Ceremony marks keel laying for future HMCS William Hall

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Navy News / February 17, 2021

By Ryan Melanson
Trident Staff

The fourth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) being built for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has now entered full production, with a keel-laying ceremony on February 17 marking this significant milestone for the future HMCS William Hall.

Keeping in accordance with public health directives, including respecting physical distancing and wearing masks, a small group of sailors, shipbuilders and community members gathered at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard for the occasion, which had the added significance of taking place during Black History Month.

Petty Officer William Hall, VC (1827-1904), was the first Black person and the first Nova Scotian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, as well as being just the third Canadian to receive the honour at that time. His heroic actions as a crewmember of the Royal Navy ship HMS Shannon during the 1857 Relief of Lucknow, India are well documented, and led to his selection as one of six Canadian naval heroes to serve as namesakes for the Navy’s newest class of ships.

The shipbuilder invited representatives from the East Preston Empowerment Academy, a Halifax-area organization offering trade apprenticeship programs and other education opportunities in that predominantly African Nova Scotian community, to attend the keel laying. They were joined by Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Brian Santarpia, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic (MARLANT/JTFA), Irving Shipbuilding President Kevin Mooney, and provincial African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince, along with small groups from the MARLANT and Irving teams.

The keel laying is a naval tradition that, in modern times, involves welding a coin into a large piece of the ship’s frame – the gesture is meant to provide good luck and safety to the ship and those who will eventually crew it. For the future HMCS William Hall, responsibility for laying the coin was shared between RAdm Santarpia and shipbuilders Tyrell Young, a participant in the Pathways to Shipbuilding program for African Nova Scotians, and Macey Rolfe, who is enrolled in a similar program aimed at recruiting women to the trades.

The coin itself is a limited edition Silver Dollar of the Royal Canadian Mint, minted to mark the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross in 2006. A second coin of this mintage will eventually be presented to the Commanding Officer of the ship, to be displayed onboard for the life of the future HMCS Williams Hall’s service.

The coin was placed in a box, laid onto the ship by RAdm Santarpia, and each shipbuilder placed one tack weld to make it secure. Mr. Mooney then declared the keel to be “well and truly laid.”

The future HMCS William Hall will be the fourth ship in the Harry DeWolf class. Its sister ship HMCS Margaret Brooke is in the water alongside the shipyard ahead of builder’s trials later this year, while the future HMCS Max Bernays is just a step behind, with two thirds of the ship assembled on the jetty outside the Irving facility. The first ship in the class, HMCS Harry DeWolf, was handed over to the RCN in July of 2020, and has been sailing and conducting trials at sea ahead of an official commissioning later this year. It’s expected all six AOPS will be delivered to the Navy by 2024.

The new class of vessel was designed specifically to operate in Canada’s northernmost waters, better equipping the RCN to assert Canada’s Arctic sovereignty for years to come, and is also versatile enough to contribute to a variety of international operations, including humanitarian and research missions.