Memoirs of the flight surgeon of HMS Nabob By Dr. Charles Herbert Read Jr
You could be forgiven for linking World War II, a doctor and an aircraft carrier to another blood and guts war story, but you would be wrong. On the contrary, it reads rather like a diary of a casual trip overseas. As the book was published two years after the good doctor died, one has to wonder if he would have published it had he lived. He had plenty of time to think about it. He was 98 when he died.
Dr. Read, a Canadian, honorably elected to complete he medical training before volunteering for the Royal Canadian Navy, believing that he could make a better contribution as a doctor than anything else. After his enlistment and training, he was posted to Canada’s only aircraft carrier, the Nabob as doctor reporting to a senior doctor. He doesn’t seem to have much to do, and travels widely in the United Kingdom. It astonished me that during his peregrinations, he always seem to seek out attractive women. He makes no secret of this, and seems to imply that it is his attractiveness that causes the women to seek him out.He contradicts this by telling us that he sees attractive women in bars and introduces himself. Fine, but he has a wife of two years back in Canada. It may not be a coincidence that the lady had been dead for thirteen years before the book was published. It must be said however that they were happily married for 61 years.
Dr. Read does have plenty of hang-ups. He has a real problem with the Brits and the Royal Navy in particular. He is also anti senior officers. When he returned from his one and only trip, he promptly told tails about his captain and got him fired. It is true to say that Dr.Reads ship was something of a shambles and possibly of greater value to the Germans than the Allies. Indeed, after its only action when it was hit by a torpedo, it was judged not worth repairing and sent back to America from whence it came. Ironically, they sold it to the Germans who turned it into a merchant ship.
I found the book interesting despite the grammatical errors of which there are many, not least because of the good doctor’s honesty. While Dr. Read and the good ship Nabob didn’t make much of a contribution to the war effort, the Royal Canadian Navy did. They captured 42 enemy vessels, and sank a further 31 submarines, losing 24 ships and 1797 Canadians in the process.