Only the beginning of the story was told in the January 1957 "Crowsnest" account of AB Robert Bentley's telephone call to his home in Sarnia, Ontario, from 400 miles at sea. The call resulted from a contact established between HMCS Magnificent's amateur radio station, VE0ND and Rowland Beardow, a "ham" operator in Sarnia, who happened to know Bentley's family.
It was the first of 50 ship-to-shore telephone calls "laid on" free of charge by Commissioned Communication Officer Don McGee, the "father" and principal operator of VE0ND, and helpful "hams" in various parts of Canada, during the six-and-a-half weeks the Maggie was away from Halifax on her mission to the Middle East. In addition, 90 formal messages from men in the Magnificent were passed to amateur operators and relayed by them to families ashore, either directly by a telephone call or through other "hams". Most of the phone calls and messages were concentrated into the eight days spent on the homeward passage to Halifax from Glasgow.
The rough weather that prevailed for much of the trip did not interfere either with the operation of the station or the reception, which was almost always good. Those who availed themselves of the service were grateful indeed to VE0ND and to the amateur operators ashore, whose co-operation, in the words of Mr. McGee was "terrific".
"Nothing was too much for them."
He singled out, in particular, Brit Fader, of Halifax, who in one night took 21 messages and passed them all. Mr. Beardow, in Sarnia, served as the main link with Ontario, and Rene Nussbaumer of Ottawa. Mr. McGee spent much of his off-watch time in the radio office in which VE0ND was located.
Besides providing a communications service for ship's personnel, he indulged in the "hams" favorite occupation -- chatting with other amateurs in various parts of the world. In the course of the voyage, he made contacts on every continent, and in one 24 hour period spoke with "hams" in every province of Canada and the Northwest Territories as well. While the' Magnificent was in Glasgow, Mr. McGee was invited to the home of Hugh McConnel, in Ayr, with whom he spoke by short wave when the ship was en route to Scotland from Naples.
While other ships had had amateur radio stations, this was the first time for the Maggie. Application for licence was made some time before she was scheduled to sail for the Middle East but it wasn't received until the day of departure, December 29/56. In the ensuing six weeks, VE0ND not only proved its value as a morale factor by establishing and maintaining personal contact with home, but also did much to spread the name of HMCS Magnificent, and the Royal Canadian Navy, throughout the world.
|During the six and a half weeks that the "Maggie" was at sea, Communications Officer Don McGee, principal operator of amateur radio station VE0ND contacted 350 other ham operators throughout the world and brought on himself the chore of mailing out 350 QSL cards (as shown above) upon the carrier's arrival in Halifax. (DND photo)|
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