AMATEUR RADIO IN THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY

INTRODUCTION

On a frosty day in February of 1995, I received an old QSL card depicting Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Bonaventure. The donor, LCdr Frank Dunbar (now deceased) had been clearing out old material and decided that the card might be useful to me. Although that ship had been de-commissioned since 1969, I started to study the image on the card. In little time, imagination and curiosity got the better part of me and I started to wonder what it was like to operate amateur radio aboard a ship of the Royal Canadian Navy. This was the catalyst for the research and the story which appears here.

CALL ASSIGNMENTS

Around 1948, the RCN began allowing amateur radio operation aboard ship, using either personal or club calls. Some stations went into operation but not on a permanent basis. As a result of the formation of the RCN Amateur Radio Society in 1951, the Department of Transport (today's Industry Canada) was lobbied into allocating special call prefixes for maritime mobile stations. Amateur radio call signs issued to Canadian warships took on the format: VE for Canada, 0 for maritime mobile, N for Navy followed by one sequential letter (ie VE0NA). As the number of stations increased in later years, the letter 'E' was added to denote an East coast ship and 'W' was used for the West coast (ie VE0NEK, VE0NWC). Calls using the format of VE0Mx, were reserved for stations aboard merchant vessels.

The first officially licensed station was VE0NA aboard HMCS Iroquois in 1954. Following quickly, was VE0NB for Algonquin and VE0NC for St. Therese, according to the 1956 Callbook. Calls were assigned to an individual as opposed to a ship. When the licence holder was re-assigned to a different ship, the call sign became portable in some cases. In other instances, the call sign remained with the ship and a new individual took over the call. If the holder forfeited the call, it was sometimes recycled. This activity is evidenced in Table 1. Operating privileges for the station were the same as that of the licence holder.

EQUIPMENT USED

The ships own radio equipment was utilized on the ham bands, but some of the older naval gear wasn't really suited for amateur radio operation. For receiving, either a Marconi CSR5A or Hammarlund SP600 receiver was used until superseded by newer equipment. Transmitting equipment is detailed below.

For nearly a quarter century, two of the 'workhorse' transmitters were the Marconi CM11 and the PV500. The CM11, first built in 1944, was rated for 100 watts input on CW, 70 watts on MCW and 30 watts on AM. At 478 pounds in weight, it wasn't very portable! On HF, this rig operated between 1.5 and 13.5 Mhz, so this precluded its use on the 20 meter band. It was notorious for generating harmonics and spurious emissions. Ships would routinely receive harmful interference reports from the Department of Transport. There was nothing that anyone could do, so the operators just followed the CM11 tuning instructions and filed the reports away. The CM11 was also known for its chirpy CW signal when controlled by the master oscillator but it behaved properly under crystal control. This rig may not have been the best, but it was certainly well built and got the job done. Integrated into the same cabinet as the CM11, was a Marconi CSR5A receiver. This particular receiver lacked band spread but the crystal filters did a good job of attenuating interfering signals.

The Canadian Marconi PV500HM, first built in 1943, was a high powered, CW only transmitter, capable of operating in the range between 3 to 19 Mcs. Power input was 500 watts over this frequency range. The HM2 variant of the PV500 operated up to 28 Mcs, however, power input was reduced to 300 watts above 19 Mcs. There were four, selectable master oscillators with mechanical digital readouts that could be preset to the most often used frequencies with four crystal controlled frequencies as alternates.

Keith Kennedy VE7KWK of Surrey B.C., states that "PV500's were notorious for ground loop problems and one made sure that you kept one hand in your pocket while tuning them. Placing your hand on the cabinet to brace yourself against the ships roll could result in a really fine 'attention grabber' in the form of an AC buzz. Many Radiomen tuned the PV500's by watching the power amplifier through the front panel window. When the plate was cherry red but not white, the final stage was considered to be tuned. To reduce chirp on CW, the multiplier stages were keyed while the oscillator was held on for the duration of a 'word'. This reduced chirp to the first letter of each word sent and permitted the use of break-in operation". In spite of these minor problems, the PV500 permitted high power CW operation in the 20 meter band.

Another workhorse transmitter was the AN/SRT-502. Included in the set, were two HF transmitters (3 to 28 Mhz) and one low frequency unit (100 to 550 khz). Modes of operation were CW, AM and radioteletype. The high frequency transmitter was capable of producing nearly a kilowatt of power in high power operation, or 300 watts in low power mode. For ham band operation, the low power mode was generally used. The SRT-502 had a reputation for generating a very pure DC note in CW mode and many fine tone reports were received. During the early 1960's the navy introduced the Collins AN/URC-32 single side band transceiver into the fleet. It was the first of its kind and was the successor to the CM11. This new gear was primarily designed for SSB operation on upper sideband, lower sideband or double sideband in the range of 2 to 30 Mhz. Power output was 500 watts PEP. Other modes of operation included AM, CW, or FSK. This equipment type served well into the early 1990's.

OPERATIONS

Most contacts took place on 20 meters. Much of the work was done on CW (and some AM) until SSB and phone patches became popular. Under good conditions, some operators could muster up 10 to 30 patches per evening. Operating was done off watch and during spare time hours. Besides message handling, rag chewing and making contacts with amateurs looking for maritime mobile cards was also popular. As for QSL cards, each ship took care of printing their own. Some ships had regulations for the operation of amateur stations, but it mainly depended on obtaining permission from the captain. In a nutshell, the main rule was that amateur radio could not interfere with the primary task which was naval communications.

On the high seas, early amateur radio operation aboard HMC Ships was restricted the following bands: 14 to 14.250 Mhz; 21 to 21.450 Mhz and 28 to 29.7 Mhz. Operation in Canadian territorial waters was permitted on every band except 1.8 to 2.0 Mhz. Within the territorial waters of foreign countries, operations were not permitted without written authority from the visited country. For the crews on the ships, amateur radio helped to maintain good morale. Personal messages were constantly being sent back and forth. This traffic consisted of birth announcements to birthdays on the good side, and to sickness and death on the bad side. The crews at least had a method of personal communication which was not otherwise available to them.

Jack Dennett VA3DJ of Orleans Ontario, recalled a moving experience in 1990. "I was on HMCS Huron in company with HMCS Provider and HMCS Kootenay when we found some Vietnamese boat people adrift in the South China Sea. It was around 1800 local time when we found them and they were aboard Provider by sunset. At the time, Provider was sailing to Manila after having embarked a member of the Canadian embassy in the Philippines at the last stop in Hong Kong. Our diplomat knew, that even though we had sent messages to Ottawa, it would take time to get the news to Manila. The faster the ground work was started, the better. Our sked with Victoria was at 2300 local time. PO1 Ron Howardson who was the PO Tel on Provider and also the ham operator, got in touch with Pat Johnson VE7FOJ. After a short conference, it was decided to phone Manila long distance using Stu's BC Telephone Card and get hold of the embassy staff in Manila. This was achieved and it became instrumental in securing the clearance for Provider to land the boat people in Manila. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Had we missed them, they would have all surely perished. In addition, Pat also provided an enormous amount of phone patches for RCN personnel".

On the East coast, much of the message and phone patch traffic was handled by Bret Fader VE1FQ (silent key), and Bertus Backer VE1AGH of Lower Sackville N.S. In honour of Bret's contribution to amateur radio, the Halifax ARC adopted his call as their own. To show appreciation for all the phone patches provided by Bret, the RCN took him on a cruise up the St. Lawrence River in one of their destroyers. The author also wishes to acknowledge all amateurs who provided phone patches and message relays but cannot be named here due to space limitations.

Bob Legue, VE1LP of Dartmouth N.S., was the head of the electronics maintenance department aboard the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure during the 1960's. He recalls amateur radio operations from that era. "Our station, VE0NE was in Radio 2, a dank drafty place and we operated a Collins AN/URC-32 single sideband transmitter that could output 500 watts PEP. This rig had incremental tuning and an automatic antenna tuning unit (ATU) with high VSWR cut out. The ATU was mounted directly under the antenna which was a 35 foot whip antenna. This, and other antennas were mounted on sponsons around the perimeter of the flight deck and during flying operations, these antennas were swung from a vertical to a horizontal position over the water. If the ship rolled, the VSWR went on a roller coaster ride and you would effectively be off the air. We quickly learned not to operate during flying stations. Our favourite band was the low end of 20 meters and we mostly passed personal traffic.

Our Commanding Officer's feeling toward ham radio left a lot to be desired. He was a four ring captain and had previously been a 'long C Lieutenant' (communication officer). In the navy, everything had to be formally requested. You would fill out a request form, then some time later you appeared in front of the executive officer to make the request. If what you were requesting was beyond his power to grant, then you had to appear before the captain to make your request, so I got shunted up the line to the captains request table. He asked me why I wanted to operate an amateur radio station aboard ship, so I told him it would help to keep the ships company in touch with home. He said 'I know that'...silence...I tried several other avenues and after each approach came...'I know that'...silence. Finally, I said 'It would be recreational sir'. He said 'granted'.

On the repair ship HMCS Cape Scott, I operated VE0NM. We had two HF transmitters, a Marconi CM11 and a Marconi PV500. The CM11 with its 30 watt input and 20% modulation in AM mode, was next to useless unless you were within eyesight of the other station. Although it had its drawbacks, it got us on the air. Following Cape Scott, I operated VE0NA from HMCS Restigouche using the AN/URC-32 again. During one tour, we spent six months in Europe with NATO and phone patches were run regularly with long waiting lines. With the exception of Bonaventure, the CO's were very enthusiastic about having amateur radio aboard ship".

Hedley Murton sailed on Bonaventure as well. He reminisces. "We had a contact in our Church, Doug Johnson, who lived in Sackville N.S. and listened every night for our call from the Bonny {VE0NE. We would send a bunch of 'telegrams' and Helen, Doug's wife, would phone the families to deliver that bunch. While Doug was taking the next bunch from us, and then the roles  were reversed and we would receive the replies from the folks, so the relay would continue, sometimes into the wee hours. There were a few bleary eyes at breakfast.

One laugh we had was from the chap who called us and said that he realized we were a Canadian maritime mobile and, maybe could not  reveal our exact position, but could we give him some idea how far we were from his location, as we were coming in "five by five" in his set-up in Belfast, Northern Ireland..  I hadn't the heart to tell him that we were "building" in Harland and Wolfes Shipyard [guess where?] in Belfast, just a few blocks from his house. I guess that not selecting the direct antenna prevented  us from frying the front end of his rig.

"Boots  Dunbar" was the "Commo" and was a good egg when it came to "hamming it up".  Another night, when setting watch and  giving Doug a shout we had a 'response' from a "U" call sign that turned out to be the University of Moscow....we shut down in  a hurry before our "fists" were recognized and logged".
 

ve0ne_station_s.jpg Radio station licence for VE0NE, HMCS Bonaventure held by the late Frank Dunbar.(Image courtesy Jerry Proc) 

Al Goodwin of Dartmouth N.S., served aboard Haida as the POTEL (senior radio operator) from May of 1960 until she was paid off in October of 1963. Al recollects memories from this period. "I operated VE0NV from early 1962 when I first received my ticket until we paid her off. At one time, we had five operators working the bands and that was probably a record number for one ship. For a receiver, I removed the Hammarlund SP600 in Radio 4 and used it with either a Marconi CM11 or PV500 transmitter. A VE0 call was very rare in those days and one CQ brought back a pileup. One thing still sticks out from this period. The CO thought that operating an amateur station was really neat. He used to bring his guests into Radio 1 and show them the QSL cards that were displayed on the aft side of the message centre bulkhead. One day, he noticed a QSL card from Russia and asked - 'What would you talk to him about?' I replied 'Crypto codes - of course', a remark that I passed during the height of the Cold War".

Kevin Clements VE7CYT of Victoria B.C., who served aboard HMCS Huron and he shares his experiences from a modern day perspective. "In HMCS Regina, we used the ship's HF equipment on CW. I would always take the time to look for a beginner and allow them a contact with a rare station. To this day, however, the primary purpose of having an amateur station aboard ship is to provide phone patches for the crew. Nowadays, a station licence for a ship is issued as a club licence instead of a VE0N type call. Hence we have call signs VE0REG (HMCS Regina) and VE0GAG (HMCS Montreal) assigned to the new city class frigates".

Joe Morrow was Chief Radioman in HMCS Cape Scott, one of the navy's two floating repair shops that could repair just about anything or at least a "make do" until better servicing was available. He recalls, "After the Cape Scott left Halifax on one occassion, they realized they needed an odd part for a piece of equipment. VE0NM went on the air and the operator contacted an obliging ham in New York City. There was always an obliging ham that would do most anything for a ship at sea. This ham purchased the part and sent it to Bermuda where it awaited Cape Scott's arrival. Had the part been procured through the normal naval channels, it would have taken many months to arrive".

Bill Grundy operated amateur radio aboard several ships. He relates his memories. " I operated VE0NM when I was on the Cape Scott.  Can't recall exactly when I joined the ship, but it was likely around 1959 or 1960.  The POTEL (Petty Officer Telegraphist) was Joe Morrow but he was not a ham.  Initially I was the only ham operator onboard, and I was a radio operator, or "Sparker" as we were called.  Later there was Terry Sullivan, a signalman, but he wasn't given full access to the radio facilities. One of my technical feats was to modify the PV500 so it could operate in A3 mode by screen modulating the finals by using a lower power AM transmitter.  As far as I know, call sign VE0NM then became dormant when I left her.

After leaving Cape Scott,  I then operated a CM-11 under the call VE0NT aboard the minesweeper HMCS Thunder At that time, Al Goodwin and Jim Guildford were operating aboard the Haida as VE0NV, Jacque (can't recall last name) on the minesweeper Fundy, who used a VE2.../MM call. John Powroz was later on the aircraft carrier Bonaventure, and myself on the minesweeper Thunder.

This was the early 60's, and ham radio operation onboard warships was frowned upon.  Most of the ham operators were radio operators and understood  both the equipment and security involved.  An example would be if the ship was operating in an exercise, radio silence usually applied and ham radio operation would be prohibited.  In general, the Radio Room onboard was very  classified and access limited.  If at sea, I usually only gave a general position, i.e, "off Bermuda" as opposed to a full position, again for  security reasons.  All transmissions were logged in military format.

During this period there was Bob Legue, who I think was at Albro Lake Radio Station, and Moe Lake at Cornwallis.  The selling point was that when allowed, I could make phone patches ashore, usually through John Powroz (VE1PW) or Brit Fader (VE1FQ).  I also passed a lot of CW traffic via any Canadian station to relay to the Maritimes, or direct if nearing a port. For the most part, I just worked DX as maritime mobile stations were rare and a novelty.  One could use a MM ( Maritime Mobile) call as is, i.e., CQ CQ CQ de VE0NM, as opposed to CQ CQ CQ de VE1AHG/MM. If I didn't get any bites when calling CQ, I would use CQ CQ CQ de VE0NM/MM, or if the ship was in a particular port, I would use the country's appropriate suffix, ie CQ CQ CQ de VE0NM/6Y.

 I was relieved by Jim Seagar on Thunder and he continued to use VE0NT. After leaving the ship, I went on a trade upgrading course, in which radio operators where trained to become technicians as well.  When I was drafted to Nootka, I was issued VE0NM again. I operated there from 1963 until the ship was paid off in February 1964. On the Nootka, I had my own transmitter, a homebrew rig which used SSB (phasing method) ) or the PV500 on CW. Actually I preferred pounding brass but used voice for phone patches and talking to my XYL, VE1ADP in Dartmouth.  I initially used crystals, but found them expensive so I built a stable VFO to use with the PV500.  Most of my operation at sea was on 80 and  20 meters for phone patches, and 40 and 20 meters for DX.

Our Department Of Transport contact during this period was Hammy Lane in Halifax, who smoothed out a lot of the "bumps" relative to the Radio Act and so forth.  I believe that the VE0N call signs were issued to the RCN and administered by the appropriate headquarters, i.e., Maritime Command for East Coast ships when requested.  Having used these call signs three times, I never had the actual station license or paid the annual fee - it was always dealt with at Maritime Command.  Whenever I had problems relative to VE0Nx operation, I usually consulted Johnny Powroz, a senior Chief Petty Office, who know the  proper channels, etc., to get things on back on track. Because a number of us had commercial tickets we therefore qualified for ham licenses.

The newer ships, which we called "Cadillacs", had much newer equipment, which included the Collins URC-32 SSB/CW transmitter and Racal receivers. I only seen the newer equipment on visits to other ships or when on technical courses.

I was again posted ashore for another trade upgrading course and then my last posting was at HMCS Shelburne, a land base, in which I operated my shore call of VE1AHG (and usually identified myself as "VE1AHG not to be confused with VE1AG and a "H").   I then left the RCN in 1969 and became a  teacher.

In the mid 60's ham radio seemed to proliferate and most bought kits or fully assembled equipment. The age of homebrewing or converting military surplus faded. SSB became king and CW relegated only to the old diehards".

Garth Hamilton remembers his fellow amateurs who served in HAIDA just before she was paid off . " I served in HAIDA with POTEL Al Goodwin and Jimmy Guilford and was one of the five ham operators aboard by the end of 1962 until the ship was paid off. Pete Hugebert (not sure of spelling of his name) was known as Huggy and I joined as OD's in fall of 1962 just out of Comm School and Albro Lake. We got our licenses in the fall of 1962 while on HAIDA. Huggy later became commissioned in the Air Force I think. Terry Sullivan who was PO2 Signals ( knows as Flags)  was in Haida as well. Jimmy, I believe, was drafted off  before the end".

Since amateur radio was an integral part of many radio rooms it's only befitting to list the forty seven ships that supported amateur radio operations. Catalogued in this table, is the name of the ship, the first year of amateur licence issue, the last year of amateur licence issue, the hull number, the ships International radio call sign and lastly, the voice call sign. Please note that for a number of reasons, the first and last years shown are only approximate, and should not be read as gospel. Where only one year is indicated, it was an educated guess as to whether it was first or last year of operation. If any TCA readers can help fill in the voids or refine the data, please do not hesitate to contact the author at : jerry.proc@sympatico.ca
 

 
ontario_ham_radio.jpg
Amateur radio operation aboard HMCS Ontario in 1951:  Naval communicators serving in HMCS Ontario, relaxed during off-duty hours by using unoccupied radio sets to pursue amateur radio. In the above photo, CPO Roger Curtis of Edmonton monitors one of the ham bands  in the cruiser's radio office. (Photo OC-795 from Crowsnest, September 1951).
TABLE 1
SHIPS
NAME
CALL
SIGN
FIRST
YEAR
LAST
YEAR
PENDANT INTL.
C/S
VOICE
C/S
Algonquin VE0NEF 1976 (?) DDE 283 CZJX Open Road
VE0NQ 1962 1970(?) DDE 224  CZJX  
VE0NB 1956 1959 DDE 224  CZJX  
Annapolis VE0NEJ 1976 1989 DDH 265 CGKB Quill
VE0NEB 1974 1975      
Assiniboine VE0NEB
VE0NEE
Licence only
?
?
?
1976
DDE 234 CGJL Kings Lady
VE0NEE 1973  1975     [4] 
Athabaskan VE0NEB 1976 (?)  DDH 282  CYWM Night Letter
VE0NEA 1984 (?)      
VE0NJ 1961 1963      [3]
Bluethroat VE0NEK 1984 (?)  NPC 114 CZDW Vicsburg U
Bonaventure VE0NE 1958 1971 RML 22 CGLE High Ground
  VE0NE          
Buckingham VE0NI >1960  ? FFE314 CGZB Yearly T  [8] 
Calgary VE0NWK 1994 ? FFH 335 CGAF Ship still in service [3]
Cap De La 
Madeleine
VE0ND 1964 ? FFE317 CZJM Wallop M [7]
Cape Scott VE0NM [1] 1960 1971 ARE 101 CGTH Yearly N
Chaudiere VE0NWA 1971  (?) DDE 235 CZGJ Snack
Chignecto VE0NI 1960 1966 MCB 160 CGTX Ellsworth G [8] 
Columbia VE0NC 1966 (?)  DDE 260 CGJR Probe 
Fort Erie VE0NR <1961 1971 FFE 312 CGWB Abner W
Fraser VE0NED 1984 1994 DDE 233 CZFG Shaft
Gatineau VE0NWB 1976 ? DDE 236 CGWF Mouse 
VE0NB 1965 1984      
Haida VE0NV 1960 1963 DDE 215 CGJD King Cobra
VE3CGJ 1991 2001 G 63 [2]    
Huron VE0NWH 1988 1993 DDH281   ?
  VE0NEG
Licence only
1974 1996 DDH281    
Iroquois VE0NEH 1974 1993 DDE 280   Jackstone [3]
VE0NA 1956 1966 DDE 217 CZGD Jackstone
Kootenay VE0NWF 1976 1993 DDE 258 CGKG Red Coat 
VE0NG 1966 1969      
Lanark VE0NP 1961 1963 FFE 321 CGRE Suspender Y
Mackenzie VE0NWC 1976 1993 DDE 261 CGYZ Autumn Breeze 
Magnificent VE0ND 1956 1958 RML 21 CZCD Pearl
Margaree VE0NEM 1984 (?) DDE 230 CZNJ Drowse
VE0NP 1967 1971      
Montreal VE0GAG 1995 ? FFH 336 CGAG Ship in service [6]
New Waterford VE0NS 1962 1963 FFE 304 CYTQ Event D
Nipigon VE0NEP 1993 (?) DDE 266 CGZP (?) 
VE0NEL 1976 1983      
VE0NK 1971 1974      
Nootka VE0NM [1] 1963 1964 DDE213 CZJS Sand Iron
Ojibwa VE0ND 1967 (?) SS 72 CZFQ Mountain Home 
Okanagan VE0NS 1971 1974 SS 74 CGLM Coral Tree 
Onondaga ? ? ? SS 73 CGNQ Voyage Pride
Ontario ? 1951 ? CLB32/53 CZCF  
Ottawa VE0NEK 1976 1993 DDE 229 CXCW Charge
VE0NG 1958 1966      
Outremont VE0NH 1958 1966 FFE 310 CGZV Ellsworth H
Preserver VE0NEC 1974 1993 AOR 510 CGRG Fireworks H 
Protecteur VE0NEF 1988 1993 AOR 509   Jigger L 
VE0NED 1971 1976      
Provider VE0NWL 1976 ------ AOR 508 CZCF Forest Glen 
Unequalled [9]
Qu'Appelle VE0NWJ 1976 1990 DDE 264 CYQD Captain Kid 
Regina VEOREG 1995 ------ FFH 334 CGAE [3]
Restigouche VE0NA 1974 1993 DDE 257 CZDE Route
Saguenay VE0NEE 1978 1989 DDH 206 CZFX Nymph
VE0NEC 1969 1971      
VE0NO 1966 (?)      
Saskatchewan VE0NWI 1976 1993 DDE 262 CYRE Catwalk 
VE0NEF 1970 1971      
Stettler VE0NK 1960 1966 FFE 311 CGLH Vicsburg M
Skeena VE0NEI 1975 1993 DDE 207 CGWP (?) 
VE0NEB 1971 (?)       
Sault Ste.Marie VE0NF 1958 1966 FSE 176 CYVS Jigger P
St. Croix VE0NWD 1969 1976 DDE 256 CGJI Burst 
VE0NH 1967 1969      [5] 
VE0NB 1961 1962 DDE 256    
St. Laurent VE0NI 1959 DDE 205  CGXG [8]
VE0NEM 1971 06 1972     Bless
  VE0NL 1960  1969    
St. Therese VE0NC 1956 1962 FFE 309 CGTC Maderia S
Sussexvale VE0NN 1959 1960 FFE 313 CZFM Calamity P
Terra Nova VE0NWE 1976 1984 DDE 259 CZJV Quill
VE0NU 1961 1971      
Thunder VE0NEA 1971 (?) MCB 161 CZCY Chapel Y
VE0NT 1962 1963      
Yukon VE0NWK 1976 1993 DDE 263 CYRO Noah's Ark/ Visional 
VE0NEA 1974  1976      
NOTES FOR ABOVE TABLE
[1] According to Bill Grundy,  call sign VE0NM went dormant sometime after 1960. He used this call aboard Nootka from 1963 until she was paid off in February 1964. The "Last Year" of 1971 for Cape Scott may be in error but that's what the call books say.

[2] This was the pendant when HAIDA was berthed at Ontario Place 1971-2001. When the ship was acquired by Parks Canada and berthed in Hamilton in 2003, she was repainted with her 1963 pendant, DDE215.

[3] Amateur radio status unknown as of 2012.

[4] The dates shown are confirmed by  Rob Bareham, ZS1SA, Cape Town, SA. (ex VE1AFM, VE3ACY, VE7TT).
He was the ham operator in Assiniboine around 1973 to 1975 and provided a copy of the radio station licence. The date range may actually be longer. View station licence.

[5] This date range has been confirmed by Tom Buchanan.

[6] Kevin Clements comments. "HMCS Regina was making her way back from Vietnam to Esquimalt and HMCS Montreal was working her way back to Halifax from the Gulf. This is the QSL card that confirmed our QSO. We were sitting on 20m, just below the US sub phone band. One of us was on 14.148, the other on 14.142 handing out warship contacts. Someone told me that Montreal was down 6 kHz...so I slid down there and we worked each other! Then I slid back up to my original frequency resume handing out QSOs to Canadians".

[7] Eric Earl  (now KG4OZO)  was the holder of callsign VE0ND while he served  in Cap De La Madeleine.

[8] VE0NI callsign sponsor and operator was Jean-Claude Bilodeau, now VE2XY.

[9] Can anyone confirm if "Unequalled" was ever used as a voice callsign aboard Provider ?

OTHER QSL CARDS FROM RELATED STATIONS
 

CALL SIGN LOCATION CALL SIGN LOCATION
CF3NAVY A special call sign used by Kevin Clements in 2010 to celebrate the RCN's centennial. CF3NAVY Another variation.
CF3NAVY Another variation. Anyone contacting CF3NAVY could have a choice of three QSL cards. VE3RCN RCSC Vindictive , c/o Skip Wright, Thunder Bay, Ont. Call sign now reassigned to Kevin Clements..
VE7RCN Used by the amateur station at CFB Esquimalt, BC.  VE7RCN  Another variation of the QSL card.

AMATEUR RADIO ABOARD OBERON CLASS SUBMARINES

Research of old radio call sign books has revealed some evidence of amateur radio activities on at least two of the Oberons. VE0ND operated in Ojibwa from 1976 to some indeterminate year. Aboard Okanagan, VE0NS was in use from 1971 to 1974. Nothing could be found on Onondaga. These were not club call signs but rather call signs held by individual operators and were used for the duration of the operator's posting.

Phil Rody provides more details " The amateur radio operator was responsible for the use of the boat's radio equipment when it was being operated as a ham station but the P.O.Tel was still responsible for the radio office. Amateur radio was used a lot in foreign ports to make calls home, and was on occasion used at sea, when for example, we were doing a surface transit back to home base. The CO would then allow phone patches to be made back home.  On the air, we could tell other amateur radio operators that we were a warship but were not allowed to state what type nor the coordinates. The boat's radio equipment could only be used on the amateur bands if the operator held a valid amateur radio licence".

Don Courcy, VE2GG, explains the limited time that was available for amateur radio operation. "A submarine is always tied up in exercises, even in transit. As soon as the submarine leaves Halifax, it is used immediately as a target for sonar detection exercises by NATO ships and aircraft. Even when fleet exercises are over and surface ships disperse back to home ports, submarines are not free and are kept rather busy. Whether going in to St. Georges, Bermuda, to Roosevelt Roads or San Juan, Puerto Rico, to St. Thomas, St. Croix or to any other Caribbean ports or back home to Halifax, submarines in transit are used as targets by US, British and Canadian aircraft, mainly to train their sonar operators.

While at sea, submarines cannot transmit underwater and are restricted from transmitting when at periscope depth or possibly while on the surface thus leaving very little time for amateur radio operation except in foreign or home ports"

HMCS HAIDA

When HMCS HAIDA was berthed at Ontario Place, station VE3CGJ operated between the months of May to October. Its main purpose is to promote the ship using amateur radio. In 2002, the equipment consisted of a Drake TR-7 transceiver connected to an 80/40 metre trap dipole and a 20 metre sloping wire vertical. Operations were usually carried out on SSB in the high portion of the 40 meter band. Occasionally, AM contacts were made using the ship's original equipment. In 1993, call sign CF3CGJ was used to observe Haida's 50th anniversary of commissioning and in 1994, call signs CI3CGJ and XL3CGJ were used to commemorate the D-Day Invasion. HAIDA's amateur radio station fell silent in September 2002 as the ship was being prepared for refit in Port Weller, Ontario. Today, amateur radio is operated only for certain special events.

FINAL CHAPTER

Once, amateur radio was the main method of providing personal communications for ship's crew but new technology has now changed all that. The amateur radio station has now faded away as a viable means of communication. Bob Canning of the Canadian Navy provides the final chapter to the story. "When someone is posted for sea duty, they are given a DND E-mail account which gives them 24 hour by 7 day satellite Internet access. This is very convenient for e-mailing loved ones, relatives and keeping in touch. Voice Over IP (VOIP)  phones are also found aboard ships but are primarily used for business. Occasionally they are used for short calls home but only when absolutely necessary.

Each ship issues phone cards to crew for personal use.  Personnel sign up for 15 minutes at a time on the phone cards.  When the allotment is exhausted, they have the card re-activated. This ensures that everyone will get equal phone time.  The phone cards are used with the "MINI-M" phones, which is the name on the phone . These are separate from the VOIP phones and ships usually carry three of them. Everyone onboard just calls them Quality of Life phones because they help to provide a better quality of life aboard ship.

Satellite Internet links, ranging from 128 kbps to 512 kbps, are fitted in the the Halifax Class frigates. There are at least 5 telephone lines assigned to IP phone service in Halifax which are available on a 24 hour by 7 day basis regardless of where the ship is sailing in the world".
 

In closing, I would like to thank the forty four amateur operators who answered the initial request for assistance and provided personal stories and call sign information from a nationally dispersed pool of vintage Callbooks. Some even sent in old VE0 QSL cards for which I am grateful. These have been put on display in Haida's Radio 1. Finally, I would like to thank Frank Dunbar (Lt Cdr, RCN Ret'd of Oakville, Ontario who inadvertently provided the inspiration to write this story.

Story by Jerry Proc VE3FAB. Originally published in The Canadian Amateur Magazine, 1997. The on-line version has been updated periodically as new material surfaces.

APPENDIX 1

Naval NGO 47.00/3 governed the operation of amateur radio stations aboard HMC ships. It was originally issued in 1962 and amended in 1964.

47.00/3 - RADIO AMATEUR EXPERIMENTAL STATION LICENCES FOR SHIPS

(1) Radio Amateur Experimental Station licences may be issued to ships. Application forms are obtainable from Regional Radio Regulations Offices of the Telecommunications and Electronics Branch, Department of Transport.

(2) In a ship, the senior officer or man who is a holder of a Canadian Certificate of Proficiency in Radio of at least Amateur Grade may apply for a licence or a renewal of a licence. This officer or man, hereinafter referred to as the "Licensee", shall submit the application to the Commanding Officer who, if he concurs, shall forward it to Naval Headquarters through the Senior Officer in Chief Command. The application shall specify that it is for a "club" licence to be issued to (name of licensee) on behalf of HMCS (name of ship) Amateur Radio Club.

(3) Subject to the approval of the captain, any qualified amateur on board may operate under the licence. Only one licence will be issued to a ship.

(4) The licensee shall remit the prescribed licence fee by certified cheque or money order payable to the Receiver General of Canada, Department of Transport, and this shall be forwarded with the application.

(5) Only service radio equipment which complies with government regulations for amateur experimental stations shall be used. In particular, high power service equipment shall not be used since government regulations limit the input power to the antenna or radiating system to five hundred watts.

(6) Amateur experimental stations operated on board ships are subject to all of the government regulations prescribed for such stations. The licensee is responsible for the operation of the station strictly in accordance with government regulations and standing orders laid down by the Captain re security, hours of operation, etc.

(7) The Captain shall ensure that standing orders make particular reference to the following:
(a) the amateur experimental station shall be operated in such a manner as to cause no interference whatsoever to service communications or radio policies in force;
or
(b) unauthorized modifications shall not be made to service radio equipment in order to use it for amateur radio operation;
(c) additional unauthorized antennas shall not be installed for amateur radio operation;
(d) unauthorized alterations shall not be made to fitted antennas for amateur radio operation;
(e) operation in Canadian territorial waters is permitted  on all frequencies assigned in the licence except the frequency band 1.8 Mc/s to 2.0 Mc/s.
(f) operation on the high seas is confined to the following bands assigned to the amateur service on a world-wide basis;
(i) 14,000 Kc/s to 14,250 Kc/s
(ii) 21,000 Kc/s to 21,450 Kc/s
(iii) 28,000 Kc/s to 29,700 Kc/s

(g) operation in the territorial waters of foreign countries is not permitted except with the written authority of the country concerned, and then only on the amateur service frequencies designated by that country which are within the bands specified in the station licence.

(h) particular caution shall be exercised with regard to the possibility of inadvertently disclosing classified information. It is pointed out that amateur radio transmissions are at all times open to interception, and at times open to world-wide interception. Security breaches can only lead to the withdrawal of amateur radio privileges; and
(j) Senior Officers in Chief Command and Commanding Officers may at any time withdraw amateur radio privileges from ships under their command.

(8) Amateur callsigns allocated to ships will be from a special block prefixed VEØN. It is pointed out for the information of ships that amateur callsigns allocated to Canadian merchant vessels are prefixed VEØM. In both cases maritime mobile operation is indicated by the callsign.

(9) (a) Amateur operators in the RCN will be credited with experience gained in naval shipboard operation towards obtaining endorsement for A3-F 3 privileges in the 3.725-4.0, 7.15-7.3, 14.1-14.35, 21. 1-2 1.45, 26.960- 27.0 and 28.1-29.7 mc/ s bands. A written acknowledgment of such experience signed by the licensee, shall be produced.
(b) When an aggregate of six months i experience on frequencies below 29.7 mc/s is obtained, the operator concerned may seek endorsement for A3-F3 privileges in the 26.960-27.0 and 28.1-29.7 mc/ s bands.
(c) When an aggregate of twelve months' experience is attained, the operator concerned may seek endorsement for A3-F3 privileges in the 3.725-4.0, 7.15-7.3~ 14.1-14.35 and 21.1-21.45 mc/s bands, provided he also passes an examination, conducted by the Telecommunications and Electronics Branch, Department of Transport, in advanced radio telephone theory and operation and a code test of not less than 15 wpm.

(10) Provided that one amateur operator on board has been granted unrestricted radio telephone privileges, a licence issued to that ship will be endorsed for such privileges. An application for this endorsement shall
(a) indicate the name or names of amateur operators so privileged; and
(b) (i) if the ship is licensed, be forwarded by the Commanding Officer direct to the Telecommunications and Electronics Branch, Department of Transport, Ottawa

(Note: The licence shall be forwarded with this application ); or
(ii) if the ship is not licensed, be forwarded with the licence
 application.

(11) Senior Officers in Chief Command shall maintain records of all ships licensed within their commands including callsigns and names of licensees.

(8-6-62) (NSC 1340-29) (DN COM) (PS No. Gen. 23/62)
(Amended by PS No. Gen. 31/64)



Contributors :

1) Ray White - Provided Appendix 1 e-mail <r.p.white(at)sympatico.ca>
2) Bill Grundy <bgrundy(at)eastlink.ca>
3) Garth Hamilton <garthah(at)computan.on.ca>
4) Bob Canning <canning.m(at)forces.gc.ca>
5) Phil  Rody <phillip_rody(at)rogers.com>
6) Don Courcy <donaldcourcy(at)@videotron.ca>   Web http://www.radioman.ca
7) Robert Bareham <robert.bareham(at)telkomsa.net>
8) Tom Buchanan <tabuch(at)shaw.ca>   St. Croix
9) Kevin Clements <ve3rcn(at)cogeco.ca>
10) Eric Earl  KG4OZO   <eearle52(at)comcast.net>
11) Jean-Claude Bilodeau <bilojc(at)outlook.com>
12) Steve Hutchings <steve_hutchings(at)hotmail.com?

Last Updated: Jnn18/15

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