The Harry H

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The Harry H began its life chasing down German submarines in World War I and spent years in the Oshawa Harbour. It remained floating on the west wharf of the Oshawa Harbour until it could float no more. 

A long boat moored at a harbour. There is water in the foreground and trees in the background
The Harry H docked at the Oshawa Harbour; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A996.16.4)

In July 1916, five ships were sunk in New York by German submarines, spurring the navy to design an effective anti-submarine vessel. Steel was scarce, and because of that, a new ship was designed of wood, built for speed rather than strength.

The Harry H was built in 1918 in New York City and spanned 110 feet long. Its original name was the Subchaser SC-238. In 1922, David Sullivan purchased the ship, renamed it the Allen, and brought it to Oshawa. In October of 1925, the vessel was found abandoned by George Hardy. An “action for salvage” warrant was then issued by the exchequer Court of Canada for George Hardy for the towing fee to Toronto.

Two men standing on the deck of a boat moored in a harbour
The Harry H; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A996.16.3)

By 1933, the ship, re-named Harry H, had been in the hands of several different owners. During that year, it was seized by the R.C.M.P. for infractions to customs regulations. It was rumored that after the seizure, the R.C.M.P. used the ship for chasing Rum Runners on Lake Ontario.

Some confusion in the registration of the Harry H, as well as repairs, caused some to believe that the ship had been used as a Rum Runner herself. When owner David Sullivan brought the ship (then named the Allen) over to Oshawa Harbour, its New York registration was not closed; in fact, it was not closed until three years after the ship was found abandoned on Lake Ontario.

In June of 1934 there was a Court Order issued by the Registrar of Shipping in Toronto that the vessel be sold at public auction. She was bought by Stanley Grossett of Port Hope for $180. On October 2, 1934 the Harry H was sold to Oshawa resident William Leggott.

When Harry H was first found in Oshawa Harbour, it was noticed that the boat no longer had three engines. Instead, it had two. When the hull of the ship was inspected, it was found that the prop shaft had been plugged. In addition, the propellers of the ship were 9 inches shorter than the original 39 inches. It was customary then for Rum Runners to keep the propellers sharp for cutting through fishing nets dropped by patrol boats to catch Rum Runners. Harry H was no exception to this.

Harry H was found at the bottom of the Oshawa Harbour basin in the summer of 1965 due to a pump or battery failure. In the fall of the same year, it broke away from the dock during high winds. It was later found underwater next to a clay bank in shallow water at the Harbour. A mast, as well as part of the deck, showed through the water. They were later torn off by ice.

In August of 1978 a dredging operation by the Porter Dredging Company ended the life of the Harry H. Although the boat put up a good fight, tangling in the wire ropes in the 36 inch diameter auger that was used for the dredging, Harry H eventually gave in and the ship was destroyed.

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