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HMCS Star celebrates 100 years in Hamilton

Naval unit continues to play a vital role in the Canadian Navy, including participating in operations and training, and providing support to local emergency services during disasters.

In March 2023, 250 people gathered at Liuna Station to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hamilton’s Senior Service unit HMCS Star. The glamorous night included a multi-course meal and officers in full regalia and was a much more jovial affair than their comrades experienced 70 years earlier. It was there, in the very same hall, Hamilton families waved goodbye to those in uniform during the Second World War, not knowing what fate held for their loved ones.

HMCS STAR Ship’s Company pictured in 1942 in front of what is now Liuna Station. Photo: Hamilton Naval Heritage Association

HMCS STAR naval reserve unit has a long and proud history of serving the Canadian Navy and Hamilton. Although the Navy has had footing in Hamilton since the War of 1812, it was in 1923 that the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) unit appointed its first commanding officer in Hamilton. Its primary mission was to provide a reserve of trained sailors to supplement the regular navy during times of conflict.

By 1923, members of the “Hamilton Half-Company” RCNVR took their hand-me-down World War I uniforms to their new home on the Hamilton waterfront. The small wooden buildings were later replaced by more stable structures on Catharine Street that still serves as its home today. It’s fittingly next to the Haida, a WWII tribal class destroyer turned museum ship.

During World War II, the HMCS Star unit played a significant role in Canada's naval efforts. Many of its members served on active duty overseas and took part in critical naval battles such as the Battle of the Atlantic. Over 7,000 men and women were trained at the base for Canada’s War effort. 

HMCS STAR current and former commanding officers and coxswains at commemorative gala in March 2023. Photo: HMCS STAR Twitter

One of the notable aspects of the HMCS Star unit's history is the number of female commanding officers it has had, including Hamiltonian Lt.-Cmdr. Glenna Swing. The HMCS Star unit has been at the forefront of equality in the Canadian Navy in other ways, with notable names like Lt.-Cmdr. Stephen Churm proudly serving as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA community. 

As the HMCS Star unit celebrates its 100th anniversary, it continues to play a vital role in the Canadian Navy. Its members participate in various training exercises and operations, including joint exercises with other NATO countries. The unit also provides support to local emergency services during disasters and routinely operates naval training exercises in Hamilton Harbour. 

In recognition of its contributions over the past century, the HMCS Star unit has received numerous awards and accolades. In 1996, it was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contributions to the Canadian Navy. In 2021, it received the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers in recognition of its community service.

As the HMCS Star unit looks towards the future, it remains committed to serving the Canadian Navy and the Hamilton community. With its long and storied history, it is a testament to the dedication and sacrifice of its members over the past century.

Members of the HMCS Star continue to play an important role in the Canadian Navy. Photo: HMCS Star

HAMILTON CITY Magazine is grateful to feature the work of local historians who document the rich, diverse and fascinating history of Hamilton and area.