Allied Warships

HMCS Haida (G 63)

Destroyer of the Tribal class


HMCS Haida as seen during the Second World War.

NavyThe Royal Canadian Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTribal 
PennantG 63 
Built byVickers Armstrong (Newcastle-on-Tyne, U.K.) : Parsons 
Ordered5 Apr 1940 
Laid down29 Sep 1941 
Launched25 Aug 1942 
Commissioned30 Aug 1943 
End service11 Oct 1963 
History

Pennant numbers: G63 July 1943 - January 1952; DDE215 February 1952 - August 1964; G63 September 1964 to date.

[The following story was written by Thomas G. Lynch and appeared in the February 1982 issue of Model Boats Magazine. Mr. Lynch reviews the lucky career of Canada's famous Tribal Class destroyer].

The story of Canada's most beloved wartime ship began in 1940 with future requirements in Royal Canadian Navy (R.C.N.) ships being assessed by the Canadian Government. Canada had acquired surplus 'C' and 'V' class destroyers to supplement her minuscule fleet of modified Acastas over the four years preceding and the first year of the war. With the loss of two of these and projected waiting times for space in a British yard, it was thought that future requirements be confirmed and ships ordered. At this time, the Royal Navy (R.N.) had large numbers of Tribal Class destroyers in service and it was reasoned that this large destroyer type was the next logical ship for the R.C.N. Modified ventilation and heating systems were deemed necessary for North Atlantic service and were so specified.

IROQUOIS was the first order and HAIDA was ordered from the Vickers-Armstrong Yards on the Tyne in April 1941. The keel was laid on September 29th, 1941, after plans were approved and materials became available. However, with the commissioning of IROQUOIS and subsequent deficiencies in her design, HAIDA acquired additional stiffening of the keel, fore plates, stringers and ribs, as well as additional bracing of the forward magazine areas. No folded bows for HAIDA!

HAIDA was launched on the 25th of August 1942 by Lady Laurie and was commissioned into the R.C.N. the 30th August 1943. She underwent workups under command of Cdr. H.G. 'Hard-Over-Harry' DeWolf and reported to the Home Fleet, Scapa Flow, Scotland in October 1943. She worked in conjunction with R.N. units between the 14th-22nd for the relief of the Spitsbergen garrison and the passage of Soviet minesweepers into Kola. Between October 25, 1943 and January 7, 1944, HAIDA and two other Canadian Tribals worked with Spitsbergen resupply to relieve the monotony. January 10, 1944 found HAIDA transferred to Plymouth, England and the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, which immediately undertook 'Operation Tunnel' sweeps, the destruction and interdiction of the Bay of Biscay ports to Kriegsmarine units (German navy).

HAIDA was damaged in action with the German Elbing, T-29 on the 25/26th of April, but still pressed home her attack and shared the sinking of the same German ship. This was HAIDA'S first successful engagement and Cdr. DeWolf carved a notch into the bridge rail, to be joined by seven more by September of the same year. 'Operation Hostile' sweeps were started on the 28/29th of April by HAIDA, in company with ATHABASKAN, another Canadian Tribal. Mixing it up with a group of German destroyers, the Flotilla rapidly became separated into small groups in hot pursuit of individual ships. As ATHABASKAN steadied unto an intercept bearing with a fleeing Elbing, she was struck by a German torpedo and numerous fires broke out, defying the best efforts of fire control parties. She was eventually abandoned and sank. 44 survivors were recovered; 128, including Lt.-Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, the C.O. were missing and 83 became P.O.W.'s. HAIDA Avenged her sister ship moments later by hammering T-27 until she elected to ram herself hard aground on the reefs of Ile de Vierge, where HAIDA shelled her further until she turned into a blazing hulk. Later the next day, rocket-firing Beaufighters finished the job and T-27 was written off. HAIDA and HMCS HURON continued in 'Operation Hostile' sorties with the 10th Destroyer Flotilla (10th DF) throughout the remaining months before the Normandy invasion. June 8/9th had HAIDA, part of Force 26, in the happy hunting grounds once more. The German destroyers ZH1 and Z32 paid the price this trip. June 24th had HAIDA sinking U-971 which with her previous victories, caused significant envy and admiration within the 10th D.F. However, Cdr. DeWolf demurred, claiming to have been on a lark, while HMS ESKIMO had done most of the work. HAIDA was then relieved for a well overdue boiler-cleaning and general repairs for ten days, then returning on the 15th of July. This date, HAIDA and two other ships of the 10th DF intercepted a medium body of enemy ships off the mouth of the Lorient. In the ensuing battle, two A/S trawlers UJ1420 and UJ1421 were pounded to flinders, one merchant ship sunk and two others left in a sinking condition and hopelessly on fire. HAIDA expended numerous rounds again a silhouetted target that, although dead in the water was able to absorb tremendous punishment with little ill effect. Finally the target was identified for what it was; just that, a target barge! Imagine the red faces of the Gunner Officers! August 5/6 was the last of HAIDA'S famous luck. While engaged in an 'Operation Kenetic' sweep and exchanging salvoes with enemy units, a shell exploded in 'Y' turret and ignited the paintwork. Two ratings were badly burnt, six injured and two killed. Adding insult to injury, 'A' turret was disabled by a near miss a short while later that evening. The rest of the month was spent in transporting supplies to resistance groups, but HAIDA'S first commission was drawing to a close. September 22nd was her date of departure; destination Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving on the 29th to one of the most tumultuous welcomes ever recorded a unit of the R.C.N.! HAIDA returned to Scapa Flow in mid-January 1945, sporting new radar fits. She worked up until March 19th, when she was declared operational. She helped escort carriers in a FAA minelaying operation off Granesund in Norway and again from the 24th to the 28th with carriers attacking shipping in the Trondheim area. On the 7th April, HAIDA sailed from Greenock, Scotland with seven subchasers destined for Soviet use. These joined convoy JW66 after a severe storm, on the 19th, arriving at Vaenga on the 25/26th. The fall of Berlin was celebrated while there, with celebrations both ashore, courtesy of the Soviets and aboard HURON, courtesy of the R.C.N. April 9th saw the convoy depart for United Kingdom (UK) waters, but someone had forgotten to inform the U-boats that the war was over! 19th Escort Group had just sunk two U-boats and lost the frigate GOODALL. Both HAIDA and HMCS IROQUOIS were near-missed by torpedoes and the reprieve only came when a snowstorm descended upon the convoy, making contact on both sides difficult. HURON, IROQUOIS and HAIDA arrived back in Scapa Flow on 6th May, after what was to prove to be the last of the Russian convoys. Germany surrendered two days later. After relief operations in the Trondheimfiord (Norway) on the 17th, HAIDA was prepared for the return to Canada to refit for the Pacific war. She left for Halifax on 4th June, with HURON and IROQUOIS who were packed to the gills with R.C.N. personnel returning home. They arrived on the 10th and HAIDA immediately started a tropicalization refit, but Japan surrendered and the rest of the refit was suspended. Finally, HAIDA was paid off on 20th March 1946 as part of the general demobilization of the fleet. By 1947, however, HAIDA was being prepared for duty once more. A lattice mast replaced the tripod foremast and her anti-aircraft armament (A.A.) consisted of four 20mm Oerlikons and four 40mm Bofors/L60 guns. However, the HAIDA luck once again deserted her, when fire gutted the wheelhouse and later when burst boiler tubes occurred during full-speed trials. Finally in May 1947, she returned to the fleet. For the next three years, HAIDA and NOOTKA took part in joint exercises off the East Coast of North America with United States Navy (U.S.N) units and in the North Atlantic with R.N. ships during the summer months. The West Coast Flotilla would come through the Panama Canal to join their East Coast sister ships in winter exercises in the West Indies sunshine, with R.N. ships as well. Few events occurred at were unusual. The first was going to the aid of HMCS MICMAC after a collision with the SS Yarmouth County. Another was Operation Scuppered, where U-190 was to be sunk by combined attacks from rocket-firing Firefly aircraft, 4.7 inch salvoes from HMCS NOOTKA and HAIDA and the frigate NEW LISKEARD would attack the sinking wreck with hedgehog. The Fireflies attacked and NOOTKA hurriedly fired a few rounds into the rapidly sinking wreck, while NEW LISKEARD launched a rapid hedgehog attack over the rapidly sinking hulk. Other events were the cruises in Northern waters in September 1948 and the grounding of the aircraft carrier HMCS MAGNIFICENT off Port Mouton on the 4th June 1949. Another incident involved the rescue of the crew of a downed B-29 several hundred miles off Bermuda, in which HAIDA out-raced a U.S.N. unit through Force 6 winds and seas to pick up 15 survivors. In December 1949, HAIDA became a Depot and Accommodation Ship in Halifax. By July 1950, conversion to an escort carrier had begun. When completed, she had lost ''X and 'Y' mounts aft, getting two triple barrelled Squid anti-submarines (A/S) furthest aft and a paired 3in/50 cal mount in 'Y' turret's position. An aluminum lattice foremast was in place and four 40mm/L40-60's served as A.A. defence. Four new torpedoes in a single mount were added and a vast improvement in radar fits was apparent. Whip antennas were first used on HAIDA for radio communication, mainly for the TBS radios (60 to 80 MHz) and rough weather catwalks and rough weather catwalks extend aft over the torpedo tubes to the aft deckhouse. She re-commissioned March 15, 1952. While HAIDA was undergoing refit, and shakedown, the Korean conflict had been coming to a boil and by this time the United Nations (UN) forces were fully involved. HAIDA had made a trip to Plymouth, England with MAGNIFICENT in June and when she returned, she was to be prepared for overseas action. She sailed for Sasebo Japan from Halifax on 27th September 1952, arriving there on the 12th November, after passing through the Panama Canal. Here, final foodstuffs and repairs were made and she relieved NOOTKA as planned guard on the West Coast of Korea on the 18th. HAIDA had an uneventful tour, being twice detached for coastal patrols, but still without action. She returned to Sasebo on 29th November, 1953 for replenishment. Back on patrol, but on the East Coast this time on December 4th, HAIDA did the complete rounds of differing patrols, taking part in the shelling of the Songjin marshalling yards with USS Moore on the 6th. A 76mm battery returned their fire, but a U.N. FAC aircraft soon directed HAIDA'S 3in/50 fire onto the battery position, effectively silencing it. HAIDA took part in other bombardment duties in the Sonjin area, largely against encroaching North Korean waterborne troops. Her Sperry HDWS radar, with its high definition, allowed her gunners to observe the fall of shot and to detect the small sampans the Reds were using to try the mud-flat crossings. On the 18/19 of December HAIDA surprised a train in the same area, illuminated it and proceeded to pound ten boxcars to rubble. However, the engine managed to uncouple and escaped into one of the numerous tunnels, eliminating her chances of entrance into the exclusive Trainbusters Club. Christmas was spent in Sasebo, with other Canadian destroyers, the first time that all of Canada's UN commitment were together as a Flotilla. HAIDA was back on station as 'wind chaser' for two more carrier escort patrols on 3rd January 1953 and minor bombardments in the Haejuman area proved the worth of the Sperry HDWS radar with objects as small as men standing out on the low-tide mudflats. March saw HAIDA admitted to the Trainbusters Club after she tackled another train on the 29th, north of Iwon, Korea. To cap her night, HAIDA detected and blew up a drifting mine on her way back to Yang- do. She returned to Sasebo on the 12th June and thence through the Suez Canal and Mediterranean, arriving in Halifax on 22nd July 1953. The Tribal departed Halifax on her second Korean tour on 14th December 1953, passing through the Panama Canal. The cease-fire had been signed, and although infractions were still occurring, it was strictly an Army/Air Force show. Plane guard and patrols proved monotonous and finally she headed for home via the Suez Canal once more, arriving on 1st November 1954. HAIDA and the other Tribals embarked on purely anti-submarine exercises during the mid-1950's, as Canada's specialized more and more in this field. They worked with newly formed NATO units in the North Atlantic during the summer and with carrier/destroyer elements of the R.C.N in the West Indies during the winter months. High points of these years included assisting HMCS ALGONQUIN after she was damaged by Hurricane Carla in September 1956 and escorting LAUZON and PORTAGE into Halifax in March 1957 after they collided. 1958 saw the superb rescue of a Banshee pilot from HMCS BONAVENTURE, but unfortunately, the pilot could not be revived. On 15th July 1960, HAIDA escorted HMCS KOOTENAY with her cargo of an Indian totem pole, 'Hosaqami' to HMS EXCELLENT to mark the end of R.C.N. Gunnery Courses at Whale Island. The last few years had a trying effect upon HAIDA'S ageing hull and troubles began to manifest themselves. In January 1958, funnel caps were fitted to protect electronic equipment and extensive hull repairs were carried out. March, saw her lattice mast carry away after bombardment exercises, necessitating a repair in Miami. December 12, 1958 had the steering fail on the way back from Europe and when corrected, the foremast promptly attempted to carry away once more! Excellent seamanship and massive lashing saved the mast from a watery grave. Shortly thereafter, the forward magazine became alarming with its moans and groans, which required additional shoring to correct. HAIDA started 1959 in drydock while repairs were made. She returned on 28th January with sprung seams in the starboard Squid magazine which were temporarily corrected and deferred until regular refit time in April. February heralded the third collapse of the foremast and once again it was save my lashing. Refit was completed in January 1960 and she immediately sailed for the West Indies, developing 'condenseritis' on the first exercise followed by equipment failures, which forced her to retire. April 3rd was the last straw when the steering gear broke while leaving Ireland Island Dockyard, fortunately without incident. In May, a hull survey found extensive corrosion of welds on the starboard side. Plates and stringers were replaced, but cracks were discovered in other plates in an underwater, self-survey in November. She finished the year in drydock. Next, repairs were necessary in June-July 1961, after HAIDA tackled heavy seas and ice conditions in March. Marine Industries of Sorel, Quebec were the contractors. March 1962 saw further cracks develop on the port bow plates and full power trials showed defective main engine bearings and electrical defects in the boiler room fans. Clearly, the handwriting was on the wall this time for all to see! Refit took until February 1963. HAIDA began her last commission on 25th April 1963, with a Great Lakes tour. A ten ton mobile TV studio was positioned on the port side of the torpedo tubes and extensive filming was done of all aspects of shipboard life as well, as main armament drill and firing. Thousands toured her; among them being a civilian pilot, Neil Bruce. He had the half-formed idea of trying to save HAIDA from the breakers yard and HAIDA Inc. resulted.

Upon completion of the tour, HAIDA was placed in Category 'C' reserve and her fate seemed sealed. In 1964, as part of Navy cutbacks, Crown Assets Disposal announced HAIDA would be scrapped. HAIDA Inc., entered a bid of $20,000 and won. The R.C.N. bent over backwards, stuffing as much gear as could be fitted aboard her for restorative purposes and towing her first from Sydney, N.S. to Halifax for cleanup, then to Sorel, Quebec where she became civilian property. Reservists from HMCS York, Toronto acted as skeleton crew and she was towed to Toronto by two tugs.

She arrived on August 25, 1964 with the guest of honour being Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf, her first Captain. HAIDA was cleaned up, painted and the original 'G63' pennant numbers were painted back on by Ken MacPherson of Ontario Archives, a keen naval historian in his own right. The ship remains at Ontario Place, Toronto and is visited by thousands every year. After all, she is the last Tribal and makes a great and lasting reminder of what sacrifice and achievements Canadians gained while at war.

More info on HMCS Haida is available at this website (offsite link).

 

Commands listed for HMCS Haida (G 63)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Henry George De Wolf, RCN30 Aug 194318 Dec 1944
2A/Lt.Cdr. Robert Philip Welland, DSC, RCN19 Dec 19442 Sep 1945

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Notable events involving Haida include:


24 Jun 1944
German U-boat U-971 was sunk in the English Channel north of Brest, in position 49°01'N, 05°35'W, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, DSC, RN), the Canadian Destroyer HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, DSO, RCN) and depth charges from a Czech Liberator aircraft (Sqdn. 311/O).

30 Aug 2003
On this date a big celebration was held to welcome HMCS Haida to her new home in Hamilton. Thousands attended as the Haida was towed into Hamilton, flanked by two modern Canadian minesweepers. A flypast of WWII vintage aircraft, including the AVRO Lancaster- one of only two left flying in the world was included. (1)

Media links


HMCS Haida: Battle Ensign Flying

Gough, Barry M.


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. Personal communication

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