By Jerry  Proc
HMCS HAIDA Radio Department Volunteer

Over the years, much of HAIDA’s missing electronics has been repatriated. Many of these acquisitions are not straightforward. They are laden with twists and turns. This  is one of the  many stories which illustrate the effort that it takes to help make HAIDA’S  fittings as complete and functional as possible.

When HAIDA paid off, she was fitted with the Sperry Ml II navigation radar and the A/N SPS- 6C air search radar.  In the Operations Room, a type VK-5 radar repeater (aka radar indicator) was fitted in the same space as the Sperry. It could be switched over to operate from either radar system to display targets of interest. There were 400 VK-5 units produced for the USN by Westinghouse Electric in Baltimore, Maryland. The RCN procured their VK-5 repeaters from Westinghouse in Hamilton, however the production quantity is unknown at this time. What’s special about the VK-5 is the fact that the operator can move the sweep line all over the screen instead of having it pivot only around the centre.

Once stricken off strength in 1963, HAIDA was “demilitarized” and all critical equipment was  deinstalled and returned to naval stores or given to Crown Assets for disposal. As a result, HAIDA arrived in Toronto in 1964 with most of her electronics  missing.  Sometime in the late 1980’s, the a Sperry MK II system was liberated from RCN naval stores in Halifax and shipped to Toronto.  The system was installed and made functional by Jim Brewer, a former Fire Control Technician in the RCN and now, HAIDA’s retired Shipkeeper. There was no VK-5 in that shipment, however the navy did provide the ship with the AN/SPA-4 radar repeater The SPA-4 was actually fitted in the radar compartment  but since there was no SPS-6C radar aboard , it was used in place of the VK-5. The SPA-4 worked well and successfully demonstrated the operation of the Sperry radar for many years as a slave display.

As lady luck would have it, (the late)  Andre Guibert, a radio collector and former HMC Dockyard mate  living in St. Lambert, PQ, offered HAIDA a VK-5 radar repeater after responding to a request for assistance.  This was one of two units in his collection.  Jim Brewer and Stoker volunteer Marg Mathers drove to Montreal to pick up the unit. It was received aboard HAIDA on September 21, 1996. At 471 pounds, it was not going to be an easy task to get the VK-5 up to the Ops Room. However, expertise triumphed. A block and tackle was rigged to the deckhead of the Operations Room lobby and all the ladders in the other lobbies  were removed right down to the main deck.  The  yoke on which the VK-5 was mounted was removed to lessen the weight.

Taking the better part of a day, the VK-5 was finally nudged into place in the Ops Room after the SPA-4 repeater was removed.  The same operation was performed in order to hoist the 145 pound VK-5 power supply and the heavy mounting yoke. That completed the physical move but there was still more work to come.

The first major problem facing Jim Brewer was the lack of a technical service manual. Only a  schematic diagram was available . With 101 vacuum tubes and associated circuitry, the VK-5 was a very complex piece of electronics. To add further difficulty, some of the  circuitry was modified by the RCN but not updated on the schematic. There were numerous vacuum tubes with cracked glass envelopes which had to be replaced.  For just a brief moment in time, Jim managed to get the VK-5 operational before it was plagued with yet more problems. Troubleshooting the device then became a “rainy day” opportunity which never materialized.  To this day, periodic searches of the Internet have failed to locate a VK-5 manual anywhere.

Now let’s fast forward to January of 2015. In that month I received news that the Radio Museum of Quebec  (Le Musée Québécois de la Radio Inc) could not get a renewal of their  existing lease. Jacques Hamel, the museum’s President spent a great deal of time trying to find a new home for the collection but to no avail . Included in this collection was Andre Guibert’s second VK-5 which was acquired by the Radio Museum of Quebec some time before his passing. Jacques indicated that existing museums would have first priority in acquiring any portion of the existing collection.

It then occurred to me to try and acquire the second VK-5 display for HAIDA. Once again, lady luck was with us. Donald Courcy, a former RCN communicator in Oberon class submarines, offered to transport the VK-5 from the museum’s temporary storage facility in Sorel-Tracy (PQ) to HAIDA. On June 9/15, a small work party moved the newly arrived VK-5 from the delivery van to a temporary location in the Gift Shop. Here it will sit, until such time that it can be moved to the Operations Room and be tested.

My congratulations are extended to Jacques Hamel and  Le Musée Québécois de la Radio Inc for making the second VK-5 available to HAIDA and to Don Courcy for transporting it at his own expense.

The VK-5 was set up in a temporary location in the Gift Shop less the mounting yoke. Hopefully some of HAIDA's visitors will appreciate this artifact for the length oftime that it is there. (Photo by Don Courcy)

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June 16/15