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Canada names final arctic and offshore patrol ship after WWII hero

Photo: Irving Shipbuilding

The Royal Canadian Navy has announced that its sixth and final arctic and offshore patrol ship (AOPS) will be named in honor of Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, a Canadian naval hero of the Second World War.

Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1940, and served as a pilot in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Lt Gray embarked on HMS Formidable with 1841 Squadron, which joined the war in the Pacific as part of operation Iceberg 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 HIJMS Amakusa. On August 9, 1945 he led two flights of Corsair aircraft to attack naval vessels in Onagawa Bay. 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.

The names of the six Harry DeWolf-class Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) honor prominent Canadian naval figures who served Canada with the highest distinction. For the first time in its 110-year history, the RCN has named a class of ships after prominent Canadian naval figures, proudly honouring their leadership, achievements and heroism while serving Canadian interests at sea.

The other five AOPS are named Harry DeWolf, Margaret Brooke, Max Bernays, William Hall, and Frédérick Rolette. The lead ship recently completed all sea trials and was delivered to the navy.

“Lieutenant 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. By naming the sixth AOPS after Lt Gray, we honor him as a Canadian naval hero, and celebrate his outstanding leadership and heroism,” Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander Royal Canadian Navy, said.

Measuring 103 meters in length and displacing 6,615 tons, AOPS are the largest Royal Canadian Navy ships built in Canada in 50 years. They will patrol Canada’s oceans, including the Arctic, and are suited for missions abroad to support international partners, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, search and rescue, and drug interdiction.