This Week in History


Smooth Sailing

For the week of Monday August 30, 2004

On August 30, 1943, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). Haida was destined to become the most decorated ship in the history of the RCN.

HMCS Haida at sea
© Department of National Defence

Haida was one of 27 Tribal Class destroyers built, and eight of these served in the RCN. These destroyers, designed in Britain before the Second World War, were known for their cutting-edge design. Haida was named after a group of Aboriginal people who inhabited numerous villages along the coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands for at least 6,000 years.

In the autumn of 1943, Haida was used by the Royal Navy in escorting Allied convoys north to Murmansk in the Soviet Union, above the Arctic circle. In December 1943, Haida participated in the Battle of North Cape where the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst was sunk. In 1944, Haida joined other Allied warships in clearing enemy shipping off the coast of France in preparation for the D-Day landings. During this period, the ship achieved great fame by sinking more enemy vessels than any other in the RCN. In June 1944, Haida was part of the great Allied armada that supported the D-Day landings on the coast of France.  The ship spent the remaining months of the war patrolling in the North Sea and along the coast of Norway.

After her formal welcoming ceremony, HMCS Haida is being positioned for permanent berthing at HMCS Star Naval Reserve Unit
© Jerry Proc

In 1950, Haida was taken out of service for modernization and conversion to an anti-submarine escort. In 1952, it was part of the United Nations (UN) campaign in Korea. Haida’s duties in the Korean War were to provide anti-submarine escort service for the UN fleet and to give fire support for land operations. After Korea, Haida served in the Canadian Atlantic Fleet, working mostly with NATO forces. After a ‘Farewell Tour’ of the Great Lakes in the summer of 1963, Haida was destined for the scrap yard.  However, because of her legendary record, a group of navy veterans bought the ship to use as a naval museum. Haida was moored along the Toronto waterfront for nearly 40 years. More recently, Haida was moved to the Hamilton Harbour where she is part of the Canada Marine Discovery Centre.

Of the 400 warships that were in the RCN at the end of the Second World War, Haida is one of two that survive today. As the last remaining example of Tribal Class destroyers, HMCS Haida was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.

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