HMCS Robert Hampton Gray

Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, VC DSC

DND

Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, VC DSC

On August 10, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) sixth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) will be named in honour of Lieutenant (Lt) Robert Hampton Gray, 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,” said Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander RCN.

“By naming the sixth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship after Lt Gray, we honour him as a Canadian naval hero, and celebrate his outstanding leadership and heroism.”

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

Over the years, Lt Gray’s courage, service and sacrifice continue to be recognized in many ways. In 1946, the Geographic Board of Canada named Gray’s Peak, a mountain in British Columbia’s Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, in honour of Lt Gray and his brother John, also killed during the war.

In 1989, a memorial was erected to him at Onagawa Bay, the only memorial dedicated to a foreign service member on Japanese soil.

The names of the six Harry DeWolf-class AOPS honour 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.

AOPS will provide armed, sea-borne surveillance of Canadian waters, including the Arctic. These ships will enforce sovereignty, cooperation with partners, at home and abroad, and will provide the Government of Canada with awareness of activities in Canada’s waters. The multi-purpose nature and versatility of the fleet, both when deployed independently or as part of an allied or coalition task force, allows Canada to rapidly deploy credible naval forces worldwide on short notice.