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Thread: RCAF official history

  1. #1
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    Default RCAF official history

    Just recently I came across Brereton Greenhous et al, "The Crucible of War, 1939-1945: Vol.3: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force", 1994

    A couple of questions regardning this title:
    - is it recommendable?
    - how is, if there is one, the relation between the "The R.C.A.F. Overseas" volumes from Historical Section of the Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944-49. I thought this was the official history

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
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    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    "The RCAF Overseas" (volumes 1, 2 and 3) were produced during wartime and in the immediate postwar years. They were intended as a stop-gap measure until a REAL history could be written. Volumes 1 and 2 were the best one might expect for the times, though there was little to distiinghuish them from a collection of press releases. None of them dealt with wartime policies. None dealt with the Canadian home front (not even the BCATP). None looked at operations in light of information acquired after the war (from Allied or enemy sources). In short, "The RCAF Overseas" were pretty awful as history.

    Immediately after the war, the Minister of National Defence concluded that nobody wanted to read any more about the war and decreed that the various service historical sections should conclude their work by the end of 1947. The RCN complied; the Canadian army did not. A distinguished historian (C.P. Stacey), backed up by a series of far-sighted Army Chiefs of Staff, maintained a serious historical section and in the next 20 years produced a series of excellent Canadian army histories.

    In matters of historhy, the RCAF practically rolled over and played dead. By 1948 the Air Historian office consisted of one officer and one typist. The officer (Wing Commander Fred Hitchins) tried to preserve records, write something (between answering PR queries) and keep a spark alive. His immediate superiors barely knew what he was doing. The section grew a bit in the 1950s, but it was still tiny - and only two members (Hitchins and Flight Lieutenant Fred Hatch) were trained historians. The treatment that RCAF brass accorded the Air Historian was a joke and a disgrace. Wing Commander Ralph Manning succeeded Hitchins in 1960 - but he was up against the same wall of official indifference as Hitchins. If you want a fair comparison of what MIGHT have been accomplished with what actually WAS accomplished, look at what the Royal Austalian Air Force produced in the 1950s and compare it with the RCAF output.

    Do I sound mad ? Darn right I am mad. I joined the Air Historian office in 1960 and saw up close what damage was being done. Indeed, some of the damage persists to this day. Quite simply, the RCAF forgot how to maintain a record of its own activities. One of my proudest achievememts in recent years has been to successfully lobby for Fred Hitchins to be inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame - for keeping RCAF history alive when it was hardest to do.

    The Canadian Forces were integraated in 1966 - and that meant amalgamation of the three service historical sections. C.P. Stacey emerged from retirement to be the first Director of the new section. He first had to create a team and deal with some short-term commitments (notably a history of the Canadian forces for our national centennial, 1967). He then directed that a real RCAF history be written. The first step in that regard was to catalogie thousands of documents that had been gathering dust since 1945. His immediate successor - S.F. Wise - produced "Canadian Airmen and the First World War"; the next Director, W.A.B. Douglas, produced "The Creation of a National Air Force", and in due course Ben Greenhaus produced "Crucible of War". They are history at its best.

    I wrote a long paper on the history of the Air Historian which was presented at a historical conference some years ago. It is in Word Perfect, and if anyone wants it in that format, I shall e-mail it on request. Best not to clutter this thread with requests - just e-mail me at the coordinates shown in "Community" (halliday AT bell DOT net).
    Last edited by HughAHalliday; 31st December 2012 at 21:25. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
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    Hugh
    All I needed to know. I'll order it right away. Happy new year, and thank for the message off board!

    Mikkel
    Last edited by Mikkel Plannthin; 1st January 2013 at 08:32.
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Default RE:

    Mikkel,

    Just to say that I have the Crucible of War, and I would definately recommend this title. It often marries a discussion of the bomber operations in with the wider issues and debates of the bomber war, especially over such targets as oil plants. Overall, this book rather remains a "hidden gem" and is under-rated. Enjoy.

    Regards,

    Richard

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    Apparently it is currently sold out for the moment from amazon and from the publisher. But I have placed an order.

    If anyone have an idea where to get it in Europe, please let me know.

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Default RE:

    Mikkel,

    Try www.abebooks.co.uk

    I should say that I bought my copy from this website, and a seller in Canada.

    Regards,
    Richard

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    Just picked up one second hand off Amazon after reading about it on here, so thanks for the heads-up.

    It's a hefty tome - once I've read it I reckon it would make an excellent doorstop...!!!

    Simon

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    There are about 20 pre-loved copies listed on bookfinder.com (a far larger site than ABE books that also includes ABE books offerings).

    Errol

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    Canav Books (http://www.canavbooks.com/) have a new copy.

    "Creation of a National Air Force" is also a good book, covering as it does:

    1. The prewar/interwar RCAF
    2. The BCATP
    3. RCAF home front operations
    4. RCAF participation in the Battle of the Atlantic (Canada-based and overseas).

  10. #10
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    Thank you all. Looks like most only ship from USA/Canada. Only copy shipped from within the EU is more than 80.

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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