Tag Archives: Royal Canadian Navy

Dusty Dreams & Troubled Waters: A Story of HMCS Sackville and The Battle of the Atlantic by Brian Bowman and Richard Rudnicki

A great way to introduce younger readers to Canadian history, Nimbus Publishing of Nova Scotia has released a graphic novel that’s suitable for all ages. In Dusty Dreams & Troubled Waters, we have Wally, a young man from the prairies who has never seen a boat, let alone an ocean. He enlists in the RCN during WWII and is eventually assigned to the corvette HMCS Sackville (which exists as a museum ship in Halifax harbour) a type of ship that the Canadian navy became famous for as hundreds were built as convoy escorts. The artwork by Richard Rudnicki (who recently passed away) is remarkable and is very authentic in its recreation of life aboard a small ship on the stormy Atlantic ocean.

Artwork from page 60.

Aside from The Battle of the Atlantic, there is Wally’s backstory of life on the prairies, including Winnie, his love interest. The juxtaposition is such that Wally represents all those who enlisted in the “Wavy Navy”: they were not career officers and sailors, they came from all parts of Canada, leaving behind all manner of trades to assist England and the Allies defeat Hitler’s Nazi Army and Navy. The ever-present threat of death from below in the form of a U-boat wolfpack is real and is well portrayed in the dramatic black and white panels and brief text. A map and a glossary is also included. As a naval enthusiast, this is a welcome addition to my Canadian Navy shelf.


Brian Bowman grew up in the Qu’Appelle Valley of southern Saskatchewan, where his family raised politics, grain, and cattle. After grad school, an adventurous nature led him to try many vocations before settling on a writing career that evolved from speeches and advertising to journalism and editing. Still a resident of Saskatchewan, he now writes graphic novels and mostly true stories drawn from Canadian history. Dusty Dreams and Troubled Waters is his first book.

Richard Rudnicki (1951–2019) is the award-winning illustrator of Abigail’s WishCyrus EatonGracie the Public Gardens DuckI Spy a Bunny, and Viola Desmond Won’t Be BudgedDusty Dreams and Troubled Waters is his first graphic novel. Richard passed away suddenly in 2019 and is survived by his partner, artist Susan Tooke, who finished the illustrations for this project on his behalf. Susan lives in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing (June 24 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 180 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771087587
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771087582

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Spring Cleaning: Mini-Reviews for May 2020

It’s May and it’s time for a little spring cleaning of some titles I’ve read, but haven’t reviewed as yet. There’s a mixed bag here; something for every reader’s taste.

Gord Hunter’s memoirs of his life in the Canadian Navy during the Cold War years makes for some good reading, particularly if you are interested in ships, or are an old Navy salt yourself. Mr. Hunter served on both surface ships and submarines and he has lots of stories from both arms of the service. Complete with black and white photos. He currently lives in Saskatchewan, as far away from the ocean as possible. You can order the book directly from Mr. Hunter, via his website, https://nobadgekillick.blogspot.com/

Award-winning author Brenda J. Thompson has curated a number of stories (true, but fictionalized by the author) from her neck of the woods in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Today, it’s called the West Dalhousie Road, but old-timers still refer it as the Old Military Road. From before recorded time to hippies to the present, Ms. Thompson puts her reknowned research skills to work to make this an enjoyable collection of regional interest. You can order a copy from the Moose House Press website: https://www.moosehousepress.com/

The title may leave you to believe there’s a kept woman in the attic of an old house on a windswept coast of rural Newfoundland, but’s there’s not. However, there is evidence that there once was a person or persons living in the attic. This, Hannah discovers when visiting her mother who is stricken with early-onset dementia, making it even harder to find out the truth of who once lived up there. A novel that is captivating and suspenseful from the start, but will fail to hold the reader’s attention up to the end. Published by Flanker Press.

How does one begin to describe this novella by Steven McCabe? I’ll let others do it! Pierre L’Abbé author of Ten Days in Rio, says: “Meme-Noir is a journey of addictive linguistic charm. It travels to the strange places that the associations of McCabe’s memory takes us.” That nicely summarizes the fragments of prose that fill the pages of this slim volume. Some are from his past, some are in the present, but with no set timeline, Meme-Noir is a book you can pick up and start reading at any point. Fascinating in its ability to capture the stream of consciousness thinking of the human brain. Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3dXFKJW

I like dreaming and so will your children after reading them this wonderful bedtime story from Breakwater Books. “When the magical Moon King tips over the night, it spills across the land and sea, and he seeks the help of animals big and small to collect the stars and return them to the sky. In this beautifully illustrated bedtime story, Cara Kansala weaves an enchanting fable destined to become a children’s classic—the perfect way to welcome the night and celebrate the wonder of dreams.” Amazon.ca link: https://amzn.to/368uYh4

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

War at Sea by Ken Smith

Seventy years. Yes, it has been 70 years – practically an entire generation – since the end of WWII and, as well, the end of the Battle of the Atlantic. A battle that started just a few hours after the declaration of war in 1939 and ran until the cessation of hostilities in 1945, thus making it the longest-running battle of WWII. At the end of it all, Canada’s Navy which started with just a few small, aging ships, was the third largest navy in the world, surpassed only by Britain and the U.S.

Many books (fiction and non-fiction) have been published on the subject, movies have been made (“The Cruel Sea” comes to mind) and now Nimbus Publishing has just released War at Sea: Canada and the Battle of the Atlantic by New Brunswick author Ken Smith. In the author’s own words:

“War at Sea, at a personal level, is my way of honouring those who took part in the Battle of the Atlantic. Although there are, of course, other books out on this topic, there is room for more, much more.  D-Day, Juno Beach, The Battle of Britain, and the heroic antics of our Spitfire fighter planes will continue to fill bookshelves while the story of our tremendous struggle for control of our vital sea lanes remains a distant second.. Hopefully, War at Sea will generate new interest, especially among our younger readers. We it owe it to our veterans.”

War at Sea is Ken Smith’s eighth book. Some of his other books include such titles as: Miramichi Facts and Folklore,  A History of Disaster, Homegrown Heroes: The Bathurst Sports Hall of Fame and Mainstreet Memories: Life in Bathurst in The Fifties.

The Book

The Nimbus release notes regarding War at Sea states that: “War at Sea describes the history of the engagement through a detailed catalogue of the technology, weapons, and ships, including frigates, corvettes, and fairmiles that the Canadian Navy depended on.” That is certainly true: Mr. Smith has done his research (as the bibliography lists many vital references) and this book, if nothing else, is an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with this aspect of the Canadian Navy’s involvement in WWII. As well, the book is generously peppered with personal experiences from Historica Canada’s Memory Project which adds a certain value to this book. My only quibble was that sometimes the ship of the sailor being quoted was not always stated which would have been helpful to know.

Whilst on the subject of quibbles, it would have been nice to have some more photographs of the ships described as well as footnotes, which are totally absent in this book (apparently, the author was limited to page counts). Also conspicuous by its absence are any mention of the existence of the HMCS Haida and the HMCS Sackville, both beautifully restored veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic located in Hamilton, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia respectively.

Let’s now move on to some highlights of War at Sea.


As mentioned previously, the quoted personal experiences of the sailors involved adds exceptional value to the book. Another valued aspect of the book is the list of those ships lost in the Battle of the Atlantic, which at almost 90 pages make up the bulk of this book’s 175+ pages. Also mentioned are the ships of the underrated Canadian Merchant Navy lost in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, bringing the war very close to Canadian waters. Giving the book a lighter, enjoyable feel (if one can use those terms in a book about war) is chapter four: Civilian Encounters with U-Boats which highlights just how close the war came to Canadian waters and our soil and the farcical exploits of two landed German spies here in Canada. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book and makes it a worthy addition to the Canadian Naval historian enthusiast’s bookshelf.


“War at Sea” will certainly appeal to two groups of people: armchair enthusiasts of the Canadian Navy and younger ones who would like an overall view of the Battle of the Atlantic and just how close it came to Canadian shores. My only wish is that it could have been longer and included more details, but that is no fault of the author, who apparently wanted to pack as much information as he could in the space allowed. Don’t pass by the opportunity to read this book for I feel it deserves a place in your naval library.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved