WREN WINS R.N. MEDAL FOR WIRELESS JOB
[This news clip appeared in the Winnipeg Star newspaper on 28 March 1945]
A Winnipeg girl who had virtually a ringside seat at the sinking of the mighty battleship HMS HOOD, heard the first word to be received in Canada of Hitler's death and intercepted messages from the German surface raider Prince Eugen and dozens of U-boats, has been awarded the British Empire Medal. Now she is back at her peacetime job as a Canadian National Telegraphs operator.
She is Irene Carter, who served during the war as a Wren Chief Petty Officer in the radio intelligence, Foreign International Branch, Ottawa Intelligence Center. Miss Carter was presented with the British Empire Medal by Commodore E. R Brock at an investiture at HMCS CHIPPAWA (Winnipeg) last week.
During the war, Miss Carter was in charge of a station at Moncton, N.B. where she had two hundred Wren operators working under her. This station was part of chain or more than 100 which maintained listening posts for wireless signals from enemy craft. Working closely with coastal radar units, the stations were quickly able to establish a "fix" on the location of the enemy craft.
"On many occasions, we listened to naval engagements on the North Atlantic and even as far as the Baltic Sea" said Miss Carter. "After D-Day, we could tell the progress of Allied Troops in France from from the German High Command messages which we intercepted. " We heard of the frantic messages for help of a wireless operator on a German submarine as the craft, which was one of those taking part in the naval engagement in which HMS HOOD was sunk, also went to the bottom"
Miss Carter continued "He was frantically giving signals and he must have been an old commercial operator, possibly on a German merchant ship before the war because he broke out with S.O.S. instead of the usual German naval distress signal of K.R., just before the signals were cut off."
CPO Irene Carter (now McLean) as she appeared while serving in Coverdale during WWII. (Photo courtesy Vin Crane)
Word of Hitler's death was dramatically broadcast to U-boats and German warships before being announced to the rest of the world. Miss Carter received the word even before the authorities in Ottawa. On many occasions, the sending of an aircraft or warship to the point at which signals would be heard at the station from the enemy craft to effect that it was being attacked. Miss Carter says that her station also listened to reports from life rafts with Canadian and British seamen aboard. These reports gave the location and speed of drift.
After tracing the signals of U-boats for so long, Miss Carter states that her greatest thrill of the war came when she heard the general orders given to German submarines and surface craft to surrender after the Nazi defeat.
Irene Mclean (nee Carter) passed away in Winnipeg on February 19, 2006 in her 94th year. (Photo source unknown)
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