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First to Die: The First Canadian Navy Casualties in the First World War

First to Die: The First Canadian Navy Casualties in the First World War    
Format Softcover
Catalogue No. 978-0-88780-913-2
Pages 96
Language English only
Price $24.95
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Written by Bryan Elson.
Published by Formac Publishing Company Limited, 2010.


This is a story drawn from the early days of the Canadian Navy, an account of four young Canadian seamen who were the Navy's first casualties at the beginning of the First World War. Ironically, many consider them victims of incompetent seamanship by a British naval officer.

The four were among the 21 young men who made up the first class of the Royal Navy College of Canada, set up in 1911 shortly after the Canadian Navy itself was established in 1910. All four sailors were from Canada's Maritime provinces. After their training at the College, they were posted to the British Navy for further experience at sea.

William Palmer, first in his graduating class, and Arthur Silver, senior Cadet Captain, both from Halifax, were personally chosen by Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock to go to war on the large and powerful British vessel Good Hope. Their comrades John Hatheway of Fredericton, and Malcolm Cann of Yarmouth, were also selected, to the disappointment of the remaining men. Within six weeks, these four much-envied comrades were dead as the British warship Good Hope went down with no survivors, sunk by the German navy.

First to Die depicts the early history of Canada's navy and the reality of war at sea, experienced through the eyes of the four young midshipmen eager for adventure. The book is extensively illustrated with photographs drawn from key archival and private collections.

Bryan Elson is a former officer of the Royal Canadian Navy, and a current director of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He lives in Halifax. He is the author of Nelson's Yankee Captain and First to Die.

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This page last modified: September 15, 2011

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