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.
- "Heroism on the North Atlantic", Legion Magazine, Vol. 77, No. 3 (May/June 2002), pp.15-19.
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].
- "'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).
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]
- "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.
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]
- "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.
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
on the Society for Nautical Research website.
- "Tactics, Training, Technology: the RCN's Summer of Success, July-September 1942",
Canadian Military History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Autumn 1997), pp.7-20.
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]
- "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.
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 U-boat.net [Full article].
- "Within Sight of Shore: The Sinking of HMCS Esquimalt", Legion Magazine, Vol. 72,
No. 2 (March/April 1997), pp.34-37.
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]
- "Axis Submarines Lost to Canadian Forces, 1939-45: Revised List", Argonauta, Vol. 14,
No. 1 (January 1997).
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]
- "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.
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]
- "Canadian Merchant Ship Losses, 1939-1945", The Northern Mariner, Vol. 5, No. 3
(July 1995), pp.57-73.
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
[www.naval-museum.mb.ca]. The most recent version of the list is available here. [Revised List]
- "Action on the Atlantic: Motor Torpedo Boats to the Rescue, 1942", The Beaver
(April/May 1994), pp.24-25.
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
- "The Last Hurrah of the Wolf Packs: Convoys ONS 18/ON 202, September 1943",
Canadian Forces Internal News Service, (September 1993).
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]
- "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.
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.
- "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.
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.
Copyright © Rob Fisher 1992-2020