A story of Canadian Military Communications 1903 2013 bgen William J. Patterson omm, cd (Ret’d)



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A Story of Canadian Military Communications 1903 – 2013


BGen William J. Patterson OMM, CD (Ret’d)



Published by The Military Communications and Electronics Museum Foundation




cha pte r te n



The Royal Canadian Air Force Telecommunications is formed in 1934, and serves in the Signals and Radar Branches during the Second World War, and afterward in NORAD, NATO, and Air Traffic Control,


and on operations in Libya and Afghanistan



The Early Years, 1921 – 1939

It is interesting to speculate on how circumstance drew together two new military

organizations trying to establish themselves at the end of the First World War. The Cana- dian Corps Signal Service, 1914 – 1919, which grew out of the Canadian Signal Corps formed as a part-time militia unit in 1903, was looking for ways to become a viable permanent army signal corps. The Canadian Air Force (CAF) had had a short-lived existence during the First World War and also looked to forming a full- time permanent air force in post-war Canada. A new CAF was formed in 1920 under the aus- pices of the Air Board that was focused on civil- ian operations: forestry fire patrols, surveying, and anti-smuggling patrols. Similarly, a new Permanent Signal Corps was founded in 1920 with just six officers and fourteen NCOs. Both organizations were anxious to assume a promi- nent place in Canada’s Armed Forces and by a confluence of needs and abilities both were drawn to Canada’s North.

The ability of the airplane to open up the Northwest Territories, compared to land and water travel, which was only possible a few months of the year, was the CAF’s greatest strength. A successful trans-Canada flight in 1920 proved that long distance flying, by day or night, was feasible provided that certain communication and navigational aids were available: wireless communication in the

plane, wireless direction finding apparatus on the ground, and weather forecasts. The CAF’s first major role, flying forestry patrols to de- tect and monitor forest fires, was perhaps more prosaic than what the combat veterans of 1918 had in mind but it proved its worth very quickly and contributed towards the awarding of “Royal” status to the CAF in 1924. The CAF, from its beginning, needed to find the means by which to communicate from air- craft to a base that would quickly disseminate its in-flight observations. It turned to the Army’s Permanent Signal Corps with which there was already an area of co-operation. The CAF’s major base was Camp Borden, at the time in a rather isolated rural area west of Bar- rie, Ontario. To maintain communication with Ottawa the CAF used expensive and not totally reliable civilian telephone and tele- graph companies. At the same time, the new Permanent Signal Corps was looking for a place to conduct training, and Camp Borden had space and unused buildings left over from the First World War. In a joint venture, army signallers established a wireless station at the CAF station in Borden in 1921 and proved that its method of communication with Ot- tawa was faster, more reliable, and cheaper. A working relationship between the CAF and the newly-formed Royal Canadian Corps of Sig- nals (RCCS) was born.

In 1922, the RCCS began to train during the summer at Camp Borden and the follow-

ing year established a permanent depot. In the same year, an experimental radio station was built at High River, Alberta to provide communications to CAF planes flying forestry patrols. The northern forests of the Prairie Provinces, at the time and until 1931, were the responsibility of the federal government. The CAF had four planes flying patrols out of High River; the RCCS installed and main- tained the radios in the planes and operated the ground station. During the first summer season the system worked extremely well. The pilots used voice only, although the sets had a capability for key transmissions which were more effective when atmospheric interference was strong. The pilots always gave their loca- tion before sending messages to allow the ground crew to track them in case of an emer- gency. The sets in use at the time had a range of 100 miles, which was improved over time as the sets and aerials built by the Signals Inspec- tion and Test Department (SI&TD) were up- graded. While two-way conversation was possible, the noise factor in the plane mostly restricted the system to pilot to ground. The

efficacy of the system was demon- strated in 1923 when a pilot de- tected a fire 190 miles north of High River and was able to pass its location to the base, which alerted fire-fighting crews hours before they would have received the infor- mation by other means.

Such successes led to the CAF and the RCCS entering into a contract that lasted until 1931, when the Prairie Provinces assumed responsi- bility for monitoring forest fires from the federal government. Dur- ing the nine years, a total of 12 wire- less stations, not counting High River or Winnipeg, which was a major RCAF base, were opened. What began as a minor commitment of 12 signallers in 1922 grew to an RCCS team of 6 officers and 67 men. In addition to their primary task of passing forest fire information, the stations in the Prairie Provinces

were able to handle a large amount of com- mercial traffic in the areas being opened up in the northern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. This part of their role became so important that the major stations of Win- nipeg and Edmonton began to stay open all year because they could pass messages to the commercial nationwide telegraph companies. Beginning in 1925, RCCS operators were trained in meteorology and were able to send twice-daily weather reports from the Northwest Territories and Yukon (NWT&Y) Radio System as well as to the fire patrol stations that were of great importance to the RCAF. At the same time, the SI&TD was able to make improve- ments to RCAF aircraft communication sys- tems. Cockpit conversations were not well-served by the old speaking tube or by hand signals, especially on aerial photographic flights. When short range flights were required the standard RCCS 500 watt station was much too powerful, so a smaller 100 watt set was pro- duced by the SI&TD. A new CT21 transmitter, which was superior to the wartime RAF T21 set, was installed in the new DH “Moth” aircraft.
The Canadian set was much smaller and by being mounted on coil springs was less likely to go off frequency during a rough flight. In addition to supplying wireless operators, the RCCS set up a wireless school in Jericho Beach, Vancouver to train RCAF personnel in wireless procedure.

A good example of the use of aircraft and ground control stations was the 1928 Hudson Bay Expedition, which was to study weather and ice conditions prior to opening Fort Churchill as a port. Three ground stations were established by the RCCS in 1927 and were manned in 1928 by Department of Ma- rine operators. Six RCAF Fokker aircraft were equipped by the RCCS with transmitters capa- ble of being modulated to transmit Morse Code. There were only three communication failures during 175 flights, clearly demonstrat- ing the success of the project.

In 1928, the RCAF instituted, in conjunction with the Post Office, an airmail system along the St Lawrence River from east of Quebec City to Windsor. To assist with this system the RCCS opened up a major radio beacon station at St Hubert, QC, just south of Montreal. In addition to providing navigational support it gathered weather reports from a US weather station at Arlington, Virginia and rebroadcast them to RCAF stations and to aircraft in flight. The next year sub-stations were opened in London and Windsor to enhance the Beacon System; be- cause of this success, plans were made to set up a similar chain of beacon stations in Western Canada. Although the forestry patrolling sys- tem ended in 1931 and the 12 minor stations were closed, the steadily increasing number of RCCS stations in the Northwest Territories meant that weather reports and ground-to-air communications continued.

In 1933, the RCAF introduced wireless training as part of its regular training. RC Sigs personnel at Camp Borden installed the British Air Ministry R 1082/T 1083 radio equipment in the station’s Avro Tudor air- craft. The sets allowed for two-way telephony and Morse code telegraphy for artillery recon- naissance. Orders were placed with the RAF for new equipment that was being produced

in 1934 and the RCAF concluded that it was time to have its own signalling expertise. A small RCAF telecommunications group was formed in 1934 consisting of just seven men: four RCCS personnel who transferred to the RCAF: SSgt J.G.L. “Buck” Foster, Sgt P.E. “Mickey” McGuire, LCpl W.L. “Jock” Duncan, and Sigmn O.C. “Louie” Lumb; and from the RCAF: mechanic “Nibby” Baker, battery man and switchboard operator “Bud” Lacey, and electrician “Harry” Keane. This small group was attached to the School of Army Co-opera- tion at Camp Borden commanded by Squadron Leader (S/L) C.M. “Black Mike” McEwan. There was also a Meteorology School commanded by Flight Lieutenant (F/L) C.R. “Roy” Slemon, which received weather forecasts from Arlington, Virginia. The first installation of the new RAF T21C transmitter, Morse code only, was in a Vickers Flying Boat at Vancouver and the second in- stallation in a Fairchild float plane on RCMP narcotics patrols in British Columbia.

The development of a wireless capability in the RCAF proceeded rapidly. In 1934, an RAF officer, F/L W.G.B. Pretty attached to the RCAF formed a Signal Section. A recruiting program in Ottawa screened potential sig- nallers. The criterion for acceptance was ei- ther wireless experience and senior matriculation or recent graduation from high school. Twenty-one candidates were selected for two Wireless Electrical Mechanic courses, WEM “A” and WEM “B”, which began at Camp Borden on 11 October 1934. The sixth month “A” course was for those with a wireless background; the eleven month “B” course was designed for those with little or no technical training. The course leader was F/L H.B. God- win, who was assisted by the “original seven.” The RCAF followed this small beginning with the formation, on 1 July 1935, of a Signals Branch in the Air Staff Division at Air Force Headquarters (AFHQ) in Ottawa. Another RAF officer, F/L J.G.W. Weston, who had the specialist “S”qualification, was appointed as Air Signals Advisor; the RCAF followed the lead of the RAF. To increase its knowledge of RAF Signals, F/L R.E. McBurney (RCAF No. C


- 96) was sent to the RAF School at Cranwell, England to attend the 14 month signals offi- cers’ course. Upon graduation in 1936, he be- came the first RCAF officer to receive the specialist symbol “S.” Other officers at the rate of one per year followed: F/Ls H.B. Godwin,

W.A. Orr, M.M. Hendrick, and D.G. Williams. In 1935, two officers were sent on a two month tour of RAF signal facilities; this short signals training for two officers was repeated each year until the outbreak of the Second World War.

In addition to the wireless electrical me- chanics course, a 40 week wireless telegraphy (W/T) course was conducted at Camp Borden in 1935. The first two courses successfully graduated 28 students. In 1936, the Wireless School moved from Camp Borden to Trenton,

the site of a new training facility. Graduates of the School were entitled to a qualification

Jones; and Leading Air Craftmen (LAC)s E.J. Gauthier* and G. Simoneau. The training of signallers was hampered by the shortage of up- to-date equipment of RAF design, therefore, commercial type transmitters and receivers were used. In 1937, a survey of RCAF officers revealed that of those who had qualified in one or more of the ten skills courses available only ten had qualified in signals, the lowest number for any of the courses. The growth of RCAF Sig- nals was painfully slow. It was 1938 before the Wireless School was recognized as a separate entity in the RCAF Officers’ List with S/L W.A. Orr, F/L M.M. Hendrick, and F/O E.L. Miners as instructors; the Warrant Officer was J.G.L. Foster. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the RCAF Signals Branch had a total of 24 officers: S/Ls R.E. McBurney, H.B. Godwin, and W.A. Orr; F/L M.M. Hendrick,; 4 F/Os and 16 P/Os. Only 58 airmen had graduated from the Trenton Wireless School with an- other 60 still on course.

Cpl S.C. Jones, an instructor on the first




The first graduates of the Wireless School in 1935 were entitled to the Wireless Operator Badge. Its symbolic thunderbolts were incorporated into the Communications and Electronics Branch Badge.

badge worn on the right sleeve above a rank badge. Both the Wireless Opera- tors (WOps) and the Wireless Operator Mechanics (WOMs)

Wireless Electric Mechanic course, wrote a graphic description of the training endured by the first 21 recruits enlisted as AC2 appren- tices at $1.70 a day. He recounted that the first few months were spent equally between “square-bashing, form fours and fix and unfix bayonets,” and technical training. As a respite


wore the same badge: a hand grasping a thun- derbolt. This same badge was also worn by RCN personnel in the radio communications and electronics trades. It is interesting to note that the new RCAF permanent facility at Tren- ton was built at the same time as that being built for the RCCS at Kingston. Both installa- tions had similarly designed buildings, all fin- ished in white stucco.

In 1937, the Wireless School assumed a new and individual identity: RCAF Station Trenton Wireless School. The instructional staff was commanded by F/L H.B Godwin, a graduate of the RCCS School at Jericho Beach and qual- ified “S”, included Flying Officer (F/O)s W.A. Orr, M.M. Hendrick, E.L. Miners, D.G. Williams, and D. Hutton; Flight Sergeants (F/Sgt)s S.R. Burbank and J.G.L. Foster; Cpls

H.R. Trepanier, G. Tutt, E. Boyden, and S.C.

from drill, there was physical training (PT), compulsory sports, and route marching. The Technical Training School (TTS) taught aero engines, airframes, metal shop, and carpentry. After that introduction, the students went on to signal training: semaphore, Lucas lamp, Morse code, radio circuits and apparatus, and finally “air operations.” A candidate was intro- duced to the rear open cockpit with a trans- mitter and a receiver in front of him. Below and to the right was an antenna, 250 feet long, which was reeled in and out by hand. On the


* Gauthier was commissioned in 1942 and eventually rose to the rank of Group Captain (G/C). At the end of his career he wrote a series of articles about his service and RCAF Signals from 1935 to 1965. It is fortunate that he did so because his record of 30 years of the Signals/Telecommunications Branch is the only one in existence.]


right side were a receiver control and a Morse code key. The electrical power came from a generator mounted on the lower wing of a bi- plane and was driven by a propeller facing into the slip stream. When not in the air the generator propeller was held by a rubber band. Failure on the part of the student to re- move the band before take-off meant climbing out on the wing to remove it! In addition to all the radio equipment, the operator was dressed in a bulky flying suit with a message pad strapped to one knee. He was encum- bered by a parachute harness that was hooked to his parachute, on which he sat. The reward for success in this field was flying pay of 75 cents a day. In addition to the hazards of flying and trying to decipher signals coming through the earphones in the flying helmet, students had to cope with music from Toronto Radio Station, CFRB. The RAF radio equip- ment was set for European frequency alloca- tions and inconveniently in the middle of the broadcast band was CFRB. As was the norm in the 1930s, church parades were compulsory and the commanding officer’s inspection a weekly routine. For these occasions, the re- cruits wore their No. 1 dress: breeches with puttees to the knee and gloves. As Jones wrote, “Thus telecom arrived in the RCAF.” Of the 21 initial recruits, 19 graduated.
The Second World War
By 1938, as war threatened, the Canadian gov- ernment, in keeping with Great Britain’s em- phasis on air defence, made more resources available to the RCAF. Two subordinate head- quarters were established: Western Air Com- mand in Edmonton on 1 March and Eastern Air Command in Halifax on 15 September. On 15 December 1938, the position of the Senior Air Officer was upgraded to that of the other Service Chiefs, and Air Vice Marshal (AVM)

G.M. Croil became the first Chief of the Air Staff. In September 1939, RCAF communica- tions were limited. The first priority of the newly appointed Directorate of Air Signals was to link the defence installations on the East and West Coasts of Canada and Newfoundland

with their respective Command headquarters and with Air Force Headquarters (AFHQ) in Ottawa. Work began on the East Coast to es- tablish Goose Bay, Labrador as a base for North Atlantic submarine patrol aircraft and as a staging station for aircraft flying over the Atlantic to Great Britain. Goose Bay had no land line communications; it was dependent solely on radio communications. Through the combined efforts of the RCAF, the RAF, the Canadian Army, and later the US Army Air Force (USAAF), Goose Bay became a large air- base and navigation aids facility. On the West Coast, the rapid increase in defence installa- tions, especially after Japan entered the war, re- quired the efforts of all three Services to build reliable land line and radio communications. The second priority was to build facilities to supply radio detection finding (RDF) equip- ment and to teach personnel how to use it. Later called RADAR, an acronym for “radio de- tection and ranging,”it was a technique that used radio waves to detect objects at a distance by bouncing radio waves off the object. Some of the waves would return to the source as an echo, which could be used to calculate the dis- tance to the object and to track it.# In 1939, F/O W.A. Orr went to RAF Cranwell to take the RDF Course, where he joined F/O D.G. Williams who was on the Signal Officers’ Course. When they returned to Canada in the early 1940s, they brought with them several hundreds of pounds of blue prints to have

RDF equipment made here.

The supply of radio and radar equipment was a serious problem at the beginning of the Second World War. Previously, equipment had been purchased from Great Britain but with restricted funding, a result of the Great De- pression, there was little money to buy new
# The system was made workable by a British scientist, Dr Robert Watson-Watt in the 1930s. By 1936, four long-range, skyward-looking, radio towers had been erected along the east coast of England, where exper- iments were carried out over the next three years that showed that it was possible to track the position, speed, and direction of a flight of aircraft. This work was of the greatest importance to the security of British air space from hostile aircraft approaching from the European Continent.

The AR 2 Receiver was designed and manufactured by the Northern Electric Company.This model was built in 1943 by the RCA Victor Company.

equipment. Once war broke out, Canada had to find its own sources of supply. First, the RCAF turned to the Northern Electric Com- pany to design and manufacture the AT1 transmitter and the AR2 receiver that would incorporate all of the most recent advances in

less School was moved to Montreal to become No. 1 Wireless School; in September 1944, it was moved to Mount Hope, Ontario. No. 2 Wireless School was opened in September 1940 at Calgary, No. 3 in February 1941 at Winnipeg, and No. 4 in June 1941 at Guelph, Ontario. The wireless course was planned as a 24 week course but was changed to 16 weeks for the first course, which proved to be inade- quate. The course was lengthened to 18 weeks and before the year 1940 ended was increased to 20 weeks. In 1941, the course returned to




radio design: light weight for their power and rugged enough to withstand vibration, shock, temperature, and altitude changes. The first prototypes were tested on a flight from Trenton to Montreal on 24 January 1940. The tests were successful and the equipment was manufac- tured in large quantities to support the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). At RCA Canada a ground transmitter, the AT3, was developed, which incorporated the latest in fre- quency control, stability, and remote control. Canadian Marconi developed a small transmit- ter for use in fighter aircraft.

The BCATP was a British post First World War plan to train RAF aircrew in Canada but because of the Great Depression it never ma- terialized. When the Second World War broke out, the plan was revived with the British Gov- ernment wanting to train 50,000 aircrew an-

nually, a number that would require at least

its original planned 24 weeks but in 1942 it was increased once again to 28 weeks. Wireless training was not easy! A total of 18,496 stu- dents, 12,744 of them Canadian, graduated from the four schools; most of them served as air gunners as well. One of the students at No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary was involved in an accident on 10 November 1941; LAC K.M. Gravell was posthumously awarded the George Cross for trying to save the life of his pilot in the crash of their Tiger

Moth aircraft. His citation told how he, in spite of his clothes being on fire and having lost one eye, tried to go back into the burning air- craft to rescue the pilot. He must have been in the vicin- ity of a school because a fe-

male teacher pulled him




90 flying schools. The monetary requirement

away from the burning air-

George Cross


to put such a large-scale scheme into effect was staggering in terms of late 1930s finances. On 18 November 1939, Canada, the UK, Aus- tralia, and New Zealand agreed to fund a por- tion of the anticipated cost of $689 million. When the plan ended on 31 March 1945, it had cost $2.2 billion ($28.5 billion in 2013 dollars) of which Canada paid 75 per cent of the cost. At the end, the BCATP consisted of four headquarters and 124 schools, from which 131,553 aircrew graduated; over 50,000 were pilots. Fifty-five per cent of the graduates were Canadian. There was a total of 856 fatalities during BCATP training.

The BCATP had four wireless training schools. In February 1940, the Trenton Wire-

plane and rolled him on the ground to extin- guish the flames. Gravell died in hospital from his extensive burns.

While the provision of radio equipment and the training of personnel to operate and main- tain it were well within the capability of Cana- dian companies and Canadian wireless schools, the same could not be said for radar. The criti- cal technology had been kept a secret by the British, so when war broke out little was known about it in Canada. Radar training and the de- ployment of equipment was made the respon- sibility of the RCAF Directorate of Air Signals. Early in 1940, the most senior RCAF Signal of- ficer, Wing Commander (W/C) R.E. McBurney, was appointed Director of Signals and headed





RCAF (Women’s Division) WDs doing semaphore drill.



a special RDF Committee tasked with establish- ing radar production, training for radar tech- nicians, and radar protection for Canada.* There were two immediate problems: first, to find a company to build the equipment and second, to train personnel to operate it.

The solution to equipment supply was solved by the Canadian government setting up a factory. In August 1940, Research Enter- prises Limited (REL), a Crown Corporation, was opened at Leaside, Ontario and supplied radar equipment to not only Canada but also to the USA and Great Britain. Interestingly, the first Canadian-built radar equipment went to the USA to be deployed to protect the Panama Canal because the Americans at the time did not have radar of the calibre of the British-de- signed and Canadian-built equipment.

The expertise to start up REL and to train
* See Appendix 51 for a biography of McBurney

radar technicians was found, initially, by re- cruiting a number of Canadian experienced civilian radio personnel, both professional and amateur, and, without any military train- ing, to send them to England to study the British system. A ham radio operator, H.W. Jackson, later wrote how he and all other radio licensees were contacted by the Depart- ment of Transport in mid-1940 offering them the rank of LAC Wireless Electrical Mechanic (WEM) in the RCAF. Jackson reported to a Manning Depot on 21 October 1940 and, with virtually no training, he in the first group of 55 (other groups followed) left for the UK, landing in Scotland on Christmas Day 1940. After a short period of on-job training and a short wireless course at the RAF Yatesbury School, he was sent to the RDF School at RAF Cranwell. After graduation in mid 1942, he did radar duty at two locations in the UK. In 1943, he was returned to Canada to replace




the RAF instructors who had started up No. 31 Radio School at Clinton, Ontario. Jackson re- mained there as an instructor until May 1946, when the school was turned over to the RCAF permanent force, and he was demobilized.

Radar was the great advantage the RAF had in defeating the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in September 1940. Britain realized immediately the usefulness of radar and asked Canada to train 5,000 radar technicians as soon as possible. In addition to the several hundred amateur radio mechanics sent over- seas in the fall of 1940, three RCAF officers were despatched to the UK in November 1940 for training. The three, F/Ls G.M. Fawcett and

C.J. Campbell, and F/O G.H.L. Norman, re- turned to Canada in May 1941 and they were of great help in siting ground stations for Canadian radar defences, providing engineer- ing advice to the REL, and fitting airborne equipment. Another officer, F/L C.B. Lim- brick who had been attached to the RAF also helped to train radar operators in Canada. In April 1941, a team of experts after looking for a site that had good power facilities near a large body of water, and with easy proximity to sources of supply and transportation but not too close to a prominent place, chose Clinton, Ontario to be the location for a radar school. On 27 August 1941, No. 31 Radio School (RAF) opened under the command of W/C

H.W.L. Cocks, RAF. The site was surrounded by electrically charged fencing patrolled by armed guards. There was a staff of over 400 that could train 650 students at a time and graduate 250 every month. By early 1943,

Canada had sent over 5,000 radar technicians

Radar School at Cranwell, they were despatched all over the world as radar techni- cians attached to RAF units.

Although there was a great demand for radar mechanics and operators both in the British and Canadian Forces, the first graduates of No. 31 Radio School, renamed No. 31 RDF School in July 1942, were members of the US Navy and Marine Corps. The US kept a count of their graduates and their story was reported in the August 1945 issue of Time Magazine,

From tiny Clinton, Ontario (pop. 2,000) came a significant story of international co-operation. In four years, 2,325 Ameri- can (and 6,500 Canadians) have been graduated from Clinton’s Royal Canadian Air Force Radar and Communications School. The U.S. students, most of them University men, thought so highly of the school that it later became the model for

U.S. training centres.

The Air Force Telecom Association has tracked 5,847 of the 6,120 (the actual num- ber) Canadian graduates who, in addition to service at 40 Canadian radar sites, were em- ployed by the RAF in Britain and all over the world. One possible reason

for so many Canadians serv- ing in RAF radar sites was that the RAF Director of Radar and Director General of Signals, AVM V.H. Tait, was Canadian-born and a graduate of the University of Manitoba. There were

RCAF radar officers and




to the UK; most were posted to the RAF.

men in 30 countries, includ-

The Burma Star


While the Clinton site was being selected and the school was being built, 2,415 poten- tial radar technicians were sent in June 1941 to 13 Canadian universities and the Royal Mil- itary College for a 13 week basic electrical course. Only 1,450 graduated, a failure rate of 40 per cent, but the course was repeated sev- eral times as the need for potential radar tech- nicians was so great. Successful candidates were sent overseas with a minimum of military training, and after further training at RAF

ing 723 in Southeast Asia, where the senior of- ficer was W/C D. Gooderham who was awarded the OBE and the US Bronze Star for his leadership. There were 296 radar stations in the UK; each maintained a 24 hour watch from Good Friday 1939 until 8 May 1945. Some of the more unknown and obscure sites to which RCAF personnel went were in the Mediterranean: Sicily, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Turkey (in civilian clothes), North Africa, Malta, and Palestine; and to the South Pacific:




Guadacanal with the USMC, Australia and New Zealand. Some officers in England played a role in radar research at Malvern, Worcestershire, where the H2S ground-map- ping airborne radar equipment was developed to allow Commonwealth aircrews to bomb un- seen targets at nights and through clouds. Others worked on the radar navigational aids, Gee and Oboe, that kept aircraft on course and improved the accuracy of bombing. In ad- dition to static radar sites, they operated mo- bile stations on the D-Day beaches in Normandy, at the airborne landings at Arn- hem, and during the Allied campaigns in Northwest Europe.

While the majority of RCAF radar officers and men served overseas a large number served on 40 radar stations in Canada and on sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Early in the war, there was a fear of long range bomber attacks on vital Canadian targets in eastern Canada. After Japan joined the Axis Powers, there was a fear of carrier borne aircraft raid- ing the West Coast. Ground radar units were installed as early warning for the approach of hostile aircraft and for the control of Cana- dian interceptors. While there were never any hostile incidents, the radar units proved in- valuable in keeping track of Canadian aircraft and helping to locate lost planes. A system was instituted by Air Traffic Control on both the East and West Coasts to monitor Canadian air- craft, especially those on anti-submarine pa- trols. Many lives were saved as a result of locating downed aircraft. By February 1945, there were 29 radar stations on the East Coast and 11 on the West Coast.*

By May 1944, these stations were equipped with Mk III Interrogation Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment that consisted of a transmitter, re- ceiver, display unit with a plan position indi- cator, and a special antenna mounted on a thirty foot tower. The tower sent a coded in- terrogation signal that could only be re- sponded to by an aircraft equipped with a matching code transponder. Maritime air pa- trols had Air-to-Surface Vessel (ASV) radar, air-
* See Appendix 44

RCAF Radar Station at Patricia Bay, South Vancouver Island, 1942. [LAC/NAC]


craft interception (AI) radar, and IFF. It was the policy of AFHQ in Ottawa to concentrate on ASV because of the German submarine menace in spite of the extra training that was required to acquaint aircrews with its use. ASV equipment was made initially by REL but later more sophisticated models were produced in the USA. In May 1943, the first ASV units were delivered to the RCAF and proved to be invalu- able in detecting German submarines, which had to spend time on the surface charging batteries. Although a very small target, they could be detected by ASV and destroyed by bombing. The German submarines had a de- vice to detect hostile radar and, even if the air- craft did not pick up the submarine on its radar, the radar signal was enough to cause the submarine to dive. Early German successes sinking ships in the Gulf of St Lawrence were thwarted by late 1943 by the RCAF using ASV. Because of the tight security regarding radar, officers working in radar were shown in the Officers’ List as being in Radio. The Radio (Radar) Branch began on 27 January 1941 and by October 1941 there were 160 officers compared to a total of 76 under Signals. Radio Branch officers continued to outnumber those in the Signals Branch. During the War a total of 1,059 officers, led by W/Cs D. Gooderham,

R.E Mooney, W.S. Kendall, and J.A. Ross served in the Radio Branch. It was 1944 before offi- cers were listed as Radar Officers.



A World War Two Ground Control Station; note that the WD Cpl is wearing the Wrls Op Badge.



The Radar Branch suffered 68 fatal casual- ties from 1941 to 1945 with roughly half of them in ground stations and half of them in the air. There were 29 deaths attributable to enemy action, 20 due to accidents, and 19 from natural causes.*

On 18 July 1941, the number of officers with the qualification “S” was increased as W/C A.H.K. Russell; S/Ls R.M. McKay, E.L. Miners, and A. Walmsley; F/Ls R.S. Blackner,

A.M. Cameron, C.G.W. Chapman, R.B. Hood- spith, D.C. Horne, D.F. Manders, B.G. Miller,

H.R. McLaughlin, H.F. Monon, J.T. O’Leary,

A.P.W. Richer, and R.C.A. Waddell; and F/Os

H.C. Vinnecombe and L.G.R. Virr qualified.

S/Ls C.J. Campbell and G.M. Fawcett, and F/L

G.H.L Norman were the only officers with the designation “R” for radar. In 1942, the Signals Branch consisted of 114 officers. Each year it grew in size: in 1943, 182 officers; in 1944, 256 officers; and in 1945, it reached its high- est strength: 1 G/C, C.J. Campbell, 11 W/Cs,

30 S/Ls, 88 F/Ls, 178 F/Os, and 2 P/Os, a total of 310 officers. In 1944, there was a new entry, “Signals Cypher”, with 21 F/Os and 5 P/Os. Approximately 400 officers and 4,000 men and women served in the Signals Branch during the Second World War.

During the war, approximately 10,000 all ranks served in the Signals and Radar branches of the RCAF. Many were recognized for their service with honours and decorations.#



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