Talk:John Balchen

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Good article John Balchen has been listed as one of the Warfare good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
December 19, 2007 Good article nominee Listed
WikiProject Biography / Military (Rated GA-class)
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I rewrote this page from scratch in my user space and then pasted it here. To see the edit history of this article whilst it was in my user space, see the redirect User:jackyd101/John Balchen.--Jackyd101 16:56, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

GA assessment[edit]

GA review–see WP:WIAGA for criteria

  1. Is it reasonably well written?
  2.  :A. Prose quality:
  3.  ::
  4.  :B. MoS compliance:
  5.  ::
  6. Is it factually accurate and verifiable?
  7.  :A. References to sources:
  8.  ::
  9.  :B. Citation of reliable sources where necessary:
  10.  ::
  11.  :C. No original research:
  12.  ::
  13. Is it broad in its coverage?
  14.  :A. Major aspects:
  15.  ::
  16.  :B. Focused:
  17.  ::
  18. Is it neutral?
  19.  :Fair representation without bias:
  20.  ::
  21. Is it stable?
  22.  : No edit wars, etc:
  23.  ::
  24. Does it contain images to illustrate the topic?
  25.  :A. Images are copyright tagged, and non-free images have fair use rationales:
  26.  ::
  27.  :B. Images are provided where possible and appropriate, with suitable captions:
  28.  ::
  29. Overall:
  30.  :Pass or Fail:
  31.  ::


  • Per WP:LEAD, lead should summarise major points of the article. “Balchen saw action in numerous battles” is a phrase upon which to elaborate.
Started, closer copyedit to follow
  • Inconsistent use of “Queen’s” and “American” English, e.g. “Harbour” is “Queen’s“ English and “recognized” is “American”. Language should be consistent.
Recognized was a typo, if there are any others I'll hopefully catch them during copyedit.
  • “Whilst”, as opposed to “while”, is widely considered archaic in both “American” and “Queen’s” English.
Is this true? I use British English and couldn't speak for American, but I regulalrly use the word whilst in both speech and writing and so do most of the sources I reference. Is it discouraged on Wikipedia?
See "Whilst" section below.
  • Clauses such as “whilst [sic] there”, “in turn”, “at the time”, etc. should be offset by commas.
Will catch this on copyedit hopefully
  • Very high frequency of words to avoid and peacock words, e.g. “distinguished”, “tragically”, “dashing”, “admired”, “capable”, “efficient”, “gentleman”, “finally”, “tragedy”, “naturally”, etc.
Hope to catch on copyedit
  • Run-on sentences, e.g. first sentence of War of Austrian Succession section; it’s half a paragraph.
Whoops, sentance broken up
  • Article is eloquently written, but, at times, too much so. Article strays into ornate and theatrical prose belonging to a novel, not appropriate for an encyclopedia, e.g. “dashing commissions”, “ferocious storm”, “wallowing on the horizon”, etc. Prose needs to be keep “down-to-earth” and neutral.
Hopefully catch on copyedit


  • Several assertions need citations, e.g. “Victory was at the time the largest ship in the world”, “who have no other permanent memorial”, etc.
Is this it or are there others? I'll source anything I see thats controversial, but it would help if you'd point out any other parts requiring copyedit.
Let me know once the "initial" copy edit is done so I can get a fresh start.
  • Several assertions seem to violate WP:NOR, e.g. “a fact which remained a source of frustration to him until shortly before his death”, “was lucky in his health”, “aided Balchen's ambitions for promotion”, “he was probably engaged…”, etc.
I believe all of those are either sourced or in the lead referring to a sourced point below. I'll check on this in copyedit.
  • Relatively few sources for such a notable (prima facie) Royal Navy Admiral and heavy reliance (ca. 50%+ of article) on one source, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. A source which, although no doubt factually accurate, may be too one-sided in its treatment of figures such as Balchen (see concerns in part 4). Additional sources, although not required, would greatly improve the article.
Here is the main problem, I have few paper sources for him and appear to have exhausted the internet at this stage. Will continue to look but am not hoprful of finding anything in the next 7 days.


  • Article states Balchen was unemployed at the end of the Nine Year’s War. How did this happen, given his promotion and impressions upon Neville?
It was standard parctice for the vast majority (often around 90%) of British naval officers to take temporary unemployment between military campaigns of the period, in which they sometimes pursued political careers, although Balchen did not. This was called "half-pay" (because thats what they got as active reservists). I have no information concerning Balchen's whereabouts at this time.
That should be articulated in the article. Articles should accessible to laymen–in this case, those who have no or minimal knowledge of British maritime history and customs. Given the importance of and capital investment in the Royal Navy, it is somewhat counterintuitive that a captain (and thus ship?) would be removed to mothballs.
  • Article asserts “[North Sea was] an area of great importance to the British war effort” but does not elaborate as to why.
  • There is a five year gap (1734 to 1739) in coverage; what happened in that period?
Not much, I'm not 100% certain, but as a major local landowner, its likely he retired to his estates and lived the life of the gentry. It does not appear to be a time in which he did anything of note.
  • Article asserts “fleet was successful in driving off the French without a shot fired”; how was such a feat accomplished?
Not sure, will try to find out, but sources do not say.
  • Elaboration on the wars (or at least naval theatres therein) and {{{{main}}}} tags should be provided.
Will attempt this soon.
  • Sentence on damage to the memorial is superfluous and not pertinent to "Legacy".
Removed, although I thought it was a nice anecdote.


  • As implied by the peacock words, article is far too laudatory in tone. Article asserts Balchen was “A capable, admired and efficient officer” and “a hard-working, thoroughgoing professional, recognized for his readiness to accept duty whenever and wherever required” but does not offer opposing opinions to neutralise this apparently biased stance. Why was such a “capable” figure forced into mothballs and then “bribed” to come back with a knighting. What did enemy nations (e.g. France) think of this guy–he was twice captured, after all. Did he have rivals within the Royal Navy?
Hmmm, tricky. Will attempt to address the bias during copyedit but for many of your questions I do not have answers. The ODNB certainly does not shy away from criticising people if they merit it, but the biography there had nothing to say in that vein. It is likely he was sidelined due to his age but I can't source that and he was likely recalled due to a shortage of senior officers capable of managing a fleet of that size. I will attempt to expand this. I'm afraid I have no idea what the opinion of foreign nations was (if anything in particular) and I have no sources even hinting at that.


Despite the number of concerns, many are minor or easily solved. If the aforementioned issues can be addressed promptly (7 days), the article will pass. Please let me know if elaboration or assistance is needed. Ɛƚƈơƅƅơƚɑ talk 19:19, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for your extensive review it was greatly appreciated. I will conduct a major copyedit, tidy and partial rewrite over the next few days to address the issues you have raised, although I think some will be beyond me. I'll let you know when I think its ready for a new review. Regards--Jackyd101 (talk) 01:00, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for your work so far. Again, let me know when I should take another look at it. Ɛƚƈơƅƅơƚɑ talk 14:34, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Right, I have given it a thorough copyedit and attempted to address the issues above. I'm afriad I have turned up no new sources and have not been able to substantially expand the article. I have also left the question of whilst out for the time being, if you think its essential then I'll change them to while later. If there are any further problems please let me know when you can. Regards.--Jackyd101 (talk) 15:19, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
The GA criterion is that coverage be broad; I’m satisfied that this is the case. Similarly, I’m content that the sources are reliable and reasonable under the scope of the GA. Although I continue to have concerns about approbatory tone and superfluous content (e.g. unhealthy locales and Balchen’s offspring), I believe this is indeed a good article. Thank you for your efforts and contributions. Ɛƚƈơƅƅơƚɑ talk 17:29, 19 December 2007 (UTC)


The use of whilst has bitten me on a number of times in the past also. I, like Jacky, do use it, perhaps not daily, but certainly frequently. It is also used by modern British authors of both fiction and non-fiction. I've seen several occasions here on wikipedia where it's been called "antiquated", but I'm unconvinced that is the case in BrE at all. Carre (talk) 15:30, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, Carre, I appreciate the feedback on the use of whilst. Just to be clear, I did say, “is widely considered archaic”, which is distinctly different than, say, “is universally considered archaic”. I do understand that whilst is still used; it is, however, warned against (e.g. [1], [2], [3]). At the least, whilst is, in my understanding, more commonly used in “poetic” prose.
I don’t believe Wikipedia has a guideline regarding the use of whist. The concern, however, is twofold: it contributes to the aforementioned “theatrical” tone of the article and it has the potential of impairing readability. The latter being that whilst is more disposed than while to give the reader pause (e.g. to analyze the correctness of the word, the “sharper” sound, etc) and is thus more likely to disrupt the flow of the article. For what it’s worth, the concern with whilst is more so a suggestion for improving the article and, consequently, not something that absolutely must be fixed for the article to pass. Ɛƚƈơƅƅơƚɑ talk 14:17, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Fully appreciated Elcobbola; indeed, the time I got bitten with it was at an FAC, and I ended up changing to while, as that was just easier than arguing about it. The only "rule" I know of it on wikipedia is Tony1's guidelines to meeting FA criteria 1a, which lists whilst as "unduly formal" or some such. I was more concerned about having a word that many people, in the UK at least, still use labelled as antiquated, rather than anything else. Fowler acknowledges that it, along with amongst, *should* have been superseded, but notes that somehow they've both survived. For amongst he gave a similar reason to yours above, but noting in some cases amongst is easier for the reader(when followed by a vowel, for example), but doesn't say anything specific about whilst. <shrug> I think we're all agreed that it's not worth arguing over, anyway :) Carre (talk) 14:53, 16 December 2007 (UTC)