial piece summarizing the role and achievements of the RCN in the war.[Full articles]
  7. "Group Wotan and the Battle for Convoy SC 104, 11-17 October 1942", The Mariner's Mirror, Vol. 84, No. 1 (February 1998), pp.64-75.
  8. This article examined a convoy battle between a British-Norwegian escort group and a wolf pack of German submarines, using all available Allied and German sources to build a clear picture of the action for the first time. Though the result of the battle was a draw, SC 104 was significant because the escort group followed it up with a number of significant victories based on the lessons it had learned in this operation. In a broader sense, the article showed that victories often attributed to superior British naval training were sometimes the result of experience--lessons learned in the heat of battle--rather than training. While perhaps a fine distinction, defeats by Canadian and American escort groups were often attributed to poor training. Read the [Full article] or the [Abstract] on the Society for Nautical Research website.
  9. "Tactics, Training, Technology: the RCN's Summer of Success, July-September 1942", Canadian Military History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Autumn 1997), pp.7-20.
  10. This article was a study of anti-submarine warfare which looked at the surprising success of the Royal Canadian Navy in sinking five German U-boats during the summer of 1942. It examined each of the kills in isolation from the larger convoy battles around them to determine the relative weight of factors such as tactics, training and technology. It argued that the summer of 1942 represented a transitional period in anti-submarine warfare: capable commanding officers could still overcome deficiencies of equipment to destroy enemy submarines through the application of training and experience. The rapid pace of technological change in the war at sea would mean that in the last two years of the war only those escorts which had the latest sonar, radar, and weapons systems would be capable of destroying U-boats. [Full article]
  11. "The Impact of German Technology on the Royal Canadian Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1942-43", The Northern Mariner, Vol. 7, No. 4 (October 1997), pp.1-13.
  12. This article, a companion piece to the above article in Canadian Military History, examined the reasons why the Canadian successes of the summer of 1942 came to an abrupt end in autumn 1942. It argued that the introduction of a new German technology, the Metox search receiver, enabled U-boats to detect the approach of a Canadian warship. It did not function against the more advanced radar used by British naval escorts and, until my research, historians had believed that Metox was really only effective against Allied aircraft. This is significant because the failure of the Canadian escort groups to defend merchant convoys in the autumn of 1942 has conventionally been attributed to inadequate training or equipment and, at the time, was the cause of a major redeployment of Canadian escorts out of the North Atlantic to less active theatres of combat. This article won the Keith Matthews Prize in 1997 for the Best Article in Canadian Maritime History. Available online at the CNRS website [Full article] and at [Full article].
  13. "Within Sight of Shore: The Sinking of HMCS Esquimalt", Legion Magazine, Vol. 72, No. 2 (March/April 1997), pp.34-37.
  14. This article investigated the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Canadian minesweeper HMCS Esquimalt off Halifax at the close of the Second World War. It described the fate of the survivors in the freezing water and the results of the Board of Inquiry into the loss in a popular style but also presented the results of new research. [Full article]
  15. "Axis Submarines Lost to Canadian Forces, 1939-45: Revised List", Argonauta, Vol. 14, No. 1 (January 1997).
  16. This was a revised and updated version of the list of the 50 or so enemy submarines destroyed by Canadian forces during the Second World War first published as an appendix to the Dictionary of Canadian Military History (listed below as No. 13). It incorporated the latest international research and changed some assessments of credit. The latest version of this list is available on this web-site. [Revised List]
  17. "Return of the Wolf Packs: The Battle for Convoy ON 113, 23-31 July 1942", The American Neptune, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Winter 1996), pp.45-62.
  18. The convoy battles of 1942 have not received the scholarly attention that those of 1943 have. This article attempted to redress the imbalance by identifying and closely examining the convoy battle that initiated the second mid-ocean campaign in July 1942; a campaign which led ultimately to the defeat of the wolf packs in mid-1943. It made a special effort to integrate Allied and German sources--especially U-boat war diaries. Careful comparison of reports from all naval vessels that survived produced a much clearer understanding of what actually happened at sea. Thus, to some degree, this analysis penetrates the fog of war which surrounds most convoy battles. Knowing what happened also permits an accurate assessment to be made of the performance of staff officers ashore in their efforts to analyse events at sea. In the past, historians have often had to be content with quoting these all too fallible after action summaries as if their conclusions were etched in stone. [Full article]
  19. "Canadian Merchant Ship Losses, 1939-1945", The Northern Mariner, Vol. 5, No. 3 (July 1995), pp.57-73.
  20. This was the definitive list of Canadian merchant ships lost to enemy action or marine accident during the Second World War. Though in tabular form, it was published in a refereed journal because of its research value. It was used by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the preparation of the Book of Remembrance for the merchant marine. An earlier version of this list was published on-line at the web site of the Naval Museum of Manitoba []. The most recent version of the list is available here. [Revised List]
  21. "Action on the Atlantic: Motor Torpedo Boats to the Rescue, 1942", The Beaver (April/May 1994), pp.24-25.
  22. This article in a popular magazine described the previously untold story of an unlikely engagement between a tiny Canadian motor torpedo boat and a German submarine off the coast of North Carolina in Spring 1942. Read [Full article] here or in the archives of Canada's History
  23. "The Last Hurrah of the Wolf Packs: Convoys ONS 18/ON 202, September 1943", Canadian Forces Internal News Service, (September 1993).
  24. This article described the first convoy battle in which the Germans deployed acoustic homing torpedoes. It was to be the last success for the wolf packs. The article appeared in a number of Canadian Forces Base newspapers for the fiftieth anniversary of the battle. [Full article]
  25. "We'll Get Our Own: Canada and the Oil Shipping Crisis of 1942", The Northern Mariner, Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 1993), pp.33-39.
  26. This article examined the operations of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Caribbean Sea during the Second World War, a theatre hitherto largely neglected by Canadian naval historians. It argued that Naval Service Headquarters, in establishing its own convoys to the oil ports of Trinidad and Aruba-Curaçao, acted decisively to protect Canadian economic interests. It did so in defiance of the wishes of its senior allies, the Royal Navy and the United States Navy, perhaps for the only time during the Second World War. The convoys were a Canadian naval success story, instantly putting an end to the costly losses of Canadian-flag oil tankers in the Caribbean Sea and averting an oil crisis on Canada's east coast. [Full article]
  27. "Axis Submarine Losses to Canadian Forces, 1940-1945", Appendix in David Bercuson and J.L. Granatstein, Dictionary of Canadian Military History, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp.246-248.
  28. This appendix was a table showing the 50 enemy submarines destroyed by Canadian air and surface forces during the Second World War. It listed the date, position, submarine and the Canadian aircraft or warship credited with its destruction. A revised version was published in Argonauta in 1997. See No. 8 above.

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