DUTCHY’S DIARIES, LIFE AS A CANADIAN NAVAL OFFICER IN HIS OWN WORDS: 1916-1929

Reviewed by: DAVID COLLINS

Available online via https://store.mmbc.bc.ca/products/new-book-dutchy-s-diaries and https://dutchysdiaries.ca/book-store/

Commodore John C. I. (Dutchy) Edwards CBE RCN was one of Canada’s first career naval officers. Born in Nova Scotia in 1896 of a pioneer family, he entered the second term of the Royal Naval College of Canada in 1912 and spent the latter days of the First World War in HM Ships Berwick and Archer and Q-ships. As was typical in those days of the fledgling RCN, after the war Edwards alternated between RCN and RN service, the latter including HM Ships Dolphin and Calliope. He commanded at sea and ashore several times before and during World War Two, including the RCN’s major training establishment, HMCS Cornwallis for which he was appointed CBE. He finished up as a commodore (a substantive RCN rank) in command of the naval barracks in Esquimalt, BC retiring in 1950. He had a satisfactory career but, on balance, always lagged behind the senior leaders of Canada’s post-war navy, several of whom were of his vintage at naval college.

The period of time covered by his journals runs from 1916-29. Most entries are short and prosaic and deal with daily routine. Dutchy is not given to many thoughtful reflections on his experiences but one does gain a flavour of daily life in the Navy during the time of writing. He was a great sportsman and competitive tennis player and never gave up a chance for a game.  His nickname derives from having a reputation for being a penny pincher.

While this volume will not figure as a huge addition to naval history, it does add some context to the life in the early days of the RCN and one of its first officers. The journals were devotedly transcribed by Dutchy’s daughter-in-law. There are a number of interesting illustrations of memorabilia, including a compendium of the details of all ships Dutchy encountered during his early sea service.