HMCS Labrador’s Polar Flag flies again
By CPO2 Richard Bungay,
Sea Training Atlantic
During HMCS Labrador’s maiden deployment in 1954, it was the first warship to travel the Northwest Passage and circumnavigate North America. Throughout its operational history with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) the ship was unique, as it had created its own unofficial ship’s flag.
The polar bear, a universal symbol of the Arctic and unofficial ship’s mascot, was hoisted while at anchor and entering and leaving harbour signifying an end of a voyage. The crew called it the Polar Flag and it was a source of pride and cohesion. Fast forward 64 years later, being an enthusiastic student of RCN history and proponent of RCN Arctic deployments, I wanted to link the past with the future of the RCN in the Arctic. I wanted to recreate the flag and proposed the idea to the Commander of MARLANT who is also interested in the Arctic and its history. The flag was recreated and now is displayed outside the RAdm John Newton’s office as a cornerstone of the Arctic display recently placed there.
When HMCS Harry DeWolf is commissioned, it will fly this flag as the ship’s company of Labrador once did. To be successful in the Arctic we must look to the past as well as the future, and I believe the reconstituted Polar Flag will serve as a tangible link between our shipmates of the past and a source of pride of Harry DeWolf’s crews of the future.