Frobisher Bay


frob_jacket_patch_s.jpg Naval Radio Station (NRS) Frobisher Bay call sign CFI,  was established in July 1954 on Baffin Island as a result of the closure of NRS Chimo, Quebec. In June 1957, it was renamed HMC NRS Frobisher Bay until July 1966 when it became CFS Frobisher Bay. To those who served there, it was always referred to as NRS Frobisher Bay. This part of the North West Territories became the Nunavut Territory in 1999.

Frobisher was a tender to GLOUCESTER, as was Gander, Aklavik, Masset, Bermuda and in its day, Chimo. None of them had an official badge, at least as tenders. Gloucester provided all the administrative functions, pay etc, in its capacity as home to the Senior Officer, Supplementary Radio System (SOSRS).  In actual fact, SOSRS was also the Commanding Officer of  HMC NRS Gloucester which became HMCS Gloucester sometime around 1956.

NRS Frobisher was part of the SUPRAD (Supplementary Radio)  network. In its simplest form, a SUPRAD station operated in the following manner. When a prospective target made an emission which was heard by the Control Center, Control "flashed" the details of the emission (frequency and call sign) to the SUPRAD stations of the network. The stations tuned the signal, took bearings then reported the bearing to Control. At Control, the bearings were collated by computer and a fix area established.

Frobisher Bay,  63° 45' N  68° 33' W, can be found in the southern portion of Baffin Island in Northern Canada. Today it is known as Iqaluit and is now the capital of the territory of Nunavut. (Map courtesy of


During WWII, the U.S. Government built a military airstrip at Frobisher Bay which was then purchased by Canada in 1944 for $6,800,000. When the radio station was established it was built by the air base.

In 1950, the RCN and the USN formally agreed to coordinate and standardize HF/DF activities ashore. Jointly, it was called  the Atlantic HF/DF Network. This initiative resulted in the integration of all Canadian and US stations into two networks which would provide mutual support for the common objective of maritime warfare. The eastern network was comprised of five RCN stations: Coverdale, NB; Gander, NFLD; Frobisher Bay  N.W.T (when it came on-line and Chimo before that) ; Bermuda (1963-1993 only), Gloucester, Ont. and ten USN stations.

By 1952, the RCAF had 20 to 24 men stationed at Frobisher which included the Commanding Officer and sufficient staff to operate the flying control facility. The USAF staff numbered around 150 and continued to be the major user of the base.

Ray White provides some details about the start of operations for NRS Frobisher Bay. "The move of the various pieces of gear from Chimo to Frobisher Bay took place in late summer 1953. In May or June 1954, the RCN had one Petty Officer in Frobisher, namely, P2CS3 Bill Cummings. On the 29th of July 1954, the inaugural crew arrived in Frobisher. At that point we commenced the construction of the ground mat for the Adcock array,  moved the DF shack into position and then we built the emergency power building.  HFDF net operations did not commence until late September 1954".

A government cabinet document from 1956 indicates that Frobisher was under the jurisdiction of the RCAF, but it was the USAF which provided the necessary personnel and the airfield equipment. The Department of Transport provided radio and meteorological personnel and planned to erect a new building during that summer. Frobisher Bay and other northern outposts were prime examples where U.S. and Canada shared common infrastructure for their mutual benefit.

NRS Gander and Frobisher had a mandate1 to provide support to Coverdale and other SUPRAD2 stations in the area of SIGINT and D/F operations, and a government research program which studied the problems of radio transmission and reception peculiar to Canada. This involved the use of classified equipment. Whether this actually happened remains unconfirmed.

The D/F shack as it appeared in the 1950's. (Photo by Cal Diamond)

On 27 April 1955, a Douglas C-124C Globemaster, operated by the USAF, landed short of the runway and broke up. Although there were no fatalities, the aircraft was written off completely. Ray White, who served at NRS Frobisher Bay,  was on duty when it happened. "I was coming off watch from the HF/DF shack at the north end of the runway and was walking along the runway toward the base where the combined RCAF/RCN barracks were located. Halfway along the runway I could see a large aircraft in the distance, over the water off Frobisher Bay. It was banking to starboard and then straightened out, Now I could see the landing lights. As it approached the runway threshold, the aircraft dipped below the level of the runway, then it struggled to climb to the correct altitude. It almost made it, but the landing gear caught on the very end of the runway and the plane did a cartwheel which tore off the starboard wing. The aircraft then flipped over, broke up into many pieces and caught fire. Since I was nearly a mile distant from the wreckage, there was not much I could do. By the time I got there, emergency vehicles were already in action. A  few spectators who also came out to investigate were not permitted to come close to the aircraft. The outboard port engine continued to operate for a day or so before the decision was made to shut off the fuel supply".

April 27: It is a very rare event to see an engine still operating after an aircraft has been totally destroyed.  The USAF had a sign near the main hangar that said "Welcome to USAF Northeast Air Command Frobisher Bay. A naked girl behind every tree". The trouble was, there were no trees! In the summer of 1955, the Americans used a construction battalion to extend the northern end of the runway with a series of explosions in order to remove part of a mountain.  (Photo by Ray White)


Ray White provides a few details about the base from the mid 1950's. "The HF/DF shack was located at the north end of the runway, about 1.5 miles from the main base.  It was just past the USAF Ground Controlled Approach radar, from which we took our electric power.  One day one of the snow removal personnel cut the power line with the blade of his plow and we had to operate our old Waukesha Diesel for several months before it was fixed.  It was very noisy and didn't provide quite enough power to operate the two Hammarlund SP-600 receivers, the CNF-4 HF/DF set, the lighting and most importantly, the hotplate for coffee and for cooking snacks. To work around the problem,  we would power off all the operational gear during the cooking period!.  The operator on the reporting circuit in the Ops room in the main base would respond to NSS (network control) with OS (Out of Service status) for the various flashes we had missed. NRS Frobisher Bay used CFI for Atlantic HF/DF net reports to NSS Cheltenham, Maryland and for administrative communications with CFL Churchill, Manitoba; VFU8 Padloping Island, NWT; and also CGVM (HMCS Labrador).

October or November 1954: In the foreground are several masts perhaps belonging to a rhombic array (believed to be the property of the Department Of Transport)  which was shared with the RCN as required. 

The large building , which is emitting steam, was the combined barracks for all three services. Immediately beyond that is the Headquarters building-- the left wing of the building was the DOT Aeroradio station VFF, in the centre was the RCN Ops room comprising CFI's radio room for comms with CFL and for the relay of HFDF flashes to/from the DF Shack (not shown here). The small building to the left belonged to the RCMP . The next building was a utility building generally used as a cinema.  The cluster of buildings shown beyond the antenna pole to the right, was the USAF Motor Pool and general maintenance centre.  This was located near the main hangar complex at the end of the runway.  Difficult to see, but the clear space to the left of the motor pool is Frobisher Bay which terminated at the south end of the runway. The six dark objects near the top of the photo were the storage area for petroleum products such as avgas, diesel fuel etc (Photo by Ray White)

Umdated photo of Frobisher Bay. Download image to enlarge. (DND photo)
We had no administrative, medical, or cooking staff.  Instead we used the facilities of the USAF. The RCAF Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader James Lovelace, DFC, who had flown with Bomber Command during WWII. S/L Lovelace was the senior officer in Frobisher.  This was mainly a political decision to ensure that a base on Canadian territory would not be commanded by a USAF Officer.  The USAF AC&W squadron was commanded by Major Robbins.  In late 1954, Major Robbins was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry D. Miller, and thus S/L Lovelace was replaced by another RCAF officer one level higher in rank, Wing Commander Campbell-Rogers".

In 1958, on request from the US Navy, NRS Frobisher began as a Naval Communication Facility (NAVCOMFAC) providing a relay point for communications with United States Military Sea Transport Ships (MSTS) engaged in replenishment and supply of Distant Early Warning (DEW) surveillance stations in the eastern Arctic.

On 26 August 1961, 150 seamen from the Canadian frigate Cap de la Madeleine landed at Frobisher Bay to assist with the construction of new crew barracks. This came as a result when normal methods of construction could not provide badly needed living quarters due to the short summer navigation season.

Accompanied by the supply ship Eastore and aided by Department of Transport landing barges, the Army-style buildings and personnel were successfully transferred to land. More than 150 tons of cargo were moved a mile inland in spite of freezing temperatures and snow flurries. Building the barracks was easy  – getting the material to shore was the hardest part. Two hours after the last cargo was landed, a gale forced Cap de la Madeleine to withdraw from the reef-strewn bay into deeper waters off shore.

It took the frigate’s crew two days to erect the 110 foot long building and on the third day they wired it, applied the roof and painted the interior a pastel green. After remaining 11 days at Baffin Island, Cap de la Madeleine sailed for Halifax leaving behind eight men to finish insulating the building against Arctic weather. These men were to be flown out later.

Chateau Madeleine – The House That Jack Built . (Photo courtesy Crowsnest Magazine)

And what was the name of the new building one might ask? The frigate’s crew left a sign bearing the name Chateau Madeleine – The House That Jack Built. To the occupants of the new building, it was simply called The Frobisher-Hilton.

George Fraser served in Frobisher Bay when the new barracks was erected. He reports the following.  "Before eight months had even elapsed in our enjoyment of these new digs, trouble developed. One day, in early spring 1962,  I was returning from the Operations Building back to camp with the Day Watch and our one or two Administration types. A howling westerly gale with rain and snow was pelting down upon us. When we rounded the corner, we could not believe our eyes.

CPO Archie Reed,  P1 George Finnie and the rest of our watch keepers were manhandling very large tarps in an attempt to cover the roof of our beautiful building whose top had just folded over. Our party immediately chipped in to help but it was very difficult in trying to hold down those tarps long enough to secure them.

As I remember some of the guys working on this would have been Whitlaw, Hartnett, Tishart, Blair, Gignac, Bitz, Stanley The Posh, John Ward, Dennis Harder and maybe some others I may have missed. In any event,  all of this rain and hail and snow drove in under the roof and started to leak down into the messes and sleeping quarters. We had every pot, pail, and bucket  that we could get our hands on to catch the leaks. It took a number of days before the Department of Transport  was able to get everything back to normal.

From what we could see, whoever approved the building's design made an error since the roof's overhang was perhaps 18 to 24 inches beyond the side of the building. No one realized that any of the gales which beset Frobisher Bay could easily catch the the building which also sat on a small rise of land".

Select this link to read to read about Project Boresight and the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962.

(Click to enlarge)

frob_bay_1948_a11535_43s.jpg 1948: The runway at Frobisher Bay is situated on a bearing of 350/170 and this is how it looked before the extension was added. At the left side is the Sylvia Grinnell River, which flows into Frobisher Bay. When NRS Frobisher Bay started operations in September 1954, the Adcock array for the CNF-4 D/F set was situated in the vicinity of the red dot. North is at the top of the photo. The long, straight 'runway-like' area at the south end of the main runway was referred to in the early 1950's as the "West 40". It was basically a storage area for equipment, vehicles, fuel drums, etc. The green dot indicates roughly the area which eventually became the RCAF/USAF lower base. The radio station's barracks and Operations Office would eventually be set up here. A yellow arrow indicates the direction of the transmitter site. (National Air Photo Library #A11535-43) 
frob_bay_1962_s.jpg 1962: The red circle identifies the location of the transmitter site. (RCAF photo # 204 V KR2367 405  Dated 10 Sept 1962. Altitude: 4600 ft) 
frob_bay_1992_a31614_014s.jpg 1992: The landscape has changed dramatically after several decades. North is very roughly on left side of the photo.
Item 1: The Operations Building was located here in the 1965-66 era. 
Item 2: GRD-501 shack was approximately 150 yards to the right of the little rectangular square.  Item 3: Old USAF billet where Frobisher personnel lived. At the time, it  contained staff quarters, DOT quarters, teachers quarters, the CBC studios, a large gym, a large cafeteria, food stores and large garage for RCN and DOT trucks. 
Item 4: DF shack for CNF-4 D/F when it was in use. 
Item 5: Adcock array site for CNF-4 D/F set.
(National Air Photo Library #A31614-14)
frob_bay_truck_s.jpg This Chrysler Military Radio Truck, built in the 1950's in Windsor Ontario, saw service at Frobisher Bay.  Photo is Circa 1960 - 1961.  (Photo by Cal Diamond)
frob_hanger_s.jpg The control tower and hanger at Frobisher Bay in 1952. (Photo by Don Gordon) 
frob_bay_flag_s.jpg Sleeping quarters, circa 1960 - 1961. (Photo by Cal Diamond)
frob_bay_rcn_quarters1_s.jpg Sleeping quarters, circa 1960 - 1961. (Photo by Cal Diamond)
frob_barge1_s.jpg The Sea Lift in 1956: Ships supplying Frobisher could not be berthed at a pier. To offload their cargoes, they relied upon this large, self-propelled amphibious barge called a Sea Lift. Supplying northern bases created employment for the local population even if it was for a short time. Here the barge is manned by local natives employed as stevedores. No enlargement for this one.  (Photo by Don Cameron)
frob_barge2_s.jpg Don Cameron, Frobisher's Chief I/C between  May and November 1956 stands next to the barge. Even though Don is 6 feet tall, the massive tire is even larger. (Photo via Don Cameron)
frob_quarters_s.jpg Personnel Quarters (1956): Consisted of a tar papered building with a heating unit, heads and a lounge in the centre. In the two wings were  accommodations where each man had a single room, bed and locker. The walls were only six feet high in order to assist  with the circulation of warm air throughout the building. (Photo by Don Cameron)
frob_hq_s.jpg HQ (taken in 1956):  This building was the local headquarters for the USAF, RCAF, RCN and DOT. The Canadian Ensign and the American Stars and Stripes were flown in front of the building. RCN personnel requested permission to fly the White Ensign in front of their section but the request was flatly refused by both the RCAF Wing Commander and the USAF Colonel. [3] (Photo by Don Cameron)
frob_hudbay_s.jpg The Hudson's Bay Company Store: It was located about three miles east of the Frobisher Bay site, on the north side of the bay. Inside, the store stocked a wide variety of articles and it also had to keep the locals supplied for a whole year at a time. (Photo by Don Cameron)
frob_hbc_jan_2020_s.jpg This is the deteriorated remains of the former Hudson's Bay store as seen in January 2020. (Photo by David Proc) 

Frobisher Bay has now been renamed to Iqaluit and is now in the Territory of Nunavut as of 1999. There are no brand name stores in town such as such as Canadian Tire. Perhaps one day. Locals get their supplies from a North Mart outlet.

frob_cert_s.jpg Honourable Order of OOKPIKS-TOONIKS-SIKUSI certificate.(Image courtesy of Eric Earl). 


Ray White describes the layout of the operating position in 1954. "The HF/DF shack was fitted with a CNF-4 HF/DF set and two Hammarlund SP-600 receivers. Above one of the SP600's was the centerfold  pinup of Marilyn Monroe from the first edition of Playboy in 1953. The Operations Room, located in the centre of the base, had two bays, each equipped with two SP600s, one of which was used for the reporting circuit to NSS/Cheltenham, Maryland and the other for administration  purposes for communication with CFL/Churchill and, occasionally with VFU8/Padloping Island. We had two dipole receiving antennas - one for the HF/DF net and the other for Churchill. Frobisher had its skeds with Churchill at 1500Z and 2100Z and the main operating frequency was 9216 kHz using CW.

The transmitter site was about two miles away.  At first we had, I believe,  a Canadian Marconi PV-500HM, but there was a fire so RCAF Commanding Officer, S/L Lovelace, provided the loan of an RCA AT-3 transmitter. We had no spare transmitters throughout my stay in Frobisher  and we used our one and only transmitter for both HF/DF net reporting and administrative traffic. When the time came for a schedule with CFL, we would temporarily discontinue work with NSS to send and receive administrative traffic. Upon completion, we would go back to HF/DF net reporting. There were two men on a watch at all times. One was in the DF shack while the other was on the reporting/administration circuits in the small Operations Room.  It was a very basic operation indeed. The NRB-J, CSR-5 and HRO receivers used at Chimo never found their way to Frobisher Bay. In the lounge, we used an RCA AR-88 for shortwave entertainment reception.

Aurora Borealis, commonly called the Northern Lights, disrupted radio reception  The effect was heard as a general reduction in the signal to noise ratio across the HF bands. It could be heard as a continuous "whooshing" noise in a receiver. When the lights were intense, blackouts often occurred in the HF/MF and LF bands. Surprisingly, we often found that VLF appeared to improve during such HF/MF/LF blackouts in the western Arctic. In Frobisher, the image on the CNF-4 screen became a random circle of non-directional garbage. The DOT aeroradio station was also knocked out of action.

Being south of the Arctic Circle also meant that Frobisher did not experience any days of complete blackness or complete daylight. In June and July we would have sunset around 2230 hours and sunrise about 0130 hours.  Chimo, considerably south of Frobisher  and on the same approximately latitude as Churchill - about 58°N, experienced much less of a "midnight sun" effect. Aklavik, inside the circle, and Alert, very close to the pole, had more comprehensive midnight sun effect".

Eric Earl reports that "There were also a couple of SP600's in the southern end of the building where the USCG liaison fellow worked the cutter Northwind during the summer ice  patrol. He also had his FAX equipment in that room where he sent updated weather and ice maps to the cutter".

In 1964, an entry in the Naval General Orders (NGO's) authorized Frobisher Bay to hold 40 telegraphic typewriters.

Click on image to enlarge.

frob_bay_antennas_1960s.jpg 1960 Era Antennas: This image, originally drawn by hand, represents the antennas found at the station around 1960. It  shows both an Adcock array (CNF-4 DF set) and the AN/GRD-501 simultaneously. This was likely the transition period between the two systems.

The sloping Vee antenna points south (to the Atlantic HF/DF net) while the dipole appears to be facing in the direction of Churchill. (Sketch courtesy Bill Robinson. The original sketch is at the Communications and Electronics Museum in Kingston

/frob_bay_slopvee_s.jpg Sloping Vee Antenna is also known as a "terminated half-rhombic antenna". This modified drawing shows one such arrangement. For a 2-30 MHz frequency range, the length is 493 feet, width 263 feet; height 50 feet at the apex; half way height 25 feet; apex angle 40 degrees; Impedance 50 ohms. (Drawing courtesy  Modified by Jerry Proc) 
frob_1960_field_s.jpg 1960: "No Tents" sign. The Inuit, or Eskimos as they were called back then, lived in tents and perhaps this was an area controlled by the military  thus off limits for native use. (From the collection of D.S.K. Blackmore submitted by Donna Loewen)
frob_bay_grd501_vrk2618_408_s.jpg 1964: GRD501 antenna,  501 DF shack and Operations building. The Public Accounts Office reported that a HF/DF installation (presumably the  GRD-501) and a naval communications building were built in FY 1960-61, with a small amount of work completed in 1961-62. (National Air Photo Library Photo VRK2718-408)
frob_bay_unknownmasts_s.jpg 1964: A closer view of the Operations Building reveals a cluster of five masts. There is no apparent pattern and all masts appear to be unrelated to the 1960 antenna layout sketch. The Public Accounts Office reported that "antennae masts" were built at the "receiving site" in FY 1963-64. Can anyone explain this new arrangement? (Part of National Air Photo Library Photo VRK2718-408)
frob_2007_s.jpg 2007: Contrast the roads to the 1964 photo above. The old site appears to be in use for some other purpose. (Photo courtesy Google Earth) 


Any additional details are provided below the table.

(Click on image to enlarge)

frob_sparc_at3_s.jpg AT-3: In the RCAF, the AT-3 was designated as 10D/1272. It could be operated locally or remotely using the 10D/1273 remote control unit. A pair of remote control units can be seen sitting on top of the transmitter in the enlarged photo. Select this link for more information.  (Photo courtesy SPARC Radio Museum, Coquitlam, BC.)
/at3_at_CFI.jpg AT-3: An unidentified operator is using the AT-3 transmitter which has been paired up with a Hammarlund SP600 receiver. Click on image to entage.  (Photo  taken by Art Deer who passed away April 2012.)
chimo_pa142540_s.jpg Sparton CNF-4: A CRT based set having 2.7 mc to 25 mc coverage depending if it was the A, B or C variant. In 1954,. Frobisher had two positions and two operators some of the time. (There were no WRENs at NRS Frobisher Bay as the picture might imply). In the RCAF, this set was known as the DF-23. The CNF-4 was later superceeded by the AN/GRD-501.(Photo by Leblanc, DND. National Archives of Canada, photo # PA-142540)
ecm2_s.jpg ECM MK 2. Used for the encipherment of classified material. (Photo by Richard Myrick)
frob_adcock_arrays.jpg The Adcock array used with the CNF-4 set. It was located approximately  800 feet to the south and east of the DF shack. (Photo courtesy Report No ERA-141 "The War History of the Radio Branch" issued by the National Research Council of Canada in August 1948).
grd501_s.jpg AN/GRD-501. Eric Earl,  KG4OZO, now living in Atlanta, Georgia was a former CS rate and he confirms the use of the AN/GRD501 HFDF set while he served at Frobisher from 1965 to 1966.(RCN photo)
sp600_s.jpg Hammarlund SP-600 Receiver : Coverage: 0.54 mHz to 54 mHz, in six bands. SP-600's were produced between 1950 and 1972. (Image courtesy Kurrarjong Radio Museum)
frob_pv500h_s.jpg Canadian Marconi PV-500HM Transmitter: Range - 3 to 19 mHz. 500 watts. Crystal or VFO control. CW or MCW only. After it was damaged by fire, the PV-500 was replaced by the AT-3. (Image courtesy RCN)
Need photo  TH 58 transmitter. 1 kw output. Used for point-to-point communications with Churchill.
frob_mw_s.jpg Westinghouse MW. 3 kw output. Able to transmit on 4 frequencies simultaneously or independently. Proposed for Frobisher Bay but its unconfirmed at this time if it was actually installed. It was to replace the TH-58. Depicted here is a triple MW installation at  radio station WNU Slidell, Louisiana.  Frequency range: 2 to 30 Mhz;  Modes: A1 and F1; Frequency control: 3 crystal controlled positions per RF unit. All four RF units can be keyed simultaneously or independently. Instruction Manual: CF-1933  (Photo courtesy WNU6)

RCA Model AT-3 Transmitter Specifications

Type: Semi-mobile ground station transmitter
Frequency control: 2 channel, crystal controlled plus Master Oscillator.
Frequency range: 2.5 to 20 mHz
Modes: CW/MCW/RT
Power input to final stage : 450 watts (1500 volts @300 ma)
Power output : 300 watts
Power consumption - 115 VAC @60 Hz   1.75 kw
Dimensions: Height - 68 inches; Width - 32 inches; Depth - 22 inches.
Weight: 630 pounds (286 kg)

The AT-3 was equipped with a four-hole telephone dial and the operator could select both the mode and frequency by dialing a single digit. Dialing #1 for Channel A, R/T ; #2 Channel for A, CW; #3 for Channel B, R/T; #4 for Channel B, CW. When in operation, an internal motor tuned all the controls in the intermediate power amplifier ( IPA) and final stages to preset positions.

Eric Earl, a former CS rate, remembers some details about the antennas. "The antenna that I worked on was out at the DOT transmitter site which was located approximately 3 to 5 miles to the south of the Operations Building. This site contained all the antennas used by DOT(VHF)/ DOT(HF) Arctic Air Traffic control and of course our wire antenna(s) . There was also one, large, fixed wire log-periodic antenna out there which was used by the telephone company as a fixed link to Northern Quebec. Periodically, we did have a USN naval type who used our transmitter to send ice charts to the cutters Northwind and Westwind from the Ops Building.

Ray White recalls the use of the ECM crypto machine. " We used the ECM as our administrative crypto channel and we would certainly curse the originators of long-winded messages that had to be a) copied in CW and b) broken by the duty operator.  I can still remember being told as I came on watch that  we had “ a lump-jump” to break. Lump-jump was our  way of indicating the arrival of an ECM message bearing the first group LYJPM that told us that it was the Canadian channel emanating from DSRA and naval headquarters. Surprisingly, the ECM was mainly problem free for us except for coping with the loquacious tendencies of the originators".


Amateur radio at SUPRAD stations was not encouraged by DND. It wasn't forbidden, but definitely played down. Station Standing Orders had explicit instructions that contacts with the USSR or other Iron Curtain countries was explicitly forbidden. Other countries were also listed where communication was prohibited. This made amateur radio operations very tenuous in the Arctic.

Ray White operated a station here. "At Frobisher Bay, in the 1954/55 period,  I operated as VE8WD out of the common DOT/USAF amateur radio station that was equipped with a BC610 transmitter and a couple of wartime Bendix receivers. When American military personnel used the station , they used a stateside call sign with a VE8 suffix. We worked some CW but most of the time AM voice (A3) was used. Most of the operating was done in the 20 and 40 meter bands.Our tag line was “VE8YT in the banana belt of the Canadian Arctic.”

The limitation of no contacts with Iron Curtain stations was just as frustrating as when I was posted in Churchill. Other Canadian operators were Sonny Gough, head of the DOT aeroradio station and Nels Peart, one of the DOT operators. They used call sign VE8YT which I dearly coveted because the YT sounded like my last name when said out loud and quickly. Sonny set up VE8YT which was both the DOT and the RCN callsign.

I can still hear Brit Fader VE1FQ, a famous amateur operator now honored in Halifax responding to our calls. Typically we would say " this is VE8YT in the banana belt of the Arctic". Brit made many phone patches for us. Also, we had many good conversations (QSO's) because VE8’s were somewhat rare. A regular correspondent was VK0PK, operated by Peter King, on MacQuarrie Sound in the Antarctic! I don't know if ham radio operations continued in Frobisher after I left in 1955".

In that era, it was DOT practice to accept the RCN electronics training as proof of ability to qualify for an amateur radio licence. All that was required was to have a letter from the Chief in charge (and later on) from the Officer In Command, that the individual had met the RCN’s trade requirements. By 1963 the following individual VE8 amateur radio call signs were assigned to the naval radio station.

VE8YB Thomas E. Eastop
VE8YC Maynard B. Whitlaw
VE8YE. W. Crumley
VE8YK George Fraser
VE8YL Alexander B. Peddle
VE8YN Bruce E. McGuffle
VE8YO John R. Bullas
VE8YQ Robert W. White
VE8YR Jean-E. Rioux
VE8YS Dennis D. Harder
VE8YU Lewis H. Jessome
VE8YV M. G. J. LeMay
1954: The Frobisher Bay Amateur Radio Club  VE8YT surrounds  the the RCAF AT-3 transmitter. Click on image to enlarge.  (Image courtesy QST Magazine, March 1955)

A story about amateur radio communications in the RCN can be found here.


Ray White recalls the inaugural complement of personnel in 1954. They were:

C2CS3 W. J. (Wiggy) Bennett, CPO in charge
P2CS3  Edward G. Amy, Operations Supervisor
P2CS3  George T. Finnie, Technician (replaced in 1955 by P2CS3 K. Gallagher)
LSCS2  (uncertain about rank)  Gerald Bursey
LSCS2  Douglas L. Cox
LSCS2  James R. Christmas
LSCS2  N. G. Dodd
LSCS2  Patrick C. Kilen
LSCS2  R.P. White
ABCS2 C.E. Atkins
ABCS2 Richard Turcotte
ABCS2 J. T. Beardsley

Also present during the initial set-up period was P2CS3 W. G. Cummings who had been in Frobisher since the arrival of Chimo’s equipment.

The following people sserved at Frobisher Bay in 1961:
Maurice (Moe) Potvin ABRN1
Unknown Perry ABRM1


NRS Frobisher Bay was a useful HF/DF station by reason of its location, particularly with respect to ocean areas of prime interest to Canada but it was also expensive to operate for its size because of its remoteness. By the mid 1960's, advancing technology underscored the need to reevaluate SIGINT and HF/DF operations since there was some opportunity to save on operating costs. By closing the station, the government could save $222,000 per year.

By August 1963, the effectiveness of NRS Bermuda operations was such that it soon became obvious that Bermuda was to stay. It had passed its probationary period with flying colours. But the opposite was experienced at Frobisher Bay. That station subsequently closed down as a direct result Bermuda's proficiency. Bermuda had delivered its mission - "to effectively provide cut-off bearing for accurate fixes on transmitting targets.

As a result  of reorganizing and modernization under Project Beagle, NRS Frobisher Bay closed in 1966. The "Upper site" of the station was abandoned in 1974. while the "Lower site", renamed Iqaluit, has been a Forward Operating Location since the early 1990's. The airfield is still in use today.

The mailing address used to be:
Naval Radio Station Frobisher Bay NWT
Via RCAF Station Goose Bay, Labrador.

Other Photos

1. Declassified document NSS 1321-9/3 (DRSA) dated April 22, 1960

2. For additional details about the functions of a SUPRAD station and the CNF-4 HF/DF, please refer to HMCS Coverdale found elsewhere in this web site.

3. Note from Ray White. "The picture accurately shows the HQ building as it was in 1954-55. It was the first building on the right when one was walking away from the barracks building. Immediately across the road from the HQ building was the RCMP detachment. In front of the HQ building there were two flag poles, Canadian Red Ensign, on the right as viewed facing away from the building,  and the US flag on the left (this was in accordance with protocol). When we arrived in summer 1954 there was only one flag staff for the US Stars and Stripes. In mid winter this flag staff was hit by a truck and broke off at the ground. It wasn't feasible to replace it during the winter but in the spring of 1955 two poles were installed for the Canadian and US Flags. We tried to have a third installed for the White Ensign but this wasn't approved. The right end of the building housed the Department of Transport offices and aeradio operations. In the centre of the building was the RCN administration and radio operations. I believe the RCAF had offices near the RCN section, but am not sure. The left end of the building was the USAF offices and the DOT weather section where the pilots would go for pre-flight briefings".

Contributors and References:

1) Cal Diamond, St. John's, Newfoundland. e-mail: cal.diamond(at)
2) Ray White e-mail: <Ray White <legerwhite(at)>
3) Spud Roscoe e-mail: <spudroscoe(at)>
4) Cold War Is Born document.
5) Cabinet Document  #107-56
6) SPARC Radio Museum
7) Bruce Forsyth's  Canadian Military History Page
8)  Laval Desbiens    e-mail: <laval.desbiens(at)>
9) Kurrarjong Radio Museum
10) Cabinet Document  DEA/703-AM-L
11) Story - The Wooden Igloo That Jack Built, Crowsnest October 1961, Vol 13 #12.
12) George Fraser  <caperfca(at)>
13) Eric Earl, KG4OZO, Atlanta  <eearle(at)>
14) Donna Loewen <donnaern(at)
15) David Smith <drdee(at)>
16) Don Cameron papers. Part 4
17) Maurice Moe Potvin; Ex ABRM1 Albro Lake  1958-1963   E-mail: mpotvin1941(at)
18) Peter Deer [867mobile(at)]

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Mar 22/21