Canada names final ship in its Arctic patrol fleet after WW II navy pilot

HMCS Harry deWolf heads from the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard on its way to being delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy dockyard in Halifax on Wednesday, July 31, 2020. The vessel is the first of the new offshore Arctic patrol ships and will conduct surveillance operations, assist in anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
The Royal Canadian Navy says its sixth Arctic patrol vessel will be named after Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, a Second World War navy hero.

With the addition of these new ice-capable warships, the military will be able to beef up its ability to patrol and protect Canada’s northern coastal waters.

These Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS), built at the Irving shipyard in Halifax, are able to operate in up to 120 cm of first-year sea ice, carry a submarine-hunting Cyclone helicopter as well as small vehicles, deployable boats, and cargo containers.

The Canadian Coast Guard will also receive two civilian versions of the patrol ship.

The navy officially received the first of its Arctic patrol vessels, HMCS Harry DeWolf, at the end of July.

Each ship is named after a prominent Canadian naval figure. The other five ships are named Harry DeWolf, Margaret Brooke, Max Bernays, William Hall and Frédérick Rolette.

Lt. Robert Hampton Gray joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1940, and served as a pilot in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. (Submitted by the Royal Canadian Navy)

Gray volunteered for the naval reserve in 1940 and served as a pilot in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

Gray served in Britain, East Africa and finally with the British Pacific Fleet which, in the final weeks of the war, was operating against the Japanese home islands with the United States Navy’s Third Fleet.

Gray embarked on HMS Formidable with 1841 Squadron, which joined the war in the Pacific as part of Operation ICEBERG in April 1945.

Three months later, he received the Distinguished Service Cross for sinking a Japanese destroyer on 28 July 1945.

Gray was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, for courage and determination in carrying out air strikes on another Japanese destroyer, Amakusa, on Aug. 9, 1945.

He was the only member of the Royal Canadian Navy to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.

The London Gazette gave the following citation on Nov. 13, 1945.

“In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack, flying very low in order to ensure success, and, although he was hit and his aircraft was in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit, sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Gray has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership.”

Related stories from around the North

Canada: Canadian navy receives its first new Arctic and offshore patrol ship, Radio Canada International

Denmark: Pompeo to talk Arctic at upcoming meeting with Danish Foreign Minister, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway strengthens its Arctic military in new defense plan as security concerns grow in the region, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Two Chinese rigs prepare for drilling in Russian Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden

United States: Trump advances new icebreaker plan, Alaska Public Media

Levon Sevunts

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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