HMCS William Hall heads to sea ahead of Heritage Day events

HMCS William Hall left Halifax for sea trials on February 12. MONA GHIZ

HMCS William Hall heads to sea ahead of Heritage Day events

By Trident Staff

The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) newest Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV) has left Halifax for its first set of sea trials, just as the ship’s namesake is set to be honoured by the Province of Nova Scotia.

His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) William Hall departed from Halifax on February 12 for a sail that will take her first to Boston for a port visit, then to waters off Newfoundland for cold-weather trials and training. William Hall was officially delivered to the RCN from builder Irving Shipbuilding in September of 2023.

For the ship’s company, some of whom have been with the unit since it was first stood up, the moment represents the culmination of many months of work and preparation.

“To have had the opportunity to watch the crew grow and come together – from five of us in the shore office to a full ship’s company now ready to go to sea. It’s just been such an unforgettable experience,” said Master Sailor (MS) Sarah MacKenzie.

“​​There’s a real sense of pride being part of the commissioning crew and honoring William Hall’s legacy.”

That legacy is also being celebrated this month with William Hall himself being chosen as the 2024 Honouree as part of Nova Scotia Heritage day.

Born in Horton, Nova Scotia, William Hall was a son of formerly enslaved parents who served in the Royal Navy from 1852-1876 – he was the first Black Canadian and the first Nova Scotian to receive the Victoria Cross, for his actions and bravery under fire during the Relief of Lucknow.

Along with a Heritage Day celebration of William Hall at the Naval Museum of Halifax on February 19, a separate William Hall community day was held at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, and junior high school students across the province were introduced to a virtual education program focused on William Hall’s life.

The ship’s company has made efforts to forge ties with members of the Black community as well as Black historians, researchers and others as they explore the best ways to strengthen the connection between William Hall the ship and William Hall the man.

CPO1 Brent Williamson, who is both the ship’s first Coxn and first Black Coxn, described a “poetic” feeling being in this role with a ship tied to the story of a heroic Black sailor.

“I believe the story of my career, specifically my training, the challenges, and the sacrifices I made, all guided me to this exact point in time,” he said.

The command team shared regrets that the ship will be away from Halifax during these significant Heritage Day events, but they highlighted that this necessary work at sea will allow the ship to be brought fully into the fleet – eventually sharing William Hall’s story in cities and ports around the world.