Retired Naval Reservist honoured for saving HMCS Haida

Royal Canadian Navy, Retired Lieutenant (Naval) Peter Ward

Royal Canadian Navy, Retired Lieutenant (Naval) Peter Ward


Former Naval Reservist and friend to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Retired Lieutenant (Naval) Peter Ward was honoured for his efforts saving part of RCN history.

Lt(N) Ward is the final surviving, founding member of Haida Inc., a group of five who saved the “fightingest ship”, the Second World War Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Haida, from disposal.

On Oct. 4, he was virtually presented with the Naval Association of Canada’s Admirals’ Medal in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of maritime affairs.

Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, congratulated Ward, telling him, “Hearing your moving story has made me a prouder sailor and a prouder Canadian.”

Ward says he shares the Medal with departed Neil Bruce, Norm Simpson, David Kidd, and Allan Howard, who co-founded Haida Inc. with him.

“We established a not-for profit corporation together to save this wonderful ship and to honour Canadian sailors, underlining our proud history of the Battle of the Atlantic.”

Ward has spent a lifetime connected to the military and the RCN. He is an acclaimed retired journalist, military editor, war correspondent, broadcaster, and author. He served as a public information officer with Toronto’s Naval Reserve Division HMCS York from 1962-1978.

In 1963, Ward sailed in HMCS Haida during its Great Lakes deployment, which served as the inspiration to save the ship from the breakers.

About HMCS Haida

HMCS Haida, which saw action in both the Second World War and Korea, has been credited with sinking more surface tonnage than any other RCN warship. For Ward, however, his connection with Haida is personal.

Ward’s father, Lt(N) Leslie Ward, was one of the 128 sailors killed on board HMCS Athabaskan when it was sunk by the enemy off the French coast in April 1944. It was Haida that ventured back into the thick of things to rescue nearly four dozen survivors, with others later becoming prisoners of war.

For Ward, ships have personalities, and Haida’s was like that of a plumb – straight, absolute, and true.

“Meeting Haida was like meeting the love of your life,” he said, acknowledging how interwoven his life has been with that of the famous ship.

Creating the Association

Ward and his four fellow founding members of Haida Inc. put up their houses as collateral to save the famous ship, with Ward negotiating directly with the then-Minister of National Defence, Paul Hellyer.

When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Canada to mark the centennial of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, Ward managed to get an invite to the Royal Yacht Britannia, using the opportunity to ask Prince Philip to become Patron of Haida.

“Most people went straight for the Queen,” he recalled. “But not me, I went straight for Philip.”

When Ward asked Philip to become Haida’s patron, he reared back a little, stating that there were protocols that needed to be followed before such a thing could happen. Then the Prince leaned in almost conspiratorially, advising Ward on the steps he needed to take to make it happen. Two months later it was official.

“Having Philip as patron made raising corporate donations so much easier. He would be so very happy to see the fuss they’ve made over that ship now.”

Haida, moored in Hamilton, Ont., is now a National Historic Site, and ceremonial flagship of the RCN.

Ward’s relationship with  both Haida and Athabaskan continued. In 2003, he was on board the surface vessel when his son Mark became the first Canadian to dive on the wreck of HMCS Athabaskan, at a depth of 86 metres, to lay a wreath and install a commemorative plaque supplied by the RCN on the keel.

In speaking about how important it is to maintain Canada’s military history, Ward noted that “we have to have these symbols. They are a rallying call for our national identity and unity.”

Ward is a member of the Naval Association of Canada (Ottawa) and is a supporter of the NAC Endowment Fund. He remains dedicated to Haida to this day.

“Here’s to the departed, plus all the others who have had a part in saving this wonderful ship for Canadian posterity,” he said. “Here’s to Haida!”


Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.