1940 - 1949
1941 1942 Return
System continued to function on the reduced basis until late 1940
and '41 when a small number of Group 1 operators were made available
from the School of Signals to help out on short-staff stations. They,
of course, required considerable on-the-job training before being
of much use to the stations concerned.
'41 saw the United States drawn into the war by the Japanese sneak
attack on Pearl Harbour and by the Spring of '42 northwest Canada
was to see many US Army personnel employed on the construction of
the Alaska Highway from Edmonton to Whitehorse and Fairbanks, and
the Canol Pipeline from Norman Wells to Whitehorse.
NWT&Y Radio System became involved in supplying communications
for both projects, especially for the Canol Pipeline. The supply line
of heavy equipment for this project was from Edmonton to Waterways
by rail, thence by boat and barge to Fort Smith and on down the Mackenzie
River to Norman Wells. Lighter equipment, supplies and personnel were
airlifted over much the same route as well as over the Edmonton, Fort
Nelson, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells route. The US Engineers undertook
to improve the existing airports on the route so they could handle
the aircraft being used and, in addition, to construct emergency landing
fields at intermediate points such as Embarras, Alta., Hay River,
NWT, Providence, NWT and Wrigley, NWT.
US Signal Corps established small low-powered high frequency stations
at these points as well as at the main airports, including terminals
at Edmonton and Canol (across the river from Norman Wells) to provide
weather, air-ground service and general communications for the project.
However the net did not prove very satisfactory due to the low-powered
equipment and the vagaries of short wave with the result that a great
percentage of the traffic was passed to the nearest RC Signals station
and relayed over the NWT&Y Radio System. The NWT&Y stations
had higher powered shortwave equipment and also long wave equipment
which was not subject to the 'blackout' like short wave. With this
combination of equipment RC Signals were able to 'get through' at
practically all times. This extra relay work placed an extremely heavy
burden on the System stations, particularly at the main airports where
there was a duplication of US Signals and RC Signals facilities.
Return to index
common agreement between the US and Canadian Governments, during the
summer of '43, it was decided that RC Signals, on account of their
vast experience in northern communications and their already well
established key stations, were much better qualified to handle all
phases of communications for the Canol project.
until this time, the US Signals station at Canol had worked across
the river to a private commercial station operated by Imperial Oil
Co at Norman Wells and to the RC Signals station at Fort Norman, 50
miles upriver. This arrangement was unreliable and inadequate, so
the first step taken to improve matters was the installation of a
large RC Signals station at Norman Wells, capable of working direct
to the large RC Signals stations to the south, including Edmonton.
construction of a combined receiving station and living quarters in
Norman Wells proper and a remote transmitter station 5 miles southeast
of this location was carried out by Imperial Oil Company and US Army
Engineers. All equipment, including masts, M26 and C3 short wave transmitters,
PV500 long wave transmitter, receivers and two 10 KW Onan power plants,
was supplied and installed by RC Signals. The original staff, consisting
of QMS Don Bastock, four operators and a cook, worked frantically
throughout late summer and early fall. The station was opened officially
for business on the 8th November 1943.
November 1943 RC Signals Fort Providence, NWT rejoined the System.
You will recall that this station had started to operate in the Fall
of 1939 when it was closed down at the outbreak of war. It was re-opened
by US Signals in September 1942 during the construction of an emergency
airport at that point. The Americans had improved the site considerably
by building new living quarters, engine room and warehouse. Sgt. Vic
Cavanagh and his crew of three operators therefore had ample accommodation,
on arrival in July, for themselves and the new equipment which consisted
of PV500 long wave transmitter, C43 and C3 short wave transmitters,
two 5KW Onan power plants.
equipment was installed as quickly as possible, antennas erected on
the existing wooden masts and communications were established with
RC Signals Fort Smith and Fort Simpson in November. So at the end
of 1943 fourteen stations were in operation and the system once again
was in the process of expansion after a four year lull.
Return to index
and military aviation, both Canadian and American, was by now operating
practically on a round-the-clock basis to meet the needs of the various
northern wartime projects. Greater demands were made for more and
better weather forecasts. To satisfy such demands the Meteorological
Department in turn required more frequent observations from the reporting
stations in existence plus additional information from some of the
vast areas between these stations from which no reports were available.
To this end, RC Signals were requested to open a weather reporting
station at Fort Good Hope, NWT, to re-open the station at Port Radium,
which had been closed down in 1940, and to provide extra reports from
other System stations.
Good Hope, is approximately 100 miles northwest of Norman Wells and
200 miles southeast of Aklavik, on the Mackenzie river, Port Radium
is at the east end of Great Bear Lake, 250 miles east of Norman Wells
and 150 miles south of Coppermine. These stations were selected as
they are ideally situated to supply important information to fill
some of the gaps in the overall northern weather picture.
Dave Allison and Jack Hill arrived at Good Hope by boat with their
station equipment, a 100B SITD transmitter, two AR88LF receivers and
a 750 watt Onan power plant, on the 4th of July 1943. Arrangements
had been made with the Hudson Bay Company post manager to set up shop
temporarily in one of the Company's small buildings known as the "Indian
House". Equipment was hastily hooked up and the station was on
air the following day, 5th July, with Norman Wells. Three days later
the RCAF brought in Maj. Pearson, OC NWT&Y Radio System, who selected
a site for the permanent station buildings and living quarters. Sgt.
Phil Tuck, NCO IC Station and Pte Ewachewski, an RCASC cook arrived
on the same aircraft.
reporting equipment was brought in on 26th July by "Chris"
Christensen, a technician from the Meteorological Department. By the
first week in August, the little station, housed in a 10 x 12 shack,
was sending out hourly aviation weather reports at the rate of 24
per day plus more comprehensive synoptic reports at three hour intervals.
Late in November of the same year the staff occupied the new station
buildings which had been constructed by the RCE. Higher powered equipment
was provided and installed in the new buildings by RC Signals.
had left Port Radium in July '40 when all mining activity ceased in
the area. However the Eldorado Mine had been re-opened in 1942 when
the importance of Uranium, a hitherto unheralded by-product found
in the pitchblende from which radium was produced, became better known
and appreciated. At this time Eldorado made arrangements with RC Signals
to move the radio station building and masts to the mine site, a distance
of seven miles, in order to provide their own communications, working
out through Yellowknife. Thus, when Sigs were called upon to provide
weather service from this point in '44, they had a working station
to take over.
Gord Drinnan, Cpl. Howie Cook and Sig. Norm Edmonds were flown in
by RCAF late in July 1944 to join Sig. Jack Neilsen, who had already
arrived to assist the Eldorado operator. The equipment in use at this
time consisted of a 1OOB long wave transmitter and an AR88LF receiver
on loan to the mine from Sigs and a Hellicrafter receiver and a 2-channel
short wave transmitter of unknown origin owned by Eldorado. RC Signals
were officially back on the air 6th August 1944 and the vital weather
reports began pouring out. Later that fall, PV500 long wave and C3
short wave transmitters were installed thereby improving the station
efficiency a great deal.
in 1944 the American Government decided to abandon the Canol Pipeline
project presumably because the oil reserves available from friendly
Allied sources now appeared adequate to supply the needs of Alaskan
defence forces thus making a continuance of the pipeline from Imperial
Oil at Norman Wells a costly and unwarranted expenditure. All American
troops were withdrawn from the Mackenzie River area. By previous agreement
RC Signals took over the operation of the US Signal Corps installations
at the intermediate emergency airports of Wrigley, NWT, Hay River,
NWT and Embarras, Alta..
Lt. Bob Chinnick, TMO for the System, officially took over these stations
in the order mentioned on the 17th, 22nd and 23rd of November 1944.
At the same time the Department of Transport took over operation of
the airports at these points.
is situated on the west bank of the Mackenzie River halfway between
Fort Simpson and Fort Norman, and is a very small Indian settlement
served by a Hudson Bay Company post. However, the Radio Station was
located seven miles south of the settlement on the opposite side of
the river where the airport had been constructed by the US Engineers.
The original RC Signals staff consisted of ASgt. Ray Bird, Cpl.. Edmond
and Sigs Harding, Harward and Stager all of whom had been given a
meteorological course prior to leaving Edmonton. The station therefore
took its place immediately as a link in the System rendering a full
complement of weather reports in addition to supplying communications
for the area.
and maintenance of the Wrigley airstrip was carried out by the Department
of Transport until the Fall of '46 when it was decided that the aircraft
activity in the lower Mackenzie River area had decreased to the point
where such expenditure was no longer warranted. This decision of course
also meant the closing down of the Radio Station, which was done on
the 4th October 1946. Radio equipment was packed and shipped to Simpson
and Hay River for storage while the personnel were posted to other
following summer the station was re-opened by Sigs from June until
late September to provide communications and weather information for
a RCAF Photographic Survey Detachment.
again the Wrigley station was re-opened in the Spring of '48, this
time with Sigs personnel not only supplying communications and weather
reports but also operating the airport including the maintenance of
functioned on this basis until 1955 when RC Signals pulled out. The
operation of the airstrip reverted to the Department of Transport
once again. Canadian Pacific Airlines, practically the only user of
the airport, assumed the task of providing communication facilities.
to get back to 1944. After taking over Wrigley, Lt. Chinnick proceeded
to Hay River and accepted the US Army Signal station there on behalf
of the RC Signals.
River is situated on the east bank of the Delta where the Hay River
flows into Great Slave Lake, 75 miles southwest of Fort Resolution
and 50 miles southeast of Fort Providence. The RC Signals staff consisting
of ASgt. Roy Ellis, Cpl. Witmer, and Sigs McEwan, Reeder and Shier
fresh from their Meteorological Course in Edmonton, took over the
operation of this station using the US Signals equipment augmented
by a SITD 100B long wave transmitter.
station was destined to become one of the busiest of the NWT&Y
Radio System due to a booming Great Slave Lake fishing industry and
the construction of the Mackenzie Highway from Grimshaw to Hay River.
This road would link the Northwest Territories to the 'outside' for
the first time by an all-weather road. The importance of this Highway
to northern water transportation can be readily realized when one
recalls that previously all freight for down-river points went to
Waterways by rail, thence by barge to Fort Fitzgerald, trucked over
the 16-mile portage to Fort Smith, re-loaded on barges, thence down
the Slave River, across Great Slave Lake and on down the mighty Mackenzie
River was also to be the scene of the System's third tragic death
when, in November 1948, Sig. Elwood Haagenson was drowned after breaking
through the ice on Hay River. He had been visiting the Hudson Bay
Company's post manager across the river during the evening of 2nd
November and was skating home at approximately 2am 3rd November when
he crashed through the ice in mid-river, and was unable to extricate
himself from the freezing waters. The ice was considered safe and
the townspeople had been skating for several days. In fact Haagenson
safely crossed the river for his visit, but apparently returned by
a slightly different route and unfortunately struck a weak spot. His
body was recovered at 9:50 am.
improvements, such as new higher powered long and short wave equipment
and new buildings, were to be made at Hay River Radio Station before
its eventual handover to the Department of Transport during the course
of the System's absorption by the Department in 1958-59-60.
day after taking over the Hay River Station, Lt. Chinnick flew to
Embarras, Alta. and accepted the US Signal Corps station at that point
on behalf of RC Signals on 23rd November 1944.
is located on the east shore of the Athabasca River, 107 miles north
of McMurray and 127 miles south of Fort Smith, midway between Edmonton
and Yellowknife on the direct flight route. Apparently this site was
selected by the Americans for an emergency airport because no suitable
terrain could be found around Fort Chipewyan, 35 miles to the north.
The spot was very isolated, in fact carved out of the virgin bush.
The main function of the Radio Station was to supply weather report
and air-ground communications for aircraft.
original RC Signals staff, trained for weather observing in Edmonton
as in the case of the personnel for Wrigley and Hay River, consisted
of ASgt. Bob Coutts, Cpl..Thibeault and Sigs Currie, Davis and Pierog.
Station efficiency was increased considerably by the addition of SITO
100B long wave and C33 short wave transmitters.
Embarras Radio Station was turned over to the Department of Transport
in June '52 since the major reasons for its existence were primarily
Department of Transport.
opening of Fort Good Hope, re-opening of Fort Radium and the takeover
of the three American Signals stations during '44 brought the NWT&Y
Radio System back to its pre-war level of 19 stations.
Return to index
new stations were added to the System in 1945 but great improvements
were made in the matter of equipment, especially at the main stations,
Edmonton, Fort Smith, Simpson and Norman Wells where RCA TE 343B 10
KW low frequency transmitters were put into operation. This was the
highest powered equipment ever to be used at any station and improved
the overall System efficiency tremendously.
Return to index
the winter of 1945-46 a station was established by Brigade Signals
at Baker Lake, NWT to provide communications and weather reports for
Exercise "Muskox" while it fought its way across the Barren
Lands on the long trek from Fort Churchill, Man to Fort Nelson, BC
testing various types of military equipment under extreme northern
conditions. NWT&Y Radio System stations at Edmonton, Simpson,
Norman, Norman Wells and Port Radium also supplied communications
for "Muskox" at various stages of its move. The Baker Lake
Station did not actually become part of the System until after the
successful completion of the Exercise in May 1946. The original intention
was to operate the station only for the duration of the Exercise but,
at the request of the Meteorological Department, to which reports
from this area were invaluable, it was kept open as a weather reporting
station and absorbed into the NWT&Y Radio System.
Lake settlement was then a small Hudson Bay Company trading post 400
miles northwest of Fort Churchill and 200 miles inland from the mouth
of Chesterfield Inlet on Hudson Bay. Undoubtedly this was the most
remote and God-forsaken location at which the System ever operated
a station in the north. The original staff, when the station was absorbed
by NWT&Y Radio System on 22nd May 1946, consisted of Sgt. Walt
Schultz and Sigs Gardner, Gullickson, Ricker and robb.
glance at the old NWT&Y Radio System Tariff Book of 1931 shows
Baker lake listed as a System station with a notation,
installed, but not permanently manned". Two other locations,
Burnside, NWY and Stony Rapids, Sask. are similarly listed. These
three stations had been operated by Dominion Explorers in addition
to stations at Hunter Bay and Fort Reliance and arrangements had been
made when this company ceased operations in the early '30s for RC
Signals to take over the equipment and buildings for the sum of $35,000.00
and eventually man and operate the five stations. However as far as
is known, Burnside and Stony were never activated by Signals and Baker
Lake did not come into the fold until 1946 as mentioned above. Hunter
Bay equipment was installed at Lindsley Bay by Sigs in '32 and Fort
Reliance buildings and equipment were never used although Sigs eventually
established a station there in 1948.
administration and supply problems encountered in the operation of
this station could be termed the 'biggest headache' ever experienced
by NWT&Y Radio System Headquarters in Edmonton. Due to its remote
location, all shipments of supplies, personnel movements etc for Baker
Lake must be coordinated with Army Fort Churchill, which of course
was under the control of Prairie Command Headquarters in Winnipeg,
whereas System Headquarters and all other stations of the System were
located in Western Command and controlled by Western Command Headquarters
in Edmonton. Liaison between the two commands in such matters was
a matter of education but with startling results during the initial
stages. One example was illustrated when the supply ship unloaded
the station's yearly rations in July '47. Among the 611 cases of 'goodies'
were such baffling items as 3000 pounds of white beans where 30 pounds
had been ordered, 1000 rolls of toilet tissue where 100 had been ordered,
600 pounds of dried fruit etc etc. With such an inexhaustible supply
of ammunition, the staff soon became known as the 'jet propelled'
operators, and the station as the windiest in the north country.
of the administration difficulties and the fact that no interests
except those of the Meteorological Department were being served to
any extent, Baker Lake Radio Station was turned over to the Department
of Transport in December 1949 to the accompaniment of deep sighs of
relief from all Sigs personnel.
the Spring of '46, the Department of Mines and Resources commenced
construction of a Hydro Power Plant on the Snare River 96 miles northwest
of Yellowknife. This was known as the Snare River Hydro project and
was undertaken to supply adequate electricity for the power-starved
Yellowknife mining area. As the site was only accessible by air, or
tractor train in the winter months, the need for radio communications
to serve the project was quite apparent. The System therefore was
asked to install and operate a radio station at the project site during
the construction period.
Bob Coutts and Sig. All arrived at Snare River late in June and set
up equipment consisting of an SITD 100B long wave transmitter, Collins
32RA-7 four channel short wave transmitter, two AR88LF RCA receivers
and one National HRO receiver, in a 10 X 12 tent, which served as
combined station and living quarters. The station opened officially
for business on the 8th of July. A month later Sig. All was returned
to Yellowknife as station duties were routine and the volume of traffic
did not warrant the employment of two men.
mid-December some of the permanent camp buildings were completed and,
as the weather by now was extremely cold, the radio equipment was
moved into one comer of the upper floor bunkhouse. Finally in April
'47, the equipment was permanently installed in a 10 X 10 building
erected solely for this purpose.
bulk of the heavy equipment for the project was handled by boat to
Frank's Channel, 6 miles south of Fort Rae on the north arm of Great
Slave lake during the navigation season, thence sixty miles overland
by winter tractor train to the site. To coordinate such shipments
a CD 12 transceiver was installed at Frank's Channel to work into
Snare River Radio Station. A similar installation was made at a secondary
camp, 5 miles south of the site, where the two containing dams and
the reservoir spillway were being constructed. These transceivers
were operated by project personnel.
communication for the Hydro Plant was to be a carrier telephone system,
operating over a metallic circuit to Yellowknife and, although the
Hydro project was completed and power supplied to the various mines
by the Fall of '48, it was June of '49 before this system was functioning
properly and Sigs personnel released. Arrangements were made to leave
some of the Army radio equipment, for emergency purposes in case of
carrier telephone failure, until such time as the NWT Power Commission
was able to procure and install suitable emergency equipment of its
own. Sig. Larry Ryan, who had relieved SSgt. Coutts in October 1948,
instructed project personnel in the use of the emergency radio equipment
prior to closing down the Snare River Radio Station and departing
for Yellowknife 27th June 1949.
additions of Baker Lake and Snare River in 1946 brought the number
of NWT&Y Radio System stations in operation to 21. The prospect
for more stations appeared bright as the search for oil and minerals
in the north gained momentum after the war-time lull.
in Edmonton saw two important and long-awaited local changes also
take place in 1946. First, in the Spring, all transmitting equipment
was moved from its old location 97th Street and 132nd Avenue to the
new remote transmitter site at Bissell, 6 miles west of the city.
Here, a fine new stucco transmitter station, with plenty of room for
expansion, had been built along with the necessary antenna arrays,
including a set of 300 foot towers for the 10KW long wave transmitter.
August, the Headquarters and Operating Section, with the aid of shoehorns,
eased out of their cramped temporary accommodation in the old Married
Quarters Building and moved across the 'Parade Square' into the brand
spanking new, two-storey, combined Headquarters and Operating Building.
moves were carried out with practically no disruption to services
due to careful planning and excellent teamwork. Improved working conditions
in both cases proved to be a wonderful morale booster to all ranks,
which was evidenced by the new vigour and enthusiasm with which they
attacked their onerous duties in the new surroundings.
tests of radio teletype transmission on the System were carried out between
Edmonton and Yellowknife in March and April 1946. Lt. Smith and Mr. J Pouliot,
technicians from SCRDE in 0ttawa, arrived in Edmonton 1st March with frequency
shift equipment to establish the terminals. However it was found that no
teletypes were available in Edmonton and considerable delay was experienced
while arrangements were made and teletypes borrowed from Pacific Command
at Vancouver. Mr. Pouliot proceeded to Yellowknife via RCAF 3rd April and
installed that terminal while Lt. Smith completed the Edmonton terminal.
Testing in the 8-9 megacycle band was underway within a few days but results
obtained were not too reliable, so Smith and Pouliot returned to Ottawa
to try and iron some of the bugs out of the frequency shift equipment before
more comprehensive tests were carried out.
Return to index
stations were added to the System in 1947 but, as in 1945, equipment
improvements were carried out wherever possible with a view to increasing
power and obtaining greater flexibility. For instance, at Edmonton,
the NE14C and Marconi TR800 high frequency transmitters were replaced
by two RCA TH41 five kilowatt 4-channel HF transmitters and two M26A
low frequency transmitters replaced by two RCA 260N 3-kilowatt, 6-channel,
crystal-controlled LF transmitters. Both receiving and transmitting
antenna arrays were also re-built at most stations to give better
April '47 the main line (Ottawa-Vancouver) of the Canadian Army Signal
System (CASS) was cut into the Edmonton Radio Station, which now became
a Major tape relay on the CASS, in addition to its own heavy communication
commitments. The shift of the Major tape relay from Calgary to Edmonton
was occasioned by the selection of Edmonton as the permanent home
of Headquarters Western Army Command. Banks of reperforators and transmitter
distributors, a control panel, and various number 15 and 19 teleprinters
were installed in the already crowded operating room and were operated
by NWT&Y Radio System personnel until a few years later when Western
Command Signals Regiment had its establishment increased and a new
building erected to handle the Major Tape Relay operation.
was not an uncommon sight in the first few months of tape relay operation
to see Capt. Frank McCauley, 2 IC NWT&Y Radio System, doing a
regular daytime stint, perforating tape etc, and WO 1 Cal Vince and
WO 2 Joe Slean changing into carpet slippers at 5 pm daily so that
their aching dogs could carry them through a double shift till midnight
in order to keep the traffic moving properly.
Return to index
in 1948, at the request of the Department of Transport, Department
of National Defence agreed to establish Radio stations at Brochet,
Man and Fort Reliance, NWT.
is located at the northeast end of Reindeer Lake in northern Manitoba,
300 miles north of The Pas and 18 miles east of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba
border. At the time the Radio Station was established the settlement
consisted of a Hudson Bay Company Store, a fur trade post operated
by a Mr. Gowan representing Mr. Ed Shieff of Flin Flon, Man, the roman
Catholic Mission of two Fathers and two Brothers, the local game guardian
and a fluctuating native population of approximately 50 Cree and Chipewyan
Indians. The Hudson Bay Store manager was Bill Garbutt, a jovial Scotsman,
well-known to many System personnel, having previously operated Hudson
Bay Company stores at Fort Simpson and Fort Resolution in the Mackenzie
1 Don Bastock, Cpl. Bev Summers and Pte Beattie (RCASC cook) were
flown by RCAF from The Pas to Brochet 12 June 1948 to sort out the
170 tons of radio equipment, fuel oil and building materials already
on the site, which had been shipped in from the railhead at Flin Flon
by tractor train during the previous winter. The RCE construction
crew was flown in the following day. Temporary tent accommodations
were set up for all hands. The next day, 14th June, Brochet successfully
contacted McMurray using a 52 set and officially joined the System.
Direct contact was made with Edmonton shortly thereafter and this
circuit was used for close liaison with headquarters during the construction
balance of supplies and equipment was brought in by RCAF airlift,
which was completed on 22nd June. The final load also brought Cpl.
Art Harman (to be NCO IC) and Sig. Chiasson, who had been left in
The Pas for aircraft loading purposes. According to their statements,
even Brochet was much preferable to The Pas, which had been suffering
flood conditions during their stay.
and equipment installation went ahead at a fast clip until completion
late in July when WO 1 Bastock, who had been supervising all phases,
returned to Edmonton, and the RCE crew departed for Winnipeg, thence
to Baker Lake where additional buildings were to be erected. Such
minor items as the painting of buildings, digging of sump holes for
the drainage of kitchen and bathroom facilities, installation of water
pump etc, etc, were left for the station staff to complete. They manfully
carried on and eventually on 17th August 1948 commenced filing daily
weather sequences and maintaining regular operating schedules with
preparations were being made to get Brochet installation underway
in late May, System Headquarters in Edmonton was called upon to help
out the CP and CN Telegraphs. Their communications to the West Coast
were in sad shape due to the serious British Columbia flood conditions.
Vancouver Wireless Station was contacted and considerable commercial
traffic was relayed to and from the coast for the telegraph companies
for approximately a week before the floods subsided and normal landline
communications were restored. At the start of the frequent landline
disruptions it appeared that conditions would worsen more than they
actually did and the RC Signals made preparations accordingly. Twenty-one
operators were flown from Ottawa and dispersed between Edmonton, Calgary
and Vancouver, five, four and twelve respectively although the five
left in Edmonton were soon flown on to Vancouver also where they were
more urgently required. Extra transmitters were set up at both Edmonton
and Vancouver so that 3 or 4 wireless circuits could be operated simultaneously
if necessary. Boehme High Speed equipment was also flown to, and installed
at Edmonton and Vancouver against the possibility that all landline
communications might fall for a prolonged period. Fortunately however,
the emergency did not reach such proportions but Signals were certainly
well prepared for any eventuality and once again acquitted themselves
nobly. WO 1 Vince can recall, "spending an interesting 3 or 4
hours copying CPR traffic from Vancouver Wireless where the sending
operator was one borrowed from the CPR Telegraphs. He had not used
International Morse since leaving Army Sigs around 1940 and was pretty
rusty to say the least. His blending of International and American
Morse was mentally stimulating and will long be, remembered".
relay assistance was again supplied for the telegraph companies in
December 1948 when heavy snows and blizzards disrupted landline communications
to and from the West Coast for four days.
the 7th of July 1948 a crew of 6 Sig. and 11 RCE personnel proceeded
from Edmonton to Fort Reliance, NWT via RCAF Canso to construct and
install a RC Signals Radio Station.
Reliance is situated on McLeod Bay at the northeast end of Great Slave
Lake, 180 miles east of Yellowknife. In earlier days it had apparently
been a fairly busy trading post but, due to its isolated location,
had steadily diminished to the point where, at the time of Sigs arrival,
the entire population was a 2-man RCM Police detachment. To say that
the Mounties were overjoyed to welcome Sigs to the area would be an
original Sigs party consisted of Sgt. "Howie" Crowell to
supervise the Signals end of the construction and installation, Sgt.
"Bill" Morris, to be NCO IC Station, Sigs "Gil"
Kaye and "Joe" McIsaac, operators and last, but probably
most important to the general welfare of the whole party, Pte "Bill"
ONeill, 'chef deluxe'.
boat and barge carrying the equipment and supplies had not yet arrived
by the 7th so it was necessary to prevail upon RCM Police hospitality
for food and shelter. The boat and barge arrived the following day
but it was a full week before unloading operations were completed,
five marquees erected and the crew able to move into their own little
tent city. The same day, 14th July, first radio contact was made with
Fort Resolution, using the A T3 transmitter and Lister Diesel power
plant. Previous attempts at radio contact had been unsuccessful. Three
days later direct contact was made with Edmonton and regular skeds
maintained thereafter to ensure close liaison during the construction
and installation period.
the end of September, after surmounting many obstacles such as having
to blast in solid rock to obtain footings for the 150' masts, most
of the outside work was done and plans were made to evacuate the majority
of the construction crew before winter closed in and the post became
completely isolated for the "freeze-up" period. On the 13th
October an RCAF Canso flew in with last minute supplies and took SSgt.
Crowell and all but 3 of the RCE party out on its return journey.
Two days later, on the 15th of October, Fort Reliance began normal
Radio Station operations, maintaining a full complement of daily weather
System now was operating 23 stations, with high hopes for further
Return to index
the 1st of April 1949 a new and much appreciated service to residents
of northern Canada was inaugurated at Edmonton Radio Station. A loop
from the CBC studios in the MacDonald Hotel was run to the Radio Station,
thence to the transmitter site and the full daily programs of the
CBC (7 a.m.-midnight) were rebroadcast to the north on 8265 Kcs using
a 5 kilowatt Marconi TH41 transmitter. At those stations where RC
Signals were operating low-power broadcast transmitters for the benefit
of their communities, 8265 Kcs was monitored and the CBC programs
again re-broadcast on the local standard broadcast frequency.
of standard broadcast frequencies from 'outside" was notoriously
poor generally so the new RC Signals service was greeted enthusiastically
throughout the North. Many letters of praise were received by the
NWT&Y Radio System Headquarters during the years this service
was provided and in fact, reports of reception from all parts of the
world became so numerous that it was necessary to mimeograph a form
reply in order to keep up with acknowledgements to all the far-flung
well-wishers. The service was abandoned in 1953, due to more urgent
will recall that the Goldfields Radio Station closed down in December
1939 due to the lack of mining activity in the area and the outbreak
of World War II. However post war explorations using up-to-date equipment
such as Geiger counters, had revealed numerous rich deposits of uranium
ore and many companies were now busily engaged in developing their
finds. Foremost amongst these were the Crown-operated Eldorado Mining
& Refining Company which now requested that RC Signals once again
provide communications for the area.
Eldorado Mine was located on the north shore of Beaverlodge Lake,
about 12 miles north of the original Goldfields townsite, and it was
decided that this would be the site of the new radio station. By agreement,
Eldorado Mining & Refining Company was to construct a 22'X 14'
combined radio station and living quarters building, provide necessary
A C power for the equipment and messing facilities for Sigs personnel.
Claude MacDonald was posted from Yellowknife to Goldfields 1st July
1949 and was temporarily housed in a tent. He established communications
with Fort Chipewyan using a 25 watt Hellicrafter transceiver owned
by Eldorado Mining & Refining Company pending completion of the
Radio Station building and the arrival of RC Signals radio equipment.
the 15th of July the building was completed and the equipment had
arrived, so SSgt. "Elmer" Richardson of the Technical Maintenance
staff at Edmonton was flown in to do the installation work. Masts
and antennae were erected with the aid of mine personnel and the technical
equipment set up by Richardson and MacDonald. This equipment consisted
of a RCA A T3 high frequency transmitter, SITD 100B low frequency
transmitter, battery-operated C52 HF transceiver for emergency purposes
and two AR88LF receivers. Assistance, in the form of Sig. Ed Cattapan,
arrived 22nd July. Installation of the station was completed by the
28th, at which time SSgt. Richardson departed for Edmonton. On the
same date, regular schedules were commenced with Fort Smith, the relay
point for the Goldfields Radio Station.
confusion existed due to this mine site on Beaverlodge Lake being
referred to as Goldfields because there was a resurgence of activity
around the original town of Goldfields 12 miles away and a radio station
owned by Saskatchewan Government Airways was operating to Prince Albert
from that point. This situation remained until the 1st of February
1951 when the Eldorado Mining & Refining Company mine site was
officially named Beaverlodge Lake, Sask. instead of Goldfields and
therefore the RC Signals installation became known as Beaverlodge
Lake Radio Station.
year or so later, feverish prospecting activities in the area approximately
9 miles northwest of Beaverlodge Lake resulted in the birth of a new
boom mining town known as Uranium City. The need for radio communications
at this point was most urgent and there was considerable talk of moving
RC Signals from Beaverlodge to Uranium City but this proposal met
strong opposition from Eldorado Mining & Refining Company and
instead the Saskatchewan Government Airways moved their radio station
from Goldfields to Uranium City to serve the booming community. The
Saskatchewan Government Airways link from Uranium City to Prince Albert
however was none too reliable, being dependent entirely on high frequency
reception and the bulk of the boom town traffic was for Edmonton.
In the interests of better and cheaper service, arrangements were
made to relay Uranium City traffic through RC Signals at Beaverlodge
Lake. This was done over a hand-keyed wireless circuit until the mid-fifties
when the volume of commercial traffic to and from Uranium City reached
such proportions (second only to Yellowknife) that it was necessary
to install a teletype loop between the Saskatchewan Government Airways
and RC Signals stations to cope with the situation. As a good proportion
of this traffic had to do with the buying and selling of mining stocks,
speed and accuracy in handling were required. Direct schedules were
established between Edmonton and Beaverlodge Lake and Fort Smith was
used as a relay only when conditions did not permit direct working.
Meteorological Division in '49, as in most other years, was pleading
with Department of Defence for the installation of more weather reporting
radio stations in the vast unpopulated areas of the Barren Lands of
the NWT with the result that a decision was made to install a RC Signals
station at Ennadai Lake, 250 miles northwest of Churchill. Much has
been said about the remoteness of the Sigs stations at Baker Lake
and Fort Reliance but they could well be referred to as metropolis
by comparison with Ennadai lake. Whereas Baker Lake had a Hudson Bay
Company store and a RCM Police detachment and Fort Reliance had a
two-man RCM Police detachment and a few itinerant white trappers,
Ennadai had nothing, absolutely nothing, except a small nomadic band
of Eskimo which was to become a veritable millstone around Signals
neck in the ensuing years.
Signals party consisting of WO 2 Bill Joyce and Sig. Wayne Fries,
technicians, Cpl. Joe McIsaac, to be NCO IC station; Sigs Townley
and Cotton, operators and Pte Pitre, cook left Edmonton for Ennadai
Lake 9th July 1949. They travelled RCAF North Star to Winnipeg, weekly
'Muskeg Special' train Winnipeg to Churchill and completed the journey
Churchill to Ennadai Lake by RCAF Canso on the 15th July. An RCE construction
crew was also flown in and all construction materials, supplies and
radio equipment were airlifted to the site at the rate of at least
one Canso flight per day from Churchill.
accommodations were set up and construction was commenced immediately.
Using a battery operated C52 set, communications were established
with Edmonton and Churchill for close liaison during the construction
period. Despite heavy rains, hordes of black flies and mosquitoes
and shortage of tobacco, construction and installation work was successfully
completed by early October. Buildings constructed were as follows:
- Combined station and quarters 68'X 24f. engine house 20'X 20,".
warehouse 20'X20' and ice house 20'X20' PV. 500 low frequency and
TE 176 high frequency transmitters, necessary receivers, two Lister
Diesel power plants, two 150 -foot towers for LF transmitting antennae
and three 48-foot towers for SW transmitting and receiving antennae
comprised the technical installations. The staff was now in a position
to assume the duties for which the station had been established, namely
weather reporting. Regular schedules were established with McMurray
and a full daily complement of weather sequences started to flow to
the 'outside' on the 8th of October 1949.
the period 1949-54 when RC Signals personnel manned the Ennadai Lake
Radio Station they were called upon many times to render medical assistance
to the Kazan River Group of Eskimos which numbered about 45 and were
scattered over a wide area within a radius of approximately 60 miles
from the Ennadai Lake Radio Station. On more than one occasion they
have been credited with saving this Eskimo band from starvation. These
Eskimos were a primitive band and depended entirely on the meat of
the caribou for sustenance for themselves and their dogs, and the
skin of the caribou for their clothing. When the annual caribou migration
by-passed this area, which is 150 miles northwest of Fort Churchill,
in the winter of 1949-50, the Kazan Group was faced with an extremely
critical situation and only the prompt and commendable actions of
Cpl. Joe McIsaac and other RC Signals personnel stationed at Ennadai
Lake saved the band from extinction by starvation. When he became
aware of the situation in April 1950, McIsaac contacted the RCM Police
in Churchill, advised them of the Eskimos predicament and arranged
for the evacuation of the band by air to Neultin Lake, 100 miles southeast
of Ennadai, where caribou and fish were plentiful. McIsaac rounded
up the scattered Eskimos, concentrated them at Ennadai Lake Radio
Station and fed them emergency rations until aircraft arrived and
carried out their evacuation to Neultin Lake.
the rounding up process and on checking the families as they arrived
at Ennadai, it was noticed that one notorious old Eskimo character
named Pongalak was minus his step-son. When questioned he said the
boy, being weak from hunger, had lagged behind on the trail but would
arrive shortly. Suspicious of this story, McIsaac dispatched a party
to back-track on the trail and the boy was found miles from camp,
semi-conscious and unable to walk. He was brought to the Radio Station
and medical advice was obtained by radio from McMurray. He was fed
the prescribed formula of water, salt and sugar, followed shortly
by tea and soup. Within two days he had made a marvellous recovery
and was placed on a solid diet. Subsequent investigation proved that
Pongalak had systematically starved the step-son ever since first
feeling the pinch of privation and had left him on the trail to die,
reasoning that he was an unnecessary burden which would only hinder
his own chances of getting to Ennadai and catching the plane for Neultin
Lake. Undoubtedly the boy owes his life to the prompt action and care
of Signals personnel.
the following Spring of 1951 the whole band had migrated back to the
Ennadai Lake area and Sigs were again faced with the same old problem.
However arrangements were later made with the proper authorities to
improve the living standards of this Eskimo group by supplying them
with rifles, ammunition and traps with which to hunt and trap. Provision
was made to bale their furs at Ennadai and ship them to the RCM Police
in Churchill, who in turn sold the furs, converted the proceeds into
food, ammunition etc which was flown back to Ennadai for distribution
to the Kazan group.
in May 1954, Sgt. Fred Waite, IC Ennadai Lake at that time, saved
this band from being wiped out by influenza. When the epidemic was
discovered Waite advised Churchill by radio and requested that a doctor
be flown in. However weather conditions prevented such a flight and
Waite was forced to assume the role of medico. Acting on radioed instructions
from a qualified doctor in Churchill and using the station's supply
of penicillin and aspirin he ministered to 22 stricken Eskimos, safely
pulling them all through. During this time he developed flu symptoms
himself but managed to carry on. Sgt. Waite's efforts in this case
won him a citation from the Chief of the General Staff which said
"His prompt action and sound judgement were in accordance with
the best principles of medical practice'.
aid was rendered to these Eskimos by Sigs personnel on many other
occasions in cases ranging from plain lead-swinging and simple belly-ache
to blood poisoning and influenza as mentioned above. The mere fact
that the band still exists is a monument to the goodwill, perseverance
and versatility of Signals personnel.
Snare River Hydro Development project had been completed and RC Signals
Radio Station Snare River was closed down in June 1949 so the addition
of stations at Goldfields (Beaverlodge Lake) and Ennadai Lake in July
actually brought the number of stations in operation up one only over
the 1948 total of 23. This total of 24 represented the greatest number
of stations operated at any one time during the life of the System.
This peak was maintained only for a matter of 5 months until December
1949 when Baker Lake was handed over to the Department of Transport
for reasons mentioned previously, and the total number of stations
reverted again to 23.
of the quick thinking and action displayed by Sigs personnel in the
North was the deed performed by Cpl. Bud White at Fort Chipewyan,
Alta. in August 1949 which resulted in him being awarded the King's
Commendation for Brave conduct. Nick Purves, a civilian carpenter
employee of the Royal Canadian Engineers, was swimming In Lake Athabasca
when he was caught in a whirlpool and dragged under. White, an operator
at RC Signals Radio Station, Fort Chipewyan, fishing from nearby dock,
realized Purves was in great danger, dove in and swam to his aid.
Purves had disappeared by this time but, after several dives, White
located him and dragged him to the surface. Sgt. C Rogers, RCE a fishing
companion of White's, brought a skiff to White's assistance and the
unconscious Purves was rushed to shore where he was revived by means
of artificial respiration. Undoubtedly White's prompt action was responsible
for saving Purves' life.