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HMCS HAIDA HISTORY

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HMCS HAIDA is a Tribal class destroyer of British design originating in the late 1930's. The Tribals were unique as they were the first destroyers to incorporate twin gun mountings. This enhanced armament made them exceptionally powerful for their size. In all, 27 Tribals were built. There were 16 in the British navy (of which 12 were lost in WW2), 8 in the Canadian navy (of which 1 was lost in WW2) and 3 in the Australian navy. The remainder were scrapped between 1945 and 1965. Out of the approximate 400 warships which comprised the R.C.N. during World War 2, only HAIDA,  SACKVILLE and ACADIA survive.
The Royal Canadian Navy decided to acquire this type of vessel in 1939 as it was believed that these ships were ideally suited for patrolling Canadian waters with sufficient armament to engage commerce raiding surface vessels. From a political perspective, the acquisition of vessels of such sophistication virtually guaranteed their continued service in the Navy after the war. For those who had suffered the ravages of pre-war defence policy, this was imperative for the continuance of the Naval Service. Canadian Tribals could not be built in Canada due to a lack of shipbuilding expertise. Negotiations were conducted with the Royal Navy whereby Canada agreed to purchase Tribals from British shipyards, while an additional four would be built in Halifax. As these negotiations progressed, the course of the war changed in such a way as to require that the four British built Tribals would be used in European waters under Admiralty control.
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HMCS HAIDA taken at Plymouth, England on July 4, 1944 by Gilbert Milne. The camouflage scheme is not standard but was common in the 10th Destroyer Flotilla. (RCN Photo)
During World War 2, the Tribals saw considerable action in every theatre of war from the Arctic to Okinawa and their exploits are legend in naval history. In the fall of 1943, HAIDA operated out of Scapa Flow with the Royal Navy to assist with convoy escorting duties to North Russia on the Murmansk run. On Dec 26, 1943 she was present at the Battle of North Cape when the German battle cruiser SCHARNHORST was sunk by the British Home Fleet. Early in 1944, HAIDA joined the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla operating out of Plymouth England. The objective of this mixed force of British, Canadian and Polish warships was to clear enemy shipping off the coast of France in anticipation of the D-Day landings. During this period, HAIDA achieved great fame by destroying more enemy vessels than any other ship in the R.C.N. It was also during this period that her sister ship H.M.C.S. ATHABASKAN was sunk with the loss of 128 lives. We commemorate this tragic event annually with a memorial service on the Sunday closest to 29 April.

Following a refit in Halifax in late 1944, HAIDA rejoined the Fleet in Scapa Flow in early 1945 and spent the rest of the war operating in the Arctic and on the coast of Norway. After the surrender of Germany, the ship was overhauled to operate in the Pacific but the war ended before her conversion was completed. In 1947, HAIDA was recommissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy and worked on the East Coast and in the Arctic. In November 1949, HAIDA was doing maneuovers off the coast of Bermuda when an American B-29 bomber went down. She was first on the scene and lowered her seaboat once again to rescue the downed airmen. As a result, the ship's company received many letters of congratulations. The co-pilot of the aircraft was originally from Texas and for this reason, HAIDA's crew were bestowed with certificates naming them 'Honourary Texans'.

The ship operated with the Atlantic Fleet in the post-war years and in 1950 she was taken out of service for modernization and conversion to an Anti-Submarine escort with Squid mountings on her quarterdeck and improved ASDIC (sonar). HAIDA was recommissioned at a ceremony held in Halifax on a cold and snowy day in March of 1952. At that time, HAIDA became the first Canadian ship commissioned under a Queen, thus became known as "Her Majesty's Canadian Ship". After trials and workups were completed, she sailed almost immediately for Korea. HAIDA did two tours in Korean waters between 1952-54, on both occasions circumnavigating the globe. After Korea, the ship served in the Canadian Atlantic Fleet working mostly with NATO forces until she was paid-off and taken out of service in 1963.

The ship was going to be sold for scrap but a group of Torontonians, recognizing that this was the most famous ship in the Canadian Navy, raised enough money in the private sector to buy the vessel and have her towed to Toronto. At the beginning of August 1965, she opened to tourists at the foot of York Street - a naval museum, maritime memorial and Sea Cadet training ship.
 

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HAIDA at the Canadian National Exhibition sometime around the summer of 1969. (Photo by Colin Blackburn)
 
By 1970, HAIDA INC was having financial problems and the city's plan to build a Serviceman's Memorial Park across from the Princes' Gates at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds had run into serious delays. Ontario Place was being built and the Provincial government decided to take over the ship and make it an integral part of the park. She was towed here in 1970, and opened as a feature attraction at Ontario Place where she remained until 2002. In that year the ship was purchased by Parks Canada and taken to Port Weller near St. Catherines, Ontario for a much needed re-fit. In 2003, she was towed to Hamilton Harbour where she continues as a National Historic Site delighting visitors from across Canada and around the globe. The normal operating season for the ship is from the Victoria Day weekend until Thanksgiving Day.

From the late 1960's until 2002, the ship was used as a Sea Cadet Camp. It consisted of weekend Sea Cadet training in the Spring and Fall with the cadets living and eating aboard. Unfortunately, this practice was no longer possible once the ship was berthed in Hamilton.

The ship is an internationally recognized Naval Museum and Canadian Historic Site. The historic significance of H.M.C.S. HAIDA was officially recognized in 1990 when the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada dedicated a brass plaque summarizing her history. The plaque is permanently located in the ship.

The current configuration of the ship represents her conversion to a destroyer escort between 1949 and 1951. The forward 4.7 inch guns were replaced with 4 inch guns. The after 4" inch gun was replaced with a 3 inch 50 calibre gun. The after 4.7 inch mounting and the depth charge racks were removed and the Squid anti-submarine mortars installed. The 20 mm Oerlikons were replaced with the single 40 mm Bofors guns. The two pounder pom pom was removed and replaced with the Mark 34 radar fire control system when HAIDA went to Korea in 1952 and 1954. There have been additions and changes to the radars and sonars since the major conversion.

Reference Section
for All Tribals 
Summary of HAIDA'S
WW II Actions

HAIDA'S BATTLE HONOURS
ARCTIC 1943 - 1945
ENGLISH CHANNEL 1944
NORMANDY 1944
BISCAY 1944
KOREA 1952 - 1954

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Credits and Contributors:

1) Colin Blackburn <acblack(at)shaw.ca>
 

June 18/10