RCN, community stakeholders welcome HMCS William Hall to the fleet 

Canadian Armed Forces personnel, distinguished guests, and members of the community gathered for the commissioning of HMCS William Hall into the Royal Canadian Navy Fleet during a ceremony on May 16. AVR GREGORY COLE

RCN, community stakeholders welcome HMCS William Hall to the fleet 

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff 

RAdm Josée Kurtz, Commander of MARLANT and JTFA spoke to attendees at HMC Dockyard on May 16.

Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) officially welcomed its newest vessel with a display of culture and community on May 16, as naval personnel, shipbuilders, friends, descendants and others marked the Commissioning of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) William Hall in Halifax. 

William Hall is the fourth of the Harry-DeWolf class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels to be commissioned into active service, following the commissioning of HMCS Max Bernays on the West Coast just last month. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) says the new class of ships will now be even better equipped to enforce Canada’s sovereignty and meet future challenges in the North. 

“The ship arrives just as the capacity it offers is so needed, here at home and abroad, to demonstrate resolve in the face of increasing global threats and growing instability,” said RAdm Josée Kurtz, Commander of MARLANT and JTFA, while also highlighting the ship’s namesake, Petty Officer William Hall, VC. 

“The ship behind us, and its crew, are just one part of the important legacy of William Hall – the man, the sailor, the decorated hero.” 

A Canadian naval hero, Hall was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Relief of Lucknow in British-ruled India in 1857. When he received the decoration, on October 28, 1859, Hall became the first Black person in the British Empire, the first Canadian sailor and the first Nova Scotian to earn the prestigious medal. 

“This commissioning of a ship not only represents a new direction for Canada’s Navy, but also a step forwarding in recognizing the African Nova Scotian community and all the contributions that have been made,” said Russel Grosse, Executive Director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. 

The ceremony was attended by several descendants of William Hall, including the ship’s sponsor, former RCMP Chief Superintendent Craig Gibson, and other stakeholders from the African Nova Scotian community. The group Drummers from Home, a collective that focuses on African and world beat rhythms, performed to kick off the afternoon, with an Indigenous-led smudging ceremony also taking place.

Days later, on May 21, HMCS William Hall departed Halifax for its first deployment as a commissioned vessel. The ship is set to travel 15,000 kilometres over an eight-week sail, highlighted by participation in Operation Distinction in France, marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings during the Second World War. The trip will also include several European port visits and a crossing of the Arctic circle. 

“Our sailors worked through a long series of challenges to reach this point,” said the ship’s Coxswain, Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) Brent Williamson. 

“HMCS William Hall will be retracing William Hall’s footsteps as he left these shores in one of His Majesty’s ships, on his way to distinguish himself in service to the King.” 

“We’ll be participating at sea and on shore, with the eyes of the world on us,” he added.