HMCS Harry DeWolf commissioning a celebratory moment after years of work
By Ryan Melanson,
For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has commissioned a new warship, with Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf now entering active service following a commissioning ceremony in Halifax on June 26.
The ship is the first of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) set to be delivered to the Navy over the coming years, bringing with it new capabilities and a renewed focus on operations in the Arctic region. It’s the RCN’s first ice-capable vessel since the former HMCS Labrador was transferred away from DND in 1958 – a move signed off on by Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf himself.
“This is a moment in history where we pick up where VAdm DeWolf left off,” said Cdr Corey Gleason, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s first commanding officer. He’s been leading his crew in preparation for this moment since 2014, before the first steel for the ship was cut, and he has spent the last year commanding Harry DeWolf through numerous tests and trials at sea.
Sailors have already gotten to know the new platform and proven its ability to operate in different environments, but that doesn’t take away from the significance of the formal commissioning and the tradition tied to the ceremony.
“Tradition reinforces operations, and events like our commissioning ceremony draw inspiration and purpose from our own recent milestones, and from all of those that contributed to the National Shipbuilding Strategy. This ceremony is about all of us celebrating our contributions in a formal setting,” Cdr Gleason added.
He was joined at the ceremony by senior CAF and RCN leadership, including LGen Wayne Eyre, Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, and RAdm Brian Santarpia, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic. Other aspects of the commissioning, which was streamed live for viewers online, included an indigenous smudging ceremony and address from Hon Capt(N) Debbie Eisan, as well as a video tribute to VAdm Harry DeWolf himself, who is now the first Canadian to serve as the namesake for an RCN ship. HMCS Haida, the museum ship in Hamilton, Ontario famously commanded by VAdm DeWolf during the Second World War, participated in the form of a gun salute sent via video message.
Also present were representatives from Irving Shipbuilding, and The Honourable Arthur J. LeBlanc, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who presented Cdr Gleason with HMCS Harry DeWolf’s commissioning pennant.
With the pennant broken at the masthead, the commanding officer was then piped aboard the ship, followed by the traditional three cheers from the crew and those in attendance.
The commissioning of Harry DeWolf marks the end of an high-tempo program of post-acceptance sea trials for Cdr Gleason and his sailors, all while navigating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and breaking new ground in developing protocols for completing their duties while staying safe. While excitement is high for an upcoming deployment, first on the agenda is some well-deserved leave time. Planned maintenance will take place over the coming weeks, while the crew enjoys the early part of summer at home with their families before returning in August to prepare for the circumnavigation of North America and participation in Canada’s signature annual Arctic operation, Op NANOOK.
“We will begin ramping up for the departure a week before with Sea Training, DRDC and other riders on board. For now, the ship and her crew have worked hard, and the friends and families of HMCS Harry DeWolf deserve a break,” Cdr Gleason said.