Ceremony marks HMCS Haida’s designation as flagship of the RCN
By Navy PA Ottawa
HMCS Haida has been designated flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to honour the courageous spirit of this legendary destroyer and all those who proudly served in her.
Haida is the last remaining Second World War Tribal-class destroyer in the world. Moored in Hamilton, Ont., it is now a National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada, welcoming visitors to learn about Canada’s remarkable naval history.
A special ceremony, co-hosted by the RCN and Parks Canada on May 26, 2018, saw Haida commissioned as flagship of the RCN, 75 years after it was initially commissioned into service for Canada.
The ceremony was part of a two-day community event during which Parks Canada launched its new Home Port Heroes program to ensure Canada’s Second World War naval heritage is remembered in communities across the country.
The ceremony included warm greetings by Chief Ava Hill from the Six Nations of the Grand River, who highlighted the contributions of her people to the cause of freedom as evidenced by the numerous Indigenous veterans present. After his welcome to the First Nation Treaty lands, Chief R. Stacey Laforme from the Mississaugas of the New Credit recited two poignant poems, one about Mother Earth and another touching upon sacrifice and remembrance.
Adding to the historic significance of the occasion was the participation of two Haida Nation Hereditary Chiefs, Lonnie Young and Frank Collison, from the west coast of British Columbia. This was the first direct contact between the Haida Nation and their fabled namesake ship. To solidify this bond, Chief Young presented VAdm Ron Lloyd, Commander of the RCN, with the Haida Nation Flag, which was then hoisted over the ship.
Other highlights included a parade, naval band, firing of Haida’s guns, and a winged salute from a vintage aircraft of the nearby Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Additionally, the fabled warship’s pre-1965 White Ensign was hauled down and replaced by the current Jack and Canadian Naval Ensign, which are flown by all RCN commissioned ships.
In the evening, a traditional sunset ceremony was held, followed by HMCS Haida’s transformation into an illuminated living memorial in remembrance of the fallen of the battles of the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence. A video of the battles, along with the names of the lost ships and of the fallen, scrolled up the hull.
“This is a tremendous day for both the RCN and for Parks Canada,” said VAdm Lloyd. “HMCS Haida exemplifies the values of our naval personnel in uniform: service above self; courage in the face of immense danger; indomitable spirit; and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As flagship of the RCN, Haida now stands as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice and courage of Canada’s sailors, so that future generations of Canadians and sailors can be inspired by its story and the proud traditions of our RCN.”
Along with his thanks to Parks Canada, VAdm Lloyd acknowledged the work of Haida Incorporated, a not-for-profit organization which “rescued Haida from the breakers” after being de-commissioned in 1963. He also recognized the efforts of the Friends of HMCS Haida, an organization of enthusiastic and energetic volunteers and veterans who served aboard Haida and continue to ensure the destroyer’s rich legacy is shared with Canadians.
“Today would not have been possible without the foresight and commitment of those who have worked diligently since the 1960s to save this ship from the fate of so many of its sister ships,” VAdm Lloyd said.
Haida also links generations, bringing together the RCN’s proud past with its bright future. Her original commanding officer, Harry DeWolf, is the namesake for both the first of, and the entire class of, Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels. His inspirational, courageous and bold wartime leadership earned him the nickname “Hard-Over Harry.” Post-war, Harry DeWolf rose to the rank of vice-admiral and commanded the RCN.
“The RCN is a destroyer navy with 108 years of service to Canada. Haida is the very embodiment of the history, valour and fearless dedication of the women and men who serve Canada at sea,” said VAdm Lloyd. “It is a testament to the RCN’s long history as a fighting force and now stands as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice, resolve and courage of Canada’s sailors.”
Known as Canada’s “fightingest ship,” Haida sank more surface tonnage than any other RCN ship during the Second World War and later joined the “Trainbusters Club” during the Korean War. Haida’s legacy is steeped in Battle Honours: The Arctic between 1943 and 1945; English Channel, Normandy and Biscay in 1944; and Korea from 1952 to 1953.