This Week in History


“Loud roared the dreadful thunder…” HMCS Haida

For the week of Monday April 24, 2006
In the early morning hours of April 29, 1944, Canadian Tribal Class destroyers HMCS Haida and HMCS Athabaskan encountered two German destroyers in the cold uninviting waters of the English Channel.

Action at Dawn (C.G. Evers, artist)
© The Friends of HMCS Haida
As part of Operation Hostile – an ongoing exercise to clear the Channel before the D-Day invasion – the Canadian destroyers engaged the enemy and forced them to scatter. Haida, which had already shared in the destruction of the German warship T-29 earlier that week, earned a second victory by driving German destroyer T-27 ashore and battering it with heavy shellfire. Haida then sped to assist its taskforce partner, HMCS Athabaskan, which had been hit by a German torpedo and sunk. Ignoring the ever-present threat of attack in these heavily defended coastal waters of German-occupied France, Commander Harry DeWolf ordered a dead stop to pick up survivors. Before being forced to depart, Haida rescued 42 comrades from the icy waters and three crewmembers manning the Haida’s motor-cutter rescued another eight. German warships later rescued another 85 but the Athabaskan’s commander and 127 other crewmembers perished in the waves.

During the Second World War, Haida achieved fame by destroying more enemy tonnage than any other Royal Canadian Navy warship. Its impressive war record earned it the nickname "Canada's Fightingest Destroyer" and its first commanding officer, Harry DeWolf, went on to become Canada's most highly decorated naval officer of the Second World War. Haida served with distinction in the Royal Canadian Navy for 20 years, serving not just in the war, but with the United Nations in Korea, doing NATO duty during the Cold War, and, of course, participating at home as part of Canada’s maritime defence force.

HMCS Haida - Ship's Badge
Courtesy of
One of only 27 Tribal Class destroyers built for the Canadian, British and Australian navies, HMCS Haida was named for the Haida people of coastal British Columbia. The ship’s badge features the two-headed thunderbird from Haida mythology, a creature with lightning flashing from its eyes and thunder erupting from the flapping of its great wings – sounds and sights likened to the deafening roar of Haida's guns. The badge seems tailor-made for this hunter of the oceans.

Canada's most famous warship and the last remaining Tribal Class destroyer, HMCS Haida was designated a National Historic Site in 1984. Now permanently docked at Hamilton Harbour and open to the public, HMCS Haida serves as a reminder of the sacrifice, courage and tenacity of the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Friends of HMCS Haida and the Canadian Tribal Class Association both offer detailed information about HMCS Haida and this class of warship.

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