RIVER CLASS FRIGATES - Radio Fit

GENERAL
Initially called twin-screw corvettes, frigates were designed for the RN by William Reed. The design of the Frigate was intended to alleviate the shortcomings of the Corvette as an ocean escort.  Frigates built for the Royal Navy were named after rivers hence they acquired the name River Class. Vessels built for the RCN were named after towns and cities. There were two building programs with HMCS Waskesiu the first to commission in June 1943. A total of sixty were built. There were 10 built for the Royal Navy and two of those found their way into the USN.

After VE day some ships were taken in hand for tropicalization to be sent to the Pacific but only a few had completed the process by VJ day. One of the items on the work order provided for an air conditioner in the radio office. It was installed for the benefit of the equipment and not the hands.

After WWII, eleven of them were stripped and sunk as breakwaters for British Columbia logging firms. The remainder saw service as training ships and between 1953 and 1958, twenty one of them were modified to emerge as the Prestonian class frigates.

There is an interesting point to note about the River Class pendants. The RCN changed the system of numbers and type designators for the fleet effective Jan 10, 1949 [4] . Swansea, while still in her River class configuration, is shown wearing pendant 306 in a photo dated July 1953 and well ahead of her conversion to a Prestonian in 1957. A quick study of the photos in the book "Frigates in the RCN" by Ken Macpherson, reveals that  La Hulloise was wearing pendant 305 by July 1950 and Antigonish was sporting 301 in 1951, both as River class configurations and all three wearing the Maple Leaf on the funnel. It is theorized that all of the River class ships which were still in service after 1949 quickly received new pendants and in three verifiable cases,  far ahead of their conversion to Prestonian class.
 

strathadam.jpg
HMCS Strathadam is being used to represent the entire River class. Here she is seen on the west coast on October 27, 1944. (Photo courtesy Frigates of the Canadian Navy)
VITAL STATISTICS
Length: 301.6 feet Breadth: 36.7 feet
Draught: 12'9" mean Displacement: 2216 tons
Speed: 19 knots 
Endurance: 7200 miles @12 knots
Crew: 8 officers and 133 men  (1943)
Armament: 1 twin 4 in gun; 1 x 12
pdr; 4 twin 20 mm guns in paired 
mounts; Hedgehog; 4 depth charge throwers;
150-200 depth charges. (1942-43 program)
Building Programs
1942-43: 33 ships for the RCN.
1943-44: 27 ships for the  RCN.
10 built for the Royal Navy
 
RADIO OFFICE
According to Alan Riley, a WWII telegraphist, River class Frigates were typically fitted with the following equipment:
TYPE QTY
CM11 transmitter/receiver 375 kHz to 13.5 MHz ; 100 watts CW 
FR12 transmitter/receiver  LF/HF (2-4 MHz) 15 watts CW
HF/DF -  FH-3 with CSR5 receiver 1 *
HT11 HF AM radiotelephone 1 *
MF/DF - Canadian Marconi MDF-5
PV500 HM transmitter 3-18 MHz ; 500 watts 
TBS VHF transmitter/ receiver (60 to 80 MHz; 50 watts)

An asterisk (*) means that only the Group Leader would have this gear installed.


river_stb_side_view_s.jpg Frigate starboard side view showing main wire aerials. Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy Frigates of the RCN).
The four main LF antenna are really only two because each pair is joined together at the feed point. 
river_df_office_s.jpg The DF Office was located on the signal deck.  Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy Frigates of the RCN)
Radio aerial inventory from the main plan, starboard view:

2 LF Aerials - Each LF aerial consists of two spans joined to a common feed.
1 HF Aerial
1 Sound Reproducing Equipment Antenna
1 FR 12 aerial for Canadian Marconi FR12  LF/HF transmitter/receiver
1 Loran  (LRN) wire aerial
1 DF loop for MDF-5
1 Sense aerial for MDF-5

river_strathadams_rr.jpg
This is the main radio office aboard HMCS Strathadam. Note the bleach burns on the shirt of the rightmost 'Sparker'. (Photo courtesy Frigates of the Royal Canadian Navy)
From the above photo, its very easy to identify the equipment line up (L-R): CSR5 receiver,  MSL-5 receiver, another CSR-5 and a portion of an FR12, all made by Canadian Marconi. Pat Kelly, who served in a River class frigate remembers two radio rooms - one being the main radio office and another down below for use in an emergency (Radio 2).
 
prince_rupert_radio_room_1942.jpg
Radio room of HMCS PRINCE RUPERT (K324). This was  taken on October 22nd, 1943, the day after she arrived in Halifax from her builders Yarrows Ltd., Esquimalt B.C. 

Left side of photo: PV500H transmitter 
Right side of photo from left to right: Two SMR3 receivers and a FR12 and just a sliver of an MSL5 can be seen at the right.  (Public Archives Canada Photo HS-0262-1 submitted by Spud Roscoe)


 

RADIONAVIGATION

According to Bowditch -The American Practical Navigator, LORAN was derived from the words LOng RAnge Navigation. If those three words are abbreviated, it becomes LRN, the exact term on the Frigate drawing. Prior to being called LORAN it was known as LRN [1] as well but meaning "Loomis Radio Navigation" in honour of F.W. Loomis [2], Associate Director of MIT's Radiation Laboratory who had previously been the Head of the Physics Department at the University Illinois.

The River class plans shown above are applicable to seven ships of the 1942/43 River class program. HMCS Waskesiu was a part of this group and commissioned in June 1943. That means that LORAN was being fitted in RCN ships by early/mid 1943.

 For detailed information on Loran 'A', select this link.

RADAR

On-build, Type 271 (10 cm) was the standard radar fit on the River class and the antenna was mounted at the base of the foremast. Technical specifications on the 271 radar can be found here. A study of River class photos reveals a radar modernization which appears to have started after 1945. The 271 radar was removed from the foremast base and the USN Type SU radar was fitted on the foremast. In the case of HMCS Charlottetown, this occurred in 1946.  The position of the SU radar was not always consistent from ship to ship. Sometimes its positioning caused the HFDF antenna to be relocated to the mainmast peak.

The following River class frigates are known to have received SU radar modernizations and in some cases, far ahead of their conversion to Prestonian class ships. These ships are:

FotRCN= Frigates of the Royal Canadian Navy by Ken Macpherson.

ANTIGONISH                     (pg. 58, FotRCN, with 301 painted on side in 1951)
CHARLOTTETOWN K244 (pg. 20 FotRCN, in 1946)
GROU K518                         (pg. 25 FotRCN, possibly in February 1945)
LA HULLOISE                     (pg. 30, FotRCN, in 1950 with 305 painted on)
OUTREMONT K322            (pg. 40 FotRCN, in 1945)
ST. CATHARINES               (pg 104, FotRCN, in 1945)
STORMONT  K327              (pg. 47 FotRCN, in 1945 waiting for disposal)
SWANSEA                            (pg. 49 FotRCN, in 1953, with 306 painted on side)
 

271_antenna_enclosure.jpg
Perspex enclosure for the 271 radar antenna. This is the recreated enclosure found on HMCS Sackville. (Photo by Jerry Proc) 

 
271_radar_antenna.jpg
This is a rare image of the 271 radar antenna. The double cheesecake construction means separate transmitting and receiving antennas. Shown is the backside of the antenna  (Graphic source unknown)
rrp/271.jpg
271 radar set. (Photo courtesy of HMS Collingwood,  Fareham England)

ASDIC

128  Set (circa 1937)

Frigates and Bangors were equipped with the 128 set [3]. This was the retractable dome version of the British 127 set and was superior in performance to the 123A since it relied on a gyro compass instead of a magnetic compass for bearing indication. Priority was given for the fitting of the 128 set in Bangors because it was originally intended that their primary role was to be minesweeping, a task that required accurate navigation to mark swept channels. Corvettes, which were supposed to be jack-of-all trades -- such as escort, minesweeper, and patrol craft, would have to suffice with the less accurate 123 set which employed a magnetic compass.

In February of 1943, the British Admiralty announced that the 128 set was being superseded by 128A. Type 128A had a training mechanism that was manipulated electrically rather than mechanically and was kept on target automatically by the ships gyro compass. The RCN quickly approved the same change for its own Bangors, however, it had to wait for a British policy statement before work could start. There were nineteen versions of the 128 set produced during World War 2.

The data in the tables below was extracted from BR 299, a Royal Navy publication dated 1947. Photos and specs for some of this equipment can be found in this document  Any numeric suffixes which appear for American made equipment, denote the procurement contract number. A TBL-4 is identical to a TBL-12  but was made on perhaps a under a different contract number or even a different contractor.

For some unknown reason, BR299 only shows radio fits for six River class frigates.

ANTIGONISH (as K661, 1944 to 1946)
Main Office PV500 HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
2 x FR12 - Low power transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 15 watts on CW.
CM11 - LF/HF transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 100 watts on CW.
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
2 x CSR5 - LF/MF/HF receiver, 80 KHz to 30 MHz excluding broadcast band.
FM12 - MFDF outfit,  40 to 1000 KHz.. 
FH3 - HFDF outfit 670 KHz to 20 MHz. Using CSR5 as the intercept receiver.
GR - Wavemeter outfit. GR is Royal Navy version of the RAF Crystal Monitor 2. 
Aerial Outfit None indicated
Miscellaneous None indicated

 
 
BEACON HILL (as K407, 1944 to 1954) 
Main Office PV500 HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
PV500 LM - LF transmitter 100 to 500 KHz, CW/MCW, 500 watts.
FR12 - Low power transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 15 watts on CW.
HT11 - HF radiotelephone.  Frequency range : Receive - 550 KHz to 1700 KHz and 2000 to 3000 kHz. Transmit - 2000 to 3000 kHz.  12 watts.
TBS4 - VHF radiotelephone. 60 to 80 MHz ; 50 watts
86M - Brirish version of the American SCR-522 radiotelephone.
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
2 x CSR5 -  LF/MF/HF receiver. 80 KHz to 30 MHz. No broadcast band.
MDF5 - MFDF outfit ;265 to 670 KHz.
FH3/CSR5 - HFDF outfit 670 KHz to 20 MHz. Using CSR5 as the intercept receiver.
Aerial Outfit APH -  Aerial outfit for 86M set
APU - Aerial outfit for TBS transmitter
Miscellaneous TBY - Portable radio. 28 to 80 MHz range. 0.5 watts out.
DAS1 - Loran 'A' receiver.
0F -  Deck  insulator for DAS1 Loran receiver 

 
 
LA HULLOISE (as K668. from 1944 to 1953)
Main Office PV500HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
PV500 LM - LF transmitter 100 to 500 KHz, CW/MCW, 500 watts.
FR12 -  Low power transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 15 watts on CW.
HT11 - HF radiotelephone.  Frequency range : Receive - 550 KHz to 1700 KHz and 2000 to 3000 kHz. Transmit - 2000 to 3000 kHz. 12 watts
TBS - Low power transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 15 watts on CW.
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
2 x CSR5 -LF/MF/HF receiver. 80 KHz to 30 MHz .No broadcast band.
MDF5  - MFDF outfit; 265 to 670 KHz.
FH4/CSR4  - DFDF Outfit 1 to 25 MHz (See note 5)
Aerial Outfit APU - Aerial outfit for TBS transmitter
Miscellaneous None indicated

 
 
NEW WATERFORD ( as K321. from 1944 to 1953)
Main Office PV500HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
PV500LM - LF transmitter 100 to 500 KHz, CW/MCW, 500 watts.
FR12 -  Low power transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone, 15 watts on CW.
HT11- HF radiotelephone.  Frequency range : Receive - 550 KHz to 1700 KHz and 2000 to 3000 kHz. Transmit - 2000 to 3000 kHz.
TCS10 - Radio set. 1500 12,000 kHz range in 3 bands.
TBS - VHF radiotelephone. 60 to 80MHz.
86M - Brirish version of the American SCR-522 radiotelephone.
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
2 x  CSR5 - LF/MF/HF receiver. 80 KHz to 30 MHz . No broadcast band.
FH3/CSR5 - HFDF outfit 670 KHz to 20 MHz. Using CSR5 as the intercept receiver.
GR - Wavemeter outfit. GR is Royal Navy version of the RAF Crystal Monitor 2. 
Aerial Outfit APH - Aerial outfit for 86M set.
AHD - Unable to identify
Miscellaneous 2 x Type 67 - Portable radio.  WS67 (AP W3217) is the Royal Navy version of the British Army WS27 set
TBY8 - Portable radio. 28 to 80 MHz range. 0.5 watts out.

 
ST, STEPHEN (as K454. 1944 to 1950)
Main Office PV500HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
PV500LM - LF transmitter 100 to 500 KHz, CW/MCW, 500 watts.
2 x CM11 -  LF/HF transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone,CW/MCW/Phone, 100 watts on CW.
HT11 - HF radiotelephone.  Frequency range : Receive - 550 KHz to 1700 KHz and 2000 to 3000 kHz. Transmit - 2000 to 3000 kHz.
TBS4 - VHF radiotelephone. 60 to 80MHz.
MDF5 - MFDF outfit ;265 to 670 KHz.
TDQ - A four channel VHF transmitter, 100 to 156 MHz , MCW/Phone, 45 watts
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
2 x CSR5 - LF/MF/HF receiver. 80 KHz to 30 MHz. No broadcast band.
RCK - A four channel VHF receiver, 100 to 156 MHz. Companion receiver for TDQ
DAU/CSR5 - DF outfit, 1.5 to 30 MHz, with CSR5 as the intercept receiver. 
Aerial Outfit APU - Aerial outfit for TBS transmitter.
Miscellaneous None indicated.

 
 
SWANSEA (as K328. 1943 to 1953) 
Main Office PV500HM - HF transmitter; 3 to 18 MHz , CW/MCW, 500 watts.
PV500LM - LF transmitter 100 to 500 KHz, CW/MCW, 500 watts.
2 x CM11 - LF/HF transmitter/receiver. CW/MCW/Phone,CW/MCW/Phone, 100 watts on CW.
HT11 - HF radiotelephone.  Frequency range : Receive - 550 KHz to 1700 KHz and 2000 to 3000 kHz. Transmit - 2000 to 3000 kHz.
TBS4 - VHF radiotelephone. 60 to 80MHz,
MDF5 - MFDF outfit ;265 to 670 KHz.
TDQ -  A four channel VHF transmitter, 100 to 156 MHz , MCW/Phone, 45 watts
2 x CSR5 - LF/MF/HF receiver. 80 KHz to 30 MHz No broadcast band.
MSL5 - LF receiver, 15 KHz to 1550 or 1775 KHz.
RCK - A four channel VHF receiver, 100 to 156 MHz. Companion receiver for TDQ.
DAU/CSR5 - DF outfit, 1.5 to 30 MHz, with CSR5 as the intercept receiver. 
Aerial Outfit APU - Aerial outfit for TBS transmitter
Miscellaneous None indicated.
DISPOSAL

* After the end of WWII, the River class frigates were destined to various fates. Many were scrapped or sold to civilian interests. Select this link to see the details.

* Naval historian Spud Roscoe complled a list of which River class frigates were saved for conversion to the Prestonian class.

THE 21 PRESTONIAN CLASS CLASS FRIGATES ( Circa 1962)

Name, call sign, pendant number and years in naval service (the year scrapped in brackets if different than when naval service terminated).

4th Escort Squadron (West Coast)

ANTIGONISH       CGJC 301 1957-1966
BEACON HILL     CGJJ 303 1957-1967
JONQUIERE         CZJZ 318 1954-1966
NEW GLASGOW CYXV 315 1954-1967
STE THERESE     CGTC 309 1955-1967
STETTLER           CGLH 311 1954-1966
SUSSEXVALE      CZFM 313 1954-1966

7th Escort Squadron (East Coast)

FORT ERIE               CGWY 312 1954-1965
INCH ARRAN           CGLU 308 1954-1965 (1970)
LANARK                   CGRE 321 1956-1965
NEW WATERFORD CYTQ 304 1958-1966
OUTREMONT           CGZV 310 1954-1965
VICTORIAVILLE       CGVF 320 1954-1966 (1974)

9th Escort Squadron (East Coast)

CAP DE LA MADELIENE  CZJM 317 1954-1965
LA HULLOISE                     CGWV 305 1957-1965
BUCKINGHAM                   CGZB 314 1954-1965
LAUZON                              CYVH 322 1953-1963
SWANSEA                           CYRF 306 1957-1966

Transferred to Norway 1955

PENETANG     CYTL 316 1954
PRESTONIAN CGXC 307 1953
TORONTO       CZGL 319 1953
 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] According to an article published in MIT's "THE TECH" newspaper, Dec 5, 1967.

[2] In 1940, Loomis conceived the idea of a precision long-range radio navigation system. The LORAN team, working from MIT's Radiation Laboratory was led by Dr. John A. Pierce of Bell Labs and by 1942, the first Loran station was operating  from the American East Coast  on 1.95 MHz.

[3] In "Seek and Strike" by Willem Hackman, he shows Frigates as using the 127 type.

[4] Battle Ensign Flying, Barry Gough, page 155

[5] The receiver notation of "CSR4" might be a typo. Perhaps it should read as "CSR5 "



Contributors and Credits:

1) Frigates of the Royal Canadian Navy 1943- 1974 by Ken Macpherson. Vanwell Publishing, St. Catharines Ont. 1989
2) Ships of Canada's Naval Forces (1910-1993) by Ken Macpherson and John Burgess.
3) Alan Riley, ex-RCN. Toronto
4) Spud Roscoe <spudroscoe(at)eastlink.ca>
4) Don Wagner <navwags(at)earthlink.net>
5) Bowditch -The American Practical Navigator    http://www.irbs.com/bowditch/
6) MIT Archives http://www-tech.mit.edu/archives/VOL_087/TECH_V087_S0526_P005.pdf
7) Alexander (Sandy) McClearn  <smcclearn(at)ns.sympatico.ca>
8) Pat Kelly <pnkelly(at)shaw.ca>
9)  Clive Kidd, Collingwood Heritage Museum <cjckidd(at)waitrose.com>
10) BR299  dated 1947, Royal Navy.
11)  Canadian Warship Names by David Freeman. Vanwell Publishing , St. Catharines , Ont.2000
12) MIchael Whitby <Michael whitby (at)forces.gc.ca>
 

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October 12/16