Engineer Assault Boats in Canadian Service
by John Sliz.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW015
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“Engineer equipment takes many forms, most of which attract little attention. Some items are spectacular but most are just as essential even if they are not as noticeable. Many would think, “what use are small boats to a soldier” but like when they are needed they are priceless. Crossing waterways of all kinds has always presented armies with problems. The most difficult of these is attacking across them; the defenders usually have the advantage of being in prepared positions while the attackers are exposed to view and fire of all kinds as they move onto, across and out of the water.
Canadian engineer units during WW2 relied mostly on British designs developed by the Experimental Bridging Establishment at Christchurch in the south of England. Several types were produced for different purposes. Smallest of these was a small inflatable rubber Reconnaissance Boat which allowed a two-man group to check the opposite bank to choose a suitable landing point. Main party would then use Assault Boats, these collapsible wood and canvas designs could either act as a troop carrier or be linked together to make to ferry for small vehicles or antitank guns and also to support a lightweight bridge for a more permanent crossing. They were not powered, relying on the engineer crew and their passengers to paddle them which, while quiet, was usually slow.
For faster crossings the Storm Boat fitted with an outboard motor was available. This had another advantage in that it could carry a larger group of men or an antitank gun or Jeep-class vehicle on its own. Heavier loads could make use of the Folding Boat Equipment to ferry them across, although its intended role was to support a floating bridge.
All of these types is covered, including descriptions and sizes as well as photos while there are plans of all but the bigger FBE in the book’s centre spread. An annoying small error crept in at the production stage of the book, dimensions are given in feet and inches but all the fractions have been replaced with two letters which means the exact figure cannot be made out. This would only be a minor problem for modellers as the amount they are out will be small once converted into common modelling scales.
As would be expected the accounts of the boats in use are mostly when in Canadian hands, although these boats were also used in British and Commonwealth service. Non-Canadian use mentioned cover the Airborne operations up to and around Arnhem, as well as Royal Canadian Engineers in storm boats at Arnhem are Polish attempts to reach the perimeter in the town and the American attack across the Waal using British-supplied Folding Boats as graphically shown in the film “A Bridge Too Far”.
Modellers will find this book has just about all that they need to depict these small but important craft, either in a diorama of a river crossing shown being assembled and carried or as a load on a suitable vehicle, two of which are among the photos included. Maybe not the most obvious choice of subject but welcome for all that.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”