POINT GREY, B.C.  1940 - 1956


 
The original 1907 Point Grey station was set up on 1 1/2 acres of land that is now occupied by the University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology.

Station Point Grey was a secret section of Fort Point Grey, which itself was part of the wartime Defence of the Port of Vancouver. The Fort was the southern point of the defence line across the entrance of the Port of Vancouver. Fort Point Grey was located adjacent to where the University of British Columbia (UBC)  Museum of Anthropology now exists. In fact, the museum's centrepiece, namely the  Bill Reid exhibit, sits atop of what was once the foundation of one of the Fort Point Grey's gun emplacements. All the wartime buildings have long since been demolished, however, much of the concrete gun emplacements are still visible at the site and down the embankment to English Bay.

The Point Grey Monitoring Station had been in operation since 1908. Overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the site had been used to monitor radio traffic across BC and maritime radio traffic off the West Coast of Canada. In 1937 the Point Grey Monitoring Station was transferred to the newly created Department of Transport. In 1939 Point Grey Monitoring Station began radio interception work for the war effort.

From 1940 onwards, Station Point Grey intercept operators were using state of the art superheterodyne receivers, and manual transcription of the intercepts. Intercept stations at the naval base at Esquimalt near Victoria, BC, on Lulu Island and at Masset north of the Queen Charlotte Islands would also cover the region for the Examination Unit in Ottawa. This was the home of Canada`s wartime cryptonanalysts, as well as Naval and Army intercept clearing centres.

point_grey_monitoring_station_1940.jpg
Point Grey Monitoring Station looking south. Circa 1940. The UBC campus is in the background. (Photo from the Hayes Private Collection, Victoria, BC)
During the Second World War, the two storey building housed upwards of two dozen radio intercept operators. Part of the function of the soldiers at Fort Point Grey was to protect and secure Station Point Grey. After the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the US Fleet in Pearl Harbour in December 1941, the security of Station Point Grey was elevated to a state of great importance. By 1943, Station Point Grey had an extensive antenna array farm.  A number of different radio networks were monitored by the radio intercept operators at the station, however no intercepts were more important  than the diplomatic traffic to and from the war time Imperial Japanese Government in Tokyo. The most important messages being intercepted were those between the Japanese Ambassador in Berlin, General Hiroshi Oshima and the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo. After decryption, these messages helped the Allies with their war effort.

For the special intercepts,  the operators would use wax cylinder recorders and record the Katakana code transmissions to and from Tokyo. A high-speed teletype system also connected Station Point Grey with the Examination Unit in Ottawa. From there, raw intercepts were sent on their way to Arlington Hall in the US and to Bletchley Park in the UK.

Station Point Grey also intercepted the messages regarding the technology exchange going on between Germany and Japan. They were sending blueprints and equipment for their Me-163 rocket planes, the Me-262 jet planes, the V-1 buzz bombs and  advanced radar. This was passed as  special intelligence directly to the Royal Navy and the United States Navy.  The RN and USN then tried to search and sink these ships that were transporting special shipments.

After the Japanese Imperial Navy (IJN) attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and the Imperial Japanese Government declared war on the Canada and her allies, the Parliament of Canada made the decision to secure both Fort Point Grey and Station Point Grey by requiring all students of Japanese heritage, irrespective of nationality, to leave their studies at the University of British Columbia for the duration of the conflict with
Japan.

port_grey_antenna_array.jpg
Facing North:  The antenna array at Point Grey, circa 1943. The station is to the left, while the station chief's house is to the right. (Source: Private Collection of W.J. Bowerman).
Radio collector Tom Brent indicates the following "Existing records indicate the original (1907) Point Grey radio station buildings were being occupied by militia units involved in the construction of the gun emplacements and fortifications in late August 1939 and one would presume the new location for the receiving station a short distance away on Wesbrook Crescent was in service at that time. While the Lulu Island location is correctly identified as a part of Richmond, the Wesbrook Crescent site as well as the original site 1 kilometer West, are in an area of Vancouver known as Point Grey. Both Point Grey locations were on land now occupied by the University of British Columbia".
point_grey_1931_plan_small.jpg This ia a 1931 plan of the Point Grey area.  (Click to enlarge) . It shows the location of the wireless station at the bottom left.  The station eventually moved to the ‘military area’ marked on the plan. 
In the early 1930's, Point Grey's transmitters were moved to Mitchell Road on Lulu Island (now known as Richmond). The receiving equipment stayed at Point Grey until 1956 when the station was closed and moved to Vancouver airport.
point_grey.jpg
Station Point Grey intercepted  German and Japanese (Katakana code) traffic during WWII. Point
Grey is now part of the City of Vancouver.  (Photo courtesy SPARC Museum. Submitted 
by Laval Desbiens)

Credits and References:

1) Copy and photos from  Laval Desbiens  <desbiens.laval(at)videotron.ca>
2) "History of Canadian Communication Electronic Support Measures"  (CESM) by S.A. Gray
3) "History of Canadian Signals Intelligence and Direction Finding" by Lynn Wortman and George Fraser.
4) Point Grey info via Tom Brent <navyradiocom(at)gmail.com>
5) Aryeh  Ben-Ami <dufs44(at)bezeqint.net> who provided document:
Station Point Grey and Very Special Intelligence: Part 1 by Patrick Bruskiewich
 

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Sept 22/17