PRINCE RUPERT, BRITISH COLUMBIA (1942 to 1948 or 1949)


other_stations_prince_rupert.jpg
Prince Rupert, BC.  (Map courtesy Google Maps)
GENERAL

Researcher Mac Savage indicates that "Prince Rupert was an American Sub-port of Embarkation (one of four in Canada) and Port Edward (nearby) was entirely US Army, except for the Canadian civilians who lived there".  By late 1944, the nearby staging area in Port Edward was downgraded from a Staging area to a Maintenance Depot. It was then run with only a skeleton staff and housed troops returning from the Aleutians. The base was permanently closed within months of the end of war in 1945. Port Edward is only noted here since its referenced (and perhaps incorrectly) by previously published information as being part of the RCN radio operation. .

On Ridley Island, to the West of Port Edward, the RCN Monitoring Station employed some 43 sailors watching the three Indicator Loops around the harbour which Sue Harper Rowse describes in her book "In Times of War" starting on Page 70.

RCN SHORE STATION

The RCN established headquarters in the Fisheries Experimental Station with a  communications centre at Montreal Circle (near Frederick Street), according to the book "In Times of War:: The Story of Prince Rupert". Called Prince Rupert Radio, it was assigned callsign CKG during wartime and later changing to CKP  (perhaps from April 1st, 1942 until sometime in 1945). The building where the radio station was established on Montreal Circle was called Applethwaite Hall and was still standing as of 1985.

To further confirm the shore station's name, a letter from the Attorney General of BC to  WRCNS  Lieut. Grace Merrill dated Sept 9/47 is addressed to "Prince Rupert Radio, Montreal Circle, Prince Rupert B.C".

In the book "Prince Rupert: An Illustrated History" it states that the WRENS took occupancy on February 11, 1944 . and their quarters were located on 6th Ave East. Normally the WRENS would provide services like:  supply assistants, motor transport drivers, cooks, sick berth attendants, pay/ ad writers and communications operators.  It is assumed but not confirmed that some WRENS may have staffed Prince Rupert Radio at this time.

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WRENS Christmas dinner at HMCS Chatham 1944. Among the staff were W/T rates, Visual Signallers and  Coders. (Fron the collection of Jean Reid) 
Head Table,  Across the top :  Lt. D. Christie,   Cmdr. CM (Charlie) Cree,  PO Linda Adams,  Lt. Marg Jess,    Lt. Chivers
Left side of table: 

Betty Maxwell Smith, Marie Drape, Marie Gilmartin, Isabel Smith (Smitty), Wilda Beckett, Claire Gingras (Ginger), Jean Reid, Jean Bostedo, Ruth Lisson, Marie Elder, Jenny Bjirke, Ruby Shea, Marj McDoanld (Mac), Leanne Sauve, Marion Merryfield, Marie Kovach, Lucy Cox

Right side of table: 

Daisy Hendrickson, May MacKeag (Piglet), Marg Pattison (Pat), Wendy Wearne, Mildred Langton, (Mike), Rena Down, Beatrice Fredricks (Freddie), Joy Newman, Doris Griffiths, Helen Purvis, Ma Neal, Cicely Reed, Florence Godson, Lillian Lyons, Claire Ferguson, Marion Brown, Pat Kemp.


 
 
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These were the thirty four WREN Communication Ratings at HMCS Chatham  taken in September 1945.  They are posing in front of a rather tall totem pole which has been cropped out of the photo.  (CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum photo 
2005.156.013) 
There are two interesting entries in No. 9 Area Signal Company’s War Diary up to 30 October 1942. Two excerpts from 14 and 22 October/1942 indicate that Montreal Circle was the RCN W/T station  so that Naval HQ could communicate with ships at sea in the North Pacific:

14/10/42
“RCN Signals Officer here to discuss moving the RCN transmitter from its present location in the center of town".

22/10/42
“Two circuits were installed from the Navy’s new W/T station at Montreal Circle direct to Naval HQ (i.e. HMCS Chatham) for direct phone and teletype communication.”

The entry October 14 suggests that the navy was in search of another transmitting site. In the book "City of Rainbows" it states: "A most heavily guarded receiving and monitoring round-the clock service was constructed at Montreal Circle and a transmitter station with 350 foot high towers was set up in Port Edward. (about 10 km distant)  These towers were pulled down in 1965, along with the Naval Control Service there". Currently there is no evidence that the twin towers in Port Edward were being used by the RCN. Perhaps they were being used by the Americans for communication with their base in the US.

During wartime, Prince Rupert Radio was assigned callsign CKG.  Post war, callsign CKP was assigned along with calls CKP4, CKP6, CKP8, CKP12 and CKP16. These calls were to be used in the frequency bands 4, 6, 8, 12 and 16 MHz. This was extracted from a document dated 1948 which designated call signs and modes of operation for transmitters for  naval shore stations and naval reserve divisions. [1]

NAVAL RESERVE DIVISION HMCS CHATHAM

HMCS Chatham, a naval reserve division [2], was established at 51 McBride St. in Prince Rupert. This unit housed the jetties and buildings which housed the command post and offices of the NOIC Prince Rupert (Commander A.H. Reid), the Naval Officer in Chief. In September 1939 all Canadian seaports came under the authority of the RCN and Public Traffic Regulations came into effect. Accordingly, the NOIC of each port controlled all shipping and all ship movement within the harbour had to have his OK. The port war signal station (PWSS) was on East Kinahan Island on the Southern approaches to Prince Rupert. According to the Prince Rupert newspaper, at its peak, 1,500 sailors called  HMCS Chatham home or sailed from its jetties. During WW II, HMCS Chatham was a full time naval division operating 24x7, even though it may have been commanded by a Cdr. RCNR (or RCNVR) – at least at the start.

This is the callsign assignment history for CKL:

CKL Esquimalt Esquimalt. BC - (Assigned to this site during wartime)
CKL HMCS Chatham, Prince Rupert, BC  (ITU Listing)
CKL Esquimalt Radio Matsqui, B.C.(1948) -  9055, 11500, 17560, 18800, 23125;  A0.1, RATT

prince_rupert_streets.jpg
This street map shows the various military facilities during the WWII era. Of interest on this map is location 'O' - Montreal Circle.  (This map extracted from "In Times of War: The Story of Prince Rupert") 

(A) Fairview Camp 
(B) Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 
(C) Royal Canadian Engineers 
(D) Water Division of Transport 
(E) HMCS Chatham 
(F) Service Corps Supplies 
(G) Service Corps Garage 
(H) Army Headquarters Camp 
(I) Prince Rupert Defence Headquarters
(J) RCA Camp
(K) CWAC Barracks
(L) WRENS Barracks
(M) Booth Memorial School
(N) Military Hospital
(O) RCN Montreal Circle
(P) Midland Camp
(Q) Winnipeg Grenadiers
(X) Anti-Aircraft Guns

In the book "The City of Rainbows"  by Phylis Bowman it states:  "The picture of the Crestview Drive area in the eastern part of the town site in the middle 1960s clearly shows Applewhaite Hall just beyond the reservoir tanks, and the homes in that section, for it was built during the Second World War by the Royal Canadian Navy to house most secret equipment and communications which were tied in with HMCS Chatham headquarters and the towers at Port Edward.  Unauthorized personnel  were not allowed near the heavily guarded establishment."

POST WAR

Now the history of Prince Rupert Radio becomes  a bit  murky due to lack of information.

In 1946, the Government of Canada, through an Order-in-Council, granted the Joint Chiefs of Staff the power to administrate and maintain facilities to collect data in support of Communications  Research. The Royal Canadian Navy were allotted forty positions, seven of which were located in Prince Rupert. A “position” was defined as an around-the-clock shift and a bay of suitable equipment depending upon the chosen shift system – usually four watches in those hard times – and manning factor for covering leave, sickness etc. that represented a commitment of at least 35 operators plus some “overhead” of supervisors and officers. In either 1948 or 1949, Prince Rupert ceased operations and the positions were relocated RCAF Whitehorse, Yukon. IMPORTANT -There are no records or evidence to indicate if the Supplementary Radio System (SRS) became involved at Prince  Rupert

The Friends of CRC web page shows an ionospheric research station  at Prince Rupert taken around 1948. Was this in support of SRS  or something else.

There may be an explanation regarding the reference to moving operations to Whitehorse.  An American Souvenir Booklet called  "Prince Rupert", and dated 01 October 1945, indicates the American communications were handled by a detachment of the 843rd Signal Service Battalion, a part of North West Service Command headquartered in Whitehorse. It seems obvious that this command provided “services” to the Americans in the “North West Staging Route” airfields as well as to Americans building the ALCAN Highway (now called the Alaska Highway) and the CANOIL Project (a pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT to Whitehorse). These services included such activities as: signals, finance, postal, laundry, dry-cleaning, information-education, special services, post-exchange, public relations, etc"

If anyone can confirm if any radio operation actually moved from Prince Rupert Radio to Whitehorse, it would be appreciated. Contact: Jerry.proc@sympatico.ca

TODAY

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2015: The arrow points to Crestview Drive, formerly called Montreal Circle.  In the middle of the circular field, there are two large water tanks. (Image via Google Maps)
NOTES:

[1] Operating modes and frequencies for Naval Reserve Units and shore stations were allocated in an "unoffical" list dated 1948. It does not mean that everything on the list was implemented

[2] About 1970, each Naval Division was officially styled a Naval Reserve Unit (NRU).The title HMCS was  dropped and for a short period a division became, for example, NRU HUNTER. By the early 1970s, however, the customs and traditions of the service prevailed and the last of the navy's numerous shore establishments officially returned to using the title HMCS and they were so annotated in CFP 133, CF Addresses, Issue 14,23 Apr 1985.

During the war, CHATHAM became a full fledged naval Establishment, like NADEN and CORNWALLIS.  After the war, CHATHAM reverted to a naval reserve division. Also, the RCNVR originally had Companies and Half Companies.  When they received their names in 1941, they became Naval Reserve Divisions.

MISCELLANEOUS
Canadian and American military operations were very intertwined at Prince Rupert so its befitting to show these two historic photos of US facilities.
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US Army’s Port Signal Office in downtown Prince Rupert. Note the unpaved streets. (From the Prince Rupert Archives) 
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One of the the US Army's radio rooms. (From the Prince Rupert Archives) 

Credits and References:

1) Bill Robinson <newman-robinson(at)rogers.com>
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 .Canadian Warship Names. Lt. Cdr David J. Freeman CF (Ret'd) .Vanwell Publishing. St. Catharines, Ont. 2000. ISBN 1-55125-048-9.
5) Jean Eiers-Page, Archivist for Prince Rupert  <archives(at)citywest.ca>
6) Mac Savage <macsavage(at)shaw.ca >
7) Book "In Times of War:: The Story of Prince Rupert by Sue Harper Rowse
8) http://friendsofcrc.ca/BitsAndPieces/BitsAndPieces.html
9) http://www.troywoodintarsia.com/cfsm/cfsm.htm
 

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Apr 9/15