"The Mainguy Report"
Absence of Canadian Traditions in Navy
Report on certain "Incidents" which occurred on board H.M.C. Ships ATHABASKAN, CRESCENT and MAGNIFICENT and on other matters concerning THE Royal Canadian Navy (i.e., "The Mainguy Report"), Ottawa, October 1949.
The following note on the perceived absence of uniquely Canadian traditions in the Royal Canadian navy was recorded in the Mainguy Report:
As collateral to the complaints referred to in the above paragraph, there was a general insistence also on the necessity of building up whenever possible Canadian traditions. Stephen Leacock once said, "Leave the Ukrainians alone, and in ten years they will think that they won the Battle of Trafalgar". Unfortunately this genial prophecy has not been fulfilled, and however regrettable it may seem to some people, an opinion is widely held amongst many ratings and some officers that the "Nelson tradition" is overdone, and there is still too great an attempt to make the Canadian navy a pallid imitation and reflection of the British Navy. This is in no sense a criticism of the magnificent traditions of the Royal Navy, but it is natural outcome of the growth of a healthy Canadian national consciousness. A few suggestions in the matter will be found amongst our recommendations.
Although Canadian traditions for the Navy were not separately addressed in the Report's recommendations, these remarks are to be found throughout the recommendations section:
We would like to see a greater emphasis placed, in the training given on the traditions of Naval Service, the customs of the Navy and the Navy's place as a weapon of democratic defences. There are so many things in Naval history to interest young men, and on the lips or pen of a skilled narrator their recital could hold the fascinated attention of new entries. Even in the matter of general education, we were not impressed by the literature prescribed for reading and examination. There is a fine literature of the sea which might very well be drawn upon for the instruction and enjoyment of new recruits. It would be far better for the new entries to read one or two great sea stories like "Moby Dick" or "The Ship" than to busy themselves as they now do with a string of unrelated "snippets" by a variety of authors.
We feel, too, that a far greater effort should be made to develop in the recruit an understanding of his own importance to the Navy, however humble his task may be. He should be made to understand what patriotism and service to one's country means.
We are most anxious also to encourage in the new recruit, and in fact throughout the Service, a greater appreciation, not only of the short but glorious history of the Canadian Navy, but also of Naval customs still surviving, of the picturesque Naval terms and their meaning, and of the conditions under which men live at sea. A booklet should be published in addition to the Seamanship manual, which is usually available to new trainees.
The United States Navy, with its usual thoroughness and desire to "Americanize" the men of many racial strains who compose its personnel, has issued a publication entitled "Your Navy". Its manner and matter would not suit our Canadian character, but it does appear to us that a publication dealing with the great traditions of bravery and chivalry at sea that belong to all seagoing peoples, would suit our Canadian pattern.
Our men also belong to many races. Very many of them are of the class and type and sometimes referred to as "New Canadians". They may not all respond to the inspiration of memories such as this:—
"The spirit of your fathers
Shall start from every wave
The deck it was their field of fame
And ocean was their grave.
Where Blake and mighty Nelson fell,
Your manly hearts shall glow
As ye sweep through the deep
While the stormy winds do blow."
but they would all be interested in the recorded traditions of the British Navy, the American Navy, the French Navy, the Dutch Navy and, in fact, of any Navy in which the deeds of the brave have been immortalized. Our own annals may be short and not as rich as those of other nations, but the history of the Canadian Navy in the last war is something to make young men proud, especially if it is interwoven with a recital of the stark deeds at sea which, in the words of Mr. Churchill, "warm the cockles of men's hearts".
It is also obvious that the improved training of men in seamanship, in conditions of life at sea, and not least, in Naval history and traditions, is of equal importance. No country has available for its service a finer, stronger young manhood than Canada. In order that part of it may be welded together in a happy and efficient Naval community of officers and men, we wish to repeat the discipline is the most important element in the whole fabric. Perhaps we may use here a sentence which we have included at an earlier stage in this report: The only discipline which in the final analysis is worth while is one that is based upon pride in a great service, a belief in essential justice, and the willing obedience that is given to superior character, skill, education and knowledge. Any other form of discipline is bound to break down under stress.
We have also sought to interpret the wishes of the great majority of men by stressing the need to "Canadianize" our navy. In so doing, we wish to record that in common with most thoughtful Canadians, we have an abiding admiration and respect for the grand traditions and institutions of the Royal Navy and for their continuing beneficient and steadying force wherever British and Canadian ships may sail. We hope that all that is good in these shared traditions will remain with us and that only what is inefficient and inconsistent with our national need, character, dignity and special conditions will disappear from the Navy of Canada.