( From personal correspondence, nov. 2009 )
was first Licensed as a Commercial radio operator in 1938, in Winnipeg which is
my home town.
From Favourable Lake, in North west Ontario, with
Canadian Airways, where you were a jack of all trade and not just a radio
operator, I got an offer to join the DOT and arrived in Ottawa very early
one Fall morning 1939. and was greeted by an ice storm so bad that the
streets were all covered in ice making it very difficult to walk.
The train arrived about 0430 in the morning and I
took one look outside and returned inside the railway terminal building to
wait until approximately 9 o'clock to proceed to the address given to me by
the Dept of Transport. It was my first experience with a Self serve
Cafeteria and didn't quite know what to do, but eventually I did manage to
get some breakfast and sat and waited until later in the morning. I had my
luggage with me and I slipped and slid all the way down Banks street until I
reached the DoT office.
They then took me out to the Booth Farm where the
Monitoring station was located. Charlie Rose was the OIC at that time. I met the staff and one
chap Pete Hill took me home with him to his boarding house, where I stayed
during my sojourn in Ottawa. The Monitoring station was located in an old
abandoned farm house that was on the old Booth estate. Inside on the ground
floor was the Main Monitoring station for Canada, and also the site of the
Time Signal for Canada. One the same floor they had a room full of receiving
equipment for monitoring foreign broadcast stations , such as Tokyo with its
Tokyo Rose and Germany with its Lord Haw Haw, these where all recorded on
huge vinyl disks and sent to somewhere down town Ottawa. Upstairs there where banks of receivers mostly
National HRO’s where most of the operators where located constantly scanning
the air waves for clandestine radio transmissions from Canada.
We also copied the Germany transmissions from
station DAN. That station sent reams of five letter code groups which we
copied down on typewriters and these where forwarded to downtown Ottawa as
well. Every now and then the station would stop transmitting and that is
when the German Submarines would send their traffic and immediately we heard
them we would push the Panic button and advise the Direction Finding
stations up down the East coast of Canada to get a Radio bearing on them.
It was monotonous work but had to be done !
One Incident that happened while I was there , was
when I was on a night shift with a chap called MacDonald. It was winter and
cold outside and we didn't have much heat upstairs in the radio room. The
only heat was from a grate in floor over the stove downstairs and from the
smoke pipes that went thru the radio room to the chimney., The fire had gone
out in the stove downstairs and it was getting pretty chilly upstairs, so
MacDonald volunteered to start up a fire in the stove downstairs.
He was gone quite awhile and all of a sudden there
was a terrific explosion, and stove pipes upstairs blew apart and fill the
room full of smoke and soot, so I couldn't see anything, I made my way
downstairs to find out what had happened and there was MacDonald sitting on
the floor completely black, only the whites around his eyes showing where
his glasses had been.
What had happened he tried to start the fire by
using some of vinyl shavings from the disks that were used to copy foreign
broadcasts.. That stuff is high flammable and when he put a match to it of
course it exploded. Fortunately MacDonald was not hurt just covered in soot.
We spent the rest of the night cleaning up the mess before the day shift
came on. No monitoring was done that night, but no one was the wiser for
what had happened.
On my time off I used to go skiing in a Park close
by and met up with a brother and sister, Bud and Naomi Cunningham. They made
life much more pleasant for me inviting to their home for meals . and
visiting with their parents.
Coming home to the boarding house on one occasion
after an evening shift,, the old land lady usually left a cup of cocoa and a
bite to eat on the dining room table. This time I was startled to find a
body laid out on the table. The old guy had died and they had just placed
him on the dining table until morning. I got quite a scare as I wasn't used
to finding dead bodies, never mind on the table.
My Room mate Pete Hill had a letter from Trans
Canada Airlines offering him a job as Radio Operator. He refused it
preferring to go with the Ferry Command in Montreal. I took his letter and
went to the Ottawa airport to see if could get the job. George Briggs, the
station manager, gave me a code test and hired me on the spot. That was
February 14, 1941.
There was very little social life in Ottawa at that
time as it was during the War and everything was Military and Government. I
did manage get to a theatre one in a while and had to wait in long line up
to get in. Leaving DOT, I was hired by TCA Feb 1941 and went to
Winnipeg for some training, bumped off the flight in Toronto for some
reasons ... that flight crashed on its continuing flight and all perished.
After 6 months, with good code, I was transferred
right back to St Hubert , living in Longueuil , hitch-hiking for every shift
for there was no public transportation. Then to Halifax/Dartmouth and back
While I was with the Lancaster modified, I still was with TCA. under
control of the Cndn Govt transatlantic air service (CGTAS) for the Royal Mail and VIP's - 1944-1947
Flight radio officer, about 100 crossings & 5 near crashes.
Coming off the Lancaster, I was sent to Goose Bay Labrador as
OIC, 12 radio operators, to take over the communication facilities from
the Military and convert everything to Civilian Frequencies to serve the
Atlantic communication frequencies for civil aviation after the war.
I was there over a year.
Then I went to Moncton for
very short stay then back to Montreal. Wanted to move out West and ended
up in Calgary as a radio operator for TCA. In Calgary for five years
and then moved to Victoria where I worked for TCA and by then called Air
Canada and was there for 26 years and took early retirement.
I then went to Irian Jaya for some
months and then returned to Victoria. After that I worked with
Viking Aircraft of Victoria and my job was mainly rewiring aircraft (
mostly Grumman Goose ) that had sunk in the ocean and the wiring had to be
replaced because of corrosion.
I was with Viking for better than 3
years and then took full retirement and been a professional Bum every since.