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

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

DND

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 (RCN) 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 (RN) in the battleship His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Resolution followed by training courses in RN schools, as well as service at sea with the RN and 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 RN and RCN.

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

In 1939 he assumed command of the destroyer His Majesty’s Canadian Ship St. Laurent and participated in Atlantic convoy escort duties, as well as the evacuation of troops from France in 1940. He was twice the subject of a Mention in Dispatches (a national honour bestowed for distinguished service) for his leadership in command during the first two years of the Second World War.

In command of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Haida

In 1943, following staff appointments in both Halifax and Ottawa, he assumed command of the Tribal-class destroyer His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Haida, a ship that would come to define his legacy as a warrior and itself become known as the “Fightingest Ship in the Royal Canadian Navy.” During his 14 months in command, which included the Arctic convoys and destroyer actions in the English Channel, His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Haida participated in the sinking of 14 enemy ships. As a result, Vice-Admiral DeWolf was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry, a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for courage and skill in action against German destroyers, and was twice the subject of a Mention in Dispatches for bravery, courage and determination in the face of the enemy.

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 as an Officer of the U.S. Legion of Merit.

After the war

Post-war, he continued to excel, commanding the aircraft carriers His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Warrior and His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Magnificent. Promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1948, he was the Flag Officer Pacific Coast and later Vice Chief of the Naval Staff. He was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD) in 1950, soon after its creation, to recognize his good conduct throughout his career. In 1952, he was appointed Principle Military Adviser to the Canadian Ambassador to the United States of America 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, a position he served in until his retirement in 1960.

He died in Ottawa on December 18, 2000, and his ashes were scattered at sea from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Ville de Québec in 2001.