RCAF MARINE FLEET

The Royal Canadian Air Force, created in 1924, started operations in 1935 as the Marine Section and then Marine Squadrons. This fleet  of approximately 176 boats would assist in the operation of the RCAF's flying boats. They would  act as a fast search and rescue service for downed aircraft. A number of supply vessels would service various bases around Canada's east and west coasts.  These vessels consisted of high speed crash/rescue boats, supply vessels, refueling launches and some enginless types such as scows.

Besides providing general information  about the RCAF fleet, the main purpose of this document is to identify the radio equipment which was fitted aboard these vessels . The larger RCAF craft, often carried three crew members - a skipper, an engineer and a  radio operator. TheRCAF did not train their Marine Squadron radio operators. They were graduates of the various civilian radio schools around Canada and had to pass  a  12 words per minute Morse code test,. The Air Force paid for this course on completion.

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Dave Lawrence , VA3ORP, sits behind a radio set which was fitted to a boat in the RCAF marine fleet. At the left is the AT-1  transmitter. At the right is the AR-6   receiver. The ammeter in the foreground would be used to measure antenna current but it was not part of the original kit. 
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Bendix RA-1 receiver.  BillĒ Miller, VE9AKB, writes that the radio fitting aboard RCAF ROVEN  (1942 Ė 1946) consisted of a Bendix RA-1 general coverage receiver and an AT-1 transmitter as above. (Image via Radiomuseum.org)

 
 
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An RCAF equipment catalog lists the Canadian Marconi  MDF-5 MFDF as part number 10D/2632. RCAF BEAVER (M522) and RCAF MALAHAT (M467) are  known to have been fitted with the MDF-5.   ARISTOCRAT( M302) , BEAVER (M456)  and MOHAWK (M573), are believed to have been fitted with the MDF-5 but there is no proof at this time. (An Andre Guibert photo)
.The RCAF marine fleet used radio equipment made by  Canadian Marconi, RCA Victor and Northern Electric.  RCAF REDHEAD was a crash boat and it was fitted with radar and radio direction finding. Radio direction finding was the big navigational aids of the 1930ís and 1940ís.  REDHEAD had a Yagi array as its radar antenna so that suggests the use of radar rtpes SW1-C or SW2-C.  Crash boats and some others were capable of over forty knots in speed.

Nearly everything transmitted in radiotelegraph during World War II was done in a coded form. One favorite system used during WWII by the various military organizations to ensure radio silence by the mobile stations was the use of two coast or ground stations. One station would call another and pass a message. On receipt of this message the station receiving would retransmit it back to the transmitting station. This would not only ensure accuracy on the receiving stationís part but would give any station monitoring this traffic, two chances of obtaining a solid copy. This was the practice with the marine vessels and aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Traffic was sent at 12 WPM, the speed at which the operators had trained at.

They had two stations on the East Coast, one at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and the other at Botwood, Newfoundland. Dartmouth used call sign 7AW and Botwood H7H, at least during a portion of the war. All RCAF ships and aircraft used a frequency of 6666 kilohertz during the day and 3333 kilohertz at night. Their operators managed to work  Bella Bella, British Columbia on 6666 kilohertz from Botwood on occasion.

These Coast or Land Station Radio Operators monitored three frequencies continuously, one frequency (3333 KHz) in the left headset earpiece and 6666 KHz in the right earpiece of their headset, and the third on speaker. They could switch these frequencies around so that they had one of the frequencies in their headset. The third frequency is unknown at this time but it might have been a distress frequency Some of the land station operators were WDís. A WD was a female from the Women's Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

For a detailed listing of the RCAF marine fleet, please refer to this article written by Spud Roscoe, VE1BC.

RCAF DETECTOR, B115, was the former RCMP DETECTOR with call sign CGPZ is running under full power. She was a High Speed Rescue vessel, one of many types in the RCAF fleet.   (From the collection  of Ken Haycock)

RCMP DETECTOR and her sister RCMP ARRESTEUR were two of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police craft transferred to the Marine Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outbreak of World War II. They all retained their call signs as assigned while members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Air Force called both vessels a "High Speed Rescue Vessel" and both were stationed at Eastern Air Command located at Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. This Air Force base became HMCS SHEARWATER on December 1, 1948 when the Royal Canadian Navy obtained an air arm.

 
Credits and References:

1) Spud Roscoe  <spudroscoe(at)eastlink.ca>
2) https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/bendix_ra_1b.html
 

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Jun 13/19