ARM: Book Review - Engineer Boats in Canadian Service

Book Review: "Weapons of War" Series; Engineer Assault Boats in
Canadian Service by John Sliz; Service Publications, Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada, 2006; 24 pp. with B&W photos; price CDN $9.95; ISBN
1-894581-43-1
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Advantages: Good, clearcut description of a relatively unknown aspect
of engineer operations and how the Canadian and Commonwealth armies
approached them
Disadvantages: modelers may regret not having more detail information
on specific items or how to model them
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For all "picks and shovels" and Commonwealth fans
Probably the only passing information most of us have seen on folding
boat operations in WWII comes from the film "A Bridge Too Far" when
General Gavin (Ryan O'Neal) asks one of his majors (Robert Redford)
to use British folding boats to cross the Rhein and secure the opposite
end of Neimegen bridge before the Germans can blow it up. The crossing
is held up until the boats arrive, and then is made under fire in broad
daylight with only chemical smoke for cover. The attack is successful,
as Redford takes the bridge just in time for XXX Corps tanks to cross.
But aside from that one film segment, few of us have any clue about
these boats. This new book from Service, written by one of the few
historians covering Canadian engineer operations, is the first one to
examine them at any length. Four types of boats are covered: Folding
Boat Equipment, Reconnaissance Boats, Assault Boats (the ones used in
the film), and Storm Boats.
Folding Boat Equipment was produced in three marks and was basically a
general purpose boat, which could be used for ferrying troops or
equipment or combined to be used as pontoons for bridging. They were
made with sloped bow and stern sections, weighed around 940-1000 pounds
in action, and three could be loaded on a custom modified US Diamond T
4-ton 6 x 6 truck. Kit for these boats included a boathook, five 10
foot oars, a tin bailer (bucket) and a mop!
The Reconnaissance Boat was a small two-man inflatable rubber boat
about the size of a life raft and was designed for use as a stealthy
craft to get scouts across water obstacles or for engineer
reconnaissance of the same. These were used in the withdrawal of the
British 1st Airborne Division from Arnhem in 1944.
The Assault Boat was a more common boat, created with a plywood bottom
and canvas sides with a wood gunwale held in place by locking struts.
Produced in three marks, the Mark III version of this boat was 16 feet
8 inches long and 5 feet 5 inches in beam and able to carry 16 men with
a boat crew of two, but normally due to combat kit it only was used for
carrying 11 men with the two-man crew. It weighed 350 pounds.
The Storm Boat was designed to be used as a fast craft for making
opposed crossings, and could carry items of equipment up to the size of
a jeep or 6-pdr antitank gun with the proper loading equipment and
channel-type racks. Also used to evacuate the British 1st Airborne
Division at Arnhem, these 1500 pound boats were powered by outboard
engines and could reach speeds of up to 20 knots empty and 6 knots
loaded to capacity. Originally provided with quirky Johnson 22 HP or
Evinrude 50 HP outboards, they later switched to British Seagull 4 HP
motors.
One thing generally not brought out was that once the Invasion of the
Continent took place, engineering equipment such as this was pooled,
with US, Canadian and British engineer units supporting all three
forces with the same equipment, but by and large each nation stuck to
its own organic designs.
Overall this is an offbeat but interesting little book, and provides
1/48 scale plans of the four boat types covered.
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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