Biography: Vice-Admiral Harry George DeWolf, CBE, DSO, DSC, CD

Vice-Admiral Harry George DeWolf, DSO, DSC, CBE, CD


Vice-Admiral Harry George DeWolf, DSO, DSC, CBE, CD

The early years

Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf was born in Bedford, Nova Scotia in 1903 and joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a cadet in 1918 to attend the Royal Naval College of Canada in Esquimalt, British Columbia. From 1921 until 1925, he conducted his training with the Royal Navy on the battleship Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Resolution followed by training courses with the Royal Navy, as well as service at sea with the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). In 1928, he specialized in navigation, attending the Long Navigation Course at HMS Dryad in England, followed by further seagoing and staff appointments with both the Royal Navy and the RCN.

In command of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship St. Laurent

In 1939, then Lieutenant Commander DeWolf assumed command of the destroyer Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. Laurent and participated in Atlantic convoy escort duties, as well as the evacuation of troops from France in 1940. He was Mentioned in Dispatches twice (a national honour for distinguished service) for his leadership in command.

In command of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Haida

In 1943, Commander DeWolf assumed command of the Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Haida, a ship that would come to define his legacy as a warrior. Haida was known as the “Fightingest Ship in the Royal Canadian Navy.” During his 14-month tenure as commanding officer, Haida played a role in the destruction of more than a dozen enemy vessels, including three destroyers and a submarine. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for courage and skill in action against German destroyers, and two more Mentions in Dispatches for bravery, courage and determination.

A consummate leader both ashore and afloat, his exceptional wartime service was recognized with an appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and an Officer of both the United States Armed Forces Legion of Merit and the French Legion of Honour. He also received the French Croix de Guerre and the King Haakon VII Liberty Cross from Norway.

After the war

Following the war, he continued to excel, commanding the light aircraft carriers HMCS Warrior and HMCS Magnificent. In 1948, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral and in 1952, he was appointed Principal Military Adviser to the Canadian Ambassador to the United States and Chairman Canadian Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. In 1956, upon promotion to the rank of Vice-Admiral, he was appointed Chief of the Naval Staff where he served until his retirement in 1960.

Vice-Admiral DeWolf passed away in Ottawa on December 18, 2000 and his ashes were scattered at sea from HMCS Ville de Québec in 2001.

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