Here’s a pure gem of Remembrance Day 2020 creativity. Well worth a couple of minutes out of any Canadian’s day.
Helicopters: The British Columbia Story 1985
Not only had 1985 been a stellar year at CANAV with the Austin Airways book, but we also published our first collaboration, and turned out more than one title for the first time. Our baby steps were over. Helicopters: The British Columbia Story (1985) was the first major book covering the rotary-wing industry in Canada. Authors Peter Corley-Smith (1923 – 2002) and David N. Parker (1945 – 2018) then were historians at the BC Provincial Museum. They had an idea for a book, but the museum wouldn’t fund it. Such things are a mystery. Why would a major museum not recognize the great opportunity and honour in publishing such an important book, especially when the job could be done affordably and to the museum’s specs? Something to do with the eternal verities, I suppose.
A call from Peter and David to CANAV Books got them on the right track. The fellows worked well as a team. Peter was especially qualified – he was well-known as a pilot with experience flying large choppers on such projects as the Mid Canada Line (you can look up Peter on the web to see more about his aviation accomplishments). The fellows wrote an excellent manuscript, found all the essential photos, and produced an important map. Topping it off, they found Clive Brooks, a talented Victoria artist, to paint a series of impressive helicopter colour profiles. CANAV did the rest, paying all the bills, turning out a very fine book, etc. Oddly, the BC museum was less than happy about the book and ordered almost no copies. Nothing ever was explained, yet, over the decades everything that CANAV ever heard about the book was positive. Not surprisingly, Helicopters: The British Columbia Story sold out. That said, I still have a few copies. If you’d like one, email email@example.com All-in? CDN$33.50. Here’s a sample page from the book showing three of Clive’s wonderful colour profiles.
CANAV Books that Might Have Been
Also of interest in these early CANAV Books years, I had to turn down some tempting outside offers. Les Wilkinson wanted CANAV to publish the book he and his “Arrow Maniac” pals were doing about the Avro Arrow. Being buried in work with CANAV’s own CF-100 book, I had no choice. The Arrow book was published in 1980 by Boston Mill Press and went on to huge success in multiple printings. A bit later, Jim Floyd succeeded in having me at least consider his Avro Jetliner book. On April 1, 1985 Bryant quoted me $18,739 for 3000 copies. In the end, my own pace of work overcame things and I had to stand aside. In the end, his lovely book, The Avro Jetliner, was nicely produced by Boston Mills. Today (September 24, 2020) I noticed that bookfinder.com was listing 46 used copies, the cheapest at CDN$108.09++, the priciest $288.80++. Quite literally, these would be cheap at twice the price — book lovers understand such things. Another book that I had to turn down in these years was Ken Molson’s history of Canada’s national aviation museum. Ken was adamant that CANAV publish his book, but my workload and lack of experience led to my decision – can’t do it, Ken. In the end (1988), the museum published the book in co- operation with the University of Toronto Press. One of Canada’s finest aviation books to this day, Canada’s National Aviation Museum: Its History and Collections ought to be in your library. You can find a nice used copy on the web.
The Canadair Sabre 1986
While I still was struggling with the CF-100 and North Star projects, I was gathering material for a book about the Canadair Sabre. This just seemed “a natural” for our on-going series. In 1985 I already was making trips to Canadair at Cartierville, scrounging for old records and interviewing staff and retirees. I also got on the road to interview such Sabre luminaries in Moncton (for example) as Al Lilly, Ed Lowry and Jack Seaman, or, in Winnipeg — Bill Bristowe and John Greatrix, and. closer to home the likes of Ralph Heard and Bob Caskie.
I see from the CANAV archives that Bryant first quoted on the Sabre book on September 24, 1985. I already had decided to walk the plank by ordering 10,000 copies. This was pretty well an absurdly large quantity at the time for any Canadian trade book, but something told me that 10,000 was the way to go for the long haul. Bryant gave me a quote of $94,300 and I mustn’t have flinched! By then, thankfully, I was No.1 in their good books.
Besides doing interviews, I also was hunting down Sabre squadron DROs (daily routine orders), ORBs (operational record books), and annual reports to see what history I could unearth. Besides the RCAF, I also had to cover other air forces that had flown Canadair Sabres. In this quest, Roger Lindsay in the UK and Gerhard Joos in Germany laid the groundwork for two major chapters – the RAF and Luftwaffe. I also needed material for Colombia, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Turkey and Yugoslavia. There even was a story about an Israeli order to track down. Then, there was the question of what happened to all those Canadair Sabres after their military days. It was mind-boggling and to this day I have no idea how we ever finished the job. Somehow, things again came together in a glorious book delivered to me in August 1986. Some 35 years later The Canadair Sabre (all things considered – see the reviews below) still holds up well.
Over the summer of 1986 we put on several book launchings. If you have the time, scroll back in the blog to find “CANAV Anniversary Highlight: The Canadair Sabre” featuring our Toronto book launch on August 19 that year. People came from far and wide, Roger and Gerhard included. This was such a crazy time that some of our events are “missing” from the record. For example, we had a book launch at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, where the renowned 72nd scale model-building club – the “Aero Buffs” – turned up with dozens of beautiful Sabre models to play their part that afternoon. Sad to say, I’ve never seen a photo from that event. Of course, not everyone carried a camera back in 1986.
Sabre Book Launch in Ottawa, June 19, 1986
Another book launch from which I have no photos was the great one at Ottawa’s International Hotel located a stone’s throw from the Public Archives of Canada. Being “back in the day”, this was a fantastic event, a real who’s who Sabre people. There were something like seven RCAF pilots who had flown Sabres in action in Korea (Bruce Fleming, Omer Levesque, Andy Mackenzie and Eric Smith come to mind), there were Golden Hawks, COs, all sorts of squadron pilots, technical people, folks from DND HQ who came by after work, etc. Our big room was shoulder-to-shoulder and the great WO Vic Johnson had an AV program going, including a classic Golden Hawks 16mm movie.
The special bit about our book launches this summer was a sign- in book put together by Sabre pilot Paul Apperley. Paul carried this around with him to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal launch events to collect autographs without me spotting him (until the end), then presented this magnificent souvenier to me, something that knocked me over with surprise. What a treasure to still have decades later, after so many of my great Sabre pals (Paul included) have left us. Here are two sample pages from Toronto. Anyone familiar with the RCAF fighter scene of the 1950s-60s will relate to this astounding gallery of autographs. You can be sure that Paul Apperley was responsible to a fair degree for this large turnout, many of the fellows having travelled a good distance to attend …
… a page from the Ottawa launch:
… and one page from Montreal. At the top is the great Jean Gaudry’s signature. Eric turned 90 on October 9, 2020. Further down is Bob Carew, another RCAF Korean Sabre pilot. Several Canadair people also attended this launch, which we held at the International at Dorval.
Sabre Book Launch in Montreal
Here are a few photos from our Dorval book launch of June 25, 1986, where I finally got wise to Paul Apperley’s “sign-in book” skit.
Sabre Book Reviews
How about the official reviews for The Canadair Sabre? Well, they could not have been better. The leading French journal “Air Fan” loved The Canadair Sabre, calling it: “The aviation literary event of the year.” Greece’s journal “Ptisi” added, “A real oasis for F-86 fans and anyone interested in the Golden Years of the 1950s-60s.” “Air International” called the book, “A mine of information … there seems scant prospect of a better history.” Even more glowing commentary came from Bob Halford’s “Canadian Aircraft Operator”, Vol.24, No.20: “With The Canadair Sabre [Milberry] continues to enhance his reputation for producing top-of-the-class books that compare more than merely favourably with any of the works of the major publishing houses. This is a remarkable achievement …” Typically, “CAO” goes on to describe the book in detail. Bob, of course, knew his stuff … the Sabre in particular. He had visited Canadair during Sabre production years, also the RCAF’s NATO bases in Sabre years during his time editing “Aircraft” magazine. Bob concluded, “The book is, indeed, all that anyone could ever want to know about the Canadair-built Sabre … it’s a people book as well as an airplane book.”
Fighter Pilot Biographies 1987
In 1987 CANAV Books published the biographies of two
important Canadian fighter pilots: Vernon C. Woodward, DFC and Bar — Woody: A Fighter Pilot’s Album, and Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray, VC, DSC — A Formidable Hero: Lt R.H. Gray, VC, DSC, RCNVR. For production, I turned for some reason from Bryant Press the T.H. Best (located not far from Brant in east Toronto), then Canada’s oldest book manufacturer. Maybe I went to Best since these books were small format and small runs that Bryant wasn’t crazy about doing. Who knows at this stage, especially since both companies have long-since faded away. The main thing is that each of these biographies was welcomed and nicely reviewed. However, likely since they were small hardcovers and “quick reads”, reviewers made quick work of them. “Brown’s Books”, for example, simply concluded about Woody: “A worthy history of a relatively unknown Canadian ace.”
Hammy Gray biographer, Stuart Soward, himself had begun as a Canadian naval fighter pilot. Having earned his book authorship “wings” with A Formidable Hero, he went on to self-published a monumental (and essential) 2-volume history of aviation in the Royal Canadian Navy, Hands to Flying Station. Certainly, it was CANAV’s honour to publish Stuart’s first book.
As did The Bremen (see below), A Formidable Hero had important spin-off. After decades in the shadows, thanks to Stuart, “Hammy” Gray was re-introduced to the Canadian history scene. Our book launching was auspicious, being held in Ottawa at a convention of RCN aviators known as the CNAGs – Canadian Naval Air Group. From there, of course, word spread across the land about A Formidable Hero and our small 2000 print run sold out. In 2003 Stuart produced an important update of his book.
Yes, in 1989 Stuart’s dogged efforts led directly to a permanent monument in Hammy Gray’s honor. This was dedicated at Onagawa Bay, Japan, with Stuart in attendance, even if the DND could not find a place for him on the 707 it sent to Japan with VIPs and freeloaders. Get all the details from Stuart’s own edition of the book – this is one story you don’t want to miss! Subsequent to CANAV’s and Stuart’s Hammy Gray books, and to Stuart’s Onagawa triumph, late last year I had a call from the RCN seeking a copy of A Formidable Hero, although my caller wasn’t sure that the navy could afford a copy, or, if he could authorize a purchase (this really drives me crazy about Ottawa). We finally negotiated a price (what a laugh, eh), a purchase order was struck, and I mailed the RCN my last new copy. What was this all about? I was delighted to hear that the navy had decided to name one of its new Harry DeWolf-class offshore patrol vessels in honour of Hammy so, in advance of commissioning the ship in 2021, the navy wanted to know all it could about Hammy Gray himself, and what better source than Stuart’s book!
Hugh Halliday’s Woody also fared well. Although both books today are “OP” – out of print – nice used copies can be found at such internet book sites as http://www.bookfinder.com Today for example (October 10, 2020) I noticed that there were 83 copies of Woody for sale there, 61 of A Formidable Hero. Get these two little gems into your library before it slips your mind.
The Bremen 1988
Our 1985 book — The Bremen, by Fred Hotson — is the in-depth history of the 1928 trans-Atlantic Junkers christened “Bremen”. Beautifully designed by Robin Brass, this book caught the eye of many serious bibliophiles and aviation history organizations. In one case, the American Aviation Historical Society journal observed: “There are many books dealing with pioneer ocean flying, but only a very small number can be classified as important. This book belongs in that select group.” On top of the AAHS’s magnificent conclusion, for his decades of Bremen research and our efforts in publishing it all, in 1988 Fred received the “Best New Aviation Book” annual award from the Aviation and Space Writers Association of America.
Not only did The Bremen bring kudos to Fred and CANAV, but it had major historic spin-off in Germany. Firstly, Fred teamed with publisher, Josef Krauthauser (NARA-Verlag Books) to have a German edition – Die Bremen – – published in 1996. This spurred further interest in Germany in that the City of Bremen sent a delegation to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan to negotiate the repatriation of “The Bremen” to Germany. An agreement was reached, and Fred and I later were VIPs at the Ford Museum, when the Bremen delegation visited for several days. Plans were finalized and the tired-looking, dusty old “Bremen” was dismantled and flown home aboard two Luftwaffe Transal transport planes. A fastidious restoration was undertaken and the resplendent Junkers was dedicated in Bremen in June 1998. Fred Hotson was present as the very deserving guest of honour. How more delighted could a small aviation book publisher be than to see such results from his efforts – a war memorial erected in Japan and a historic airplane restored in Germany.
Austin Airways Nostalgia
Trans-Canada Air Lines 1945 Historic Timetable
General W.K. Carr, DFC
This week we are saddened to hear that the great LGen W.K. “Bill” Carr has passed in Ottawa. Over the decades, Bill always supported CANAV Books, not that he was a push-over for such recognition. One always had to perform exceptionally well to rate an “atta boy” from LGen Carr, who had a practical scepticism regarding historians and writers. Detailed information about this exceptional Canadian is at these links (Dave O’Malley’s “Vintage Wings” coverage is wonderful): http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/631/Born-to-Lead.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2iJp3WWA3bt3P562ZUtld6YM9UL6VnJjlwTXsaFQ_H7uOlFtgIp3bVQ
The Harvard in Canada
Anyone interested in the great North American Harvard trainer in the RCAF wil enjoy visiting the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association website. Take a look! www.facebook.com/canadianharvards