First, let me start with the restoration accomplishment that was completed on Aug 1 1993. Earlier in the year, I made up my mind to tackle the refurbishment of Radio 4. This radio room is located above the galley on the starboard side ahead of the forward funnel. During the final years of Haida's service life, this room was fitted to perform the functions of an electronic warfare room. It was equipped with high frequency and centimetric direction finding receivers which allowed the operators to determine the bearing of an adversary vessel. With assistance from other ships, triangulation could determine the distance of the foe. In addition, CW transmissions in the 4 and 8 Mhz bands from Russian Electronic Intelligence ships (masquerading as fishing trawlers) would be monitored using a Hammarlund SuperPro 600 receiver and recorded on a Webcor reel-to-reel tape recorder. Once Haida was back in Halifax, the recorded tapes would be sent to Glouster Ontario for analysis by Naval intelligence. It was also a place where an exhausted Sparker could catch up on some shuteye.
The restoration of Radio 4 to its 1963 paint scheme commenced at the beginning of my vacation in July of 1993 and by co-incidence, my holidays ended up in synchronization with a heat wave. Scraping and painting during a heat wave makes almost as much sense as erecting antennas in winter! Not to worry - you have to be a little crazy to be in this business. After the room received an fresh coat of paint, there was this residual problem of having to furnish the room with some vintage equipment. The task of provisioning the room with old gear was made much easier due to the generosity of several amateurs. Bill Scott, VE3CUP of Etobicoke, donated a Wilcox-Gay reel-to-reel tape recorder which turned out to be only 0.25 inches wider than the original Webcor unit. How about that ? Many thanks go out to John Turgoose, VE3NFK, of Kingston who donated a Hammarlund SP600 receiver. Doug Card, VE3CKX of Milton managed to procure an old Underwood open frame typewriter. It is precisely this sort of effort and generosity that contributes to success of any project. The Marconi FM12 high frequency direction finding receiver which was being stored in Radio 1 was moved to Radio 4. Hoisting the FM12 into Radio 4 required the strength of four people plus the assistance of block and tackle. We believe that the FM12 weighed just under 300 pounds!
On June 15, 1993, Haida received a shipment of Radio Remote Control equipment from the Maritime Command Museum in Halifax. Congratulations are extended to Commander Bob Willson of HMCS Haida for his persistence and the co-operation of the Command Museum for making the appearance of this equipment possible on Haida. This gear, which permitted remote control operation of the radios, had not been on the ship since her de-commissioning in 1963. To date, it has all been mounted, but that was the easy part. When Haida was taken out of service, all of the armoured, multi-conductor cables connecting to the remote control equipment had been sheared off in order to expedite quick removal. Based on what I see in the schematics of the radio remote control system, many Saturdays will be spent splicing and terminating cables just to get some of this gear connected back up to original order. Just when I had given up all hope of ever finding a replacement for the defective RF ammeter in our antique Marconi FR12 transceiver, I received a phone call from Ivor Nixon, VE3IHN of Carrying Place, Ontario. Out of the 4000 readers of TCA magazine in April of 1993, Ivor was the only person who responded to my ad. In a week's time, I received the replacement unit. (It definitely pays to advertise in TCA - an unsolicited plug).
Vintage Teletype equipment was donated by John Langtry, VE3NEC of Georgetown. His offering of a Model 15 Teletype, a Model 14 tape reperforator and a paper tape reader will enhance the authenticity of the Message Centre. I have also had the good fortune to have contacted Joe Blanchette, VE3BAD of Ottawa. Joe is a Teletype machine mechanic "extraordinare" and has provided Haida with a Radio Teletype Distortion Test Set and some technical expertise. Murray Willer, VE3FRX of Toronto, donated a surplus J-38 key which will be installed at one of the CW positions in Radio 1. With any luck, perhaps we can acquire three more straight keys like the J-38 and have a full house.
As a result of being in contact with other military equipment aficionados, I was alerted to the availability of surplus equipment by a forwarded letter from Chris Bisaillion, VE3CBK, of Kanata Ontario. It turned out that Dennis Miller, an antique radio collector in Guelph Ontario, had a World War 2 RCK receiver for sale. This is a 117 pound, crystal controlled, 4 channel VHF aircraft receiver. A phone call, followed by a trip to Guelph one week later, completed the transaction and another piece of missing equipment was acquired for Haida.
During August of 1993, I contacted the Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Museum in Kingston Ontario and paid a personal visit several weeks later. Master Warrant Officer Doug Hildebrand, the museum's curator, was a most delightful and co-operative person that one could wish to meet. There was no extra equipment that could be permanently loaned to Haida, but Doug studied my "needs" list and indicated to me that the Museum was expecting a shipment of encryption equipment. If any extra units were available, Haida could have them for permanent display. It was earth shattering news, as I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that this equipment would ever be de-classified and be made available for display in a museum. If this gear ever materializes, then the Coding Office will be restored.
On August 30/93, HMCS Haida celebrated the 50th anniversary of her commissioning. Noontime ceremonies held on the jetty, were attended by the Hon. Garth Turner, Minister of Revenue, the Haida Veterans Association and Members of Friends of Haida. Afterwards, it was time to cut the cake which was in the shape of a destroyer and complete with candy propellers. It was truly a sight to behold ! Members of Applied Military History staged a wonderful display of World War 2 artifacts, including a fully restored jeep. Meanwhile, the inside the ship, our volunteer amateur operators for the day were busy manning the Heathkit HW101 and letting the amateur community know about Haida's commemoration.
Between August 23 and Sept 6 1993, Communications Canada authorized HMCS Haida to use the special call of CF3CGJ to commemorate the 50th Anniversary commissioning of the ship. We were able to staff the station for 7 out of the 14 days that the special call was in force. Despite the heavy atmospheric noise on the 7 mHz band and the heat wave in late August of 1993, Haida's operators were able to contact 340 stations in total. Afterwards, we felt a great sense of accomplishment under the challenging circumstances. Overall, we could not contact as many VE stations as desired, since the ground wave runs out of horsepower pretty quickly on the HF bands and the dead zone of skip doesn't help matters any. Much appreciation goes out to the following operators who assisted with the operation of CF3CGJ: Doug Card VE3CKX (who probably lost several pounds sweating out the heat), Al Cronin VE3RIH, Steve Parsons VE3SMP, Tom Godden VE3TWG, Bernie Marchand VE3XMB and Jerry Proc VE3FAB.
Another one of Haida's volunteers, Russ Robinson, was a hull mechanic in the Royal Canadian Navy. During the summer months he completely rebuilt the steelwork and rubber gaskets for the port side boiler room air intakes. In 1994, he has plans to do the same on the starboard side. It's hard to see the results because the work is essentially hidden from view. Without this overhaul, the whole structure would have eventually disintegrated from internal rusting. Margaret Mathers, our ex-RCN Stoker succeeded in restoring a one cylinder Lester diesel engine back to full operation in August of 1993. This was quite an accomplishment considering that it had been totally seized up! There is also an interesting story here. The piston rings were found to be cracked and required replacement. After trying many sources, no rings could be located. By sheer luck, she had the good fortune to meet up with someone who had been saving Lester piston rings in his tool box since the 1940's because he believed that someone would need them one day. This is just the type of luck that you need when you are in the restoration business. When the diesel was finally started, exhaust gas went up the forward funnel for the first time in 30 years. It was, however, very difficult to see, because Margaret got the diesel so well tuned and burning clean, that the exhaust smoke could not be detected easily.
At the closing of the 1993 season, a small milestone was achieved on Haida. In the Message Centre, I managed to get a paper tape reader connected to a Model 15 Teletype. At random, I selected one of the existing paper tapes supplied with the equipment and mounted it on the reader. As the paper tape read in, the Teletype printed out a female shape along with a 1979 calendar. Another tape produced a picture of Mickey Mouse. It was a truly sweet experience, as the sound of a printing Teletype machine has not been heard on the ship since she was decommissioned. One of next years projects is to acquire an RTTY terminal unit and get it connected so the Teletype can print right off the air from one of the antique Marconi receivers.
During the off season, I will be enhancing a manual that I started to produce in the spring of 1993. It's a description of the equipment that was fitted into each of the radio rooms in 1963. The way it stands now, the document describes the most interesting aspects of radio the equipment itself. What is lacking is the information on how it was used on a daily basis by the Royal Canadian Navy. Not having served in the Navy myself, makes the task of fattening up the manual contents somewhat difficult. I would therefore like to get in contact with anyone who may have served as a RCN Sparker on Tribal Class destroyers in the early 1960's. I am looking for humorous stories about the equipment, how it was used (or abused), and any particular quirks that it possessed. Information from any earlier period will also be appreciated. You notify me phone or by letter. My address is: 68 Braywin Dr., Etobicoke, Ont. M9P 2P3 . I will send you a manuscript that will list the fitted equipment along with a basic description.
What lies in store for 1994 ? It is no mystery, as I have already started
to plan for the restoration of Radio 2, the second largest radio room on
Haida. The search for missing equipment will be a continuous effort for
the next several years, and one can only speculate as to what gear may
turn up in the future. Efforts to restore the pride and dignity of this
great ship continue and I would like to thank those volunteers who donate
their time and energy towards the cause. In addition, I dearly thank all
those individuals who have donated equipment, or have helped to operate
VE3CGJ during the previous year. It was this direct participation which
made the year so successful. Hopefully, we will have a repeat performance
in 1994. (Is there anyone interested in rebuilding a bogey boiler ?) On
behalf of the Captain and crew of HMCS Haida, we invite you to tour the
ship and see the restorations first hand.