1950 - 1960
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were no station changes during 1950 but demands for trained personnel
for field units in Korea seriously depleted the unit strength resulting
in the curtailment of services rendered at various stations. Most
of the personnel posted to the Active Force Brigade Group were single
and as married accommodations at most northern stations were quite
limited, the problem of suitable replacements was rendered doubly
difficult Some single replacements were supplied, fresh from Group
I training at the School of Signals, but required Meteorological training
and considerable on-the-job experience before being able to carry
their weight so their usefulness was confined mainly to the smaller
stations. A stepped-up program for the construction of more married
quarters in the north was adopted but it would be a year or two before
this would alleviate the situation to any extent.
Army Exercise requirements claimed the services of 13 System personnel
during the first 3 months of the year. Employed at Whitehorse on Exercise
"Sweetbriar" were WO 1 Vince, WO 2s Crowell and O'Ray, Sgt.
Oslund, Sigs Ellis, Jenkins, Mcroberts, Subsbear and Hogan and at
Churchill on Exercise "Sundog " were Maj. McCauley, SSgt.
Runnalls and Sgts. MacKnight and Thibeault
was to strike the System twice during 1950. First, at approximately
midnight 24th April, a private motor car driven by Cpl. Bob McKenzie,
with three other unit personnel as passengers, went out of control
and crashed into a telephone pole 8 blocks south of the Radio Station,
on 127th Street in Edmonton. Sig. Ken Stewart was killed, McKenzie
suffered a broken jaw and chest injuries, Sig. Howe a broken leg and
back injuries and Sig. Newman a broken leg and face lacerations. The
second occasion was late in the evening of 22nd December when Cpl.
Johnny Kot was found dead in a shed at the rear of his home.
fine example of Signals `derring-do' in the north occurred at Hay
River, NWT in May 1950, bringing the award of the King's Commendation
for Brave Conduct to Sig. Mike Carter. On his own initiative and knowing
full well the risk involved, Carter crossed and recrossed the flooded,
ice-jammed mouth of the Hay River, delivering messages and instructions
in connection with a seriously ill Indian woman. Later, when instructions
were received from a doctor to evacuate the woman to Yellowknife Hospital,
Carter again crossed the river and assisted in bringing the patient
back on a stretcher. Brave and selfless acts such as related above
served only to further enhance the fine reputation the System personnel
had been creating throughout the North for close on to 30 years.
Telegraph communications were cut off in Canada from the 22nd to 30th
of August 1950 during the Railway strike. However the operation of
the NWT&Y Radio System was not affected to any great extent. Traffic
which was normally accepted from northern stations and passed to CN
or CP telegraphs in Edmonton for local delivery or furtherance was
now either phoned or mailed from the Edmonton Radio Station if for
local delivery or airmailed to destination if for points beyond Edmonton.
Also, outgoing traffic for northern points was accepted at Edmonton
Radio Station provided it was prepaid. The strike was settled and
normal communications were restored before the situation created any
traffic handled by the above means during the strike period approximated
55% of normal, the percentage drop being attributable of course to
the fact that customers across Canada outside the city of Edmonton
had no means of filing traffic for transmission to stations of the
NWT&Y Radio System, such traffic normally being filed at CN or
CP Telegraph offices which were now closed. Local Edmonton traffic
to and from the north was affected only to a minor degree as extra
phones were put into service at the Edmonton Radio Station to cope
with delivery and acceptance of traffic and extensive use was made
of the mail service.
traffic from Yukon points such as Dawson and Mayo, normally transferred
to the Northwest Communication System (CN) at Whitehorse, dropped
to practically nil when northern Communication System suspended service.
Customers preferred to utilize the excellent airmail facilities between
their points and the 'outside' rather than file a telegram which could
only be handled by normal means as far as Whitehorse, then airmailed
traffic on the System was affected in a small way as transportation
companies business in the north slumped to a certain extent due to
the non-delivery of freight at terminals.
emergency measures adopted by the NWT&Y Radio System for delivery
and acceptance of commercial traffic during the strike period were
quite adequate and could in no way be construed as "strike-breaking
Return to index
in 1950, Active Force Brigade demands continued to deplete the unit
of trained soldier personnel to the extent that it was operating on
75% of its establishment. As no soldier replacements could be expected,
authority was obtained to hire civilians to cover the soldier vacancies
thus affording some measure of relief. These civilians also required
Meteorological training and considerable on-the-job experience before
being able to take their share of the load.
the fact that the System was operating 25% under establishment, there
were still five officers and 200 ORs and civilians on strength which,
by comparison with the total strength of one officer and approximately
50 ORs shortly after the outbreak of World War in 1939, clearly indicated
the expansion which had taken place.
in 1951 it was decided that the interests of the Army would be better
served if the responsibility for communications in Whitehorse, and
from there to Dawson and Mayo, be transferred from the NWT&Y Radio
Station to the Canadian Army Signal System under direct control of
the Northwest Highway System Headquarters (Whitehorse). There were
various reasons for this decision, mainly the fact that the Army's
operational status in Whitehorse had increased since 1946 to the extent
that it was now filing approximately 60% of the total traffic handled
by the Whitehorse Radio Station. Also, all commercial traffic received
from Dawson and Mayo and commercial traffic filed locally for Edmonton
and points beyond must be transmitted over the commercial company
landline facilities now available, therefore the NWT&Y Radio System
had no good reason for maintaining wireless communication between
Whitehorse and Edmonton.
effective the 1st of June 1951, the Whitehorse Radio Station operated
by the NWT&Y Radio System since 1935, was deleted from the System
establishment. Although now a CASS station, Whitehorse was still responsible
for relaying traffic to and from the System stations at Dawson and
Mayo and was responsible directly to the OC NWT&Y Radio System
for the accounting for commercial traffic and revenue and, the handling
of Department of Transport weather reports. The only channel of communication
between System Headquarters and Whitehorse was now through the Edmonton
Major Tape Relay and over the leased landline facilities of the CASS.
deletion of Whitehorse brought the System station strength down to
in June 1951, the System lost four prominent personnel, well-known
throughout the Signal Corps, when their applications for commissions
were accepted. Selected for a Classified Commission was WO 1 Hugh
"Snoot" Ross , famous primarily for his prominent proboscis
and secondarily as an operator at Fort Norman in the 1930s, IC McMurray
in the 1940s and IC Yellowknife at the time of selection. The other
three were candidates for Short Service Commissions. They were: SSgt.
Ron routledge, winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his exploits
with a secret radio transmitter in a Jap prisoner-of-war camp after
the fall of Hong Kong; Cpl. Joe McIsaac, whose ready wit and inimitable
style of writing when reporting the 'notes of Interest' from the various
isolated northern stations had delighted countless readers for a number
of years; and Cpl. Bud White, winner of the King's Commendation for
Brave conduct in the rescue of a man from drowning at Fort Chipewyan
two years before. They would be sorely missed and were but the first
of many to depart the System in the next few years to become officers.
Return to index
manpower situation continued to worsen during 1952 as more qualified
NCOs were posted to the Active Brigade and the few replacements provided,
being trained only to Field Unit Level, lacked the ability to operate
at a satisfactory rate of speed. Attempts were made to hire civilian
operators but suitably qualified ones, willing to serve in the north,
were very hard to find, especially in view of the fact that the Department
of Transport was also on the search for operators and at a much higher
rate of pay.
shortage of Radio Mechanics was also acute and it was necessary to
form an inspection and repair tem based in Edmonton to visit all stations
at regular intervals carrying out technical inspections, maintenance
the System's overall commitments were steadily increasing with the
volume of commercial traffic being up 19,000 messages over the previous
year. This appreciable increase was due largely to the frenzied interest
in Uranium, centred in the Beaverlodge Lake area of northern Saskatchewan
and in base metals in the Mayo, YT area. In fact, at times, the dally
volume of commercial traffic handled to and from Beaverlodge Lake
exceeded that handled collectively by the rest of the System but generally
amounted to approximately 30% of the total System commercial traffic.
partially offset the increasing difficulties encountered in properly
carrying out the commitments with the establishment so far under strength
it was decided that the responsibility for operating some of the smaller,
more isolated stations where weather reporting was the main function
should be shouldered by the Department of Transport.
this manner it was hoped to make operators available for posting to
the larger stations where their services were more urgently required.
It had been found necessary to increase the staff of Beaverlodge Lake
Radio Station from two to five to cope with the increase in business
at that point. Other stations were in similar straits.
Radio Station, taken over by RC Signals from US Signals in November
1944, was the first station to go on the abovementioned basis and
was handed over to Department of Transport on 1st June 1952. Other
stations would follow as and when the Department of Transport was
able to provide the personnel to man them.
loss of Embarras reduced the System station strength to 2 1.
policy of equipping as many as possible of the married quarters with
furniture at Department of Defence expense in order to facilitate
posting of married personnel to and from northern stations was continued
during 1952. Eleven sets of furniture were shipped to such stations
as Norman wells, Simpson, Resolution, Providence, Brochet and Fort
Smith, bringing to 22 the total number of married quarters completely
numerous improvements were made at various stations, mainly to the
antenna systems, control lines and emergency power equipment, while
at Headquarters in Edmonton most of the equipment for the installation
of low and high frequency radioteletype at Edmonton, Yellowknife,
Smith, Simpson and Norman Wells was received.
the long-hoped-for advance from hand-keyed circuits to radioteletype
operation about to become a reality, arrangements were made with the
US Signal Corps in June 1952 for the TMO, Capt. Walt Stevenson and
his Foreman of Signals WO 1 Don Bastock to visit the Alaskan Communication
System Headquarters in Seattle, Washington to study the radioteletype
equipment and circuits in operation there. The week of 17-2 1 June
was spent in this endeavour and much useful knowledge was obtained.
year also saw three more Warrant Officers selected for Classified
Commissions thereby depleting the ranks of the brass-pounders still
WO 2 Cy Jones, who had been in charge at Norman Wells off and on since
June 1946, (he and Bastock seemed to have this station cornered, the
command having alternated between them at least twice during this
period) was relieved by Sgt. "Nancy" McPherson, commissioned
and posted off the System.
WO 2 Gordie Ingram, a pre-war System vet, who had just relinquished
command at Aklavik and assumed similar duties at Fort Simpson, was
commissioned and posted to Edmonton, taking over the duties of System
TMO vice Capt. Walt Stevenson, who had been in ill health and was
now returned to the RCS of S.
to culminate the year's personnel sabotage, WO 2 Gordie Drinnan, another
pre-war System vet, now employed as a shift supervisor at the control
station in Edmonton, was selected for similar up-grading. On commissioning,
Lt. Drinnan was used to cover the unit Quartermaster vacancy. This
vacancy had existed since 1951, when Capt. Johnny Johnston was retired
due to ill health thus throwing an extremely heavy extra burden on
the CO and 21C in the interim.
policy of bringing out certain selected personnel from northern stations
for Diesel Mechanic training at Union Tractor Company, Edmonton was
continued, with 8 men satisfactorily completing their courses during
the year. This type of training had commenced in the late '40s and
consisted usually of two months practical maintenance and repair work
under the guidance of experienced Diesel Mechanics in the Union Tractor
sharp decrease in the number of power plant failures at stations where
such personnel were employed readily showed the value of the training.
Return to index
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system's 30th anniversary year saw no change in the number of stations
in operation. However great strides were made in the expansion of
radioteletype facilities at some of the larger stations.
of high frequency RTT transmissions between Edmonton and Yellowknife,
which had been carried out spasmodically since 1946, and finally borne
fruit. Many technical difficulties had overcome, modifications made
to the equipment and antennae, and traffic was now being handled both
ways with a good percentage of reliability. In addition, low frequency
RTT equipment had been installed at Edmonton and Yellowknife, which
increased the flexibility of the circuit tremendously.
year's end both low and high frequency RTT circuits were also in operation
between Edmonton and Fort Smith while Fort Simpson and Norman Wells,
the other two main stations, patiently awaited receipt of certain
items of equipment from Ordnance to complete similar RTT installations.
old dyed-in-the-wool brass-pounders did not readily accept new-fangled,
60 word-a-minute, automatic equipment, in fact they looked upon it
with contempt and scorned its use unless supervised closely by wiser
superiors. Eventually however even the most bitter unbeliever was
grudgingly forced to admit that, despite numerous re runs when conditions
were poor, R TT operation was far superior to the fastest hand-keyed
die-hard Morse operators had their chance to gloat though on many
occasions during the summer months when high frequency blackouts and
extremely heavy atmospherics on low frequencies rendered the RTT circuits
utterly useless for hours at a time and sometimes for several days
on end. At such times it was still possible to switch over to CW and
pass intelligence between stations. Granted it was a slow arduous
procedure, sometimes calling for the transmission of each word two
or three times, but nevertheless it was possible to keep urgent traffic,
such as aircraft movement reports, cleared, until conditions returned
to normal on the RTT circuits.
such exasperating periods when the keyboard operators sat around twiddling
their thumbs while the Morse operators kept the traffic moving slowly,
one important fact became quite clear, namely the versatility of the
Morse operator. Under normal conditions he was not only expected to
function on the CW circuits, but also do his share of key work on
the RTT circuits. He was quite capable of this dual role. The reverse
was not true in the case of the keyboard operator having no knowledge
of Morse, was limited to his own trade and the moment the RTT circuits
became inoperative he became ineffective until such time as they were
improvement that took place at most stations on the System during
1953 was the replacement of military pattern vehicles by commercial
pattern, Four Dodge 4 X 4 trucks were retained for use at Dawson,
Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and Yellowknife because of the rugged terrain
over which the vehicles must operate. Seven commercial half-ton panel
trucks and one station wagon were shipped to northern stations while
two half-ton panels, one station wagon, one 3-ton stake truck and
one 114-ton utility truck were taken into use at Headquarters in Edmonton.
The conversion simplified the vehicle maintenance and repair problem
especially at northern locations where only the services of civilian
garages were available.
January and February the facilities of the Norman Wells Radio Station
were used for Neutral Sigs purposed in connection with Army Exercise
"Bulldog 1 ". The aim of this Exercise was for friendly
airborne assault troops to dislodge enemy paratroops which had previously
captured the Imperial Oil Refinery and all important installations
in the area including the RC Signals transmitter and receiver sites.
System personnel from Edmonton, WO 1 Cal Vince acting as Signalmaster,
WO 2 Ed Newnham, operator and WO 2 Walt Dawson and Sgt. Jack French
as radio mechanics bolstered the station staff during the exercise.
Yellowknife, the interchange of weather traffic between the Department
of Transport weather office at the airport and the RC Signals Radio
Station was speeded up considerably by the installation of a teletype
loop to replace the FM radiotelephone link.
considerable attention was given to improving antenna systems. Beveridge
antennas were erected by technical maintenance personnel at Brochet,
Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and Yellowknife.
in the year SSgt. Ozzie Oslund, in charge at Fort Simpson achieved
some measure of distinction by being chosen to attend a Foreman of
Signals course in England.
was not a particularly exciting year for the 30th Anniversary but
nevertheless a busy and satisfying one.
Return to index
in January, in a quest for further knowledge of radioteletype operation
which was still much of a mystery to most of the System personnel
Maj. Charlie Jessop and Lt. Gordie Ingram paid a week's visit to the
US Signal Corps Alaska Communication System Headquarters in Seattle.
Information gained there assisted materially in completing the RTT
installations at Norman Wells and Fort Simpson, and improving the
circuits already in operation. By July, both low and high frequency
RTT circuits were put into service between Edmonton-Norman Wells and
Edmonton-Fort Simpson. Also three 2.5 KW Wilcox transmitters (HF)
were put into use at Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells. This
meant that the five main stations, Edmonton, Fort Smith, Yellowknife,
Fort Simpson and Norman Wells were now right up-to date as regards
communication equipment and capable of coping with any foreseeable
volume of traffic.
all these technical improvements were taking place, the Unit Quartermaster's
staff had not been idle. The conversion of all northern stations from
self-accounting sub-units to distribution areas of Unit OM at Headquarters
was steadily being carried out. OM representatives visited each station
carrying out station audits and conversion . The changeover was completed
in February. The new accounting procedure resulted in a more efficient
method for handling stores and equipment.
more sets of PMO furniture were shipped north bringing to 26 the total
number of furnished PMQs. These PMQs were located at: Aklavik - 2;
Brochet - 1; Dawson - 1; Fort Good Hope - 2; Fort Norman - 2; Fort
Providence - 1; Fort Resolution - 3; Fort Simpson - 4; Fort Smith
- 4; Norman Wells - 4; Port Radium - 1; and Wrigley - 1. An additional
5 sets were ordered for delivery in 1955.
oil-heating, running water and complete furniture now available, living
in quarters on a northern station had lost all the fearsome pioneering
aspects of 20 and more years ago. During the old days one bucked,
split and piled one's annual supply of firewood, hauled drinking water
in pails from the nearest unpolluted well, sometimes up to half a
mile distant, melted snow in a tub all day Saturday to obtain enough
water for the weekly communal bath and performed many other intriguing
little chores. In fact all modem refinements of city life could now
be found at all except the most remote northern stations.
of new antenna systems, control lines etc had become too great a task
for the limited technical maintenance staff to contend with the 1954
program so a 7-man line crew was brought in from RCS of S at Kingston
to assist. This crew was busily employed at various stations from
the 1st of May right through until 'freeze-up' in late October.
Quartermaster and Technical Maintenance Sections of Unit Headquarters
had been fast outgrowing their accommodations and the point had been
reached when something must be done about it. It was decided that
combining the two departments in one new building would result in
the more efficient operation of both. Therefore plans were drawn up
on this basis, approval obtained and tenders called for a combined
QM/TM building with construction to start in 1955.
the traffic department peak volume was reached 10- 11 August, when
HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh was in the Northwest Territories on his
aerial tour of Northern Canada. A press party of approximately 20
accompanied HRH in order that full coverage would be given to his
every activity. Signals prepared themselves well in advance for the
expected deluge of press reports by sending in extra personnel to
Fort Simpson, Port Radium and Yellowknife, all scheduled as stops
for the Royal Tour.
small aerial armada was required to move the complete party. The RCAF
supplied 5 Cansos, 2 Mitchells and 2 Dakotas; the RCM Police one Norseman
and Wardair, Yellowknife, one Otter on floats.
Complete air-ground coverage was supplied to this fleet by RC Signals
stations at Fort Simpson and Port Radium. This was quite a task.
August is the peak traffic month of the year with conditions usually
at their poorest and this year was no exception. However despite adverse
conditions, well in excess of 20,000 words of press, in addition to
normal commitments, were handled with a minimum of delay during the
2-day tour period. Thousands of words, in addition to those handled
by Sigs, were written by the prolific fourth-estaters during the same
period but mercifully this over abundance was flown to Edmonton by
a RCAF Silver Starjet courier.
no noticeable weeping or gnashing of teeth the Signals Territorial
Eskimo Medical Clinic otherwise known as RC Signals Radio Station,
Ennadai Lake, was turned over to the Department of Transport on the
18th of September 1954. All equipment on the station, except stores
of an exclusive military nature, were handed over.
operation, maintenance and administration of this station had been
extremely difficult during its five-year existence due mainly to its
remoteness. Those difficulties were further complicated by the almost
continuous necessity of rendering aid to the Kazan River group of
Eskimos living in the area, to save them from extinction by sickness
loss of Ennadai Lake left the System with 20 stations in operation.
semi-annual inspection trips to all northern stations had been carried
out by the CO or his representative over the years, during which station
and personnel problems were discussed, there had always appeared to
be need for the station commanders to meet centrally in order to exchange
views on common difficulties encountered and to iron out inter-station
was decided that the ideal solution would be to bring all the station
commanders out to Edmonton at the same time once a year for this purpose
and in addition bring them up-to-date on all operational and administrative
matters pertaining to northern stations of the System.
was born the first NWT&Y Radio System Station Commanders Course
which was conducted at Headquarters from 29th November to 10th December
were made with the RCAF to pick up personnel involved at Norman Wells,
Simpson, Yellowknife and Fort Smith where they had been assembled
from the smaller stations by other means. Return arrangements were
of a similar nature.
course syllabus included lectures of Administration, Stores Accounting,
Traffic Handling and Accounting and Technical Maintenance all given
by NWT&Y Radio System Headquarters department heads. In addition,
outside sources were called upon to provide lectures on such related
subjects as Army Works Services, Weather Reporting, Ground Observer
Duties in regard to Unidentified Aircraft and Flying Objects and pay
and Pension matters. Many free discussion periods were allowed for
in connection with each subject during which all uncertainties and
problems were thrashed out and clarified. Refresher Marching and Drill
periods were also held.
course was considered a complete success which would not only benefit
the station commanders individually but result in a smoother and more
efficient operation of the System as a whole.
Return to index
Exercise "Bulldog N" was carried out in the Yellowknife
area during the latter part of February '55 with the NWT&Y Radio
System supplying the Neutral communication links. For this purpose
Sgt. Bill Brownlee and Cpl.s Cyd Carr and Gill Kaye were flown into
Yellowknife and Sgt. Bud Stevens into Fort Smith (the relay point
whenever direct Yellowknife-Edmonton communication became difficult).
also saw the commencement of construction on the Distant Early Warning
System project, more commonly known as the "DEW Line", along
the Canadian Arctic coast. The portion of the DEW Line which was to
use NWT&Y Radio System communication facilities to the utmost
during the construction period extended from Cambridge Bay on the
east to the Alaskan border on the west and consisted of a number of
radar sites. Two of these sites were control stations; Cambridge Bay,'
responsible for the eastern half,' worked into Sigs Yellowknife and
Cape Parry,' responsible for the western half, worked into Sigs Norman
the bulk of equipment and supplies for the DEW Line sites was airlifted
on a round-the-clock basis, more and more weather information and
increased air-ground-air coverage were required from the NWT&Y
Radio System stations. In addition, as Marconi Company, sub-contractor
to Western Electric Company on the DEW Line, installed communication
equipment at various sites" they in turn began filing hourly
weather reports which were passed through their control stations to
the RC Signals relay stations, thence to the forecast office in Edmonton.
Many extra hourly reports and forecasts were also passed from Edmonton
north for use at the various airports.
circuits from RC Signals at Norman Wells and Yellowknife to the DEW
Line control stations at Cape parry and Cambridge Bay were hand-keyed
and unable to handle this additional weather information, the increased
air movement traffic and the tremendous volume of construction traffic
properly. Therefore Marconi Company supplied and installed radio teletype
equipment in their Cape Parry and Cambray control stations as well
as in the RC Signals relays at Norman Wells and Yellowknife, thus
relieving the congestion on these circuits.
the Edmonton end it was also necessary to supplement the existing
equipment to keep the heavy volume of traffic moving smoothly. Western
Electric Company installed a Model 19 Teletypewriter and tying reperforator
on the Edmonton Radio Station end of the pony loop to the offices
of Northern Construction Company, as well as typing reperforators
on the receive circuits from Norman Wells and Yellowknife. The installation
of this equipment meant that traffic to and from the DEW line could
now be handled entirely by automatic tape transmission at 60 wpm resulting
in a marked increase in speed and efficiency.
improve the weather information available for aircraft involved in
the DEW Line airlift, the Department of Transport decided to open
a forecast office in Yellowknife in August 1955 and called upon the
NWT&Y Radio System of course to handle the large volume of various
types of weather reports required for such an office to function.
Since the RTT equipment in use was not adapted for the transmission
of weather symbols and all-weather traffic was handled by the hand
keyed circuits, it was not possible to carry out such a commitment
fully until such time as the Department of Transport provided weather
symbol keyboards for the RTT equipment at Edmonton, Fort Smith, Yellowknife,
Fort Simpson and Norman Wells. This was done early in 1956 and full
use was made then of the RTT equipment for the dissemination of weather
information between the weather office in Edmonton and the four main
increase in aircraft movement also created air-ground-air service
problems. RC Signals installations were located anywhere from 4 to
14 miles from the airports at the main northern towns boasting all
weather fields so it was becoming increasingly impracticable for them
to control aircraft movements at these points. The Department of Transport
however was located right at the airports in question, operating Radio
Range stations and doing field maintenance, so it decided that they
were in a much better position to exercise the necessary aircraft
movement control By the end of May the Department had taken over all
air-ground-air communications at McMurray, Fort Smith and Yellowknife,
while Canadian Pacific Air Lines assumed the same responsibilities
at Norman Wells. This of course relieved the pressure on the Sigs
staffs at these stations a great deal and they were able to handle
their other heavy traffic commitments much more efficiently.
Sigs stations such as Fort Simpson and Port Radium were less fortunate,
their air-ground-air and beacon services being called upon 24 hours
daily for most of the year. Things were really hopping at Headquarters
in Edmonton also, especially during the peak traffic months of July
and August when it was not an uncommon sight to see the Signalmaster,
Lt. Gord Drinnan, Chief Operator WO 1 Cal Vince, and even the CO,
Lt. Col. Don Grant on occasion, shoulder to shoulder with the operators,
pounding brass, perfing tape, checking traffic or performing any of
the many operating room duties, in order to keep the wheels turning
smoothly, avoid delays and prevent pile-ups.
in April 1955 the Unit Quartermaster Stores were moved to temporary
quarters in an unused RCAF warehouse at the northeast end of Edmonton
Municipal Airport so that construction could be started on the new
combined QM/TM building at unit headquarters. The original plans for
this building called for extensions to the existing QM building on
the south and west sides. Work commenced on the 31st May and was progressing
satisfactorily with the excavation completed, cement for footings
and basement walls poured when, on June 19th, the south and west walls
of the old OM building collapsed into the new excavation. This of
course brought construction work to a halt pending a decision as to
what action should be taken now. Eventually the balance of the collapsed
building was demolished and removed. Plans were drawn up then for
a complete new building, construction of which would not commence
until the following year.
Signals Radio Station, Wrigley was turned over to the Department of
Transport on the 3rd May 1955, thus terminating one of the most unique
services rendered by any station of the NWT&Y Radio System during
its existence. You will recall that when Wrigley was re-opened in
'48 Sigs assumed all airstrip maintenance duties such as grading,
rolling, snow-ploughing, etc. This handover brought the System strength
down to nineteen.
second Station Commander's Course was conducted at Headquarters Edmonton
from 28 Nov - 9 Dec with 15 of the 18 northern station commanders
attending. Transportation difficulties made it impossible for the
other 3 to participate. Again the course was considered a complete
success - of mutual benefit to the individuals and the System as a
A glance at traffic figures for the year ending 31st December 1955
revealed that 300, 000 more messages had been handled by the System
that in 1954, for an increase in estimated revenue of $620,000.00.
This 42% increase in traffic was mainly due to the DEW Line project
Return to index
of the least known or appreciated services performed by System personnel
in the north was that of Ground Observers for the RCAF which entailed
the immediate reporting by "flash" message to Air Force
Defence Headquarters in Vancouver all sightings of unidentified aircraft
or flying objects. A fine example of the conscientious manner in which
those duties were carried out was provided by WO 2 Bill Morris, Station
Commander RC Signals Port Radium and given proper recognition in January
1956. A "flash" report originated by Morris had been instrumental
in alerting defensive forces participating in Joint Aerial Defence
Exercise "Cracker Jack" held in December 1955 and had contributed
considerably to the success of the exercise. For his efforts in this
regard, Morris received letters of commendation from General E Partridge,
USAF Commander, Northwest Aerial Defences, Air Vice Marshal LW Wrag,
RCAF, Assistant Commander and Major General C Vokes, General Officer
Commanding Western Army Command. This recognition was not only gratifying
to Morris but to all volunteer Ground Corps observers as it brought
home the fact that one of their routine unidentified aircraft sighting
reports might some day be responsible for, saving our continent from
surprise aerial attack.
18th of February 1956 saw the System pruned to eighteen stations with
the handover of Brochet to the Department of Transport. This station,
in operation since 1948, had always been a difficult one to administer
and maintain due to its location and accessibility from Edmonton.
Line airlift activities continued to increase and in mid February
it became necessary to have RC Signals Aklavik join Fort Simpson and
Port Radium in providing 24-hour dally beacon and air-ground-air services
to assist the military and civilian aircraft flying equipment to the
DEW Line sites.
during February, Aircraft Advisory Centres were set up at Norman Wells,
Yellowknife, Cape Parry and Cambridge Bay. Flight Plans on all aircraft
engaged in the DEW Line airlift were passed to these centres as well
as to Air Traffic Control in Edmonton in order to keep a closer check
on all phases of the extensive operation and thus increase the safety
factor. This procedure boosted traffic considerably, to what extent
is not exactly known but it probably was a good portion of the 100%
increase noted in all types of traffic handled during the year 1956.
of bringing the System up to full strength once more were revived
when anew establishment was authorized in February. This establishment
provided for the conversion of 58 soldier vacancies to Part V Civilian
Positions and the local Civil Service Commission was asked to spare
no effort in filling these vacancies as quickly as possible. This
was to be a long drawn out process however as civilians with the necessary
qualifications and willing to serve in the north were not easy to
System stations, Aklavik and Norman Wells were favoured with a visit
from the Governor General of Canada, Rt. Hon Vincent Massey, in the
course of his tour of Northern Canada and the DEW Line during the
latter part of March and early April. All members of the station staffs
were presented to him. Special arrangements were made for the expeditious
clearance of traffic and press releases over the System throughout
the tour with Aklavik handling 20,000 words of press and Norman Wells,
14,000 words, most of which was relayed from the DEW Line sites through
June Hay River became the first System station to utilize UHF for
air-ground-air communications. Pacific Western Air Lines, engaged
in the DEW Line airlift, Canadian Pacific Air Lines on regular northern
airmail and passenger service and DEW Line airlift, plus RC Signals,
had all been involved in providing air-ground-air communications in
this area. This multiplicity was considered inefficient and it was
agreed that one agency should provide this service. Since the RC Signals
station at Hay River was open 24 hours dally in the normal course
of operations, it was decided that it should assume this responsibility.
Owning to interference in the area, the System air-ground-air transmit
(4355 Kcs) and receive (3023.5 Kcs) channels were none too reliable
so Pacific Western Airlines agreed to supplement the Sigs HF equipment
with VHF equipment, operating on 122.2 Mcs. The new service, on both
HF and VHF channels, went into operation on the 22nd of June.
the end of July 1956, construction on the western section of the DEW
Line was practically completed and the Marconi Company circuit from
Cape Parry to RC Signals Norman Wells was closed down. Henceforth
all DEW Line traffic would be handled over the Yellowknife Cambridge
Bay circuit. At the same time Canadian Pacific Air Lines moved their
base of operations for the DEW Line airlift from Norman Wells to Yellowknife.
These changes brought deep sighs of relief from Sigs personnel at
Norman Wells who had been working under terrific pressure since the
commencement of DEW Line construction well over a year before.
one of the hottest months of the year, was just a little hotter at
Aklavik, as fire totally destroyed the transmitter building and all
equipment therein on 2nd August. Fortunately a standby transmitter
had been installed in the main station building for such an emergency
and it was possible to maintain limited communications and services
while replacement equipment was being obtained. Spare equipment was
shipped from Norman Wells, Fort Simpson, Chipewyan and Edmonton, installed
and normal operations were resumed on the 12th of September. Investigation
revealed that the fire could have been caused by a lack of proper
insulation and clearance where the transmitting antennae feeders passed
through the wall of the building. Steps were immediately taken to
ensure no recurrence of the same nature by the installation of adequately
insulated panels and proper feed-through bowls at all stations of
Sunday 14th October sorrow descended on the System once again when
Sig. Budd, EB, of Western Command Signals Regiment, was electrocuted
at Fort Smith while carrying out repairs to RC Signals control cable
there. The control cable was strung on a pole line also used by Northern
Canada Power Commission for a high voltage power line and Budd accidentally
came in contact with the lethal high voltage.
3rd annual Station Commander's Course, attended by 13 WOs and NCOs
from northern stations was successfully carried out from the 19th
to 30th November.
handled was double that of the previous year, amounting to 2,554,207
messages of all types, for a whopping estimated value of $5,115,5
77.00 while the cost of operating the System for the same period was
year closed with the System still under strength to the extent of
37 personnel despite strenuous efforts to fill the new Part V Civilian
Return to index
rapid falling off of DEW Line traffic was noted during January 1957.
This was due to the setting up of a permanent DEW Line circuit utilizing
VHF Forward Scatter Propagation between Cambridge Bay and Fort Nelson,
BC. This circuit was proving to be very reliable and the bulk of the
DEW Line traffic previously routed via RC Signals Yellowknife was
now being handled in this manner with a Private Wire connection to
the Edmonton offices. By early summer a pony loop had been installed
between the Department of Transport and the station at Fort Nelson
and the weather reports were now being handled by this means, in fact
practically all DEW Line traffic was now passing over their own facilities.
the DEW Line assumed its own communication chores and more experienced
operators were required and were offered fabulous salaries, in the
range of $ 750.00 - $900. 00 a month for service in the north, with
the result that the System's already poor personnel situation was
further complicated as some of the more mercenary minded soldier and
civilian operators sought greener pastures
and Mayo stations experienced a few tense days around mid-May as dangerous
flood conditions existed in both areas. Heavy winter snows and a sudden
May thaw causing an early breakup of the Yukon, Klondike, Mayo and
Stewart Rivers created the abnormally high waters. At Dawson one PMQ
and a Butler hut warehouse were flooded, otherwise there was no damage
to Sigs installations and very little throughout the rest of the town
as all hands turned out to build emergency dikes. Forty thousand sand
bags were filled and used for this purpose before the waters receded
and the danger passed on 28th may.
Mayo the situation was a little more critical The basements of all
Sigs buildings were cleared of equipment and stores and arrangements
made to continue operations from the transmitter site, which was on
higher ground, if it became necessary to evacuate the main station
building. help was obtained from the United Keno Hill Mine and the
river banks and radio station dyked with gravel Basements of all Sigs
accommodations were kept clear by means of sump pumps and additional
pumps flown in from Whitehorse and Edmonton until the recession of
the flood waters on 26th May. If the waters had risen any higher it
would have been necessary to carry out plans to evacuate the lower
section of the town.
the same time, over on the Mackenzie River at Norman Wells, personnel
of the RC Signals station could have used a few thousand gallons of
the Yukon flood waters handily. While burning off the dead grass at
the transmitter site, the fire got out of hand and did considerable
damage to the transmitter building before personnel were able to bring
it under control however damage to the equipment was negligible, the
transmitters only being off air for three and a half hours during
which time contact was maintained with Edmonton over the Department
of Transport Radio Range circuit. As the fella once said - despite
hell and high water - Signals carry on!
had been laid by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources
over the last 2 or 3 years to move the town of Aklavik from its low-lying
location on the Mackenzie River Delta to a site on higher ground.
The site chosen for this purpose was 35 miles east of Aklavik and
known as Aklavik East Three (eventually officially named Inuvik in
1958, and pronounced In-00-vik, accent on second syllable). Construction
on the various buildings and services had commenced the year before
and by Spring of '57 activities had reached the point where it was
imperative that the contractors and various Government Departments
involved have some reliable on-the spot communications. At the request
of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources and the
Department of Public Works, the Department of National Defence undertook
to provide this much needed service.
the 12th of June 1957, RC Signals Radio Station, Aklavik East Three
was opened by Cpl. 'Pete' Gray who had been posted from the Yellowknife
Radio Station. Accommodation for Gray and station equipment, consisting
of a 100B LF transmitter, AT3 HF transmitter and two AR88 receivers,
was provided by the Department of Public Works. Traffic and aircraft
activity at East Three steadily increased during the year to the point
where the services of a second operator were definitely warranted
but none could be made available until the following summer. However
in the meantime, in a mistaken effort to ease his plight, Gray was
issued a GI bicycle of uncertain vintage with which to expedite his
deliveries. This metal monstrosity became the bane of his existence
and the townspeople soon became used to seeing him wandering about
the tundra at all hours of the day and night, carrying the bicycle
more often than riding it and babbling of the injustices of man to
man, in his quest of elusive addressees.
station was the last to be opened by RC Signals in the north prior
to commencement of the complete handover of the System to the Department
of Transport in the Fall of '58. The opening brought the number of
stations in operation once more up to nineteen.
the Edmonton receiving station was originally located on the northern
outskirts of the city, industrial and residential developments had
surrounded this area. In order to maintain noise-free reception it
now became necessary to either move the station or remote antennae
to a noise-free area. It was decided to test the feasibility of installing
antennae at a remote site and feeding signals over a coaxial cable
to the receivers at the existing station location. Special low and
high frequency loop antennae were supplied and installed by Electronics
Laboratories of Canada, Vancouver, BC, at the Department of Transport
receiving site, four miles north of Sigs receiver station. The cable
installation was completed and comprehensive tests commenced during
the month of June. Prior to the styroflex coaxial cable installation,
Capt. Ralph Kerr, WO 2 Walter Tomlinson and Sgt. 'Doc' Tweed attended
a familiarization course at the Communications Products Company plant
in Marlboro, New Jersey. Here they received instruction in the proper
handling and installation procedures for the styroflex which was manufactured
by this Company.
System stations were called upon to contribute in a small way to the
International Geophysical Year Programme of the Defence Research Board.
During July, special recording equipment was installed by Defence
Research Board at Fort Good Hope and Yellowknife. RC Signals personnel
at these stations were instructed in the operation and routine maintenance
of this equipment and undertook its operation for the next year.
in September '57 initial advice was received at System Headquarters
that the Federal Government had ordered the handover of the System
from the Department of National Defence to the Department of Transport.
Immediately work was commenced on the preparation of various summaries
dealing with the operation of the System. These summaries covered
such items as details of Equipment and Operations, Facilities and
Services provided, Cost of Operation, Revenue from Commercial Traffic,
Estimated Revenue of Traffic handled for Department of National Defence
and other Government Departments and a plan for the handover which
would not affect the efficiency of the services provided by the System.
die was cast and Signals were to leave the north after many years
of noteworthy service in its opening up. It appeared from the initial
planning that it would take approximately 2 years to effect the handover
and no change from the normal routine would become apparent to Sigs
for some time yet.
The Defence Research Board had been experimenting with Low Power VHF
Scatter Communication Systems in conjunction with Ferranti Electric
Limited of Toronto and now requested the cooperation of the NWT&Y
Radio System in operating a test circuit of this type of wave propagation
between Edmonton and Yellowknife. This project was to be known as
"JANET". Little is known by the writer of the principles
of this type of propagation but it is believed that it is basically
dependent upon the existence of meteor trails in the upper air which
permits a path for transmitted signals. The intelligence to be transmitted
is taped up on a standard teleprinter keyboard and stored in a portion
of the equipment known as the "memory box". When the meteor
trail conditions are right the transmitter is automatically turned
on which in turn triggers the receiver at the distant station and
transmission is carried out at the amazing speed of 1400 WPM as long
as the meteor trail conditions remain suitable. The received intelligence
tape is then fed from the receiver terminal "memory box"
through a converter and translated into print on a standard 60 WPM
teleprinter. In preparation for the operation of the "JANET"
test circuit, Capt. Kerr and Sgt. Bell of the Edmonton Technical Maintenance
Section and Cpl. Halversen, Radio Mech. at Yellowknife spent the month
of August 195 7 at the Ferranti Electric Limited Laboratories in Toronto
on a course to familiarize them with Low Power VHF Scatter Communication
Systems. Initial equipment for the "JANET" project was received
from the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment QRTE) at
Shirley Bay, Ottawa in September and installation work was carried
out at Edmonton and Yellowknife by the System personnel trained for
the purpose. Testing however was not to commence until early in 1958
under the supervision of Ferranti and DRTE engineers.
operators were under the impression that 1956 had been the System's
peak traffic year but when 1957s figures were compiled they proved
this to be in error by a fairly wide margin. An all-time high of 3,172,628
messages were handled in 1957 for an estimated total value of $5,235,042.33,
despite the loss of DEW Line traffic during the year. This represented
618,421 more messages handled than in 1956 for an increase in estimated
revenue of $120,000.00. Offsetting the DEW Line traffic loss of course
was that gained from the feverish activity at the new Aklavik town
site of Aklavik East Three and a commercial development boom in the
Fort Smith area. Return
Return to index
Exercise "Bulldog IV" was carried out in the Wainwright,
Alta. area during the week of February 10-14, 1958 with NWT&Y
Radio System cooperating to the extent of supplying high and low frequency
equipment and an operating position in the Edmonton Radio Station.
From here, personnel of 1 Airborne Signals Troop operated LF and HF
circuits with the "heavy drop platform " in the DZ area
at Camp Wainwright. Late in February the new QM/TM building was finally
completed, accepted from the contractor by 13 Works Coy RCE and handed
over to NWT&Y Radio System. Jubilation was rife amongst the QM
staff which had been in exile at the northeast end of the Municipal
Airport for the last three years patiently awaiting this great day.
In fact some of them exhibited the same tell-tale symptoms noted in
personnel coming out from a remote northern station after a tour of
duty of the same duration, that is to say, they were slightly "bushed".
Nevertheless, in less time than it takes to tell, they had all stores
and equipment moved and were comfortably settled in the eastern half
of the fine new building and were rapidly becoming re-adjusted to
the amenities of civilization once more.
the same time, the "brain-trust" or Technical Maintenance
Section was busily engaged occupying the Western half of the building.
It was none too soon either as all these highly strung, temperamental
individuals were developing claustrophobia from long incarceration
in the close confines of the old Married Quarters building. Needless
to say, both sections were very happy with their new accommodations.
of the Edmonton- Yellowknife "JANET" circuit began in March.
Results were poor with a very high error rate in the test intelligence
passed. Engineers JH Crysdale, from DRTE and SJ Gladys, from Ferranti
Electric arrived in Edmonton in June to try and iron out the difficulties.
They immediately condemned the Headquarters site as unsuitable due
to the high noise level and moved the "JANET" equipment
to the Department of Transport remote receiver site, 4 miles north
of Edmonton Radio Station. Results from this location were somewhat
better but, during a period of wireless 'blackout' from 7th to 10th
July, no signals were received which indicated that the circuit was
not operating on meteor trails and that transmission was not reliable
under severe ionospheric disturbances. Testing was discontinued late
in July with the departure of Crysdale and Gladys. All of the "JANET"
equipment was turned over to Alberta Signals Squadron for re-activation
at a later date.
of the LF and HF loop antennae located at the Department of Transport
receiver site and fed by styroflex coaxial cable to the Edmonton receiver
site was completed in August. Results of the tests were forwarded
to Army Headquarters for a decision as to whether this type of equipment
would be adopted or not. Pending such a decision the styroflex cable
was recovered and turned over to Alberta Signal Squadron along with
the associated equipment.
18th, 1958 dawned bright and clear but it was a black day for Signals
in the north. On this date RC Signals Radio Station, McMurray, Alta.
was handed over to the Department of Transport, the first station
to go in the transfer of the System as ordered by the Federal Government
one year ago.
the reasoning behind the decision to hand the System over to a civilian
department of the Government was sound, still it was hard to realize
that a glorious era of achievement for RC Signals was quickly coming
to an end. There was solace however in the knowledge that they had
played an exceedingly important role in the opening up of the vast
mineral and oil rich lands of the country which they served and while
doing so, had built up one of the most efficient communication networks
in the world.
more stations were handed over before the end of the year, namely,
Fort Chipewyan 23rd September, Fort Smith 3 1st October and Ha y River
2nd December. Despite the change in control, these stations continued
to function as in the past, as it had been agreed that there would
be no change in the services rendered, operating procedures or traffic
accounting until such time as the control station in Edmonton was
handed over. It had also been agreed that the Department of Transport
would continue to employ the civilian component of the station staffs
even though they lacked Radio Operators 2nd Class Certificates as
required under Department of transport regulations,
procedures were the same for all stations. First, a Unit Board, consisting
of a unit officer as President, a member from RCE and a member from
the Department of Transport (in a non-official capacity) was convened
to report on the state of all public and non-public property and accounts.
Approximately 2 weeks in advance of the date indicated for handover
of the station dependent on the size of the station) a Unit Audit
Team from the QM Section (usually SSgt. Bob Ballantine and Cpl. Ron
Gould) would proceed to the station to carry out a completed and detailed
audit of all records and accounts, except the commercial traffic account.
This entailed sorting, identifying, counting and tagging all stores,
including barrack and Engineers. Stock-taking sheets were completed
by this team, to reveal any surpluses of deficiencies, and given to
the President of the Board to assist in the handover. Lists were prepared
by the QM showing all Ordnance, RCE, RCASC, medical supplies and Signal
Stores, including control cables, pole lines and expendables, which
were to be transferred or loaned to Department of Transport. On the
handover day these lists would be reconciled at the station and signed
by the Department of Transport representative, acknowledging receipt
of stores, accommodation etc. Also on the handover date, the commercial
traffic bank account would be reduced to NIL by drawing a draft in
favour of the Receiver General and a balance struck in the station
ledger to reveal the monies still due the Receiver. Usually these
formalities were completed and official message of relinquishment
filed on behalf of Department of National Defence by the President
of the Board at 2359 hours on the same day, with the station re-opening
at 0001 hours the following day under the control of the Department
of Transport and with anew call sign. Well in advance of each handover
all agencies and individuals having business dealings of any nature
with the station were advised by letter of the tentative date for
the change in control. The Quartermaster was responsible for getting
such information out to service heads and contractors having agreements
affecting the station, while the Signalmaster had the commercial telegraphs,
airlines, navigation companies, other Government Departments, private
commercial outstation operators and all holders of authorized credit
to advise. Needless to say, the postage took quite a licking (no pun
intended) especially in regard to the larger stations such as Yellowknife,
which had approximately one hundred authorized credit customers alone.
after World War II, NWT&Y Radio System had installed and operated
low-power broadcast transmitters at Whitehorse, Dawson, Aklavik, Norman
Wells, Hay River and Yellowknife for the benefit of these communities.
This service was of course outside of normal duties and soon became
too burdensome for Sigs personnel to cope with so local citizen volunteer
committees were formed to assist in the operation of these broadcast
stations. Control of CFWH, Whitehorse had passed to headquarters Northwest
Highway System when the RC Signals Radio Station, Whitehorse was turned
over from the NWT&Y Radio System to West Command Signal Regiment
in 1951, the equipment at CFNW Norman Wells had been destroyed by
fire in the early '50s and not replaced but the other 4 stations had
functioned more or less satisfactorily all these years.
in 1958, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation decided that it was
their responsibility to provide broadcast services for the residents
of the Yukon and Northwest Territories and arrangements were accordingly
made for the CBC to assume control of the existing broadcast stations.
By year's end the CBC had taken over operational control of CFYT Dawson
YT, CFHR Hay River NWT and CFYK Yellowknife and the same would be
done at CHAK Aklavik as soon as possible. So, Sigs were practically
out of the disc-jockey business and it was a known fact that no System
personnel had been able to retire on "payola" derived from
the operation of the broadcast stations.
showed a decrease in messages handled of 711,00 from the all-time
high of 3,172,628 the year before, with a consequent drop in the total
estimated revenue of $241,600. 00.
Return to index
of note occurred during 1959 as the handover progressed smoothly with
the Department of Transport taking over stations when they were able
to provide the necessary personnel. Fort Reliance and Fort Providence
were transferred on the 11th and 15th of March respectively, with
the Sigs personnel involved only too glad to say farewell to these
lonely, 'off- the-beaten- track'. posts.
the 16th of march, the CW circuit in operation between NWT&Y Radio
System station Edmonton and the Department of Transport., Aeradio
station,' McMurray was closed down permanently. In future all weather
and administration traffic would be passed over Department of Transport
radio and landline circuits between these two points,' while all commercial
traffic would be handled over the Northern Alberta Railway Telegraphs.
the 1st of April all civilian employees on strength of the NWT&Y
Radio System were transferred to the Department of Transport except
the two janitors at Headquarters who were transferred to the strength
of Alberta Signal Squadron. This move was designed primarily for pay
purposes as the civilians employed at stations still under Department
of National Defence control would continue to be administered by the
Unit until the stations were actually handed over to Department of
station to go was the main R TT station at Norman Wells on the 27th
of April. This was the second of the four main northern RTT stations
to be taken over. It was planned to turn over the responsibility for
al1 traffic handling along with that of accounting and revenue for
all commercial traffic to the incumbent Department of Transport as
soon as possible, within the date tentatively set for the 1st of July.
the 17th of May all technical stores, and a small stock of barrack
stores, held in Edmonton, were tuned over the Department of Transport.
Approximately 1,260 items of non-expendable stores and 4,700 items
of expendable stores were involved. These stores were handed over
in situ and a section of the TMIQM building was released for use by
the Department of Transport.
19th of June saw the Fort Norman Radio Station handed over. This station,
although a busy and extremely useful relay from its opening in 1930
until the inception of the Norman Wells station 35 miles down river
in 1943, had deteriorated to the extent that it was little more than
a weather reporting station.
the 1st of July the system's Receiver General Commercial Traffic Account
was transferred from the Department of National Defence to the Department
of Transport and the Department of Transport took over the operation
of the Traffic Accounting Section at NWT&Y Radio System Headquarters
and assumed responsibility for all traffic handling on the System
despite the fact that eleven stations remained under Department of
National Defence control Immediately thereafter, the CO, and WO 1
Vince as Signalmaster, heaved deep sighs of relief as a great burden
had been lifted from their shoulders.
for the Royal Tour of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Prince Philip
called for them to be in the Yukon and NWT from 18-21 July, with visits
scheduled for Whitehorse, Dawson, Mayo, Yellowknife and Uranium City.
However after arrival at Whitehorse on the 18th, Her Majesty was taken
ill and was unable to honour Dawson and Mayo with her presence the
following day. Prince Phillip eased the disappointment of the citizens
a great deal by carrying out these aerial visits. HRH spent 2-1/2
hours at Dawson inspecting the many interesting historic relics of
the Gold Rush Days of '98 and an hour at Mayo looking over the rich
mineral properties thence back to Whitehorse for the night of July
19th. The next day Her Majesty's health was a little better and she
was flown direct to Edmonton to rest while Prince Philip completed
the visits to Yellowknife and Uranium City. HRH spent an hour at Yellowknife
and two hours at Uranium City - Beaverlodge Lake inspecting gold and
uranium mines before rejoining Her Majesty in Edmonton the night of
the July 20th. The Queen had recovered sufficiently to attend the
official functions planned by the City of Edmonton, such as opening
of Coronation Park, on 21st July before boarding a special Royal Tour
train for Saskatoon in the late afternoon.
Northern phase of the Royal Tour did not affect System traffic to
any great extent as the press party filed their material covering
the Dawson and mayo visits with the commercial telegraphs at Whitehorse
and held the Yellowknife-Uranium City material until arrival at Edmonton.
Despite this, Dawson handled 122 Royal Tour messages, Mayo 25 and
Yellowknife 76 during the short time the party was in the north. In
addition, RC Signals at Dawson, Mayo and Fort Simpson rendered extensive
air-ground coverage of the various aircraft involved in this phase
of the tour.
after the Dawson visit, the CO NWT&Y Radio System was in receipt
of a letter from the Royal Tour Transport Officer asking that thanks
be forwarded to Sgt. Joe Murree and his staff at RC Signals Radio
Station, Dawson City for their kind assistance and cooperation which
contributed largely to the success of the visit at that point.
saw the control of four more stations pass to the Department of Transport
leaving just seven to go. Inuvik, Aklavik and Fort Good Hope were
transferred in rapid order on the 9th, 13th and 15th respectively
and the control station in Edmonton was taken over on the 3 1st.
planning a few years previous called for the moving of the town of
Aklavik, scene of so many memorable Sigs episodes over the years,
to the new townsite of Inuvik. At the time of the station handover
there was no indication that this handover would take place. To the
contrary, all appearances seemed to point to continued growth and
prosperity for both communities.
the control station in Edmonton, the handover was a little more complex
as the Department of Transport was not able to fully staff this nerve
centre. The transfer was carried out with the understanding that Sigs
would cover the imbalance, with Department of Transport relieving
as quickly as suitable replacements became available. This situation
remained until year's end.
back in the Unit Orderly room, four unobtrusive but nevertheless important
cogs in the System wheel, were tearing their hair right down to the
base of the follicles, trying to cope with the massive documentation
necessary to effect the postings of the personnel inv9lved in the
handover of the stations. Capt. Ross Anderson, Adjutant, was cracking
the whip, WO 2 Tom McKay, Supt Clerk was adroitly dodging it and Sgt.
George Behm (pronounced Bame, same as same) and LCpl. Al Bedard (
no relation to the renowned zither player of the same name) were taking
the lash. Being favourably equipped with seeing-eye typewriters, these
harassed individuals were about to get the disenchanted 'eyes and
ears" of the north of their various ways with the utmost of despatch.
In fairness to Our Leader it should be chronicled that the majority
of the off-System postings were exactly what the individuals had asked
and hoped for.
Simpson, the original relay station from the Yukon to the "outside",
established in 1924, was relinquished, to the Department of Transport
on the 20th of September.
the start of the System Handover one year previous, countless letters
had been received at Headquarters from airlines, water transportation
companies, mining firms, government agencies and numberless private
individuals, all expressing sincere appreciation for the outstanding
services provided over the years and the deep regret at having to
say goodbye to Signals in the north. These letters were most gratifying,
confirming the knowledge of a job well done.
was chosen as the station at which symbolic ceremonies to officially
mark the occasion of the transfer of the System to the Department
of Transport would be held. Elaborate preparations were made well
in advance and the historic event took place on the 6th of November,
the operating room at the Yellowknife Radio Station, Lt. Col. D Grant,
CO NWT&Y Radio System, opened proceedings by introducing Col.
ET Munroe, representing the Minister of National Defence, the General
Officer Commanding Western Command and the Director of Signals. Col.
Munroe then addressed the assembly, briefly outlining the System history
and terminating his remarks by formally relinquishing control of the
System to Mr. HJ "Jeff" Williamson, Regional Director of
Air Services, Edmonton District, Department of Transport, representing
the Minister of Transport. At this time Col. Munroe wrote a message
announcing the relinquishment and handed it to a Sigs operator for
transmission to the Minister of National Defence. Mr. Williamson then
spoke to the gathering, acknowledging the fine reputation RC Signals
had built for themselves in the north and expressing the vow that
his Department would carry on in the same tradition and endeavour
to improve upon it if at all possible. He then drafted a message announcing
formal acceptance of the System, which he handed to a Department of
Transport operator for transmission to the Minister of Transport.
large crowd then repaired to an unoccupied Married Quarter to partake
of refreshments, which had been expertly prepared and laid out invitingly
by that peer among chefs, Pte Al Reynolds. Many compliments were received
regarding the variety and excellence of the food and many guests were
heard to express amazement upon learning that even the perfect French
pastries were a product of Reynold's wizardry. Highlighting this reception
was the presentation of a mounted, suitably inscribed, silvered Morse
Telegraph Key by Col. Munroe to Mr. Williamson, to tangibly mark the
occasion of the System handover. Speeches were also heard from such
prominent guests as Mr. CL Merrill, Administrator of the Mackenzie,
Frank McCall, Area Administrator, "Scotty" Gall, Hudson
Bay Company store manager and member of the Territorial Council and
"Ted" Horton, Mayor of Yellowknife. All speeches took the
same trend, that of eulogizing System personnel, expressing regret
at their departure and wishing them well in their future endeavours.
from the press, radio and TV in Edmonton were also present and gave
full coverage to the affair.
credit for the success of this Symbolic handover must go to Maj. "rosie
" Larose, 2 IC NWT&Y Radio System, and Lt. Bob Becker, Quartermaster,
for the planning and organization, as well as to WO 1 "Red"
McLeod and his Yellowknife station staff, along with Sgt Bob Ballantine,
Sgt. George Behm and Cpl. Ron Gould of the Edmonton staff, for their
active and wholehearted cooperation in the preparations.
the transfer of Yellowknife completed, the Department of Transport
now controlled all the main RTT circuits from Edmonton to the north
and Sigs were left with 5 secondary stations. This number was reduced
to 4 on the 9th of December with the transfer of Beaverlodge Lake
Radio Station. The handover of this station was without doubt one
of the easiest for the Audit Team. There were no buildings of any
description or power plants to account for as all accommodation and
power were supplied by Eldorado Mining & Refining Company thus
making it a relatively simple matter of checking the technical and
a small amount of office equipment. A similar situation had prevailed
at Inuvik, where the Department of Public Works supplied accommodation
and power. Revenue from the Beaverlodge station had dropped off considerably
in the last year as most of the uranium mining companies were finding
it impossible to operate profitably and were closing down. Eldorado
Mining & Refining Company planned to continue operations but would
be unable to absorb many of the unemployed miners so, at handover
time, the future for this area did not look too bright.
figures for 1959 are only available for the period 1 Jan - 1 Jul,
at which time the Department of Transport took over the traffic accounting
for the System. During this 6 month period, 1,234,471 messages of
all types were handled for an estimated value of two and one half
but four stations left under Department of National Defence control
as of the 31st of December 1959 the strength of the Unit was down
to four officers, 41 ORs and 17 civilians for a total of 62 as compared
to five officers, 132 ORs and 58 civilians for a total of 195 when
the handover commenced in September 1958.
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QM and Adm sections at NWT&Y Radio System Headquarters in Edmonton
had been reduced to minimum required to wind up the System's affairs
and little of note transpired until early February.
the time had come for the two pioneer stations, at Dawson and Mayo
installed in 1923, to cash in their chips. Mayo and Dawson were transferred
on the 10th and 15th of February respectively with no fanfare leaving
only Port Radium and Fort Resolution.
Canadian Army Signals System station in Whitehorse continued to handle
traffic to and from Dawson and Mayo following the handovers until
the 1st of March, at which time the Department of Transport had completed
the necessary installations in Whitehorse to take over on their own.
Immediately this was done, the teletype circuit between the Signal
Centre and CNR Telegraphs was cancelled and the CASS station ceased
to handle commercial traffic.
on the list was Port Radium. This was another easy handover, as power
and all accommodations, except one furnished PMQ, were supplied by
the Eldorado Mining & Refining Company. In fact the QM auditor
had everything in such a state of readiness that the Handover Board
was able to proceed by air from Edmonton, carry out the transfer during
a two-hour stopover, and return to Edmonton the same day.
the time Port Radium appeared doomed to become a ghost settlement
before many months passed by, as Eldorado Mining & Refining company
planned to cease operations for economic reasons by July or August
on the 25th of March, the last Sigs personnel to serve on the System
north of Edmonton sadly "waved goodbye " to "the land
of the midnight sun" as Fort Resolution was transferred, thus
completing the handover of NWT&Y Radio System stations to the
Department of Transport.
string was all but played out, with only a handful of key personnel
remaining at Headquarters in Edmonton to prepare for the Final Audit
and Ordnance Inspection, dispose of files, records etc, before the
Unit was reduced to NIL strength.
would be as good a time as any to mention the key part played by the
Quartermaster Stores in the smooth operation of the System over the
years. But let Lt. Bob Becker, last System Quartermaster, tell you
in his own modest words.
Quartermaster Stores in a unit such as this, played a major role in
the life of the System. They functioned more like an Ordnance Depot
rather than a unit QM. Stocks had to be held in sufficient quantities
and estimated requirements prepared well in advance. In the short
shopping season available every station had to be supplied for a full
year of operation right down to the last minor detail. This included
spare parts, fuel oil, rations, stationery, medical supplies, barrack
stores and clothing. Amounts had to be closely estimated as storage
facilities on the stations were limited and undue wastage had to be
controlled. Contracts were arranged for all service where required
and payments arranged.
packaging and crating of these stores was carried out during the winter
months to have all in readiness for the opening of navigation each
summer. Once the shipping season opened the Quartermaster and his
staff had very little spare time and led a hectic life for the season.
At the close of navigation in the fall preparations were then started
for the following season and the usual visits of the Ordnance Inspection
teams and DM Auditors. Taking it all in their stride a magnificent
job was done each year the Quartermaster and his staff have been highly
commended several times for the quality of the splendid job they have
each station was handed over to the Department of Transport a complete
audit and inspection was carried out and it should be mentioned here
that at no station was there a discrepancy in stores at the handover.
After being questioned by headquarters Western Command regarding the
list of stores to be the subject of write-off action when no request
had been made, it became necessary to include in each board of inquiry
a statement that no write-off action was required. After all handovers
were completed and the final Ordnance Inspection was held no discrepancies
were found. This was the subject of considerable conjecture and several
conversations by Ordnance Officers who apparently don't believe such
a result possible in a unit of this size and scope. The claim was
put forward that the Quartermaster and his staff are either supermen
or miracle workers. It is a known fact they are both, so they can
be given high praise for their work and efforts over the years. The
Ordnance Officers finally came to the same conclusion and appended
the most glowing remarks on their final inspection report.
section had attained the size, importance and efficiency mentioned
above through the continuing efforts of numerous Quartermasters since
1943. Prior to that time all system supply was carried out by D Sigs
in Ottawa. During the hectic war years, this method was found too
slow and impractical, so the responsibility was shifted to Edmonton.
1 Sammy Ranns pioneered the QM Section in Edmonton earning his commission
in the process. He was followed by Captains Bill Chew, Jack Bridges,
Johnny Johnston, Charlie Jessop, WO 1 George Purkess (filling in,
in an acting capacity for varying periods) and finally Lt. Bob Becker,
commissioned from SSgt. for the purpose. To all these individuals
must go a certain amount of credit for the fine record established
by the QM Section.
Technical maintenance Section developed in a similar manner, post
war, to peak efficiency, under the able guidance of such officers
as Capt.s Frank McCauley, Walt Stevenson, Ralph Kerr, Lt. Gordie Ingram
and WO 1 Don Bastock (commissioned in '59). All that is left of this
once proud Section is the "Diesel Doctor", Sgt. Les McLean,
who has ministered to all the ills, minor and major, of the power
plants at northern stations for the past few years.
Traffic Accounting Section also warrants honourable mention. From
a fairly simple chore carried out by the WO IC Edmonton Radio Station
up until 1930, the bookkeeping necessary to account for the System
revenue grew and grew coincident with the northern development and
the System expansion, until it required a staff of six accountants
and clerks to see that the Receiver General was not short-changed.
WO 1 Frank heath had practically snatched himself bald headed by the
time the need for a full-time bookkeeper was first acknowledged in
November 1930 by the posting of Sgt. Cec Shaw to Edmonton for this
purpose. Shaw cried for help in 1943 and Sgt. Ross Glover was sent
to his aid, and so it went, with additional personnel being added
as traffic load demanded. The way they juggled figures up, down and
across, but always coming up with the right balance, would have done
justice to a team of accredited chartered accountants.
department functioned, along with the Operating Section, under the
control of the Traffic Superintendent (later known as the Signalmaster).
The term "Traffic Superintendent" always was somewhat confusing
as, prior to the System becoming organized as a Unit and taking over
control and administration in 1944, it was known as the Northwest
Detachment, RC Signals, and the Officer Commanding the Detachment
was also the Traffic Superintendent. After the Unit was on its own,
the establishment was increased by one officer to carry out the Traffic
Superintendent duties, and known as the Signalmaster. Actually there
were only three full-time Signalmasters from the creation of the vacancy
until System count down, they being Lts Fred Lane and Gordie Drinnan
with WO 1 Vince covering the four year gap between them and the last
two years of our mathematical manipulations.
chronological outline of the System history would be complete without
acknowledging the fine efforts of the officers who were privileged
to guide the destinies of the NWT&Y Radio system, both as a Detachment
and as a Unit, throughout the productive years of its existence. As
indicated in the establishment of the original five stations, Headquarters
policy was to man each station with an officer and 3 OR operators.
However by the late '20s, it was conceded that the stations could
function quite capably under the command of a senior NCO and the officers,
with the exception of one, were withdrawn for instructional purposes
at the Training Depot in Camp Borden and other important Corps duties.
The exception was Lt. RS "Bob" Hastings, who was moved from
Fort Smith to Fort Simpson, which was considered the System control
station at the time. He assumed the duties of the OC Northwest Detachment,
RC Signals and "Traffic Superintendent, NWTSY Radio System.
By 1931 it was realized that Edmonton was the logical point from which
to exercise control of the System and Hastings was moved out to that
point, serving. there until the Spring of 1934 when he was relieved
by Lt. "Bill" Lockhart, who you will recall handled the
first message on the System as a Sgt. at Mayo in 1923.
Next came Lt. WO "Peff" Peffers in July of 1935 to serve
the shortest term of duty in control of the System ever known, namely
three months. "Peff" relinquished the reins to Maj. JE "Jakey"
Genet in October 1935 and "Jakey" sagely conducted the thriving
communication octopus through the boom northern mining years until
July 1938 when Capt. GW "George" Smart took over. "George"
carried on the good work until after the outbreak of World War //,
when his services were urgently required elsewhere. WO I Ignatius
"Nash" Neary was commissioned to take his place.
crystal ball becomes a bit dim at this point but it is recalled for
sure that WO 2 "Fudge" Isbister, serving as WO IC Fort Simpson
was commissioned in the Spring of 1941 and appointed OC Northwest
Detachment, relieving Neary for posting and eventual secondment to
the National Research Council where his abilities could be employed
to much better advantage. This change in command was strictly a paper
one for a number of months however as Isbister was unable to get out
of Fort Simpson due to the cessation of air travel over the well known
"breakup" period. During this period he faithfully carried
out his duties as a station operator and was the butt of many an early
morning inter-station jest referring to the incompatibility of the
situation. When aircraft finally ventured into Fort Simpson in June,
Isbister took off on a prearranged inspection of the System at large,
not arriving at his command post in Edmonton until sometime in August
During this extended interlude, WO I Sammy "Duck Hunter"
Ranns donned the cap and performed yeoman services as on-the-spot,
acting OC of the Detachment
December of 1942, Lt. "Cec" May, one of the System originals,
commissioned as liaison officer at Whitehorse from his post as WO
/C Mayo during the "Yankee" invasion of North-Western Canada,
was sent out to take over from Isbister. "Cec" certainly
had his work cut out and laid on the line, dealing with our friendly
neighbours to the south, and it was not long before D Sigs in Ottawa
realized the fact and posted Maj. "Jack" Pearson to Edmonton
to assess the overall situation.
a result of Pearson's observations, the System was reorganized as
a self accounting Unit and henceforth would be responsible for its
actually took over the Northwest Detachment from May in September
1943 but it was not until the summer of 1944 that the System became
a self accounting Unit, whereupon Jack Pearson became in effect, the
first Commanding Officer of the NWT&Y Radio system. Jack retired
to pension in July '47.
over from Pearson in July 1947 was Capt. Frank McCauley, who had been
Technical Maintenance Officer since returning from overseas in late
'45. McCauley was promoted Major shortly thereafter McCauley was relieved
by Lt. Col. Wethey in August '49 who in turn handed over to Lt. Col.
Don Grant in Feb '51. Under Grant's continued guidance to the end
the System attained a very high efficiency rating in all departments.
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will also remember Signals primarily as magistrates, Airways and Transportation
agents, acting minions of the law and prime movers in community affairs.
It is the unmistakeable fact that the fine reputation built by RC
Signals during 37 eventful years of service in the yet-to-be-fully-exploited
north country was not the result of the efforts of one, two or even
three individuals, but rather the results of the combined efforts
of every officer and man who served on this now non-existent arm of
the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.