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How it all started. The photo below is the original Signals party who established the first two
stations of the NWT&Y Radion System at Dawson City and Mayo Landing, Yukon Territory, in 1923

For a history of these events go to: History of VEA - Dawson by WO1 Frank Heath

Original staff of NWT&Y Radio System 1923
RCCS Station sign

The story of the NWT&Y Radio System is a virtually unknown saga in the history of the development of northern Canada. The contributions of the men who staffed the stations are largely unheralded. In his post-script to this short chronology the author says,

"Northerners 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."

These are not the normal roles of soldiers on active service. But here in the Canadian northland they were engaged in unusual circumstances and eventful times. Not only was Canada's northern frontier and its resources in the early stages of exploration and development, but the science, technology and practical applications of global telecommunications and air transportation were also probing new frontiers. The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals was asked by the Government of Canada to step into the breach and fill the void in long-distance telecommunication to serve those industries and the embryonic communities in the northern territories. In the process the Signallers found themselves, perforce, fulfilling duties far beyond anything they had learned at the School of Signals in Vimy Barracks. In enthusiasm, ability, dedication and inventiveness they were not found wanting. In the nearly four decades that their System operated they left behind them a proud and impressive legacy.

The following text is from two manuscripts held by the C&E Museum - the original and a slightely edited version. The author is WO1 "Cal" Vince (Retd). The original manuscript, dated June 1960, is presented here with only very minor edits to correct the tense in a few places, and the deletion of some personal observations that were left out by an earlier editor.

A Short History
of the
Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System

by WO1 Cal Vince


The aim in preparing this concise history of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio system was an attempt to record the highlights of events in a chronological order, so that those interested in the System may obtain a clearer view of the functions and responsibilities the Corps assumed when given the task of establishing and operating the System.

The Radio System was known in the communication field as an efficient, reliable and rapid means of communication throughout the vast Northland. the high standard of operating and low error factor speaks well of the men who were employed on the System.

Witn the loss of the System the Signal Corps regretably lost a most valuable method of training Signals personnel in maintaining equipment and the art of passing trraffic efficiently. It also taught men to be self-reliant and readily accept responsibility, which in turn provided excellent NCOs and officers of the Corps.


In 1922, the vast Canadian north, from Hudson Bay to the Alaska border, comprising of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory, had no means of communication with civilization, or "outside" as it was known, except a limited mail service by boat in summer and dog-team in winter. In addition to this limited mail service Dawson City, YT was served by a telegraph line from Hazelton, BC operated by the Dominion Government Telegraph Service. The telegraph line was none too reliable due mainly to maintenance difficulties as it ran for hundreds of miles through uninhabited wilderness and over extremely rugged terrain.

Go to Chronologies

1923-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1960


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For sidebar stories on life in the North during those years go to:
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