The story which follows is a composite of two articles titled 'Haida Inc' and 'Haida Goes Home'. These originally appeared in the September and October, 1964 issues of The Crowsnest Magazine, the official publication of the Royal Canadian Navy in that era. They were written by Lt. Peter Ward, Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and former Military Editor of the old Toronto Telegram newspaper.
Part I of this story deals with the formation of Haida, Inc., a non-profit organization who made it their mandate to salvage Haida from the cutters torch and bring her to her final resting place. Part II details the efforts of the naval reserve crew who actually brought the ship from Sorel Quebec to Toronto through the St. Lawrence Seaway.
When the Royal Canadian Navy announced in 1963, that Canada's most famous warship, HMCS Haida, was to be retired from service, a group of sentimental Toronto men started a campaign to save her from the scrap heap. Twelve months later, she was secured at the foot of York Street in Toronto where preparations were being made to start her in a new career. Her role was to act as a medium for passing on a love of the navy to all those who cared to visit her. Between the time of the first formal meeting held by those sentimentalists, and the ship's eventual arrival at Toronto's Pier Six, there was much heartbreak, elation, hard work and humour.
The man who organized "Haida, Inc.", as the ship's new owners were called, was Neil Bruce. Neil was an Air Canada captain who had never been aboard any thing larger than Toronto's Island ferry. He heard the story of Haida's past from her officers and fell in love with the ship immediately. Neil became convinced that she should be preserved. At the same time, several other men were thinking similar thoughts. There was Alan Howard of Toronto's Marine Museum; Norman Simpson, a former naval officer turned lawyer; and of course, Lt. Peter Ward of the naval reserve. They were brought together by the officers of Haida and the first meeting took place early in the fall of 1963 at the Marine Museum. After preliminaries were out of the way, other people came into the picture. Bill Doole, Editor and Publisher of the Brampton Times; Joe O'Sullivan, Goodyear Tire sales executive; Dave Kidd another Toronto sales executive; Jack Graham lawyer; Don Smith of Bell Telephone and Rear-Admiral P.D. Budge, RCN (Ret) - all joined Haida, Inc. Admiral Budge took a bit of convincing, but once he believed the project was possible, he threw all of his determination into saving the ship.
Haida, Inc. became incorporated as a non-profit corporation through the free legal work of Jack Graham and Norm Simpson. Neil Bruce began a series of trips between Toronto and Ottawa and Halifax to convince both the government and the Royal Canadian Navy that the Haida project was possible. The ship had moved out of commission and into Class C Reserve service late in 1963 and would stay in that condition for at least a year. That gave Haida, Inc. plenty of time to formulate their plans for the ship's future. In the winter of 1963, when the Defence Department's economy drive began, it was announced that HMCS Haida would immediately be declared surplus and turned over to Crown Assets for disposal.
There was some frantic scurrying in the homes of the members of Haida, Inc. Neil Bruce doubled the frequency of his trips to Ottawa. Defence Minister Paul Hellyer was visited; so was the Chief of Naval Staff; so were the offices of Crown Assets. Finally, the official word was handed down. The ship would be sold to Haida, Inc. for $20,000 and be delivered to Sorel Quebec in her Class C Reserve condition on Aug 14/64. Bids from towing contractors applying to bring Haida from Sorel to Toronto were arriving steadily. Finally, the McAllister Towing Company of Montreal, got the job for slightly more than $6,000. McAllister said they were quoting a rock bottom price because they too, felt sentimental about Haida - so sentimental in fact, that they later donated $1,000 to Haida, Inc.
Paying the towing bill and the insurance for the ship presented a real problem. No one in Haida, Inc. was wealthy and even collectively, it was next to impossible to finance the undertaking. Fortunately, the Toronto-Dominion Bank came up with financing after hearing the plight of Haida, Inc. The navy too, harboured sentimental feelings about Haida. Once the ship's sale had been approved, the RCN pushed her delivery date back to Aug 21/64. They had Haida towed from Sydney N.S. back to Halifax for a quick inspection before she began her new career. The navy donated a noteworthy amount of equipment in order to make the task of converting Haida into a memorial much easier. Cases of Second World War gear were packed up in the forward seamen's mess. These were to be used in setting up displays at a later date.
Next, came the problem of getting a crew to bring Haida from Sorel to Toronto. Reservists from HMCS York, Toronto's naval reserve division, volunteered to do the job so the Commanding Officer of Naval Divisions authorized three day's special duty for three officers and twelve hands. Each of the reservists said they would pay for their own transportation to Sorel. Towing the ship through the Seaway was anticipated to span three to four days. The entire trip is detailed in Part II of the story.
Due to the generous services provided by HMCS York, and the expert towing ability of McAllister company skippers, Haida arrived at Toronto's Pier 6 a little late but unscathed. She nosed into the jetty shortly after 1000 hours on Aug 25/64 with the sun streaming down on her rust streaked hull and a cheering crowd waving hello from shore. For the members of Haida, Inc. the ship's arrival in Toronto signalled the beginning of a never-ending parade of problems. Money woes headed the list. The new owners of Haida found themselves nearly $30,000 in debt, with no prospects of earning funds until plenty more dollars had been spent getting the ship ready to receive the public.
The government had been very generous with Haida's terms of sale. The $20,000 cost of Haida was to be paid in ten yearly installments. The first installment was deferred a year from delivery date, and no interest would accumulate. The terms couldn't have been more reasonable. Obviously, this project had the sympathy of both the government and senior naval officers. The towing fee, a net amount of slightly more than $5,000 had to be paid immediately. In addition, $2,500 had to materialize in order to insure the crew of HMCS York, Haida herself during the trip down the Seaway, and liability insurance had to be provided for her first year in Toronto. To add to the expenses, security services had to be arranged in order to keep an eye on Haida 24 hours a day.
Haida's first day in Toronto was a busy one. That evening, Rear-Admiral R.P. Welland, Deputy Chief of Operational Readiness came to Toronto from Ottawa to officially start Haida off in her new career. With him, came Defence Minister Paul T. Hellyer, who took out time from a well earned holiday to welcome the veteran destroyer. Rear Admiral Welland, a former commanding officer of Haida attended the proceedings. Also present during the turnover ceremonies, were retired Vice-Admiral H.G. DeWolf, a former Chief of Naval Staff who commanded Haida and Commodore John Charles, Haida's captain during her last Korean war tour. Phil Givens, a former Toronto mayor and another enthusiastic fan of Haida, was there too.
After a short session of speeches, Admiral Welland presented the ship with a White Ensign and a Blue Ensign. Haida was the first ship out of commission to be honoured in this fashion. Plans were, to fly both flags when Haida opened up to the public. Brief ceremonies alongside the ship were followed by a reception in the wardroom of HMCS York reserve division. There were many salty tales about Haida's past being exchanged among the ship's former captains. After the ceremonies, Haida, Inc. was faced with the challenge of actually opening up the ship to the public.
In the fall of 1964 and spring of 1965, Haida was painted, cleaned up, and plans were made to restore her as closely as possible to her Second World War condition. There were going to be some discrepancies, but those couldn't be helped. The cost of altering her structure back to its original condition would be prohibitive. Under the Terms of Sale between the RCN and Haida Inc., the existing pennant of DDE215 could not be used for permanent display. When Haida was repainted, her wartime pennant G63, was proudly displayed on her sides. In retrospect, Haida is on display today in what basically amounts to her Korean war configuration if referring to her weapons systems.
HAIDA as she appeared in the Port Weller, Ontario drydock in the late 1960's.
Haida could not stay moored at Pier 6 forever. The following Spring, she was moved by tug to the edge of Coronation Park. This was a Metropolitan Toronto park dedicated to the memory of servicemen who fell during the Second World War. The city informed Haida, Inc. that everyone would be delighted to have Haida there as part of that memorial. Haida, Inc. charged the public a small fee to tour the ship and profits were applied towards upkeep and staffing. Several ideas for money-making were advanced, but Haida, Inc. decided that nothing would be sold on board Haida. No refreshment bars or candy stalls would ever stand on those decks and that policy is still in effect today. Haida's gift shop was eventually erected on the jetty, but nothing commercial is anywhere near the ship.
The firm intention of the directors of Haida, Inc. was to make HMCS Haida into a fitting memorial of all sailors who served in the Royal Canadian Navy. By showing the public how seamen lived aboard ship, and how they used their weapons, a greater appreciation of Canada's proud navy could be passed on to the thousands of people that would visit her. Haida, Inc. did not consider themselves the owners of this proud ship. They were merely custodians of her for the people of Canada.
In retrospect, by the late 1960's, Haida Inc., could not carry the financial burden imposed by the annual operating expenses of the ship. Fortunately, Haida Inc., entered negotiations with the Government of Ontario, and the ship became part of the provincial family of historical sites in 1971. She was towed to the newly built Ontario Place theme park and was moored in the same spot where she can be found today. In 1988, Haida was declared a national historic monument by the federal government and is protected by law. What a befitting action to guarantee that Canadian naval heritage will be on view for future generations of Canadians. This concludes Part 1 of the story.
The volunteer crew for the last cruise of HMCS Haida assembled at HMCS York, the Toronto naval reserve division, just before 2100 hours on Aug 21, 1964. They looked more like a marine camping expedition than a destroyer's crew. Special duty for eighteen officers and men had been authorized in order for the 'York' sailors to man Haida as she was towed through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the length of Lake Ontario to her last berth in Toronto. Haida's final crew were to board the ship at Sorel, Quebec. There would be no power on board, so naphtha gas cooking stoves and coal-oil lamps were the rig of the day. A navy truck transported sailors and gear to Toronto's Union train station where the York crew assisted baggage men in loading equipment onto the train. Lt- Cdr. Jack MacQuarrie was a late arrival. He pulled up in front of the station less than half an hour before train time with two way radios, a tool kit, diving gear, and a 400 pound gasoline generator.As Lt. Cdr. MacQuarrie's half ton of equipment was carried to the train baggage car, the air was blue with profanity. The crew thought of trying to smuggle most of the gear onto the train as hand baggage, but it was impossible to convince even the most gullible sleeping car porter that a 400 pound gasoline generator is part and parcel of portable luggage and required for one's morning toilet! The crew may have cursed while loading that paraphernalia, but without Lt.Cdr MacQuarrie's generator and bag of tricks, they would have a much less comfortable trip and might have run into serious trouble.
The coach of the Toronto-Montreal train looked like a Second World War draft train heading for Halifax that night. They sat up discussing anticipated problems until the small hours of the morning, then tumbled into berths for a few hours sleep before arriving in Montreal. A navy bus met the train, and after some delay in getting their 'hand baggage' sprung from the depths of the terminal, they loaded everything aboard and headed off into the Montreal rush hour. The bus took the road along the south shore of the St. Lawrence and made the 50 mile trip to Sorel with only one stop - for breakfast. Some of the York reservists discovered the French language isn't as easy as the textbooks say it is. More than one man ordered bacon and eggs, then wound up with sausages and pancakes.
When the bus arrived in Sorel, Haida was found moored at the Department of Transport jetty, snugged in behind the huge navy tug which brought her from Halifax. An armed RCN guard turned over the ship and Haida was civilian property. Lt.Cdr Bill Wilson, York's executive officer and skipper of the Haida for her last trip, made a quick round of the ship. It was discovered a few vital things like heaving lines were missing but some were quickly scrounged from the RCN tug before she departed. PO Bill Lloyd, shipwright by trade, was appointed cook and dispatched to the local stores to buy rations; Lt.Cdr MacQuarrie also left for a shopping spree - buying gasoline, coal-oil, batteries, etc.
The two tugs from McAllister Towing Co. which were to tow Haida through the Seaway and Lake Ontario had arrived shortly after the noon hour. Using a great deal of effort, an air compressor was hoisted on board Haida and lashed down just abaft of 'A' gun. The compressor was hooked up to the capstan, and experimentation proved, that there was sufficient air pressure to rotate both capstans. Any size line could be heaved, however, very slowly.
The two-way radios Lt. Cdr. MacQuarrie had borrowed from Motorola for the trip were tested from both tugs and from all positions aboard Haida. They worked properly and an operational communications network was established. The Royal Canadian Navy in Montreal had supplied hammock mattresses and one blanket and pillow per man. The crew staked out their own personal corners of the ship. PO Lloyd arrived back on board with more groceries than an orphanage cook who'd been given carte-blanche permission to purchase anything in the supermarket. He set up his naphtha stove in the wardroom galley were it had been decided that all the ship's cooking would be done. Lt. Cdr. MacQuarrie soon re-appeared at the ship, preceded by a truck with gasoline and coal-oil.
The anticipated fresh water problem that would face Haida's last crew now had to be resolved. Plastic containers bought in the discount stores of Sorel were to be the answer. Only several were purchased and this obviously wouldn't be enough to supply fresh water for the entire trip. Petty Officer Lloyd had an inspiration. He commandeered the captains's bathtub. The stern tug fed a fresh water line onto the quarterdeck and a half a dozen hands were drafted as a bucket brigade. As fresh water shot on board via the tug's high pressure hose, bucket after bucket was filled and they were sent back to the captains day cabin. The bathtub was filled until there was just an inch or so between the rim and a full scale flood. All of the buckets were filled one last time and set among the pots and pans in the galley. The crew slipped lines from the Sorel jetty and got underway at 1500 hours. After that, PO Lloyd served up a healthy batch of sandwiches then everyone settled down for a complete survey of the ship.
Each gun mount had been doctored so it wouldn't function as a gun again, but this was just what Haida Inc., wanted. Imagine the consternation some energetic 12 year old could create by suddenly training a gun through a crowd of people touring the ship, sweeping them all over the side! The gear from all radar and radio spaces had been removed, but Haida Inc. had plans to restore these compartments. In retrospect, some radio equipment was acquired for display purposes in the 1970's and 1980's but a serious effort to restore the radio rooms did not materialize until 1992. Overall, Haida was in remarkably good condition. Thanks for this, were due in no small measure to the RCN personnel who worked over Haida in that last week or so before she left Halifax.
Being the electrical officer, Lt.Cdr MacQuarrie was disturbed by the fact that there was no power aboard ship, but there was miles of perfectly good wiring. Trouble was, that all ship's bulbs, motors, etc. were 220 volts and the generator that everyone sweated to get on board was only rated for 110 volt power. The enterprising electrical officer pondered this problem in every spare minute, then shortly after dark, he drafted half a dozen off-watch volunteers and began work. Emergency wiring cable in each compartment was connected. Several bulbs, forgotten on board by some shipyard worker, were located and pressed into service. The generator was started and connected to the maze of extension cords and emergency wiring which now laced the ship. Then, suddenly, there was light.
Except those on watch, all other hands went to bed to slumber blissfully through three hours of sleep before Haida entered the first Seaway lock, just west of Montreal. With four officers and fourteen men, imagine trying to handle two three-inch hawsers forward, and two more aft at the same time. It didn't matter what you wore on your collar or sleeve, when the ship came to up to a lock, each crew member tailed onto a line and pulled. Trouble was, that none of the volunteers had been real practising sailors for quite some time. Some of them never were.
Days ran into nights as Haida slipped through lock after lock on the Seaway. On Sunday morning, fog started to close around the two tugs and Haida and the crew could only dimly see the shoreline of the St. Lawrence. They didn't have the faintest idea of where they were. The two way radios were found to be a mixed blessing. There were a lot of questions generated by Haida's crew to the tugs but they just didn't seem to be important enough to warrant a response. The tugs used their radios when they had something to say to Haida, but asking them a question was a difficult matter. Adding to this, there were no Seaway charts aboard Haida. None could be purchased in Toronto. The RCN didn't have any charts to spare and there were none at HMCS York. Picture then, Lt-Cdr. Wilson, anxious to know Haida's position, leaning over the quarterdeck rail with an Esso road map in his hand, hailing a passing motorboat with the plaintive request: "Where are we?"
The fog finally closed in and the tugs were forced to anchor. There was nothing to do but wait. Later on Sunday, with the last of the locks behind us, the crew began making plans for Haida's arrival in Toronto. The RCN had put five cases of signal flags on board and the reservists did a practice dress ship under the eyes of hundreds of pleasure craft which had surrounded Haida. These boats came from yacht clubs and marinas located on both sides of the St. Lawrence river. Many of the small boats followed Haida, some for several hours, asking questions, waving and offering good wishes as they finally sped away. Two of the crew, required back in Toronto by Sunday night, left the ship at the Ivy Lea Bridge by one of those pleasure boats. Later that night, just off the City of Kingston, a pilot boat took four more crew ashore because they were required for Monday morning jobs. Among others, we lost our cook, PO Lloyd, so PO John Waddell agreed to take over. He'd done sterling duty earlier in the trip, making some of the plumbing serviceable.
Haida was now at the mid point of Lake Ontario right in the teeth of a strong blow from the west. One of the two tugs parted company, leaving the old destroyer at the end of 300 yards of nylon tow rope, pitching a bit in the fresh water swell. Up to that point, temporary oil lamps were being used for port and starboard running lights. Lt. Cdr MacQuarrie was convinced that the ship's original lights could be restored to working order. The bulbs were checked, but the filaments were broken. Carefully, he removed the glass, kidnapped two bulbs from elsewhere in the ship, soldered wires to the old sockets and rigged the running lights to work. Haida finished her last voyage as the only ship in the fleet with frosted glass running lights. At one point, during the electrical gymnastics of Lt.Cdr MacQuarrie, he was seen by Lt.Cdr Wilson walking down the deck with a huge spanner over one shoulder. "Are you the plumber now MacQuarrie?" asked Lt.Cdr Wilson. "No sir", replied MacQuarrie. "The plumber's in the galley cooking supper." It was that kind of a trip.
During the last day on Lake Ontario, the sun shone brightly, but the wind made the day feel cold. The crew accomplished a fair bit of work, cleaning the ship and making things relatively shipshape for her Toronto arrival. As dusk fell, the lights of Toronto could be seen far to the northwest. Originally, Haida was scheduled to arrive in Toronto late Monday afternoon, but those strong westerly winds had delayed her arrival. By 2300 hours, Haida arrived in Toronto and the crew admired the fireworks from the Canadian National Exhibition lighting up the sky.
Haida rounded Toronto Island and dropped anchor for the night shortly before 0200 hours on Tuesday. During the trip, Lt.Cdr MacQuarrie had managed to get the ten inch signal projector operational. When the tug 'Youville' from HMCS York came out to meet Haida, the crew dazzled them with the regulation naval challenge, but Youville didn't have anything to answer with. Haida's official entry into Toronto was staged at 1000 hours on Aug 25/64. The tug from HMCS York brought a load of television and radio men out to the ship and they spent much time shooting film and recording interviews. Later, Toronto's fireboat, the William Lyon Mackenzie, came out to meet the small flotilla. So did a fair sized contingent of small pleasure craft and a Coast Guard cutter.
The tug, Helen McAllister towed Haida through the western gap with the cutter and fireboat both spraying jets of water into the air. Horns and whistles tooted all over the harbour. Ensigns dipped as boats and ships saluted Haida. Finally, she was secured and it was all over. Haida had finished her last voyage. Navy men, being the sentimental slobs they are, did not hide the fact that there weren't too many eyes completely free of mist. Bringing the Grand Old Girl to her final resting place was an honour that will be hard to equal.