CRCN speech on HMCS Haida flagship designation ceremony

Speeches / June 6, 2018

The following is the speech given by Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, then-Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), on the ceremonial commissioning of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida as the RCN flagship. The ceremony, co-hosted by the RCN and Parks Canada on May 26, 2018, was held in Hamilton, Ont., where Haida is moored as a National Historic Site.

Chief Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit; 

Chief Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River; 

Hereditary Chiefs of the Haida Nation; 

Mr. Bob Bratina, Member of Parliament for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek; 

Your Worship, Mr. Fred Eisenberger, Mayor of Hamilton; 

Andy Barber and the Friends of HMCS Haida; 

LCdr Churm and the talented sailors of HMCS Star,

The exceptional leaders and our partners at Parks Canada,

Admirals, Commodores, 

distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Merci de vous joindre à nous pour honorer notre passé et inspirer les générations futures. La Marine royale canadienne est honorée de votre présence alors que nous célébrons l'héritage du NCSM Haida, le navire cérémonial de la Marine royale canadienne, lors de la cérémonie aujourd'hui.

Thank you as well to our partners at Parks Canada for preserving this national historic site. Lisa, Ray, Sarah and the entire team are extraordinary Canadians committed to ensuring that we celebrate our proud history. We can't thank you enough for reminding Canadians about the exceptional sacrifice and service of those who have served our nation at sea.

This service is very much in keeping with the long seafaring tradition of the namesake Haida Nation, an appropriate name for this particular ship, which has effectively sailed around the globe twenty-seven times.  

Today would not have been possible without the foresight and commitment of those who have worked diligently since the 1960s to save this ship from the fate of so many of its sister vessels. 

There are many individuals to whom we owe so much for their efforts.  I would like to acknowledge Neil Bruce, Alan Howard, Norman Simpson, David Kidd and Peter Ward.

United by a common interest, this team of strangers joined forces to create a not-for-profit entity called Haida Incorporated. Their goal: To rescue Haida from the breakers.

We are most fortunate to have Peter Ward, the sole surviving member of Haida Inc., and his family with us today…Peter is also a former naval reservist who served in HMCS York, while his father served in Haida’s sister ship, Athabaskan, during the Second World War. 

Please join me in thanking Peter for his leadership in enabling our success today.

The acquisition of the ship was an important activity, but ensuring that the ship would have a voice was as equally important. To that end, I could not be more pleased to acknowledge and thank the Friends of HMCS Haida. Andy Barber, Ron Kirk, Mike Vencel, Ian Greaves and the entire team who have dedicated themselves to ensuring Haida's rich legacy survives and is shared with Canadians is truly inspirational...for us currently serving, we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Please rise ladies and gentleman and join me in thanking these impressive Canadians.

I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the presence of Mr. Jim DeWolf, son of the late Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf, the first commanding officer of HMCS Haida, and Canada’s most decorated naval officer of the Second World War. 

Vice-Admiral DeWolf, for whom our new class of Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels is named, led HMCS Haida into battle during the war. 

Although Vice-Admiral DeWolf commanded several ships during his distinguished career, his relationship with Haida came to define his legacy and his bold leadership earned her the nickname the “Fightingest Ship in the Royal Canadian Navy.”

During his 14-month tenure as commanding officer, Haida sank 14 enemy vessels. His crew called him “Hard-Over-Harry” for his fearless command style. 

Perhaps the story that best exemplifies the qualities of his unwavering courage, self-sacrifice and dedication is the story of HMCS Haida’s rescue of HMCS Athabaskan on April 29th, 1944. 

HMC Ships Haida and Athabaskan were on patrol in the mine and torpedo-infested waters of the English Channel when they received word of two nearby enemy ships. They pressed on until Athabaskan stopped unexpectedly…

Haida kept going, but returned a short time later to find that Athabaskan was in trouble. They pulled up close and fired a star shell to light up the night sky. 

Cdr Harry DeWolf saw that they were surrounded by men scattered at sea on both sides of the ship. Fearful of mines, in range of enemy coastal guns positioned along the French coast, and with daylight looming, Cdr DeWolf made the decision to remain as long as he could. In doing so, Haida’s sailors rescued 42 men from the treacherous waters of the English Channel that night. 

Mesdames et messieurs, il est essentiel que nous préservions Haida comme une partie importante de l'histoire, afin que les générations futures puissent s'inspirer de son histoire et des fières traditions de notre Marine royale canadienne.

Haida is the very embodiment of the history, valour and fearless dedication of the women and men who serve Canada at sea. The ship earned battle honours in the Arctic between 1943 and 1945; in the English Channel, Normandy and Biscay in 1944, and in Korea from 1952 to 1953.

Aujourd'hui, Haida est la dernière survivante des vingt-sept destroyers de classe Tribal originales construites pour le Canada, le Royaume-Uni et l'Australie; treize d'entre elles ont été perdues pendant la deuxième Guerre mondiale.

Haida is a testament to the Royal Canadian Navy’s long history as a fighting force and she now stands as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice, resove and courage of Canada’s sailors.

Yesterday was a significant moment for us, as we convened Naval Board in Haida. Another item of historical relevance is seen at Haida’s stern, which is now proudly flying the Canadian White Ensign, a symbol which continues to represent the excellence of our sailors around the world. The Canadian White Ensign will continue to be flown in Haida, the RCN’s Flagship...our most fightingest ship.

Haida and all those who served in her, exemplify the values that we instill in our sailors today– service above self; courage in the face of immense danger; indomitable spirit; and the relentless pursuit of excellence. 

I would like to thank you for joining my fellow Flag Officers and I today for the ceremonial commissioning of HMCS Haida as the RCN Flagship, we could not be more proud.