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Keel Laid for 6th Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) the future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray

HALIFAX, NS, August 21, 2023 – At a ceremony today at Halifax Shipyard, Rear Admiral Josée Kurtz and Dirk Lesko, President of Irving Shipbuilding marked the official keel laying of the sixth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) – The future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray.

The keel laying ceremony is a centuries-old tradition, dating back to the ancient Romans, that marks the formal start of a ship’s construction. Today’s ceremony included the tradition of the welding of a coin to the hull of the ship to bring luck to the captain and crew during the life of the ship. The coin, selected by the Royal Canadian Navy and presented by Rear Admiral Josée Kurtz, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT), was welded in place by Ashley Angevine, a local welder and graduate of the Women Unlimited program, with family ties to the Royal Canadian Navy, where her father, Patrick Britten, served almost 30 years. Rear Admiral Kurtz officially declared the hull “well and truly laid” at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Lieutenant (Lt) Robert Hampton Gray was a Canadian naval hero of the Second World War.

Lt Gray joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1940 and served as a pilot in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. He embarked in His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Formidable with 1841 Squadron, joining the war in the Pacific as part of Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa, Japan, in April 1945.

Lt Gray was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for courage and determination in carrying out daring air strikes on the Japanese destroyer His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Ship (HIJMS) Amakusa.

On August 9, 1945, he led two flights of Corsair aircraft to attack naval vessels in Onagawa Bay, Japan. He opened the attack run flying straight into concentrated anti-aircraft fire and was hit almost immediately.

With his aircraft on fire and one bomb lost, he continued the attack and released his remaining bomb on the escort vessel HIJMS Amakusa, causing the ship to capsize and sink. His aircraft then crashed into the sea and his body was never recovered.

Lt Gray was known to his fellow military members as a courageous leader with a brilliant flying spirit, who continued to inspire and motivate his crew after his unfortunate passing.

Lt Gray was the only member of the RCN to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.

The future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray will be 103.6 metres in length, have a 19-metre beam, displace 6,615 tonnes and will be composed of 440,000 parts.

Under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), Irving Shipbuilding is constructing six AOPS vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy, two AOPS for the Canadian Coast Guard and 15 Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) for the Royal Canadian Navy.

“Every year, our workforce is growing and honing their skills, becoming more advanced shipbuilders. This increased efficiency is a result of the NSS allowing us to reestablish Canada’s shipbuilding industrial base right here in Halifax and Atlantic Canada. We take immense pride in that, with today’s keel laying for HMCS Robert Hampton Gray highlighting another milestone achieved on our mission to deliver ships for Canada,” said Dirk Lesko, President, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.


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