Developed by: John Gilbert VE3CXL, Tom Brent and Jerry Proc VE3FAB

This web document describes the radio fittings aboard the RCMP vessel St. Roch during her service life.  Also, the intent is to capture the essence of the vessel's communications with other stations. Many radio items requisitioned for the ship could not be verified  as being delivered or implemented..  However, the requisitions are an official part of the ship's history so these  radios are noted for the record. . Every effort has been made to provide the most accurate picture of the ever changing equipment in the radio room of the St. Roch based on the available records.


The RCMP Schooner St. Roch was launched at North Vancouver in April 1928. She was designed as a supply vessel and floating detachment for the Arctic. She had a rounded hull which allowed her to winter in the ice of northern waters. On June 23, 1940 St. Roch  sailed from Vancouver and navigated the Northwest Passage, arriving in Halifax on October 11, 1942. She was the second vessel after Roald Amundsen's Gjoa (1903) to traverse the Northwest Passage. However, she was the first vessel to traverse the Northwest passage from west to east.

Between July 22 and October 16, 1944 the St. Roch returned to Vancouver via a more northerly route through Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait in only 86 days. In doing so she became the first vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage in both directions. She would make history one last time in 1954 after she travelled through the Panama Canal, making her the first vessel to completely circumnavigate the North American continent. Her seafaring days came to an end in 1954 and she is now a main attraction at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

This is an artist's rendering of how St. Roch ,might have looked while sailing through Arctic ice fields.  (Vancouver Maritime Museum image)

The RCMP ST. ROCH was only a member of the RCMP Marine Section for a few months.  She was a special-build supply vessel constructed in 1928 and remained with “G” Division, the division by which she was built and operated. “G” Division is that section of the Mounted Police that controls their activities in the northern part of Canada.

This is a cutaway graphic showing the starboard side of the St. Roch. The radio room is on the port side. (Courtesy Dept of Supply and Services, 1983)

Vessel type: Started as a Schooner. Later converted to a Ketch.
Length : 104 ft 3 in.
Beam: 24 ft 9 in
Draught: 11 feet
Displacement: 323 tons
Top speed: 8 knots
Launched: May 7, 1928
Paid off: 1954
Crew: 9 or 10 depending on the year

Sixteen years after being launched, St. Roch was refitted at Dartmouth, N.S.  in preparation for her 1944 voyage.  A much larger deckhouse was constructed with individual cabins for the crew, the 150 hp diesel engine was replaced with a 300 hp. diesel, and there were other, lesser, upgrades.

Retired RCMP S/Sgt. Dan Lemieux of the Vancouver Marine Museum provides this detail regarding the power plants. "The 1928-1943 engine was a 150 hp Union Diesel, six-cylinder, four-cycle, with single acting 8 1/4 inch diameter cylinders. The propeller was a single screw, three-bladed propeller, 58 inches in diameter, with a 35 inch pitch.  At 340 rpm, it  produced a top speed of 8 knots.  The engine consumed 290 gallons of fuel in a 24 hour period at optimum speed.  Since the vessel could only carry 7,000 gallons of diesel, (25 days sailing),  it was necessary to carry many 45 gallon drums of diesel.  When the main tanks went dry, the crew had to wrestle the drums out of the hold and transfer the contents into the tanks.  St. Roch cruised at 6 knots for best fuel consumption.  After the 150 hp engine was extracted during the 1944 refit, it was fitted  into  a fishing vessel on the West Coast.  That vessel sank in a storm and that engine is now resting on the bottom of the Bay of Alaska.

The second engine produced 300 hp.  It was also a  six-cylinder, four-cycle engine but having 11 inch diameter cylinders.  At 350 rpm it only produced a top speed of 8 knots.  Dockyard mateys tried a 4 bladed propellor but it caused vibration, so they went back to the original three bladed one.   More power....but no increase in speed.

In Halifax they installed a new battery bank on a platform in the engine room.  A small gasoline auxiliary engine was used  to charge the batteries.   This allowed the crew to use the radios and other electrical devices without running the main engine.   It was especially helpful during the 11 winters they spent frozen in ice in the Arctic". The quarters were  crammed and access to food and outside contact was limited"

Vancouver Maritime Museum curator Duncan MacLeod said the St. Roch represents a significant piece of Canadian history. It was built in the former Burrrard Dry Dock in Vancouver, and was launched in 1928 with the purpose of sending food and supplies to RCMP detachments along the Arctic Coast. The vessel then proceeded through the Northwest Passage to Halifax.


Radio call sign: VGSR

1928-29: This was St. Roch's maiden voyage and her first trip into the Canadian Arctic. The vessel sailed from Vancouver on June 28, 1928, wintered at Langton Bay, and returned in the fall of 1929. On launch, she was fitted with state-of-the-art radio equipment. This consisted a  100 watt, medium wave (375 to 1428 KHz) main transmitter, namely the Canadian Marconi 100W4 ( S/N 62)  which was used for all ordinary ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore work. Also installed,  was a 50 watt, short wave (experimental) transmitter whose model number  is not known at this time. It was a HF set  for communicating with stations beyond the range of the main set such the area around Hudson Bay or, possibly Ottawa.   In the 1928 to 1932 period, there were three receivers installed whose total frequency range spanned from 15 meters to 20,000 meters.  Two of these receivers  were the  MST tuner with MSA amplifier and the Canadian Marconi 4VSW-6 receiver. The third one remains unknown.

On one of the Equipment Requisitions drafted in 1928 by F.W. Sealey. was an RCA Model 2-60 Victorola "wind-up" Gramophone along with 50 records.  The gramaphone cost $37.16 in 1928. This would serve as one  entertainment means for the crew.  Because it didn't need power it could be situated anywhere in the crew's quarters. Other requests were for dry batteries. In 1928, that request consisted of:

* Qty. 8 Eveready "Layerbuilt" heavy duty,  45 volt  'B' batteries.  An example of the  Layerbuilt 'B' battery can be found here. (Provided by (Lewis Bodkin)
* Qty. 2 Eveready "Light Duty" 22.5 volt 'B' batteries.

Fred. W Sealey, was the radio operator aboard St. Roch in 1928.  born in England, Mr. Sealey discovered his calling in 1918 while his family was en route to a new home in Victoria. "While on the boat from Vancouver, I happened to be outside the wireless' cabin when the operator started up the old spark transmitter, The crash of the spark could be heard all around the deck," recalled Mr. Sealey. "I decided right there and then that the wireless' was for me.".  With a daytime job and classes at night, he quickly obtained his certificate and went to sea with the Canadian Marconi Company.

Research indicates that the St. Roch stayed in touch with a network of stations in the Arctic and all around Canada.  Fred Sealey, was the radio operator aboard St. Roch in 1929. During his time, he transmitted regular reports to Coppermine, NWT twice a week.  Other research material indicates that one of the duties of the St. Roch crew was to provide daily weather reports to Ottawa.  It was also mentioned that the crew routinely listened to the radio when they were off duty.

St. Roch obtained a broadcast license so that they, on occasion, could broadcast news and music to the northern residents. Dean recalls that it was around 667 KHz. where they aired their broadcasts. As one would expect, the AM signal would have a limited range. There was no regular schedule, just the occasional news and music, with most of the potential listeners being forewarned via short wave radio that there would be a broadcast.

It is also believed that Land Stations in the North were notified about St. Roch's broadcast schedule and, perhaps word spread to the native people that had access to battery operated receivers. There were long periods of time when  the ship was frozen in ice so she was used as an RCMP  "Detachment" . Perhaps there were more broadcasts during this period.

Complaints from the radio operator indicated that the radio room was too small, too dark and too noisy. This was corrected in  1930 by having the deckhouse enlarged.

1930-34: The longest voyage in the history of the ship. St. Roch provided service to the Coronation Gulf area of the western Arctic. Returned to Vancouver after spending four winters in the Arctic.

1936 - In the Spring of 1936, the St. Roch wireless office was supplied with a General Radio  model 358 wavemeter

1937 - On June 30, 1937 St. Roch radio operator T.J. Welsh  wrote a letter to the RCMP Commanding Officer for the Western Arctic Subdivision in Aklavik, NWT. In the letter he proposes ways to modernize the radio room aboard the St. Roch. Here are the highlights of the letter:

• A 300 watt transmitter with MCW and phone capability along with a crystal microphone is requested . There is no evidence that this transmitter was  ever  delivered. It is suspected that the upgrade might have been in the form of a Canadian Marconi 200 watt transmitter, model 200 PT.
* Welsh is also recommending the 3V-SW-5 receiver be sold and the proceeds applied to the purchase of an RCA model ACR175. There is no evidence that this ever happened.  There are no records to show that a 3V-SW5 receiver was ever installed.
* There are no test instruments in  the radio room . It is proposed that a Ranger (Triplett) free point tester/ multimeter model 640-740 be purchased. (The “free point” term refers to the tube tester portion of the instrument. It is  believed that it gave a service man the ability to isolate any pin of a tube under test and measure current or voltage and resistance).  It is not known if the tester  was ever procured.
* Due to corrosion, the main aerial should be replaced.
1938 - An order was placed for the acquisition of an HRO Standard receiver to cover the frequency range of 1700 KHz to 30 MHz. This also included an unspecified transmitter (similar to the Marconi 200PT) to operate on 6310 and 12320 KHz. It was also noted that the wireless office was only 6 foot 5 inches high, so the transmitter had to be shorterr than that dimension.

1944: This was St. Roch's "lucky" 86-day voyage on the more northerly route of the Northwest Passage from east to west, sailing from Halifax to Vancouver. It is believed that the radio room was upgraded during the refit. In March 1944, it was suggested that the existing  Marconi 100W4 transmitter be replaced with the Maconi LTT-4 transmitter. This was subsequently done. The Bill Morrison report, used in this research, confirms that the St. Roch carried the following radio equipment just before the 1944 voyage..

* Marconi LTT-4 transmitter. This was the same transmitter that was aboard when the St. Roch was turned over to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
* Marconi 200PT transmitter. This was the main transmitter.
* National HRO receiver  - this was the  main receiver. A new "Vibrapack" power supply was replaced just prior to the voyage.
* Marconi 3V SW-5 receiver. This was the emergency receiver. Marconi receivers in the model range of 3V SW-x (Three Valve, Short-Wave) covered 100 kHz to 21 MHz.
* Battery operated Aldis lamp.
* Conspicuous by its absence, is the model designator for  the enterrtainment/broadcast receiver.

1946 - Operation Muskox was an 8 day military exercise organized by the Canadian Army in 1946. It involved the 48 members of the Army driving 11 4½-ton Canadian designed snowmobiles (a.k.a."Penguins"). They were joined by three American observers in a smaller American-made snowmobile called a "Weasel" as well as an observer from the Royal Canadian Navy and a number of scientists. The Royal Canadian Air Force provided airdrops of supplies.  During this period, the St. Roch was used as a radio beacon for Operation Muskox in 1946.

1947-48: St. Roch's last Arctic voyage, this time to supply the RCMP detachments in the western Arctic. The ship wintered at Herschel Island, but most of the crew were flown out for Christmas. On her return to Vancouver, the St. Roch was laid up. In 1947, the Marconi 200PT transmitter was replaced with the Collins 32RA-8 transmitter. This then, became the main transmitter until replaced with the Canadian Marconi  CM11. Sometime in this time frame, Lt Boggild of the Canadian Navy brought a depth sounder aboard in support  of the research work he was doing.

1950: St. Roch sailed from Vancouver to Halifax by way of the Panama Canal, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate North America.

1951  - . Also installed, was a Canadian Marconi CM11 transmitter which replaced the Collins transmitter installed in 1947. The CM11, recycled from the  RCMP vessel FRENCH was the last transmitter to be installed and was removed in 1954. A  Bendix DR-5B Depth Sounder was also fitted to the ship during this year.

Once the CM11 was installed , it is not known if the radio operator used the receiver within the CM11 or the HRO for reception. Another unrecorded detail is the typewriter. Usually, ship's radio rooms would have a typewriter and perhaps one of the "Telegraphic" variety.

1954: With Henry Larsen in command, St. Roch returned to Vancouver by way of the Panama Canal for preservation as a museum vessel. As a requirement for passage through the Panama Canal the St. Roch received a radar fit.  It was the Canadian Marconi LN-16 which was removed from another ship, namely, the RCMP  FRENCH. A tripod mast was installed for the antenna atop the wheelhouse. En route, a problem had developed.  Because of rotted wood, the the wheelhouse roof collapsed  because it could not support  the weight of the antenna.  It was subsequently repaired in Bermuda.

Radio room 1928-1929 era. At the left, is a Canadian Marconi MST tuner (vatiant unknown). To its right is the companion audio amplifier, the MSA ( (variant unknown)  When radio was in its infancy it was common practice to refer to the term "wavelength" instead of the term "frequency". (VMM photo # HSN-20-03)
Radio room  1930-1933 era. The equipment depicted  here was made by Canadian Marconi . The RCMP switched from using the term  “wireless” to  "radio” around 1931. (VMM photo#HSN-30-02)
Can anyone identify the equipment in the photo?. If so, contact : Not sure if item 5 is one or two pieces of equipment. Item 6 is the  General Radio  model 358 wavemeter.
This is believed to be the emergency transmitter but it could not be verified. Called a Master Oscillator, Power Amplifier (MOPA) , it consisted of one vacuum tube, some coils and other components. The schematic for this MOPA might have looked like this.  A tap on the main coil could be moved to accommodate differences in antenna loading. Another view of the MOPA can be seen in the Terry  Parsloe photo below. 
(Above photos courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum)
Constable Terry Parsloe was a St. Roch crew member and although he was a radio amateur he was not a licensed commercial ship’s operator. He served for several years at Bernard Harbour and then at various locations within the RCMP. Here he is seen at the controls of a yet-to-be identified transmitter or receiver in 1928 or 1929. If anyone can identify it , please contact: (Photo via 

Telegraphy class (1930) . In the days when Morse code was king, it was necessary to meet the high demand for trained radio operators. One of many training facilities was located at the King Edward High School  in Vancouver , at the corner of Oak Street and 10th Ave.  First established in 1926, it became known as "Room 19" by its students. Room 19, under the stewardship of Walter Lambert,  produced many radio operators for the merchant marine and the armed forces during WW2.  Walter is the taller one standing in front of the blackboard. 

This facility remained in operation until the 1960s. Even when the original Room 19 was closed and the radio course was moved to the new Vancouver Vocational Institute, the room in which it was located was still called Room 19. Perhaps some St.  Roch operators trained st the old Room q9 facility.    (Photo credit: Vancouver City Archives)

In the Spring of 1936, St. Roch was supplied with a General Radio  model 358 wavemeter and additional coils to measure transmitter frequencies all the way down to 630 meters. The usual range for the wavemeter was  14 to 220 meters. Originally designed in 1926, this wavemeter could store six coils in the carrying case. (Photo courtesy

Between 1938 and 1932, St. Roch was fitted with two wavemeters but the model numbers were not recorded in the F.W. Sealey radio report of 1928-1932. Perhaps the G-R 358 was one of them?

This photo illustrates the use of the  358 absorption wavemeter. A coil for the frequency of interest is selected and attached to the wavemeter. The wavemeter is then positioned near the output stage of the transmitter.  A light bulb will illuminate when the resonant frequency of the wavemeter is reached. The reading  on the logging scale is then cross referenced on a  logging scale to frequency chart.    (Photo via

/st_roch_100w4_with _receiver_s..jpg 1928- This diagram shows all the interconnections for the Canadian Marconi 100W4 transmitter with a pairing to  an MST-2 tuner and MSA-5 note (audio) amplifier. Click on thumbnail to enlarge. (Image courtesy  Denis Couillard)

Typewriter: A Canadian National telegram, dated Jun 7, 1928 was  sent to RCMP HQ in Ottawa by radio operator Fred. W Sealey. In it, he is requisitioning a typewriter along with stationery (ie . radiogram forms).  The make and model of the typewriter ls not known at this time. 

/st_roch_rrclock3.jpg /st_roch_regular_clock.jpg
Radio room clock:  This is likely the type of radio room clock installed in 1928. Three minute silent periods at 15 minutes after the hour and 45 minutes after the hour are marked in red. During  the silent periods, all radio traffic in the marine band was to go silent and operators would then listen on 500 KHz for any potential SOS distress calls sent in Morse.  In 1947, 2182 KHz became the HF voice distress frequency.  As a result, green "wedges" were added to all new radio room clocks. The wedges marked 3 minutes of silence on the hour and the half hour. (Image via Ebay) In contrast, this is how  a regular marine clock might look like. This is an example aboard the St. Roch. Some marine clocks had all-brass cases All these  clocks had mechanical movements so they had to be wound at regular intervals. (Photo by John Gilbert)

The broadcast receiver sat on a shelf in the fo'c'sle.  That made it accessible by all crew members as their living quarters were in the forward part of the ship. This is NOT the receiver (Philco model 60B, made in 1934) that was used.  It is only there as a stand in.  The model of the receiver actually used cannot be identified  at this time.  (Photo by John Gilbert) 

/st_roch_mercury_super_ten.jpg Records indicate that sometime 1930,  a Mercury Model 1930 broadcast receiver was installed.  Unfortunately,  the model designator of 1930 is incorrect because it was improperly recorded.   Made in Toronto, the design incorporated ten Northern Electric R215-A "Peanut" tubes. Frequency range: 13 to 550 meters. It is believed the Mercury receiver aboard St. Roch might have resembled the one in the photo. to the left. (Image courtesy


Kipp's of Toronto  was originally a motorcycle dealer which became involved with building radios. Kipp's best known design was the Mercury Super Ten whose chassis layout is shown in the photo. Courtesy Early Developments in Radio by Bob Murray) 

A schematic of the Mercury Standard receiver can be found here. (Provided by Lewis Bodkin)

No photo available Records indicate that in June 1935, a new, long wave communications receiver was installed. It is the Model 707 Mod 1 built by the Canadian Government Radio Service. It is puzzling as to why the model 707 was chosen when there were other receivers that could do the job. 
In the Spring of 1935, the following documentation was provided for the radio room

* International list of Coast stations
* International list of Call Signs
* International list of Special Services
* International Radio Convention
* The Radio Act
* PMG Handbook  The acronym means Postmaster General’s Handbook. It was an essential text for commercial radio operators in the Commonwealth.

This was the operating position in the St. Roch radio room. Above the gramophone is the National HRO receiver, and above and to the right is the storage rack for the HRO plug-in coils.  Records indicate that St. Roch was fitted with the "HRO Standard", however the National Radio Company did not have that exact model in its receiver lineup. Today, it is the HRO Senior which is on display and is likely the same model type as when the ship was in service. For anyone wishing to know more about HRO receiver history, please select this link

Below the coil sets, is the  external HRO "doghouse" power supply. Out of sight are the 200PT and LTT-4 transmitters and the bunk for the radio operator.  It is assumed for now, that the St. Roch paid off with this basic configuration . The gentlemen in the photo is radio op Dean Hadley. Here he is inspecting the radio room in October of 2018. It was in this room where Dean spent three summers and two long winters when the St. Roch was stuck frozen in the ice of the Northwest Passage. Eugene Dean Hadley died peacefully in his sleep on July 13/19. He was 98. (Photo by  Jason Payne, PNG)

This is the HRO Senior receiver exa,[le aboard the St. Roch. However, it not the actual unit fitted when the ship paid off.  One radio operator commented that the most important thing in the news was the horse racing results! (Photo by John Gilbert) 
HRO receivers did not utilize a band changing switch.  Instead, the operator needed to remove the existing coil set and plug in a coil set for the desired frequency.  National Radio included HRO coil storage boxes with the radios in three-coil and five-coil standard versions. (Photo courtesy Radio Boulevard web site) 
This is the coil set that belongs with the St. Roch HRO receiver. (Photo by John Gilbert
Undated - This is the otter end of the radio office. A framed station licence is in evidence at the right side of the photo. (VMM photo from an 1988 visitors brochure)

/st_roch_hro_power_supply1.jpg /st_roch_power_supply2.jpg
These are  tHRO power supplies  ( #5897) with a black finish . They t came in three versions which supported 2.5, 6.3 and 12.6 volt filament strings. (Photo  courtesy Radioboulevard web page) This is the power supply used with the HRO receiver which is currently on display in the St. Roch radio room. The nameplste says "National Velvet - AB Type NC 5897 AB". (Photo by John Gilbert) 

It is not known if this was the exact Morse key arrangement when St. Roch was in service. It would be in the realm of possibility that various operators would have preferred to use their own semi-automatic keys which are called  "bugs". (Photo by John Gilbert) 
This is the speaker for the HRO receiver with the National Company logo in the middle (Photo by John Gilbert)

At the left is the Canadian Marconi 200PT transmitter with the LTT-4 transmitter at the right. . In  this view, part of the radio operator's bunk is visible. This is also where the radio op stored his personal belongings. The cabinet finish on the transmitters is not original.  After refinishing, none of the silk screen markings above the controls were reapplied. (Image courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum)
It is believed that the T-17 , a  WWII era microphone, was used with the 200 PT transmitter. (Image courtesy 


Basis CW transmitter: 200PT-1A
Frequency Range: 1500 to 6300 KHz in five bands.
Power Output as a CW transmitter only  - 100 watts. 
Power  Output as a Phone transmitter: 250 watts 
Frequency control: Crystal is assumed since there is no VFO. 

In order to use Phone, the transmitter  must first be field modified to output 250 watts.
The procedure for doing this is in the manual. New primary coils need to be installed in the final output stage. If ordered from the factory as a pair, , no modifications are necessary. 

Modulator Assembly: 200PT-1D
Modulator output power 250 watts.
Modulation type: Plate

st_roch_feedline1.jpg feedline2.jpg
During the early days of radio, it was very common  to find bare copper transmission line aboard ships,   The bare copper connected the transmitter to the antenna.  Where it met the deckhouse bulkhead, the copper line would be connected to a feedthrough insulator.  (Photos by John Gilbert) 

Once the St. Roch had  become part of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, a decision had to be made as to what period the ship was to be restored to.  That was the burning question.  A decision was then made by all concerned parties that it should  be 1944. The main   reasons for this decision were:
1) The e 300 HP engine was still in place  along with other key machinery.
2) It would not be possible to raze the enlarged deckhouse  and go back to the dimensions of the older one. The enlarged  deckhouse would also  lend itself for better interpretation opportunities.
3) Better plans were available for 1944 than other eras.
4) Radio equipment of the correct vintage was easier to locate.

Hence , the radio room in the St. Roch is a close approximation as to how it looked in 1944.

This radio room layout, circa 1940-1941, was sketched out by radio operator Dean Hadley from memory. CH means the operating chair.  PT4  might be a model number of a Canadian marconi but stated here in short form ( ie 200PT4?) . The battery charger (Cdn Marconi #58921) was in the radio room during this time frame. MOD might mean an external modulator for the 100W4 transmitter.  (Redrawn by Jerry Proc) 
This is a birds eye view of the radio room as it would have appeared in 1944 and the way it is seen today. Originally, the radio operator shared a cabin with someone else so there is no bunk in the radio room.  Later on,  (circa 1943?)  when the radio room was rebuilt, a bunk was added.  (Sketch by Tom Brent from memory ) 
It is puzzling as to why St. Roch did not have a permanent  amateur radio call sign of her own.  Records indicate that amateur radio contacts were made under call sign VGSR.  There is only one way in which this could happen and that was to use crossband operation, a method popular with ships in the period prior to WWII.  Transmitters, back then,  were largely crystal controlled because VFO designs were not that stable.  The ham would stay on a frequency within the ham band while the ship remained on her assigned frequency.  Officially , in the US,  amateurs were forbidden to communicate with stations outside the amateur bands but there was an exception for small ships and for those unable to access commercial networks. It was likely the same for Canada.
Dean Hadley was the wireless operator on the 1942 voyage  (West to East ). In his book "What a Life !" ,   he describes St. Roch's transmitter as the Canadian  Marconi 100W4, , a CW only transmitter.  It is believed that the 100WM4 was removed during the 1944 retrofit and replaced with the Canadian Marconi LTT-4 transmitter  When the radio room was re-modelled in Halifax in 1944 , it was moved to a narrower room adjacent to the galley.  Hadley’s quarters were inside the radio room.  To learn more about Dean Hadley, please select this link.

This extract, from the memoirs of Henry Larsen, was edited by  Doreen Riedel (nee Larsen) daughter of Henry Larsen. The memoirs bear the global title "The Viking Mountie". The  extract (from page 934) provides some of the details as to how the St. Roch was used as a radio beacon for Operation Muskox in 1946. (March 15 to -22), 1946  .

"The Eskimos flocked into Cambridge Bay to see the white mans’ wonders. It did not take long before the huge aircraft  commenced to land on the ice in the bay itself  which made a perfect runway. With the party were various experts of the armed forces, some dealing with weapons, some with machinery, communications, food and clothing etc. Who should be in charge of the communication setup  but my old friend Frank Riddell from the early Herschel Island days. The last time I had seen him was at Tuk. in 1937, as a Sergeant. He was a Major now  in the Canadian Signal Corps, and without a doubt, one the most practical and versatile man on that expedition. Needless to say he was my special guest during the stay. Actually they were all a very fine bunch of men, both hardy and versatile, as well as inventive as were we on the boat.

We had been asked to provide or to act as a radio beacon for their aircraft and vehicles which could then tune in on us for direction finding during dark, overcast weather. Well, we had only one operator but he could not sit at the transmitter constantly to tap out our call sign VGSR while homing was in progress.

 As a solution, he rigged up the motor of an old electric gramophone with some contraption of a disk of plywood  and with various pulleys of heavy rubber bands and items  to obtain the proper speed and tension.  This disk was notched with morse characters  representing VGSR. The notch width for a dash would have been three times wider than that of  a dot. As the disk rotated, it controlled a switch which then turned the transmitter on and off thus spelling out the call sign. The turntable could be used to produce a continuous beacon transmission or any other desired interval.

Apparently it worked so well that many pilots and navigators of the aircraft and operators of the vehicles came aboard to have a look at our radio beacon. When shown the setup by our little wireless operator, who incidentally was out on his first voyage as operator, they would not believe what  they had tuned in on for direction"'


As the research on the St. Roch  progressed, the following extracts  have been isolated in order to give the reader a flair  for some of the frequencies being used by St. Roch or the stations communicating with the ship. Note the the old term of kilocycles (kcs) has been used here rather than the more modern term KHz because it is more historically appropriate. Any communication between VGSR and an amateur radio station was done "cross band"

John Drake, in his 1930-31 diary, only mentions frequencies twice. First, in his communications with coastal station Riddle, VEE on 39.5 meters (7595 kcs). Second he writes “installed aerial counterpoise on deck for 23.4 meters (12.820 Mcs ) ”.

Glen Sargent, in a letter to Dick Saunders dated Sept 2, 1947, mentions using 6545 Kcs to work Fairbanks and Nome. Glen then suggests (to Dick Saunders) that “you crank up that rig of yours on the ham band…..and if I hear you I could answer on 12,820 Kcs or even 8220 Kcs”.

The St. Roch was in Cambridge Bay during Operation Muskox in 1946  (March 15-22) . Mentioned is “the guard frequency of the Mounties” as 6240 Kcs.
Muskox reports show that their No. 29 and No. 52 sets were set up as follows:

On 6240 kcs 1600Z - 0200Z
On 3202 Kcs 0200Z-1600Z

Other research material indicates that one of the duties of the St. Roch crew  was to provide daily weather reports to Ottawa.

/st_roch_nc46_01b.jpg On March 9, 1949, the  Superintendent of HMC Dockyard , Esquimalt BC, wrote a letter to RCN  Naval Headquarters requesting the procurement of one National NC-46 receiver at a cost of $202.26. It is unknown if this procurement was successful however it is part of the St. Roch radio story nonetheless.  This was a 10 tube, single conversion  superheterodyne receiver  covering the range of 550  KHz to  30 MHz. Here, it is pictured without the matching speaker. 

Its anticipated use was that of an entertainment/morale receiver. There are two main reasons which support this theory. Firstly,  it was an economy priced receiver with no RF amplifier stage. It certainly wasn't a communications receiver like the HRO. Also, it did not cover the low frequency marine band or the 500 KHz calling and distress frequency, something that would be essential in the radio shack on the St. Roch. (Photo courtesy web site)

The Collins 32RA-8 was installed in 1947. Later, it was replaced with the Canadian Marconi CM11  transmitter in 1951.

Modes: CW and Phone. 
Frequency range :1.5 to 15 MHz; 
Power Output- 75 watts on CW, 50 watts on Phone.

When the Collins  32RA-8 transmitter was installed it is not mentioned in the records if the HRO receiver was paired up with this  new transmitter.   (Photo courtesy Collins Company ) 

st_roch_cm11.jpg The Canadian Marconi CM11 was installed in 1951. 

Frequency Range: LF - 375 to 515 KHz
                                HF - 1.5 to 13.5 MHz
Modes: CW/MCW/AM . On MCW the note is fixed at 1,000 Hz.
Frequency Control: Crystal or Master oscillator.
RF Power: 100 watts on CW; 70 watts on MCW and 30 watts on phone.
(Photo by Jerry Proc) 

st_roch_das3.gif 1950: Model DAS Loran 'A' receiver. It is presumed that Loran 'A' navigation was a requirement for the Vancouver to Halifax voyage of the St. Roch in 1950. It would also been useful on St. Roch's final voyage from Halifax to Vancouver via the Panama Canal. Since there was no Loran 'A' coverage in the Arctic or Hudson Bay during the service life of the St. Roch, it is deduced that Loran A navigation was to be used for another purpose. 

RCMP correspondence from early 1950 indicates that a Sperry Loran was the preferred receiver , however, if it couldn't be procured, then the model DAS receiver would have to do. Since the Sperry Loran could not be be procured, a DAS receiver was deinstalled  from RCMP McLeod (based in Halifax) and   shipped to the west coast for installation aboard the St. Roch. 

It is assumed the vessel paid off with the DAS receiver. 

Looking for an LN-16 photo.  The LN-16 radar, designed and developedby the  National Research Council, was built by Canadian Marconi. The set  was fitted in 1954 as a navigation aid for the trip from Halifax to Vancouver through the Panama Canal. This was to be the last voyage for the  St. Roch.


Type: X band navigation radar.   9.345 to 9.405 GHz
Range: 1.5 to 20 miles.
Power output: 7.5 kw.
PPI Display 7 inch CRT 
Circa: 1950.



On the 2nd of February, 1945,  Captain T.H. Evans, Engineer Superintendent Ship Repairs, West Coast writes to HMC Dockyard , Esquimalt to report on the machinery aboard the St. Roch. This was the configuration at that time.


Type: Union Diesel,
Model 56 - Serial #41528
Horsepower - 150
RP M - 350
Bore - 11"
Stroke - 15"
Upgraded to a 300 HP Union diesel engine in the spring and summer of 1944. It was looked after by radio operator Hadley,

This is presumed to be the 300 hp diesel in the Engine Room (VMM photo) 

* Anchor windlass
* Main generator - 5 Kilowatt, Electric Tamper & Equipment Co.
   Output is 120 volts at 42 amps. Serial #lD6545. Driven by 3 V-belts off the intermediate shaft.
* Fresh water pump
* Battery charger. Located in the radio room in 1944..

AUXILIARY ENGINE (Added in 1940)

One Russel Newbury Diesel Engine, Type D2.   18 HP at 1000 rpm.
Serial #3520

The Sealey report of 1928-1932 mentions a gasoline engine driving a dynamo but it doesn't provide any details about the model number and make of the engine or dynamo.
It might be a case where the gasoline engine was in service from 1928 to 1940 when it was replaced by a  Russel Newbury Diesel. This needs confirmation.


* Generator - 3.4 kw (not 5 kw)  Pratt & Whitefield. Serial 9120
   RPM . - 1000. 110 volts at 31 amps Used for battery charging,
* One Russel &. Co. Ltd., two stage single acting  water cooled air compressor.


* One  Hart Battery bank.  It consisted  of 56 cells wired  in series  to proudce 110 VDC  .Each cell consisted of 15 plates and the overall dimension of one cell  was approximately 12 in high by 8 in square. It is believed that the battery bank may have resenbled this 3 cell  cutaway example which can be found here.
* One model 30I ammeter used to monitor battery charging current.
* One Mk XVIII gyrocompass  which draws 9 amps.
* One Fairbanks-Morse electric bilge pump. Serial #61173 drawing 24 amps.
* 2 inch centrifugal fuel pump.
* One DC to AC converter  Jenette Man. Co. Type CA 18. Serial #2240
   Input:  110 VDC at 2.5 amps.    Output : 110 VAC  at 1.7 amps
* One electric galley stove.

Antennas Used by the St Roch
Broadcasts and Frequencies Used
Resolute Bay
St. Roch Radio and People. 
The F.W. Sealey Radio Report 1928 to 1932
Wireless and the St. Roch 1928 to 1952.   By John Gilbert  and  Jerry Proc 

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Jun 5/20