There has been a Naval and Naval Reserve presence in the Hamilton area periodically since the middle of the 18th century when ships of the Provincial Marine plied Lake Ontario. In 1813, during the war with the United States, a Provincial Marine vessel called Lord Melville was taken into the Royal Navy and renamed STAR and it is from this vessel that our unit takes its name. During the 1837 rebellions, naval militia from Hamilton captured and destroyed William Lyon Mackenzie’s supply vessel, the CAROLINE, in the Niagara River. Once again during the Fenian Raids of 1866, a Naval Reserve unit from Hamilton was placed on active duty.
HMCS STAR traces its official beginning to 15 March, 1923, when Lt Ralph H. Yeates was appointed the first Commanding Officer of the Hamilton Half Company of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Officers in the regular navy wore straight stripes on their uniform sleeves while RCNVR officers had wavy stripes, giving rise to the nickname “Wavy Navy”! Originally the Company offices were shared with the Navy League in the Imperial Building on the corner of Main Street East & Hughson Street South, but that winter the unit moved into a sail loft at the corner of Bay and Burlington Streets and stayed there until 1935 when a move was made to the old Williamson/Dominion Vinegar Works at 41 Stuart Street.
When the Second World War started, the Hamilton Division became a major recruiting depot for the navy with 7,490 officers, men and WRCNS enlisted there. Commissioned as HMCS STAR[i] on 1 November, 1941, the unit soon outgrew its old quarters and construction began on a temporary wartime home located in five acres of Eastwood Park bought from the City of Hamilton, moving there in the fall of 1943.
After the war from 1953 to 1966, STAR shared its premises with HMCS PATRIOT, the Headquarters of the Commanding Officer Naval Divisions (COND), located in Building #1, the current home of the 23rd Service Battalion and the 23rd Field Ambulance. Also sharing space was the Great Lakes Training Centre, or what would now be called FleetSchool (Hamilton).
Having served for over fifty years, STAR’s Second World War temporary quarters were demolished in 1995 to make way for the present building, which was opened in 1997.
In 2003, the Second World War destroyer, HMCS HAIDA, a National Historic Site run by Parks Canada, was moved to a site directly in front of HMCS STAR.
HMCS STAR celebrated its ninetieth anniversary in 2013 and continues to serve the Royal Canadian Navy and the people of Canada.
[i] When the decision was taken to commission Naval Reserve Divisions as ships in 1941, a list of names was approved on 29 September 1941 with the exception of the names for Hamilton, Calgary and Regina “to which further consideration is to be given.” On 14 October, 1941, a decision was made: Calgary to be TECUMSEH, Regina to be QUEEN and Hamilton to be BRANT!
Eighteen days later the Hamilton Division was commissioned as HMCS STAR. What happened to BRANT? History is silent. My best guess is that it was decided that BRANT was too similar to BRANTFORD, the name given to a Flower Class corvette that had already been launched in Midland in September.
David J. Freeman, Canadian Warship Names, (St. Catharines, Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2000), 156 & 183.