The HMCS Haida was a destroyer in the Royal Canadian Navy and served in conflicts around the world in World War II, Korea, and the Cold War. Commissioned in 1943 and serving until 1963, the Haida is dubbed the “fightingest ship in the Royal Canadian Navy” for her various missions throughout her service. Haida, the once fierce destroyer, is now recognized as a National Historic Site and a popular tourist attraction as a museum in Hamilton, Ontario. The destroyer is also a ceremonial flagship for the Royal Canadian Navy and fly’s both the Canadian and Haida Nation flag.
In the early 1930’s French, German, Italian, and Japanese Navy’s were upgrading their destroyers. England designed and built new destroyer’s specifically to counter the best destroyers at the time, the Japanese destroyers. Haida was built in a group of 27 other destroyers known as the Tribal class. These ships were all named after different groups of people and native tribes from all around the world. The HMCS Haida is named after the Haida Nation, who is originally located in Northwest Canada on an island South of Alaska. After completion of the first 16 destroyers Canada and Australia requested some of these for their Navy’s, since they both still had ties to the Royal Navy of England. The Tribal destroyers were fast and had majority of its firepower from its guns instead of torpedoes. Typically, destroyers had more torpedoes than the Tribal’s four, making it conversional and having a large amount of firepower on a destroyer for the time. The Tribal’s made for the Royal Canadian Navy were also outfitted with thicker hulls to combat icy Canadian waters. Of the 27 Tribal class destroyers 13 were sunk in war and another 13 were scrapped after the war(s) were over. Haida is now the only Tribal class destroyer left in existence.
Early in Haida’s career the ship assisted in defending convoys delivering supplies to Russia. German U-boats and Luftwaffe often attacked these convoys to disrupt supply lines. The Haida, along with other Canadian Tribal’s were perfect for defending these convoys as they navigated in the Arctic Circle, and their hulls were already thickened for Canadian waters. Crew members also had to manually knock ice of the sides the ship to prevent it from sinking. It was during one of these missions that a German cruiser attacked the convoy. The Haida successfully killed the enemy ship and earned her first victory.
Haida and other Tribal destroyers were later moved from the Arctic Circle to the English Channel. This reposition was critical in the war as they rid the area of German ships to prepare for the allied attack on Normandy. One of Haida most famous accomplishments occurred in this channel in April of 1944. Haida sank a German destroyer and a few days later two more German destroyers approached. Along with Athabaskan, another Tribal destroyer, they engaged the enemy destroyers but the Athabaskan was hit by a German torpedo. After destroying one German destroyer and having one get away, Haida turned around to aid the Athabaskan and rescue as many sailors as possible. Haida initially rescued 47 sailors and returned to England. She also dropped all her life boats into the water for other Athabaskan sailors who could not be rescued by the ship. 11 more sailors sailed back across the English Channel to England a few days later. While on this journey they were being chased by a German ship, who luckily had to retreat because it came too close the England’s shore.
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