Friday, October 6, 2017

The Crucible of War 1939-1945: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume III

The Crucible of War 1939-1945: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume IIIThe Crucible of War 1939-1945: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume III
Brereton Greenhous, Stephen J. Harris, William C. Johnston, and William G.P. Rawling
University of Toronto Press
Copyright Date: 1994

The product description:
Some 40 per cent of RCAF aircrew who served overseas during the Second World War did so in RACF squadrons. This is their story. The first RCAF squadron to see action in the Second World War was No. 1 Fighter Squadron, later to be No. 401, which from 18 August 1940 participated in the Battle of Britain. The last, in a still active theatre, were Nos. 435 and 436, delivering supplies in Burma until late August 1945. In between, RCAF squadrons served in all the major commands and in most major theatres of war. They were engaged by day and by night in air-to-air combat, strategic bombing, photo-reconnaissance, anti-shipping strikes and anti-submarine patrols, close air support, interdiction, and tactical airlift supply.
The Crucible of War is divided into five parts: Air Policy, the Fighter War, the Maritime Air War, the Bomber Air War, and the Air Transport War. The authors break new ground by demonstrating the influence of senior RCAF officers in shaping the execution of Canadian air policy, and they show how senior RCAF officer were permitted to determine the pace of Canadianization of the RCAF.
Many operations are described in detail from a wide variety of documentary sources, among them the unsuccessful battle of attrition that resulted from Fighter Command's offensive over France in 1941-42, and the actions of the RCAF's No 83 Group in Second Tactical Air Force, which provided air support for the British Second Army. Overdue notice is accorded the anti-shipping strike squadrons of Coastal Command. No 6 Group's battle with German night-fighters is recounted within the framework of complex electronic measures and counter-measures developed by both sides.
The RCAF, with a total strength of 4061 officers and men on 1 September 1939, grew by the end of the war to a strength of more than 263,000 men and women. This important and well-illustrated new history shows how they contributed to the resolution of the most significant conflict of our time.
The other volumes in the Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force are Canadian Airmen and the First World War by S.F. Wise (available) and The Creation of a National Air Force by W.A.B. Douglas (out of print)
Right off the bat, I have to say I don't think I'm ever going to read this one cover to cover. World War II history isn't my specialty. However, that's not why I bought it. Instead, I wanted to find out more about some family history. And for that, Crucible of War does wonderfully. It's very thoroughly indexed by event, squadron, location, just about every possible way of searching something I can think of. And that's why I'm recommending it. If you want information on a particular squadron or group, this is a great place to start hunting. Of course, I'm also going to recommend throwing those same pieces of information into Google. I did that and that's how I found out about Crucible of War. I also discovered various other bits of records I'd never seen before at the same time!

I've found far more in this book though than I have in many others on the topic of the RCAF - probably because none of the other books I hunted in were quite this specialized. Given that it's not too expensive to buy, especially used, I'm going to strongly recommend it, especially if you have a good idea of the information you're looking for. I wish I'd discovered Crucible of War a couple of decades ago, as this particular project is one I've been working on off and on for at least that long. I'm probably going to continue hunting down information well into the future too.

I can also see this potentially becoming a bit of a reference work for my work as an indexer - I've had a couple of books now on World War II.

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