1930 - 1939
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Norman was chosen as the next link in the NWT&Y chain and went
on the air 15th August 1930. Norman is situated on the north bank
of the Mackenzie River (which at this point flows almost east-west)
at the confluence of the Mackenzie and Great Bear Rivers, a natural
junction point on the water route to Great Bear Lake where important
mineral discoveries were being made. The location was also important
from a meteorological standpoint as it was approximately mid-way on
the 800 mile stretch between the Radio stations at Fort Simpson and
Aklavik and regular weather reports from here would greatly assist
the Met. Dept. to produce more accurate forecasts to assist commercial
aircraft operations which were expanding rapidly all over the north.
This station was operated by SSgt. Pat Coombes, LCpl. "Gander"
Beckett and Sig. Sid McAuley.
1932 Return to index
the spring of '32 strong representations were made to the Dominion
Government by mining interests to provide communications in the widespread
and active mineral fields of the Great Bear Lake region. The equipment
of a privately-owned station at Hunter Bay, where interesting copper
veins had been discovered the year before, was now idle and was purchased
by RC Signals from Dominion Explorers. Operator QMS Fred Raney was
sent in with orders to move the equipment and open a station at Lindsley
Bay. This was done early in 1932.
choice of Lindsley Bay by RC Signals as a site for a radio station
for the Great Bear Lake area apparently was not a happy one. Most
of the mining companies involved protested vigorously that, to make
use of the Lindsley Bay station, ninety percent of the operating companies
were faced with a day's hard travel by water or on foot, and that
during the freeze-up and break-up periods, the site was practically
inaccessible. It was pointed out that Cameron Bay was the logical
site for such a station, as it was the base for the majority of aircraft
working in the area and was centrally located to the Eldorado, Consolidated,
Bear Lake Mines and the other main companies and highly favoured by
the operators of all these companies. In addition it was the headquarters
of the Mining Inspector and Mining Recorder.
mining activity was brought to a close by cold weather in the fall
of '32, the RC Signals Radio Station at Lindsley Bay was also closed
down. During the winter the government examined the mining companies'
protests thoroughly and as a result, decided to re-locate the Lindsley
Bay station at Cameron Bay.
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extent to which commercial aircraft operations had expanded brought
more pressure to bear on DND for improved communications at the southern
end of the main northern flying route and resulted in the installation
of a RC Signals Radio Station at Fort McMurray in northern Alberta.
Situated three miles beyond the "end of steel" (Northern
Alberta Railway) at Waterways, Alta., McMurray was then the base for
practically all commercial flying operations to and from the north
country. The main airline companies, Canadian Airways Ltd. and Mackenzie
Air Services Ltd., in fact had their pilots and mechanics, complete
with families, flying there. Mail and express received at the "end
of steel" was trucked from Waterways to McMurray, reloaded on
the various aircraft and sped to the northern out-posts, so it was
essential to have up-to-date weather reports etc available on short
notice. SSgt. Jim Lilly and Sgt. "Red" Scharfe were posted
to McMurray in mid-Dec '32 installed equipment in the old Indian Agency
log building and were officially "on the air" by the end
of January 1933.
Feb '33, Sgt. George Stevenson was sent north by air to move the equipment
from Lindsley Bay, and early in March, opened RC Signals Radio Station,
Cameron Bay, much to the satisfaction of all the mining and aircraft
60 miles south of Cameron Bay, at Camsell River on the shore of Rainy
Lake, rich silver deposits had been discovered, the largest of which
was that of White Eagle Silver Mine, with lesser showings by such
companies as Canso River Mining Co, Caldwell Bonanza, Nicholson Syndicate
and Northwest Minerals and Radium.
were made to the government for radio communications in the area which
resulted in the posting of Sgt. Ed Henderson from The Depot, RC Signals,
Camp Borden to the White Eagle Silver Mine at Camsell River early
in the summer of 1933. With a Burgess Midget 5-watt transceiver he
was soon in communication with Cameron Bay and RC Signals Radio Station,
Camsell River was officially on the air. Tragedy, stark and swift,
was to strike this little radio station a few months later when, one
day in September 1933, Sgt. Henderson set out in a canoe to deliver
a message to one of the mining camps in the area. Henderson was never
seen again and it is assumed that he upset in the swift river waters
and was drowned. The canoe was recovered but the treacherous waters
have never given up Henderson's body.
Sig. "Ink" Hyman was sent from Cameron Bay to take over
the Camsell station and Sig. Frank Rapp was dispatched from The Depot
to replace Hyman at Cameron Bay. Henderson's tragic passing was the
first fatality to be suffered by the rapidly expanding NWT&Y Radio
System which, at the time, was about to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
The Camsell River Station closed down in July 1936 when White Eagle
Silver Mines ceased operations.
other stations were added to the system during 1933, namely Fort Chipewayan,
Alta. and Fort Rae, NWT.
Chipewayan is situated at the east end of Lake Athabasca, across from
the mouth of the Athabasca River and near the point where the Slave
River flows out of Lake Athabasca on its way to Fort Fitzgerald. This
station was to be a great aid to river and lake navigation. Also,
being approximately halfway between McMurray and Fort Smith on the
main northern flyway, it was able to supply valuable weather information
for the aircraft operators. The station was installed by Sgt. George
Batty and commenced regular schedules with McMurray and Fort Smith
on the 1st of October 1933.
Rae was also opened during October 1933, the operators being SSgt.
Jack Ross and LCpl. Bill Lang. Fort Rae, located at the northern extremity
of the north arm of Great Slave Lake and halfway between Fort Smith
and the rich mineral fields at Cameron Bay, was on the main northern
flight path and was able to supply vital weather information to aircraft
operators, as in the case of Chipewyan. The Fort Rae station however
was doomed to be short-lived and was to be the scene of the second
tragic System fatality during the year.
approximately 8 am the morning of 30th December 1933, while SSgt.
Ross was out to breakfast at the residence of Northern Traders Ltd.
post manager, George Buffum, where he and LCpl. Lang took all their
meals, fire of unknown origin broke out in the Radio Station building.
Ross noticed flames issuing from the station as he left the Northern
Traders, shouted to Buffum that the station was on fire and dashed
hurriedly to the scene. The downstairs of the building was a raging
inferno and impossible to enter, so Ross obtained a ladder and tried
to effect entry through the window of the upstairs bedroom where he
knew Lang was sleeping. As Ross shattered the window a terrific explosion
occurred and he was hurled from the ladder amid smoke and flame to
the ground. He was forcibly restrained from making a second attempt
by Buffum and others, who had by now arrived on the scene, as they
realized that such an attempt would be suicidal. In a few more minutes
the building was totally demolished but it was early afternoon before
the RCM Police were able to recover the charred remains of the unfortunate
Lang, who, it was hoped had mercifully suffocated before being burned.
air temperature at the time of the fire was 53 degrees below zero
and the residents were fortunate in saving adjoining buildings and
fuel drums from damage with the limited fire fighting means available.
was survived by his mother and one sister residing in Sussex, England.
Instructions were received for burial to be made at Fort Rae and this
was carried out on 19th January 1934 in a simple but impressive ceremony
attended by the entire white population of the Fort who had learned
to like and respect Lang during the short time he had been on duty
spare equipment was available so the station was declared closed and
SSgt. Ross was recalled to The Depot, Camp Borden.
similar yet much less disastrous fire, as it entailed no loss of life,
had occurred four months previously when the RC Signals Radio Station
at Cameron Bay was totally destroyed. However in this case new equipment
was supplied, installed in an old warehouse and the station was re-opened
by the late Fall of the same year.
so the end of 1933, tenth anniversary of the NWT&Y Radio System,
ended. It had been a disastrous one for Signals, with two major fires
and two tragic deaths. Twelve full-time and one summer station were
now active and the future looked bright.
technical progress was keeping pace with the physical expansion of
the System. The original long wave (low frequency) sets were being
replaced as fast as possible by sets of higher power, designed especially
for the North by the Signals Inspection and Test Department. Short
wave (high frequency) transmission had also proven itself, again with
equipment especially designed by SITD, increasing station efficiency
at least two-fold, especially during the summer months when heavy
atmospherics rendered the low frequencies unreadable approximately
twelve hours out of every twenty-four hours.
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year 1934 saw no actual expansion of the NWT&Y Radio System itself
but many private commercial stations were established at remote points
throughout the North and, when properly licensed, became outstations
of the RC Signals network. Such varied interests as Hudson Bay Company,
RCM Police, aircraft companies, sawmill operators, fur traders and
private mining companies at isolated settlements to small to warrant
the installation of a RC Signals station, began to install high frequency
radio telephone equipment of sufficient power to work into the nearest
Signals station and so keep in dally touch with the outside world.
all traffic handled to and from these outstations was by voice as
the companies involved found it extremely difficult to procure capable
Morse operators willing to work in such out-of-the way places except
for exorbitant wages.
traffic in this manner was of course slow, tedious and subject to
numerous phonetic errors when signals were poor. Nevertheless the
service was a God-send for the inhabitants of such small posts, especially
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in 1935, when Pacific Alaska Airways commenced aeroplane service between
Juneau, Alaska and Fairbanks, Alaska representations were made to
the Canadian Government to supply RC Signals operators to the communication
equipment the Airways planned to install at Whitehorse in the Yukon,
an intermediate point used for refuelling on the 700 mile flight.
Suitable arrangements were made. LCpl. Pollock and Sig. Greenslade
were posted to Whitehorse and the station was officially on the air
25th February, 1935, operating from the PAA Hangar at the Whitehorse
in 1937 and 1938 Signals were supplied with their own standard low
and high frequency equipment, established in an old RCM Police building
in Whitehorse. Regular schedules were maintained with Dawson and Mayo
in addition to running the PAA station and looking after their planes
at the airport. This situation remained until the Department of Transport
took over plane control duties at the Whitehorse airport in September
is situated on the Lewes River, approximately 70 miles north of the
northern border of British Columbia and 200 miles east of the Alaskan
border. It was the end of steel.
White Pass and Yukon Route Railway running from Skagway on the Alaskan
coast of the Pacific Ocean and the commencement of river transportation
to the rich mining centres of Dawson and Mayo. Whitehorse had a colourful
history in the Klondike gold rush days of '98 and was destined to
become the capital and leading metropolis of the Yukon in later years.
April 1935, Pacific Alaska Airways, (later to become Pan American
Airways), made arrangements with the Canadian Government to open and
operate another small station in the Yukon on a similar basis to the
one at Whitehorse, that is, with equipment and buildings supplied
by them and personnel by RC Signals. This however was to be merely
a one-man station situated at Burwash Landing, YT on Lake Kluane,
160 miles northwest of Whitehorse on the flight route to Fairbanks.
Burwash was not a regular stop on the Juneau-Fairbanks PAA flight
but a landing field was constructed there for emergency purposes.
main function of the radio station was to transmit four weather reports
daily to PAA at Fairbanks and to contact the planes in flight and
to pass up-to-date weather data.
"Red" Waddell was posted from RC Signals Radio Station Dawson
City to carry out these duties. He arrived at Burwash 30th April 1935
by PAA. PAA had already flown the equipment in from Fairbanks and
it had been set up by one of the PAA technicians, so Burwash landing
Radio Station was officially on the air immediately after Waddell's
posting left the Dawson station understaffed with only two operators.
Apparently no trained Signals replacement was available and Dawson
was given authority to hire a local young man to act as messenger,
janitor and counter clerk, thus allowing the two Sigs personnel to
perform the other station duties efficiently. It is believed that
this was the first time that a civilian had been employed on any of
the Army radio stations in any capacity other than that of a cook.
Of course in later years, especially post World War II, many civilians
were to be utilized on the System as operators, technicians, clerks
was one of the most isolated settlements to be found in the Yukon
and it soon became the practice to have one of the Whitehorse operators
exchange duties with the Burwash operator for a two or three month
period at least once a year. This was in order to prevent him from
becoming a victim of "cabin fever"
nord" or in the more common vernacular just plain "bushed"
a prevalent disease in small isolated communities.
July 1935, a summer station was installed at Tuktoyaktuk (Port Brabant)
which is situated on the Arctic coast approximately 30 miles east
of the mouth of the Mackenzie River. Sigs personnel from Aklavik operated
this station as well as the station on Herschel Island.
was the Hudson Bay Company's main distribution point for supplies
and freight destined for its various trading posts throughout the
boats of the Hudson Bay Company brought the supplies etc, down the
Mackenzie River to Tuktuk where they were trans-shipped to larger
Hudson Bay Company vessels for distribution to western Arctic posts
as far east as Coppermine, Read Island and Cambridge Bay. Communications
were vital to such an operation as this, which must be completed in
the short six week to two month navigation season. Once again Signals
were called upon to fill the gap.
establishment of the Aklavik Radio Station was increased by one, Sig.
Ted Folwell who was posted to Aklavik and thence to Tuktuk along with
a homemade transmitter and receiver, the product of OMS Frank Riddells
functioned annually until the summer of '39 but was not re-opened
thereafter due to other wartime Sigs personnel commitments. Subsequently
the Hudson Bay Company installed their own equipment and worked into
Aklavik on a private commercial basis.
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to 1936, air-ground communications had been practically all of an
emergency nature, with the aircraft carrying very low powered equipment
which could not be operated while in flight. This limited its usefulness
to instances where the aircraft was stopping at some out of-the-way
point not blessed with a radio station or where it had been forced
down due to adverse circumstances. In either case, results, if any,
were none too good.
early in '36, Mackenzie Air Service, quick to realize the importance
of reliable air-ground-air communications, began to install modern
two-way radio equipment in all of their aircraft. This equipment was
capable to transmitting to and receiving from NWT&Y Radio System
ground stations while in flight.
Airways and other commercial aircraft operators followed suit and
thus was born one of the most important services rendered by the System
throughout the remainder of its existence.
reports and other services provided by RC Signals at Fort Rae prior
to the disastrous fire of 30th December 1933 were sorely missed by
all operators in the Great Bear Lake mineral area so increasing pressure
on the Department brought about its re-opening in March 1936.
Sid McAulay and LCpl. FE Burgess were sent in with new equipment and
resumed operations on 31st March. minor technical difficulties were
quickly overcome and all went well until the 26th of January 1937
when the fickle finger of fate again singled out this important little
station for destruction by fire of unknown origin. Fortunately, this
time there was no loss of life, although the equipment, building and
personal effects of McAulay and Burgess were totally destroyed. The
silver lining in this cloud was the encouraging fact that some spare
equipment had been stored in a trading company warehouse and it was
possible to set up temporary communications from the engine house.
Early in February the operating equipment was moved into a renovated
log lean-to, from where operations were carried on until the station
was closed down in September 1937 and moved to Yellowknife, where
a gold mining boom made it a much better location from which to serve
the area from a communications standpoint.
addition to the re-opening of Fort Rae, two more RC Signals Radio
stations came into being during '36, namely, Goldfields, Sask. and
Outpost Island, NWT. The need for each of these stations was brought
about by gold mining activities in their own particular areas.
Sask. situated on the north shore of Lake Athabasca, approximately
125 miles east of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., was the centre of rich gold
findings by such companies as Consolidated Mining & Smelting,
Athona, Greenlee, Murmac, Athabasca Portals and several smaller operators,
all located within an approximate radius of five miles from the settlement
Ronnie Botten and LCpl. Red McLeod arrived at Goldfields by plane
Friday 13th March 1936. Not being superstitious to any extent, they
immediately commenced installation work, which was completed in due
course and the RC Signals Station Goldfields was on the air 2nd April,
maintaining schedules with McMurray, Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan.
This was a very busy station for the next two years. New buildings
and better equipment were provided and taken into use October 1938.
However by the same time the following year, mining activities had
almost come to a standstill in the area. The main gold mining interests
were now being centred at Yellowknife. World War II had broken out
and there appeared no further justification for the station so it
was closed down in December 1939, to remain so until re located and
re-opened ten years later.
Island is one of a group of about 23 small islands in Great Slave
Lake situated approximately 25 miles off the mainland 40 miles northeast
of Fort Resolution. Outpost Island itself is scarcely a mile long
and a few hundred yards wide with little vegetation, but during 1935
one of the most spectacular gold finds in the north had been made
there. Other rich finds had been made throughout the Islands with
assays running from $100 to many thousands of dollars per ton. Diamond
drilling was commenced on these properties early in 1936 and, at the
request of Slave Lake Gold Mines, a small radio station was established
by RC Signals at their mine on Outpost Island.
Joe Slean arrived there by plane on 14th March 1936. His radio equipment,
consisting of a ten watt Marconi type 48031 transceiver caught up
with him on 30th March and communication was established with Fort
Rae and Fort Smith on 4th April 1936.
in August 1936, when F/L Coleman and LAC Joe Fortey of an RCAF aerial
mapping party were reported missing in the Barren Lands, Slean and
the Outpost radio equipment were moved to Fort Reliance at the eastern
end of Great Slave Lake, which was to be the base for search operations
for the lost aircraft and crew. Regular schedules were kept with Fort
Rae RC Signals and Government Survey parties at Aylmer Lake and Lac
de Gras, sub-bases for the search.
communications provided by "Outpost Joe" were invaluable
in bringing the search to a successful conclusion on 16th September
with the finding of the downed aircraft and crew of Coleman and Fortey
extremely weak from hunger but very much alive. They were immediately
evacuated 'outside' to recuperate from their harrowing three weeks
in the Barrens before returning to duty. The radio station remained
open until gas and a new crew had been flown in to the downed aircraft
and it was brought back from the Lac de Gras area to Reliance on 20th
September. The following day Slean and his radio equipment were returned
to Outpost Island.
activity on the islands continued briskly until the spring of '38
when the results of much underground exploration indicated that the
rich mineralization was mainly on the surface and did not extend to
any great depth. Due to high transportation costs, the mines could
not be profitably operated under such conditions and by the late Fall
of '38 all operations had been abandoned.
in October 1938 LCpl. Harry Roe , who had relieved ASgt. "Outpost
Joe" Slean in August, received orders to close down the station
and proceed to Fort Resolution for the winter. The following spring,
mining activities on the Outpost Islands were not resumed as expected,
so the RC Signals Radio Station was never re-opened.
close of 1936, an extremely busy year in the North, saw the NWT&Y
Radio System operating 17 stations on a full time basis, plus two
sub-stations at Herschel Island and Tuktoyaktuk during summer Arctic
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its predecessor, the year 1937 was to be an important one of expanded
exploration and development work in northern mining circles, with
existing water and air transportation facilities being taxed beyond
their limits to keep pace.
Signals were again called upon to supply communications in the new
areas of development. Three more new stations were born during the
year, at Gordon Lake, NWT, Norite Bay, Sask., and Yellowknife, NWT.
Lake is one of the many smaller lakes dotting the country north of
Great Slave Lake and lies approximately 65 miles northeast of Yellowknife
on the Great Arm of Great Slave Lake. It is about 20 miles long and
three miles wide with its length roughly being north and south. Along
the east side of the lake are many small islands, and it was on one
of these that SSgt. Joe Benkhe established the Gordon Lake Radio Station
in June 1937 at the camp of the Mining Corporation of Canada. Nine
other large companies, such as Territories Exploration and Karl Springer
Exploration, were also actively engaged in the area, which was inaccessible
except by air. All supplies, equipment and men were flown in from
Yellowknife. In addition to the commercial aircraft carrying out this
work, some of the larger companies such as Territories Exploration,
operated their own fleet of aircraft so that Benkhe was continually
busy providing air-ground service in addition to clearing considerable
amounts of commercial traffic to and from Fort Rae. With practically
24 hours each day suitable for flying during the summer months, it
can readily be seen that Benkhe was a busy, busy man to say the least.
station was housed in two small tents originally, one containing the
30PT5 Marconi HF transmitter and Marconi CSR2MB receiver, the other
an Onan Power Plant to supply AC for the equipment. This accommodation
proved adequate until two buildings were completed by the Mining Corporation
radio equipment was moved into permanent quarters before the advent
of real cold weather.
Lake Radio Station operated more or less on the basis outlined above
throughout 1938 and on into January 1939, at which time practically
all activity in the area had petered out, mainly due to high transportation
and fuel costs. It was estimated that the fuel oil landed at Gordon
Lake cost four times as much as that paid by the mines 'outside' which
were close to rail facilities.
Gold Mines was the last active outfit at Gordon Lake and with its
decision to abandon operations came the order for Signals to close
down the Radio Station. Early in February 1939 the equipment was moved
to Thompson Lake, 35 miles south of Gordon Lake, and was operated
from one of the camp buildings of Thompson Lake Gold Mines by SSgt.
Bay, located 80 miles east of Goldfields, Sask. on Lake Athabasca's
north shore, was the main camp of the Fond du Lac Mining Corporation.
At the request of this Corporation for communications, LCpl. "Red"
McLeod was dispatched from the Goldfields Radio Station with a ten
watt Marconi transceiver on 24th February 193 7. McLeod contacted
Goldfields on 26th February and the station functioned as an outlet
for commercial traffic from the area and an aid to aircraft until
August. At this time a sudden and unexpected decision by Fond du Lac
Mining Corporation to cease operations resulted in the Radio Station
being closed down as well. LCpl. McLeod wended his way back to Goldfields
on 22nd January 1938.
you will recall, the decision had been made early in the Fall to close
down the Fort Rae station and move it to Yellowknife due to the mining
boom there, with its subsequent increase in aircraft activity.
is situated 80 miles southeast of Fort Rae, on the north arm of Great
Slave Lake. As the boom activity increased, more and more aircraft
for the Great Bear Lake mining fields were being routed via Yellowknife
in addition to supplying the local needs. This of course resulted
in Fort Rae being by-passed and reverting to its pre '33 status of
straight trading and providing a base for a RCM Police post.
McAulay and LCpl. Burgess packed all the Fort Rae equipment, which
was loaded aboard the Hudson Bay Transport vessel "Dease Lake"
and transported to Yellowknife. It arrived there on 15th September.
The boys had even been far-sighted enough to bring the outdoor privy
along as they were none to sure what facilities existed at Yellowknife.
equipment, consisting of a SITD 100B LF transmitter, Northern Electric
20 watt HF transmitter and two CSR2 Marconi receivers (one of which
was modified for long wave), was set up in a tent next to the Camlaren
Mines Ltd. warehouse. Two 60' angle-iron masts were erected on the
bald rock and power was brought into the equipment tent from a Briggs
Stratton 1- 112-HP 700-watt plant housed in a packing case.
this work was completed, communications were quickly re-established
on the 13th of October with the old Fort Rae outlets namely, Fort
Smith, Cameron Bay and Gordon Lake.
combined station/living quarters building which had been ordered pre-cut
from Edmonton arrived before freeze-up and was quickly set up. The
equipment was transferred from the tent. Yellowknife Radio Station,
destined to become the largest and busiest on the System, was now
firmly and comfortably established, making nineteen stations in full
time operation on the ever-expanding network as of the year's end
in November, the name of the settlement at Cameron Bay was officially
changed to Port Radium, much to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Return to index
was little expansion of the System during 1938, in fact some ground
was lost as mining activity slumped generally and the small stations
operated by RC Signals at Viola Lake, Sask. and Outpost Island, NWT
were closed down in January and October respectively, and the summer
station at Herschel island was not re-opened, as mentioned previously.
in the early fall, a RC Signals station opened in North Battleford,
Sask. for the specific purpose of relaying "Other Government
Department" traffic to and from the NWT&Y . This station
was installed and operated originally by QMS Harold Hall, CSM Eddie
Edwards and LCpl. Neil Wiberg. It certainly performed yeoman service
in relieving some of the pressure from the 'bottleneck' at Edmonton
various government departments, responsible for the administration
of the NWT&Y, such as Health, Natural Resources, Indian Affairs,
RCM Police etc, etc, all had their head offices in Ottawa and their
traffic, handled on a free or 'deadhead' basis, represented a considerable
percentage of the total traffic of all types handled by the System.
Up until this time such traffic was passed to and from Ottawa via
Edmonton and Winnipeg but was increasing in volume rapidly to the
extent that Edmonton could not properly cope with it in addition to
the commercial and weather traffic commitments.
Battleford, situated on the North Saskatchewan River, 500 miles northwest
of Winnipeg and the same distance south of Goldfields, appeared to
be ideally located to act as a relay between these two points for
the handling of System DH traffic.
numerous delays to the installation work, North Battleford finally
commenced its relay duties on the 1st November 1938, much to the delight
of the Edmonton operators and bookkeeper but somewhat to the chagrin
of the Goldfields station staff. In the words of the station correspondents
of those days the reaction to the changed routing was as follows:
- Edmonton -"Traffic has been light, particularly since North
Battleford took over the handling of all non commercial traffic, a
loss calling for no show of remorse on our part". And Goldfields:
-"Traffic was the heaviest up to the present ever recorded by
this station due mostly to heavy relaying of deadhead traffic for
the NWT&Y to and from North Battleford - looks like there will
be no rest for the wicked, I mean - the weary".
connecting loop from the Radio Station to CN Telegraph Office was
installed so that traffic could be handled by land line in the event
of radio communication failure between Battleford and Winnipeg. Battleford
station carried out these relay duties until late May '39 when the
Marconi 400 HF transmitter was removed and shipped to Whitehorse where
it was urgently required for point to point operation with Edmonton.
A month later, the station resumed relay work with a Marconi 200 Pt
transmitter supplied from Edmonton. It continued to function as a
relay station until the outbreak of World War II in September, when
it was closed down in order to meet personnel requirements elsewhere.
during 1938 a new radiotelephone service was provided for the general
public at the following RC Signals stations: Edmonton, McMurray, Fort
Smith, Yellowknife and Goldfields. Repeater equipment was installed
in the Edmonton Radio Station with connections to the offices of the
Alberta Government Telephones from where local or long distance connections
were made in the normal manner.
booths were installed in the northern stations mentioned, tied in
with the HF transmitting and receiving equipment and thus customers
were able to converse with friends or business associates in homes
or offices in Edmonton or points beyond.
long distance radiotelephone service was restricted to the Western
Provinces for reasons unknown but, nevertheless was greeted and used
enthusiastically by mining and transportation companies particularly,
and the general public at large, for both business and social calls.
Christmas and New Years were especially popular times for such service,
all stations being swamped with calls.
service was improved the following year with the addition of 'scrambler'
equipment so that the customer could rest assured that his conversation
was strictly private and not capable of being intelligently heard
by any broadcast listener with a short wave receiver tuneable to the
frequency in use.
the outbreak of war more urgent equipment commitments became greater
and greater until finally the long distance telephone agreement with
Alberta Government Telephones was cancelled in October 1942 and the
Return to index
in February 1939 SSgt. Benkhe received orders to close down the Gordon
Lake station, move the equipment and re-install it at Thompson Lake.
lake is a small shallow lake, about 35 miles south of Gordon Lake
and midway between there and Yellowknife. It had been the scene of
a spectacular gold discovery by Thompson-Lundmark Gold Mines during
the summer of '38.
set up his radio equipment in a small room of one of the mine building
pending the completion of more suitable quarters. His power plant
was housed in a small heated tent which also served as a storeroom
for spare equipment etc. A month later the equipment was moved into
the new staff quarters. Benkhe, by this time, was getting a little
'move-happy'. as this was the fifth time he had moved the same equipment
since June 1937.
expected activity in the area did not develop, apparently due to the
unsettled European situation. Only two other companies, Gypsy Yellowknife
and Smelters Gold were doing any appreciable amount of work on their
properties in addition to the underground development work by Thompson-Lundmark.
situation worsened after the outbreak of war, with all mining activity
at this point practically coming to a halt, so the RC Signals Radio
Station at Thompson Lake was closed down early in October.
mid-April '39 RC Signals established a small station at Pensive Lake,
NWT at the request of Dome Mines Ltd. and some smaller mining outfits.
Pensive Lake is 60 miles east of Yellowknife, where impressive gold
findings had been made during 1938.
Mel Watson set up his NE R8160B transmitter and Marconi SH4 receiver
in a tent at the Dome Mine Camp, a mile north of Pensive Lake itself.
Another tent served as engine room and storeroom. Contact was established
with Thompson Lake and Yellowknife on April 20th.
and surface work was carried out on a large scale by Dome Mines until
late June when it was decided there was insufficient gold to warrant
the installation of a mill, so the camp was closed down. Watson packed
his equipment and returned to Yellowknife on July 4th after only two
months operation, believed to be the shortest System station existence
June 1939 the Department purchased a lot and three old buildings from
the now defunct Northern Traders Ltd. at Fort Providence, NWT with
a view to establishing a RC Signals Radio Station at that point. Fort
Providence, on the banks of the Mackenzie River just north of Great
Slave Lake, appeared to be a good location from which to render assistance
to air and-water transportation up and down the mighty Mackenzie River.
The Meteorological Department was quite anxious to receive weather
reports from that area.
"Ink" Schultz, of the Edmonton Station staff, was chosen
to open up the new station, arriving in Fort Providence, complete
with family, 15th June 1939. Schultz found the buildings in deplorable
condition but nevertheless was able to fix up temporary living quarters
and get his small Marconi RRS 1 Transceiver on the air with Resolution,
Smith, Yellowknife and Simpson on the 17th.
was commenced immediately to try and renovate the best building of
the three into a combined living quarter and station building. LCpl.
Harry Roe arrived on 23rd July to assist Schultz. Building renovation,
power plant installation, antenna construction work etc were progressing
favourably when war broke out. On September 5th orders were received
to close down immediately. Radio equipment, tools and. valuable small
stores were shipped to Resolution, heavy equipment stored in the station
building and the personnel proceeded 'outside'.
Providence Station buildings were taken over by a small detachment
of the US Signal Corps in the Fall of '42 to provide weather reports
and communications for aircraft employed on the Canol Pipeline project.
An emergency landing field was constructed there and US Army Engineers
erected new radio station buildings which were eventually taken over
again by RC Signals in July 1943.
important NWT&Y Radio Station project that misfired in 1939 due
to the outbreak of war was the installation of a radiotelephone station
at Grande Prairie, Alta..
Prairie, 250 air miles northwest of Edmonton and capital of the grain
rich Peace River Block, was sorely in need of more reliable long distance
telephone service to Edmonton and beyond. RC Signals received the
call to provide the answer.
old Newton farm, a mile or so east of Grande Prairie, was brought
to serve as a transmitter site. The house thereon was in good condition
and could be easily renovated to act as a combined married quarters
and operating building. Two acres of land adjoining the Newton farm
to the east were also acquired for a remote receiver site.
in August SM "Nash" Neary, QMS "Happy" Mitchell
and SSgt. "Snoot" Ross , who was to be NCO IC Station, arrived
in Grande Prairie and commenced the necessary work. Late in August
a circuit was set up with Edmonton Radio Station using an M 15 transmitter
and Hammarlund 120 receiver in order to keep in close touch with HQ
during the various phases of installation.
400 watt short wave transmitter on order from Marconi in Montreal
and the Bendix receiving equipment were expected early in September,
renovation work on the building was progressing favourably, most construction
and underground cabling from transmitter site to remote receiver site
and A GT exchange were well under way when, as in the case of Fort
Providence, the fatal order to cease operations was received on 5th
equipment was packed and shipped to Edmonton while the larger equipment
was safely stored in the station building and the personnel dispersed
to more urgent employment elsewhere. Efforts were made to secure a
reliable caretaker tenant for the building but to no avail, so the
Province of Alberta, Department of Lands and Mines was given a License
of Occupation at the nominal fee of $ 1. 00 for the duration of the
war on condition that they keep the property and buildings in good
repair. However the property was repossessed by the Department of
National Defence during 1942 or 1943 and became a Special Wireless
Station, functioning in this capacity until 1947.
the outbreak of the war, in addition to the stations just mentioned,
Tuktoyaktuk, Burwash Landing, North Battleford, Thompson lake and
Goldfields were closed in rapid order, with Port Radium following
in early 1940 when the Eldorado Mine closed down. The remaining 12
NWT&Y Radio System stations were drastically curtailed as to personnel,
and services rendered were restricted accordingly. Weather reporting
was most affected and in some cases was dropped entirely, and in other,
placed on a modified basis to conform to shortened station operating
was very discouraging to see the progress of signals in the North
come to such an abrupt standstill but it was also inevitable that
wartime requirements take priority over peacetime civilian endeavours
insofar as military personnel were concerned. Return