For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
RCN Shore Bases
Established in 1942 surrounding Albro Lake, then several kilometres north of the town of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, NRS Albro Lake was divided into two locations; the primary receiving site was located on the grounds of NRS Albro Lake, and its primary transmitting site was located at NRS Newport Corner, 50 kilometres northwest (NRS Newport Corner being a sub-unit of NRS Albro Lake). NRS Albro Lake also had secondary transmitting capabilities for forwarding along transmissions it received. Due to reception interference caused by the growing city of Dartmouth, Albro Lake was shut down and replaced by CFS Mill Cove in 1967.
Alert Bay was a wireless station built on Cormarant Island, off the north east coast of Vancouver Island. Commissioned in 1913, it was built to replace the station at Triangle Island which was difficult to staff and maintain due to its exposed location.
Very little is known about the history of HMCS Avalon. During World War II, Avalon was a major base for the RCN's ocean escorts based out of St. John's, Newfoundland.
The station of Barrington Passage opened on April 10, 1915 and was operated by the Government of Canada and the British Admiralty and was located at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. Barrington Passage was a naval radio station that was communicating with naval vessels patrolling off New-York and other large American cities. Originally, the station was operating with the call sign 'TS' and then 'VAL' that was eventually used by the Port Harrison (Hudson Bay) CGRS. The station was using sparks transmitters: Poulson 25 KW arc and a 10 KW asynchronous and a 5 KW asynchronous. The station was closed in September 1922, after the war. (Source: Marine Radio Communications and Traffic Services History in Canada)
The Camperdown Wireless Station, Halifax was operated by the Marconi Company from 1905 to 1926.
Cape Lazo wireless station was situated just outside Comox on Vancouver Island. Established in 1908, it was still in operation in 1927.
The station of Cape Race was built by the Canadian Marconi Company and opened on November 17, 1904 and operated till 1965. The station was located on the southeastern tip of Trepassey Bay. This is the first point or last point of land in North America that vessels pass due to Great Circle routing for Trans Atlantic voyages. There was a major light station there and it was a logical place to locate the "new technology of wireless". The original call sign of the station was CE until 1912 when it became MCE and eventually VCE. "VCE" was internationally known for its aid to navigation, but came into prominence in 1912 at the time of the Titanic disaster. 705 persons were saved and owed their lives to the value of the Marconi invention. Wireless was again instrumental in the saving of 650 lives from the burning "Volturno". Among other events of major importance was the Newfoundland sealing disaster of 1914 and the wreck of the "Florizel" on February 28, 1918. A Direction Finding station was also opened at Cape Race during the hostilities of WWI, in 1915. The East Coast DF service was then offered from Chebucto Head, Cape Sable, Canso and Cape Race (NL). The DF service from Cape Race was discontinued in 1961. (Source: Marine Radio Communications and Traffic Services History in Canada)
Cape Sable, N.S. station, which was built and operated by the Canadian Marconi Company, opened on July 3, 1905 and was offering a commercial messages service to the ships off the coast of Nova Scotia. In 1915 Cape Sable became a Direction-finding station. The Cape Sable station was one of four direction-finding stations on the East coast. The east coast DF service was offered from Chebucto Head, Cape Sable N.S., Canso N.S. and Cape Race, NL. The Cape Sable Direction Finding station was closed at the end of World War I, reverting to its original commercial status that of handling commercial messages with ships at sea.
On the outbreak of war, office space was rented in the city, and a disused barge of the Department of Public Works was taken over as a naval barracks. Renamed "Captor II", it remained in service until the summer of 1942 when it was condemned by the medical authorities. Its name, however, lived on as that of the depot ship at Saint John. Wharfage was leased at Reed's Point, and a number of small sheds nearby were rented to provide storage space, workshops, and offices. In June 1942, the Naval Service approved plans to set up a small "naval centre" at Saint John which would occupy two buildings, one to contain administrative offices and officers' quarters, and the other to serve as a barracks and sick bay. Construction was not undertaken until the spring of 1943, however; and even then progress was very slow owing to the acute shortage of manpower, aggravated by an urgent need for longshoremen during that busy year.32 It was not until the end of January 1944 that the staff of H.M.C.S. "Captor II" moved into the new barracks at Reed's Point. In September 1945, Captor II was merged with the naval reserve division HMCS Brunswicker.
In 1942, the United States Army Air Corps established a base called Fort Churchill, located five miles east of the town. Naval Radio Station Churchill was activated as an ionospheric study station by the RCN in support of the U-boat HFDF net and became operational on August 1, 1943. It commissioned as HMC NRS and remained that way from 1 Dec 1950 to July 1956. From July 1956 to July 1966 the station became HMCS Churchill then changing to CFS Churchill in July 1966 until the base closed.
Commissioned in 1942 to train recruits for the RCN for WW II. After the war, HMCS Cornwallis was declared surplus and closed down on 28 February 1946. Re-commissioned in November 1948, HMCS Cornwallis was again the recruit training centre for the RCN and later the Canadian Forces. In 1966 the base was re-named CFB Cornwallis. The based remained the main recruiting centre for the CF until it was shut down in 1994 and training moved to St. Jean, Quebec.
HMCS Conestoga, located near Galt, Ontario, was the training centre for new members of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS). In the midst of Conestoga's buildings, former site of the Ontario Training School for Girls, a large White Ensign (centre), Canada's naval flag, flies from a tall flagpole. Intended to provide an introduction to military life, courses at Conestoga included physical training and drills, as well as instruction in naval customs and traditions. Following training at Conestoga, members of the WRCNS went on to further training, usually at establishments elsewhere in Canada.
Coverdale, a tender to Stadacona, was established as a Special Wireless Station (HF/DF) on Nov 23, 1942. It was situated across the Petitcodiac River, slightly south of Moncton, New Brunswick. Construction was completed in the January-February 1944 period and commencement of operations began when WRENS started arriving in numbers. Because this site was located over a tremendous bog, it was selected for HF/DF operations because it provided a very good ground plane for radio frequency signals and the abundance of water provided a good source of domestic water. Between December 1949 and July 1956 it was renamed HMC NRS Coverdale. From July 1, 1956 to July 19, 1966 it was known as HMCS Coverdale. After the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, the station became CFS Coverdale
Dead Tree Point Wireless Station opened on the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1910. This station operated until it was moved to Sandspit, QCI in 1958. During World War I Dead Tree Point Station was used / manned by the RCN.
The radio station of Prince Rupert opened in 1911 and was located on Digby Island. The cable to the mainland was laid and a landline was built along the Grand Trunk poles to the city of Prince Rupert. The opening of the Prince Rupert radio station marked the completion of a chain of communication extending from Vancouver to northern British Columbia. The province now had full coverage of its coast. The chain of stations provided the only means of communication with the Queen Charlotte Islands, plus offering communications services to commercial stations installed by owners of lumber camps, canneries, and paper mills. The station covered the entrance to Prince Rupert Harbour as well as the surrounding waters of Digby Island. The station remained at Digby Island until 1967 when its services were combined with those of Prince Rupert aeradio. In 1981, marine communications were moved to Seal Cove.
Egg Island is a small Island off the coast of central British Columbia. A light house station had been set up there in the late 1890s. I have found no information on a wire station there but it appears at some point in WW I the RCN had a presence on the island.
Estevan Point station is a site approximately half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island. The site was established in 1906 as part of the chain of wireless stations along the west coast. This site was also used by the RCN in World War 1 and a guard was established there to re-buff any German raiding parties. In 1956 the station was shut down and moved to the Tofino Airport.
The base is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in and around Esquimalt, BC. CFB Esquimalt comprises of Naden (formerly HMCS Naden), HMC Dockyard Esquimalt, Fleet Maintenance Facility, a Fire Fighting and Damage Control School, the Naval Officer Training Centre (NOTC Venture), and extensive housing including 716 personnel married quarters located at nine sites such as Belmont Park, Work Point, and Royal Roads. The present dockyard and drydock, dates to the Royal Navy's Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard (1842–1905) and was the Royal Navy's Pacific Station until 1911; Today it serves as the Canadian Naval Headquarters in the Pacific.
HMCS Fort Ramsay was a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) base located at Sandy Beach on the southern shore of Gaspé Bay, several kilometres west of Gaspé, Quebec. Its construction was commissioned in 1940 and the base was inaugurated by the RCN on May 1, 1942. Several shore batteries were linked to this base, such as Fort Prével, Fort Haldimand and Fort Péninsule. On March 31, 1946, the base was decommissioned, almost a year after the Second World War ended. Today the base property is operated as the Sandy Beach Terminal of the Port of Gaspé and is primarily used for industrial and commercial purposes.
HMCS Givenchy was a specialty school stood up in 1943 for naval gunners crewing civilian vessels in World War II. It was located in HMCS Dockyard, Esquimalt.
HMCS Gloucester was an HFDF station near Ottawa, Ontario. One of her roles was the radio detection and location of German U-boats. Opened in 1943 as No. 1 Station HMCS Bytown, it was re-named HMC NRS Gloucester in 1950, then HMCS Gloucester later the same year. In 1966 the station was re-named CFS Gloucester. It was closed in 1972. During its years of operation, HMCS Gloucester was the training base for Radioman Special/Comm Rsch 291.
GONZALES HILL was a radio station established in Victoria, BC in 1906
The Naval shore facility at Esquimalt was commissioned as HMCS Naden on September 3, 1922. It was named for facility's Depot Ship, HMCS Naden, a small wooden schooner built in 1913 that previously had been used for coastal surveys and cadet training. During the Second World War, Naden became the primary Naval Training Centre for Western Canada. When CFB Esquimalt came into being on 1 Apr 1966, HMCS Naden became part of the the base.
NADEN III / GIVENCHY III
In 1940 the Royal Navy built a training facility on the Goose Spit near Comox and called it HMCS NADEN III. On 01 Oct 1943, the Combined Ops Training base on the Goose Spit was commissioned as HMCS GIVENCHY III. In 1954 the base was converted to a cadet training facility and in 1956 it was renamed HMCS Quadra.
Established by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1942, NRS Newport Corner was in the St. Croix River valley in Newport Corner, 50 kilometres northwest of NRS Albro Lake near Brooklyn. Newport Corner was originally the transmitter site for Albro Lake and later, when Albro Lake closed and CFS Mill Cove opened in 1967, it was the tranmitter site for Mill Cove. In the 1990s, due to government cutbacks, NRS Newport Corner and CFS Mill Cove were configured to operate remotely from HMCS Trinity in Halifax.
HMCS Niobe was a RCN shore establishment at Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland. It operated between 1941 and 1946 as was the headquarters of the RCN in Britain. Niobe fulfilled a wide range of functions, including the provision of a hospital for wounded Canadian Servicemen, and a transit camp for RCN crewmen between postings in the UK. It also maintained listing of ship's crew and next of kin for all RCN personnel based in the UK. The base was was named after the first warship transferred from the RN to the RCN.
The station of Sydney was owned and operated by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada for most of its history starting in 1907. The station operated from North Sydney under contract with the Department of the Naval Service. It was perched on Harvey's Hill, exposed to every storm the Gulf is so noted for. North Sydney was considered as the coldest station in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A new operating building was constructed in 1936-37. Sydney radio was granted the call sign VCO probably in 1912. Besides communicating with ships at sea, North Sydney worked with Sable Island and Grindstone. The Cape Breton station linked Cape Ray and Pictou all year round and Heath Point (Anticosti Island) during the navigation season on the St. Lawrence. In 1957, along with other Marconi stations, it was transferred to the Department of Transport. Less than a decade later - 1965 - the station was moved to the Sydney airport. (Source: Marine Radio Communications and Traffic Services History in Canada)
Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Pachena Point radio station was opened on 25 Nov 1907 with call sign KPD. The call sign was changed to VAD in 1912. The role of that station was to receive the weather observations from ships three times a day; observations that contained information on wind force and direction, sea conditions, air temperature, barometric pressure and cloud cover. Pachena Point radio station was closed down around 1940.
Partridge Island, located in the harbour entrance to Saint John, NB, played a key role in the defense of Saint John since the late 1700s. In World War 1, Partridge Island had a signal station, six 4.7 inch guns and a search light.
HMCS Patriot located in Hamilton was the Headquarters of the Commanding Officer Naval Divisions (COND), as well as the Great Lakes Training Centre. Fleet Mail Office Hamilton was HMCS Patriot's post office.
HMCS Peregrine was a manning depot in Halifax during World War 2 for personnel waiting to be posted to a ship and at the end of the war for demobilization.
Point Grey was a radio station built at Grey Point outside Vancouver, BC. Construction began on this site in 1907 and the site was operations soon afterward. While the date is closed down is not know, it was in operation during the First World War and up until at least 1922.
The wireless station at Port Nelson, located at the moth of the Nelson River on the shores of Hudson Bay was designed to performance standards set by the Radiotelegraph Branch of the Department of Naval Service. It went operations on 20 Feb 1914. At it's peak in 1916, Port Nelson handled 7,817 messages. On October 15, 1918, word came through from Ottawa to lay off all crews and staff at the wireless stations. This action resulted in the permanent closure of VBN, Port Nelson.
Royal Canadian Navy base HMCS Protector, also known as the Point Edward Naval Base, was located next to Sydney Harbour, on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island. It was stood up on 22 Jul 1940 and used by the navy during the Second World War. It was mainly used to provision, protect and repair the various merchant marine convoys to Quebec, Halifax, and the United Kingdom. HMCS Protector was initially stationed on the Sydney waterfront and used commercial wharves and buildings along Esplanade Street, where the present armouries and marine terminal are located. On 15 March 1943, a new custom-built shore facility and extensive piers was opened at Point Edward on the opposite western shore of the harbour, and was named HMCS Protector II, while the original was then renamed HMCS Protector I
It continued to be utilized during the Cold War's early stages. It was decommissioned in 1964 and became the initial facility to house the Canadian Coast Guard College that same year. Currently, the Sydport Industrial Park utilizes the base's former piers and land.
During the early 1900s there was a radio station located on Sable Island, located approx 300 km of the coast of Nova Scotia. There is very little information avaialble about this station and it appears wit hwas shut down in the early 1920.
Shearwater II was a shore establishment in Esquimalt, BC that was commissioned on 12 Oct 1914.
Located in the community of Sandy Point, NS, the naval station HMCS Shelburne was opened by the RCN in Dec 1941. It consisted of a deepwater pier and associated facilities, as well as barracks and residences. As part of the post WW 2 forces reductions, HMCS Shelburne was closed in 1946. The creation of the SOSUS network required a naval facility to be constructed in southern Nova Scotia. As a result, HMCS Shelburne was reactivated on 01 Apr 1955 as a jointly operated RCN/USN Oceanographic Research Station. On 01 Feb 1968, as a result of the "creation" of the Canadian Armed Forces, HMCS Shelburne was renamed CFS Shelburne. As a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and technological advances that allowed for remote operation of sensors from greater distances, CFS Shelburne was shut down on 01 Aug 1994 and the facilities transferred to HMCS Trinity at CFB Halifax. CFS Shelburne was formerly decommissioned as a military facility on 13 Mar 1995.
HMCS Somers Isles was a temporary training facility for the Royal Canadian Navy in Bermuda from 1944 to 1945. The base was located at Convict's Bay, St. George's Parish. It was originally built for the use of the Royal Navy. The RCN subsequently abandoned HMCS Somers Isles when Canada's military consolidated its operations at Somerset Island at the west end of Bermuda.
The Signal School at St. Hyacinthe, Quebec was instrumental in training thousands of wireless operators during World War II. It had moved from Halifax to St. Hyacinthe in the summer of 1941. Modern buildings, spread over a 25 acre site, housed almost 3200 officers, ratings and Wrens who were involved in all phases of communication training. In the years prior to WW II, training telegraphists took about a year. After the war started, that period was reduced to approximately 3 months with intensive training. If a student failed his exam after 6 weeks, he would be assigned to either the stoker or seaman trade. After the summer of 1941, with the need for more coders growing rapidly, they were trained as Coders. By 1944 St. Hyacinthe was able to turn out highly proficient communicators and by the war's end, St. Hyacinthe was training visual signalmen, wireless telegraphists, coders, radar operators and radio artificers.
In 1910, the Canadian government built a marine radio station on Triangle Island, northwest of Cape Scott which is located on the northernmost point of Vancouver Island. The island is a cone shaped rock formation, 207 meters high and has a circumference of approximately 5 kilometers. Triangle Island is devoid of trees and only minimal vegetation consisting of shrubs and weeds are found. Interestingly, the station was built by the Government of Canada, not the Canadian Marconi Company as was done in the majority of stations in eastern Canada. The station thus began operations in March 1910. The masts for the antennas were made out of the large trees brought from the mainland. Official reports state a radio coverage area of 300 NM, while the Estevan Point station had a range of only 150 NM. The island was so windy that ropes had to be installed between the buildings so that the personnel could move safely amongst them. As an additional security measure, steel cables were installed above the roofs of the buildings and secured into the ground. The station was often out of service due to the harsh meteorological conditions prevalent on the island. The station's first call letters were "TLD" and were probably changed to "VAG" around 1912. Triangle Island handled communications from vessels sailing the Inside Passage between Seymour Pass and Millbank Sound right up until the opening of the Alert Bay station in 1913. As a result, Triangle Island became a relay station for communications between the north and south, ensuring a safety watch for vessels on the high seas and those sailing along the coast of Vancouver Island. The station was also responsible for communications for stations of the Queen Charlotte archipelago, as well as those at Ikeda Head and Dead Tree Point. Triangle Island was closed in 1919 as a result of the never ending costs associated with the reconstruction and repairs to the station due to the strong winds continually experienced on the island. (Source: Marine Radio Communications and Traffic Services History in Canada)