For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will commission a new warship. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf will enter active service following a commissioning ceremony in Halifax on June 26.
The ship is the first of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) set to be delivered to the Navy over the coming years, bringing with it new capabilities and a renewed focus on operations in the Arctic region. It’s the RCN’s first ice-capable vessel since the former HMCS Labrador was transferred away from DND in 1958 — a move signed off on by Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf himself.
“This is a moment in history where we pick up where VAdm DeWolf left off,” said Cdr Corey Gleason, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s first commanding officer. He’s been leading his crew in preparation for this moment since 2014, before the first steel for the ship was cut, and has spent the last year commanding Harry DeWolf through numerous tests and trials at sea.
Sailors have already gotten to know the new platform and proven its ability to operate in different environments, but that doesn’t take away from the significance of the formal commissioning and the tradition tied to the ceremony.
“Tradition reinforces operations, and events like our commissioning ceremony draw inspiration and purpose from our own recent milestones, and from all of those that contributed to the National Shipbuilding Strategy. This ceremony is about all of us celebrating our contributions in a formal setting,” Cdr Gleason added.
Cdr Gleason will be joined at the ceremony by senior CAF and RCN leadership, representatives from Irving Shipbuilding, and The Honourable Arthur J. LeBlanc, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who will present Cdr Gleason with HMCS Harry DeWolf’s commissioning pennant. With the pennant broken at the masthead, the commanding officer will be piped aboard the ship, followed by the traditional three cheers from the crew.
Other aspects of the commissioning, which will be streamed live for viewers online, included a tribute to VAdm Harry DeWolf, who is now the first Canadian to serve as the namesake for both an RCN ship and an RCN ship’s class. The museum ship HMCS Haida, which is moored at Hamilton, Ont., and serves as the RCN’s flagship, was famously commanded by VAdm DeWolf during the Second World War. Haida will also be featured in a video message for the HMCS Harry DeWolf commissioning.
The commissioning of Harry DeWolf will mark the end of a high-tempo program of post-acceptance sea trials for Cdr Gleason and his sailors, all while navigating Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and breaking new ground in developing protocols for completing their duties while staying safe. While excitement is high for an upcoming deployment, first on the agenda is some well-deserved leave. Planned maintenance will take place over the coming weeks, while the crew enjoys the early part of summer at home with their families before returning in August to prepare for the circumnavigation of North America and participation in Canada’s signature annual Arctic operation, Op Nanook.
“We will begin ramping up for the departure a week before with Sea Training, Defence Research and Development Canada, and other riders on board. For now, the ship and her crew have worked hard, and the friends and families of HMCS Harry DeWolf deserve a break,” Cdr Gleason said.