Thunder Bay Military Museum
Thunder Bay, Ontario

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Thunder Bay Military Museum History Series: HMCS GRIFFON





68 years and 7 months ago, the Port Arthur Division of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve received a one-word signal - "GRAPNEL" from Naval Headquarters in Ottawa. It was Sunday, September 13, 1939 and Canada had declared war (ten days after Great Britain). The signal required the opening of secret instructions under tight security. In the Port Arthur Division this involved immediate mobilization of a ten-man draft to Halifax. Our sailors were the first men from the Lakehead to go to war.

As a Naval Reservist, you were automatically on Active Service as soon as hostilities broke out. The remaining members of the fifty-man unit was quickly absorbed into the rapidly expanding Canadian Navy.

The well trained Lakehead sailors were often sent directly to sea aboard ships. There was hardly a Canadian ship that did not have its small contingent of Port Arthur Division people. They were in the first ship at the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Also they were on the first ships that were lost, including the Fraser. With its sinking, the lives of William Pratt and Gordon Paul were also lost.

These GRIFFON "Boys in Blue" faced a tenacious foe and the rigors of the elements, but they asked no quarter. Some where to give their all, like Bill Hakkanen, who died firing his guns at the enemy as a DEMS gunner.

The secret naval signal "GRAPNEL" that mobilized the Port Arthur Division for World War II actually means "Anchor". So, it is fitting that we have chosen to call this area the "Anchorage" where we have constructed our mariners monument. It was dedicated in 1997.

Aye Ready Aya
Alex Kraft


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