Captain Harold Wilson Balfour, OBE, VD

Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve

Recognized for Outstanding Civic Service and Meritorious Military Achievement.

Harold, the youngest of 3 children of James and Mary Anne Balfour, was born at Balcarres, Saskatchewan on the 27th of August, 1906. His parents were not native to Saskatchewan having moved there from their birthplace in Ontario. Following high school, Balfour attended the University of Saskatchewan, College of Arts.

Harold’s military career began in April of 1923 when he joined the newly formed half company of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve at Saskatoon as an ordinary signalman. In 1929 the resignation of the company Paymaster provided an opportunity for advancement. Harold then working in the City of Saskatoon’s Treasurer’s Department, had the necessary skills to fill the vacancy and a strong recommendation by the Company’s CO, J.W. McEown was all that was needed. Thus in early 1929 Balfour was commissioned as an Acting Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant, RCNVR.

His advancement at HMCS Unicorn was rapid:

6 Feb 1930 Confirmed Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant

6 Feb 1931 Acting Paymaster Lieutenant

6 Feb 1932 Confirmed Paymaster Lieutenant

14 Sep 1933 Transferred to the Executive Branch as Acting Lieutenant in Acting Command

21 Nov 1934 Appointed in Command of the Saskatoon Half Company

Prior to 1936 he completed courses in Seamanship, Pilotage, and Gunnery and earned a Bridge Watchkeeper’s Certificate. His civilian occupation was Accountant, Internal Treasurer’s Department, City of Saskatoon.

On the 6th of December 1938 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander.

When Canada declared war on Germany in late 1939 L/Cdr Balfour like most members of the naval reserved was called to active service. June 1940 found Harold at HMCS Naden in Esquimalt, BC and a year later in Newfoundland in command of HMCS Avalon II a position he held for 5 months. He was then appointed to HMCS Avalon as Executive officer. On the 1st of July 1943 he was promoted to Commander and continued in his position of Executive officer at Avalon. On the 4th of January 1944 he was named King’s Harbour Master of the port of St. John’s, NFLD. At the beginning of December he was made an acting Captain while in command at HMCS Avalon.

When the war ended Harold was appointed to HMCS Bytown in August 1945 and HMCS Carleton in November while still holding his acting rank of Captain. In December he was confirmed in the rank of Captain and demobilized. In March of 1946 he was placed on the retired list at HMCS Unicorn and in 1960 at HMCS Discovery. He was finally released on the 1st of April 1968.

In recognition of his long career in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserved then Lieutenant Commander Balfour was awarded the RCNVR Decoration in 1943. The award of this decoration entitled the member to use the post nominal of VD after their name. In addition Captain Balfour was named to the Order of the British Empire in the degree of Officer for his long service and his valuable service during the war. This honour was published in both the Canada and London Gazettes of January 1945. The citation reads:

“This Officer has served zealously with marked ability and enthusiasm over a period of five years, in various appointments and latterly as Commander of the Port, St. John’s Newfoundland, He has taken a consistently keen interest in the welfare of service personnel, and has given unsparingly of his time and energy in that connection. Under his chairmanship the past three successive Victory Loans in the Newfoundland Command have been outstandingly successful, and he has played an important part in the organization and development of the Naval Central Canteen.”

Note: Holders of this award are permitted to add post nominal of OBE after their name.

Other medals held by Captain Balfour were:

  1. The Defence Medal;
  2. The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Overseas Clasp;
  3. The 1939-45 War Medal;
  4. The 1935 Silver Jubilee Medal; and
  5. The 1953 Coronation Medal.


balfour hw medals

In addition to his military accomplishments Harold Balfour also served his community. In 955, during his tenure as City Commissioner of Saskatoon, he also served as secretary-treasurer and vice president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. One of Balfour’s pet project was the creation of a recreational facility in Holiday Park. The project was initiated in January of 1955 and was finally completed in the summer of the summer of 1963 after his retirement.

As a member of the City Amalgamation Committee, Balfour negotiated the terms of the amalgamation between the railway town of Sutherland with the City of Saskatoon. Balfour was “known nationally for his able civic administration abilities,” and he was “principally involved in Saskatoon’s land bank – a program that survives to this day and still is an example for the rest of the nation.”Loran 1984 It was during his time with the city administration that the new city hall was erected and the civic administration moved out of the old King Edward School.

Balfour married Louise Serbian and made his residence at 720 Temperance Street, Saskatoon. Balfour played guitar with a small Saskatoon band as well as with Art McEwing and his Wauker Oats Radio Orchestra. Following his retirement and move to Burnaby, BC, he took an active interest in the Naval Officers Association of B.C. and served a term as President of that organization. Additionally he was a member of the hospital board, as well as executive on the St. John Ambulance Association and a trustee of the New Vista Society.

Harold Wilson Balfour passed away at New Westminster, British Columbia on the12th of June 1986, at the age of 79.


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