(Scroll down to see photo on top of Cape Smokey)
Lyle received his second-class certificate of proficiency in radio at Saint John Radio College graduating in 1956. The first person he can remember who was in charge of the East Coast Marine Radio Service was out of Halifax and that was H.H. MacLean who was Supt. of Marine Radio Services. By early 1957 , the Marine-Aeradio were combined under regional director Charlie Williams at Moncton.
His first posting was at Moncton Aeradio for several months on the point to point CW circuits. All the weather, aids to air navigation ,routine government messages and requests for supplies from such places as Battle Harbour (VOH) and Twillingate (VOO) Nfld. were handled on the morse circuits. Using frequencies in the 4,5 and 6 Mhz range, Lyle recalls that after a few months he could copy signals through roaring pandemonium (for the layman this translates to copying usually weak signals through heavy static, atmospheric noises and other station interference).
His next posting, April 1957 was Sable Island, call sign VGF, for eleven months and once again all communications to and from the Island were on CW. His O.I.C. on Sable was Gerry Smith, who was relieved by Johnny Weir in August 1957. Lyle was transferred from VGF in the spring of 1958 after many adventures on that Island of sand 180 miles south east of Halifax.
He then spent several months at VBQ, Halifax Marine Radio Telephone and CW station where a real old-timer Ray Bridger was in charge. Bridger was the only person Lyle ever knew who saw the logs from Cape Race (VCE) where Ray had been posted for several years. Ray could repeat almost word for word the contents of the log of the night the Titanic went down in 1912.
Then after a brief tour of duty on the Sambro Light Ship, anchored 11.2 miles off Chebucto Head at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, he was posted to Grindstone / VCN on the Magdalen Islands where all were trapped by usually heavy ice every winter from December to April. There was lots of ship traffic on MF, 440 and 500 Khz and on Radio-telephone as well as maintaining skeds with seven lighthouses. Even domestic telegrams were handled at VCN when the public teletype link was down.
His O.I.C’s at VCN were Evert Kuhn, Keith Champion and Dewey Buck. During some 4 ½ years at VCN other operators with him were Terry Mackie, Jean Paul DesSaulnier, Chester Turnbull, Doug Conrad, Ted Daley, Don Bishop.
Leaving VCN in Dec. 1962 Lyle then transferred to VCS Halifax Marine Radio with Jack Maher in charge and especially remembers supervisors Stan Cairns, Don MacKay, Mike Mulcahey and many others. The Commonwealth radio network had until the early 1960’s been operated by the Canadian Navy out of CFH (Albro Lake - Dartmouth) using both civilian and military radio operators, handling a huge amount of commercial and military morse traffic. In 1963, VCS took over the Commonwealth radio network, handling all commercial traffic. In addition to medium frequencies 484 and 500 kHz, VCS was able to communicate with ships all over the world on high frequencies in the 4,6,8 and 12 Mhz ranges. Lyle can recall going on watch, handling so much commercial morse traffic and distress communications that he ate his lunch on the way home after his 8 hour shift.
Inspection of radio installations on top of Cape Smokey, Cape Breton Island in 1971
Lyle Bates on the left and Hugh Little, Marconi technician on the right
(Source: Jean Charles Lévesque, retired technician, Marconi and CBC)
During the period 1957 - 1965 Lyle also served intermittent periods as Radio Officer on the Canadian Hydrographic ships Baffin, CGCL and Kapuskasing CGCK. Later in 1965 he applied for and was accepted into the rank of radio inspectors. He served many years as a radio inspector first at Sydney N.S. from 1965 to 1974 and then Halifax from 1974 to retirement in 1989. During those years he served for a time as manager of the Sydney office and then later as senior inspector of the Halifax office.
Today he is happily retired with his wife Carole living at Middle Musquodoboit N.S. and acts as net manager for a morse code social and traffic net on the Amateur Radio 80, meter band where he can be often heard on 3654 kHz at 8 p.m. local time. To him morse code is a language he can never forget.
Links - Liens
Sydney, Nova Scotia - Lyle Bates Receives Award
1973 - My First Day as a Radio Inspector - Donald Courcy