By Sub-Lieutenant Kris Procyk
On a picture perfect May 3rd day, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Hunter officially opened the doors to its new state-of-the art training facility. The event was marked with many historical Royal Canadian Naval (RCN) traditions and culminated over a decade of negotiations and planning between Windsor Port Authority and the Department of National Defense. The building opened with great pride by the Royal Canadian Navy and her partners such as Windsor Port Authority.
The Ceremony itself started with a solemn Battle of the Atlantic Parade, which occurs at 24 Naval units across Canada with the intent to honour those who perished in the largest Naval Battle of the World War II. The Commander of the Naval Reserve, Commodore D.W. Craig presided over the Ceremony. The Opening Ceremony began with the Commodore being rowed into the chamber (harbour) of the new unit by the Amherstburg Provincial Marine re-enactors. A signaling cannon from the period correct whaler was fired to mark the Commodore coming ashore; a three-pound canon provided return fire from the shore. Many governmental representatives including local MP Jeff Watson, City Councilor Jo-Anne Gignac, the Windsor Port Authority executive, in addition to the Commander of the Naval Reserve, the Central Region Captain, the Senior Chief of the Naval Reserve and the Central Region Chief Petty Officer were in attendance. The Ceremony included the re-dedicating the name plaques from the “old” Hunter building, the breaking of the pennant and the officially salute, followed by three cheers and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Robert Head officially declaring the new building OPEN.
The building itself represents Hunters Nautical Roots. From its round porthole Windows, to its front and rear facade designed to represent a ships bow, the Sailors of Hunter are extremely happy to call the new unit home. This new modern building is designed for a capacity of 250 personnel. The new building has many modern features and amenities not found in the old building which will provide sailors with a modern, ergonomic and efficient training platform that brings not only Hunter but also the RCN full circle and into the next century. In order to preserve the history of the old building many artefacts have been brought over and will be appropriately incorporated and displayed throughout the new building. One prominent artefact is the original battle ensign from HMS General Hunter, the unit’s namesake. This iconic flag flew during the War of 1812, and saw action in the Battle of Detroit, and the Battle of Lake Erie where subsequently General Hunter was captured by the Americans and repurposed as a troop carrier. The flag itself has evidence of battle with grape shot holes and embodies the spirit of the RCN; a modern organization steeped in the rich traditions of the past.
With the unit located on the water our Sailors are now able to deploy boats in quick time which improves their training platform and small boat operations by providing our Ships Company with “real world” training which not only keeps the unit engaged but provides an opportunity for sailors to be regularly out on the water honing and building their skill set while assisting other governmental agencies in varying capacities when required.
HMCS Hunter has always enjoyed a strong working relationship with Windsor Port Authority. The Port Authority played a strong role in helping the new building come to fruition and the land that Hunter’s new state-of-the-art training facility sits on is owned by the Port Authority and has been leased to the Department of National Defense. Throughout the project, Windsor’s Harbour Master, Peter Berry was available to offer insight and suggestions all of which made the construction project run smoothly, with a finished efficient building that embodies the spirit of the Royal Canadian Navy; a modern, cutting edge organization steeped in its history and personnel. However, the traditions, lessons and history of the old building will not be forgotten, only incorporated into the spirit and body of the new building and into the lives of a new generation of Hunter sailors who have always been and will remain “Ready When Required”.