glo_badge_s.jpg  Naval Radio Station Gloucester (pronounced "Gloster"), call sign CGI, was established as a  HFDF facility on February 23,1943 on the recommendation of the British.. During the war years the station was officially known as "Number 1 Station HMCS Bytown" and for brevity it was sometimes referred to as "No. 1". From December 1, 1950 to April 1, 1953 the name was changed to HMCNRS . Between 1953 and 1966 the base was known as HMCS Gloucester, then CFS Gloucester until it closed. 

Commissioned in 1950, HMCS GLOUCESTER became not only a training facility, but also the home of the Special Communications Branch. Its Commanding Officer was the Senior Officer for all Special Radio Stations (SOSRS) and was responsible for the administration and supervision of all Special Communication Stations. The Special Communications branch was tasked with the responsibililty of signals intelligence. Gloucester's motto became "Knowledge through Discipline". 

HMCS Gloucester was located roughly south-east of Ottawa. Navan was the location of Gloucester's (CGI) transmitter site, commonly referred to as the Orleans transmitter site.  When Glo was a member of the Atlantic HFDF Net, it reported from this site to Net Control near Washington using CW. (Map courtesy of


1943 - 1945

Gloucester played a vital role in the Allied efforts of World War II and for years afterwards during the Cold War. Its primary role in 1943 was to pinpoint the location of German U-boats in the North Atlantic using radio direction finding equipment. This was accomplished by  intercepting Morse Code transmissions from the subs as they radioed to headquarters in Germany and the French coast.

TINA/RFP equipment ('Z' intelligence) was given to the RCN by the British Admiralty in December 1941 and by January 1942, operations on an experimental basis had begun at a Department of Transport station near Ottawa. In May 1943, "Z" operations moved to the RCN station at Gloucester Ontario but due to the drop in U-boat W/T traffic, the RCN chose to install RFP/TINA at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland.

Dorothy Robertson, a Wren (Women's Canadian Naval Service) who served at Gloucester recorded her wartime experiences in a booklet titled “I Go (Not) Down to The Sea in Ships”.  Using excerpts from her writings, here's how one Wren made the journey from recruit to trained operator and in doing so provides a glimpse into the early years of the station.


After completing basic training in Galt, Ontario, some 15 Wrens were drafted for further training as wireless telegraphists (W.T.'s) in January 1943. Their training would take place at the luxury resort hotel called Guild of All Arts located in what is now Scarborough, Ontario. The Guild was struggling financially in the straitened conditions of wartime pleasure so the owners viewed the Wrens as their financial saviours. Not only did the Wrens stay there but the Guild continued to operate as hotel for civilians.

Upon their arrival in Toronto they were met by Gwen Hoey, who by the way, was already quite proficient in Morse code. This group of 15 new recruits were reinforcements to the first class numbering about 40 who had already been at the Guild for two months and were already quite advanced in their training. Accommodation at the Guild was doubled (ie two people to a single room, 4 to a double, etc)  but the even-tempered nature of the new group helped them to endure the compressed living conditions.

In the next three months, people like Chief Barry or Leading Telegraphists Irene Carter  and Gertrude Jardine indoctrinated the Wrens into the mysteries of Morse code. To break from the tedium of copying Morse from the buzzers, there were lectures on naval wireless procedure from the Chief. In what turned out to be quite a surprise, the Wrens were being taught German naval procedure!  They were coached in the location and call signs of the German navy’s coastal stations, the makeup and probable meaning of various types of messages and above all, how to distinguish between the incessant traffic from the shore stations (of little interest)  and the infrequent traffic from U-boats in which there was vital interest. There was further training in the use of Direction Finding sets. The "unbreakability" of the Enigma code was also stressed in class but we all know now that Bletchley Park was decoding Enigma during the war.


While these recruits were in training, a new intercept station was being built near Ottawa. Officially it was known as No 1 station, HMCS Bytown and No. 1 for short. Some weeks before the opening, Chief Barry travelled to Ottawa to inspect the almost finished station and reported back to the Wrens that were going to be housed in extraordinary luxury such as “lilac-coloured powder rooms”.   When eventually viewed by the expectant occupiers, the accommodation turned out to be a single large room with numerous cubicles for an assortment of useful equipment and painted a pale lavender. It was not exactly the Wrens idea of luxury living but things could be far worse.

There were four buildings at Gloucester when it opened its doors.  The largest, Building No. 1,  was the barracks which included accommodation cabins (eight women to each one), the Ward Room and the Officers quarters, Sick bay, the fo'c'sle (lounge), the mess, and the galley were also included in this ‘U’ shaped building.

Building No.2 , the Operations Building, was the most important one. The true heart of the building was the Operations Room. It was large, light, airy and reasonably pleasant, where the operators worked 24 hours per day, 7 days per week intercepting radio traffic from positions at a continuous table that ran three sides of the room. The watch supervisor had her table on the fourth side, from which she went around to collect the messages, sort them, and pass them on to the teletype operator next door for transmission to NSHQ ( Naval Service Headquarters) in Ottawa. The Regulating Office (ie administrative and disciplinary centre)  was also located in the Operations Building. It was presided over by a Regulating Petty Officer.

Building No. 3  was the garage in which liberty boats (ie  panel trucks) were housed. Three sailors lived on the second floor. No .1 was an all-female station except for these three gallants, classified as unfit for sea duty, who were expected to do certain maintenance and other such duties considered beyond the normal physical strength of a woman. They gents were very popular but were also wise enough to keep to themselves when off duty. The liberty boats, were extremely important to the station since that was the only way to ferry personnel and supplies. The No. 1 station, sometimes referred to as "the hayfield", was some 17 miles distant from Ottawa and it was also three miles from the nearest highway. A bus ran along the highway, only three or four times a day, but never in sync with the Wren’s off hours.  So the only means of going to Ottawa for a few hours of rest and relaxation was by liberty boat.

These three buildings were grouped together inside a perimeter fence and were connected by a series of boardwalks. To the casual visitor, it appeared that No. 1 Station only consisted of three buildings but a mile away and across five fields, virtually invisible from the main station, stood Building #4. Small and seemingly insignificant, it was the DF shack and was known simply as #4. It consisted of a single room, about the size of the average living room, with a few chairs and tables, a pot-bellied iron stove, a chemical toilet in a tiny cubicle, and three CRT type DF sets.

Only some of the personnel at No 1 station were trained as DF operators. For each watch and two at a time, they made their way from the main station, through the first gate in the fence, across five private fields while squeezing though barbed wire and finally through the gate of No.4. In addition, they lugged sandwiches, jugs of water, coal, pads of paper and flashlights at night.  It was not an easy trek during winter. The reason for why there were no gates or stiles in the fences was a simple one. There was a feud between the local farmers and the navy. The farmers resented the navy because they occupied what was said to be the best hayfield in the area. As a gesture of displeasure, they refused to install or allow the navy to install stiles over the intervening fences. Hence the DF operators had to battle with the barbed wire six times a day.

The drawing saws it all - barbed wire, a pail of coal, a pail of water, a basket of food and one cow representing the usual herd.  (Drawing by Dorothy Robertson) 


When the Wrens first arrived at “No.1” they had a couple of days of practice to become accustomed to watch keeping hours before being thrown into the real thing. For some reason, those first days were divided into four-hour watches, the traditional Navy way, of course, but not what they were soon to experience. The switch to "real" duty brought nominal eight hour watches, though only one was actually eight hours. The 24-hour day ran thus: 0100 to 0900 (graveyard watch); 0900 to 1800 (the day watch) and 1800 to 0100 (the evening watch). As far as anyone could figure out, the rationale for this peculiar system was for the convenience of the cooks who could deal with breakfast and supper for the ongoing and off going watches in quick succession.

The nine hour day was a killer. One was not allowed to leave one's receiver except for the relief of nature when the supervisor took over for a few minutes. Eating a meal of sandwiches had to be done at the receiver with the earphones on and pencil poised in case something came up.

Real complaints began to gather over the reorganization of watches. It came as a result from a peculiarly thoughtless piece of reasoning originating in the higher echelons of the Wrens in Bytown. When organized into four watches working three days on each watch followed by three days off, Wrens were allowed to apply for "weekend" leave, which in a 12-day week usually did not coincide with Saturday and Sunday. Also, these three days constituted exactly 72 hours, from 0900 to 0900 hours. The actual days of the week did not worry the personnel.  All went well until someone noticed that the Wrens were taking more than the official allotment of one "72" and one "48" leaves a month. Orders came that the Wrens were to have their watches altered.

With  the new schedule, the Wrens were now to work six days on each watch before getting three days off. They had to be reorganized into seven watches, two working at the same time, and because a run of six graveyards was considered too much, it was further decreed that they should follow the six day-watches with three evenings, three graveyards, three evenings again, three graveyards, and at last the exact, 72 hours off. This schedule left them dead tired.

It is easy to see that a 21-day "week" adds up to exactly three weeks of the ordinary variety, with each  of the seven watches beginning its leave always on the same day of the week. With this type of schedule, it was not possible to travel to Toronto and back. Eventually the schedule was modified slightly to accommodate Toronto bound travellers.

This killing schedule of 21-day weeks lasted a couple of months, until the Medical Officer noticed an alarming increase in the number of operators who developed twitches and minor but irritating symptoms associated with exhaustion, probably exaggerated by a general feeling of grievance and ill-treatment. He investigated and ordered an immediate return to the more normal watch system.

Mid Watch No.1 Station - The boredom of nothing heard, a small snack on the receiver, Mortimer the mouse nibbling at the sandwiches and discarded knitting when duty called.  (Drawing by Dorothy Robertson) 


In the summer of 1943, Wrens returning from leave were extremely surprised to learn that No 1. station was closed and would remain that way for about six weeks. For some weeks,  personnel had been coming down with dysentery and the epidemic became so acute that on one occasion only the supervisor and a single operator turned up for duty. Frantic investigation revealed a serious fault in the drains - they had been installed incorrectly. Once the Medical Officer diagnosed the problem, he closed the station immediately and all the Wrens had one hour to pack before vehicles arrived to take them away.

The Wren officers in NSHQ must have been appalled at the summary action by the M.O. They were suddenly faced with having to disperse more than 60 displaced gals. A few, who had already been selected for officer training were detached immediately, and a couple more who had applied for a change of category had their wishes granted with unprecedented speed. A few more were on long leave so there was no immediate problem there. But that still left about 50 or so and something had to be done with them  before nightfall. Someone had a brainstorm  - why not send the remainder  to the Signal School at Ste. Hyacinthe for a course? The Wrens were immediately taken to the Ottawa train station by trucks and dispatched to Montreal. They were half-way to their destination before someone realized that the Signal School had not been notified that 50 Wrens were arriving!

The order was issued to Ste. Hyacinthe to receive 50 Wrens and put them up for the next six weeks and give them a course in something. In a base where there were more than 2,000 men, this would be quite a challenge. Normally any women taking a course at Ste. Hyacinthe were billeted at the local convent. Since there was no more room in the convent, accommodation simply had to be found on board. Some facility had to be found in some remote corner of the base where contact between the fifty Wrens and the two thousand men would be minimal. The solution was to billet the ladies in the Chiefs and Petty Officers Mess but it fell far short of the standards that the No. 1 Wrens had come to expect. Not only that, but the Mess could not be satisfactorily isolated from the men.

It took the ladies over a week to recover from the shock of arrival at St. Hyacinthe. Now they got a glimpse of how the navy really lived. The course that was eventually given dealt with  British Naval wireless procedure, which was of  no conceivable use to the Wrens except in a very general way.  The ladies found the course quite entertaining and no final examination was administered to discover whether they had actually learned anything.

By the fall of 1943, the problems that caused the dysentery outbreak were corrected. Everyone survived St. Hyacinthe and returned back to No.1 with a greater appreciation of their luck.

NRS Gloucester as it appeared in 1944. (Photo courtesy Joan Pelly)


In early spring 1944 an upheaval occurred at No.1 Station. Almost before the station had been completed it had been discovered that the Ottawa region was not the ideal place for reception of overseas wireless signals, something the Canadian Broadcasting Commission had discovered some years before. In the evening, signals boomed in but towards midnight they began to fade, and by the time the Graveyard Watch arrived, the air was silent as far as German shore stations were concerned, and remained so for several hours.

The Wrens had scarcely settled into No 1 before construction was started on a new station outside of Moncton, New Brunswick called Coverdale2. . As soon as it was ready, most of the senior operators (W.T.’s) were reassigned to Coverdale. A new batch came from Ste. Hyacinthe to replace the vacancies at No. 1. Four of the original crew who arrived on Easter in 1943  volunteered to stay at No.1 as supervisors. They were Dorothy Duncan, Alice Russell, Dorothy Robertson and Celia Weiser who was in overall charge of the direction-finding hut.

It was quite a change for the few who remained behind. A general quiet had descended on the Operations Room after the exodus to Coverdale. Those first letters that reached No. 1 from Coverdale indicated that the construction of the main buildings was not as complete as they had expected. Most noticeable, was a lack of doors. There was not a door to be found anywhere - not at the entrance; not to the cabins, not even to the heads! The builders defended themselves, so it was said, by saying that no doors had been specified in the contract, which seems rather odd. Those first letters were full of the hazards of dressing and undressing while dodging the delighted eyes of workmen popping up like jack-in-the boxes at the cabin windows. Being watch keepers, the girls were disrobing at any time of day or night, something the workmen were not slow to discover and appreciate. For additional informtion on the history of the Wrens, select this link  and refer to the section titled "The Role Of The WRCNS At Coverdale.

During wartime, D/F bearings obtained at Gloucester and other D/F locations were plotted on a wall mounted map. Pieces of coloured string were attached across the map whenever a bearing was obtained. Operators waited to hear from other D/F stations in the UK, Bermuda, Labrador or Africa that were homing in on the same signals from either enemy ships or U-boats. Once a cross bearing was plotted, the intersection of the strings indicated the source of the enemy signals.  Accuracy was limited to a 25 mile radius from the intersection. Within minutes, Allied aircraft flying on patrol, could be dispatched to the target area.

When the aircraft arrived at the intercept point, they could put down their sonobuoys and listen for the enemy if nothing was sighted visually. The first operational sonobuoy which saw wide use was the American AN/CRT-1 which became available in June 1942. Operational use began in August of that year. This sonobuoy had 6 available radio frequencies, an omni-directional hydrophone and could operate for 6 hours before exhausting its battery.   Several buoys had to be used in order  to triangulate a target.

In February 1943, a design of a directional sonobuoy was started which resulted in the AN/CRT-4. Testing commenced in early 1945. This sonobuoy had a rotating 11 degree beam that rotated through 360 degrees  every 12 to 20 minutes depending on sea state. Rotation was achieved by a special sea anchor that dropped from the buoy on entering the water. This anchor caused wave action to rotate the buoy through its search pattern. The AN/CRT-4 was introduced too late to have any effect on the outcome of the naval war.

1945 to 1948 - TRANSITION

By 1945, Gloucester's role began to change, with a portion of the facility being deactivated and used as a training ground for the Communicator Special trade. Eventually the site became the official school for the Special Communications Branch with its first course commencing in 1948.

Gloucester became  the headquarters of SOSRS (Senior Officer for all Special Radio Stations) and had a full Commander as the Commanding Officer. in 1951. He was responsible for the administration and supervision of all Special Communication Stations. Churchill and Coverdale both had LCDRs as CO.  All the others, Gander, Chimo, Aklavik and Masset, were NRS, and were tenders to Gloucester. Masset and Gander had Commissioned Officer (SB) as the OIC. Aklavik, Gander and Chimo had a Chief in charge.

During the Cold War, Gloucester was kept busy tracking Soviet vessel movements. The Soviets use of a technology called "burst transmission" made the job more difficult until the introduction of automation which would help an operator to capture the adversary's transmission and help him to figure out the point of origin.

The RCN also began their concentrated efforts in Communications Research by choosing the direction finding facility situated at Gloucester as the home for this unique business on 29 Dec 1947. By early 1948, they had initiated Gloucester as the administrative HQ and trade school by co-locating it with NRS Gloucester (HFDF).


Between 1948 and 1968, the Electronic Warfare rooms of HMC ships and many naval radio stations were staffed with members of the Communicator Supplementary or Radioman Special Branch. These were not regular radio operators. Rather, they were members of a branch whose duties were considered secret. Originally created as Communicator Supplementary (CS) in 1948, this branch was renamed Radioman Special (RS) in 1960, but the badge had been changed in 1955. It remained RS from 1960 until the amalgamation of the Armed Forces in 1968. Duties of CS/RS operators included the interception and analysis of "opposition" emissions, both radio and radar. Gloucester provided all of the training required for the CS/RS rates.

In 1960, the Basic Course at Gloucester prepared the trainee in qualifying for his first trade group. In that 22 week course,  the trainee learned to read the Morse Code at twenty-two words per minute and to type at thirty words per minute. In addition, communication procedures used in the handling of messages were taught along with the operation and maintenace of many pieces of radio equipment. Student failure rates could be high. David Smith, a former graduate of Glouscester, remembers starting at least 12 individuals in his class then seeing his classmates dwindle down to 4 either as a result of failing a security check or because the duties were not a good fit.

Once the Basic Course course was completed in Gloucester, the Radioman Special was drafted either to a ship or a naval radio station such as  Aklavik, NWT; HMCS CHURCHILL,  Manitoba or to HMCS COVERDALE, Moncton NB. After serving a three month on-the-job training period, he was eligible to write his trade Group One qualifying examinations.


The CS and Communicator Radio (CR) branch badges were the same. The maple leaf at the top was standard on every branch badge in the navy. Superimposed, were the wings of mercury over two signal flags.  Joining the wings of mercury was a circle. In the circle there was a letter which denoted a specific trade. The individual badges are shown below.

Communicator (C)rypto 
 Communicator (S)upplementary
(Badges courtesy Ed Paquette)

Communicator (R)adio
   Communicator (V)isual
  Communicator New Entry*

* The badge with a blank circle would be for a new entry or basically-trained rate before he specialized in one of Radio, Coding or Supplementary. (Badges courtesy Ed Paquette)

By 1950 there was a CR, CS, CV, CC, rating all with the same badge with the exception of the letter in the circle. Shortly after that, the navy combined the CV and CR to CM and made them one and the same. The CM ratings did a watch in the radio room and then did a watch on the bridge as a Signalman. This only lasted a couple of years and it was just too much for one trade. They went back to CR and CV. CV was Communicator Visual, the Signalman. The CC disappeared sometime around 1953. Just before 1960 the trade name changed. CV became Signalman SG with crossed flags. CR became Radioman RM with the wings of mercury and knob. CS became Radioman Special RS with the wings of mercury and the DF Loops. These badges were changed in 1955 but the trade name did not change until later.


rs_badge.jpg rm_badge.jpg
Radioman Special (RS) badge.
1955 - Feb 1968
Radioman (RM) badge.
1955 - Feb 1968
(Both badges courtesy of Spud Roscoe)

The RS and Radioman (RM) branch badges were very similar. Both had the maple leaf with the wings of mercury. Where the wings of mercury joined, there was a solid knob on the RM badge and the loops of the MF/ DF antenna on the RS badge as shown above. The knob and loops were the same size and one had to look closely to see the difference.


Taken in 1959, ABRS Spud Roscoe shows the Radioman Special (RS) badge. Spud says that he joined as a Communicator Supplementary (CS) rating in 1956 but their branch was renamed Radioman Special in 1960. It took a while for the old CS badge to disappear. He had the old badge on some items of clothing and the new badge on other pieces of clothing.  (Photo courtesy Spud Roscoe)

This was the white CS badge used  from 1955 until 1968 and a rate wore it on his white uniform, dungaree shirts and dungaree jacket. The dungaree uniform was known as #5 and was the working uniform. (Image courtesy Dan Gillis) 

In the 1950's,  the RCN bought a supply of gold thread badges from the Pakistanis. These badges were not very popular, to say the least.  The thread around the border soon discoloured and the actual badge, which was quite crisp and sharp soon became scruffy looking. Many of the CS and RS rates opted for the purchase of gold-wire Tiddley badges rather than wear these imports which were referred to as "Pakistani Badges" or "Paki Badges" at the time. COs and senior officers did not like them either. (Image courtesy Ray White)  This is Communication Technician Third Class (CT3) USN badge. The CT branch of the USN was the counterpart to the RCN  CS/RS rate.  This was worn on the left arm and signified the rank as well as the specialty.  In this case, it is a CT3, which was the equivalent of a Leading Seaman in the RCN.

Many CT3's and CS were on exchange programs between the USN and the RCN.  (Image courtesy Ray White) 

radioman_sp_badge.jpg radioman_badge.jpg
Radioman Special - white badge. Radioman - white badge.
cryptobadge1.jpg  A rate wore white badges on his white uniform, dungaree shirts and dungaree jacket. (All photos courtesy Jerry Proc)
Crypto -  white badge.  


Ray White, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class RCN (Retired) provides some general information about the CS rate and other changes which transpired during his service with the navy. "The term "CS rate"  was used for all members of the Communicator Supplementary trade until about 1960 when all the Radio trades, and others, underwent a designation change. CS became Radioman Special (RS), CR became Radioman (RM), CV became Signalman (SG), etc.  With unification later in the 1960's, RS became COM RSCH 291.

About 1950, another change took place when all the old designations were renamed. from WT Operator (always referred to as Sparker) to Communicator (CM) and included the group that later became our mob, the CS rates. Signalman became Communicator Visual (CV), and another low-key trade, Communicator Crypto (CC) performed duties which later became part of all the trade specifications.

Another "aberration" occurred in about 1961 when a new Port Division was introduced, namely, Gloucester which used suffix 'G' on the official number. The other Port Divisions were 'H' for Halifax and 'E' for Esquimalt.  Ours was the only trade in the RCN to have a Port Division dedicated to a single trade. My serial number went from 9256-H to 9256-G but the transition for most of us wasn't easy to get used to. It all went by the board anyway when the Social Insurance Number was introduced throughout the Canadian Forces and the concept of Port Division disappeared.

Another significant point concerning the CS/RS trades was the various sub-specialties, such as Operator, Technician, Linguist, etc. These were included in the trade without showing what the individual's real job might have been. From the period up to the late 1950's, the CS trade had only two trade groups - Trade Group Two and Trade Group Three. When I left Gloucester as a trained operator, I went from OSCSS to OSCS2, something that other trades found very difficult to understand. At the other end of the spectrum, Trade Group Three was the level for qualification to Petty Officer Second Class. On completion of the qualification course a Leading Seaman became LSCS3. Then, in late 50s, the level of trained ordinary seaman became TG1 - OSCS1. All P1s and Chiefs became Trade Group 4 at the point of introduction of the new policy and all subsequent advancement to Trade group 4 required a formal course, held in Gloucester".


Ray White provides some details about the type of training provided to CS and RS rates.

"Communicators (Supplementary) (CS) were specifically trained to receive messages without the possibility of requesting repetitions.  This is the basis of intercept operations.  Having said this, I should point out that in the early part of the 1950s, say, when I received my first CS course, we were taught to receive and send.  Each training position in the classrooms had a typewriter bay and an old brass Pusser key. We were taught to receive manual and automatic Morse, both plain language and different kinds of crypto, figure and letter codes.  Emphasis was on the Cyrillic, or Russian alphabet, which, in addition to the international characters, had characters that we called "Tiddley" characters:  .-.- was tiddley A, ..-.. was E, ---- was H, ..-- was U, ---. was O.  These were for reception of Russian.

There were also accented characters for other languages, -.-.- (Tiddley C, also known as the commercial commencement signal) --.--  (Tiddley N, I think) .--.- (Tiddley P) etc etc. They were written with the letters having a line above them.  When typewritten, there was a dead key which did not advance the platen. This key had an overline on it and was hit before the letter and produced much the same result as the handwritten or printed character.

Emphasis was on printed copying, with secondary training given on typing. We were also given considerable manual morse transmitting training, which was intended for operation of the communication circuits between stations. We operated such circuits between Aklavik (CFV) and Churchill (CFL), Masset (CFS) and Aldergrove (CKN), and Frobisher (CFI) and Churchill, as well as Padloping Island (VFU8) which was manned by CRs in the mid-50s.

Having said that, the quality of Morse receiving was vastly superior to sending, mainly because most CSs did not get the practice necessary to hone a fist and keep up the skill. CS operators were renowned for their exceptional skill at copying poor quality Morse.  But they were also quite good a automatic morse at speeds up to about 28 wpm for long periods.  In spite of the emphasis on receiving, CS rates who actually operated on active, point to-to-point circuits developed quite good fists.  On many occasions, shipborne CS operators would often participate in the squadron and fleet morse copying competitions and had very good records against their CR messmates. However, the same competitions included sending manual morse and the CS personnel did not come near the CR skills.

In the mid to late 50s, Morse training at Gloucester took a turn for what I would call the worse. A USN LCDR (by the name of Tamburello) was appointed in charge of  CS training and he brought USN Comm School methods with him. He minimized copying by pencil, and concentrated on typewriter copy. He did away with plain language and concentrated on five letter and five figure groups.  He did away with use of the telegraphic key.  These changes had a detrimental effect on operator skills and thus left it to watch supervisors at Churchill and Coverdale to bring the new operators up to scratch. All in all, CS operators sharpened their blind reception skills because of the inability to request repetitions. Former CS rates who trained in Gloucester in 1958, 1960 and 1962 indicate that they did not receive straight key training so it is safe to say this skill was never re-instated on the syllabus.

In 1964, an entry in the Naval General Orders (NGO's) authorized Gloucester to hold 130 telegraphic typewriters". This gives some magnitude to the amount of personnel who were coping Morse code there.
Doug Stewart recalls this anecdote concerning typewriters. "At Comm School we also learned to use
the telegraphic typewriter. Our instructor, was also learning to type. As a prank, we removed the spring from his space bar one day. This provided us with a few snickers watching the carriage move left each time he hit the space bar".

Doug also recalls the road from recruit to first assignment. "Naval recruits would arrive at HMCS CORNWALLIS3.  in small groups from across Canada until there were about 50 persons, enough to form a New Entry Division. Divisions were named for past and present ships of the RCN. I was assigned to Patriot Division. Our 16 week course, which lasted from August through November 1953,  comprised of intense training in the basics of military and naval disciplines.  All "New Entries" were rank qualified as Ordinary Seaman Untrained, with a designation of OSS.

Upon completion of New Entry Training, those designated for trades training as Communicators would join the Naval Communications School, also located at Cornwallis. At this juncture, although still OS, we were authorized to display our Trade Badges and be referred as OSCS.  The initial course of instruction required that all Ordinary Seamen students, regardless of their ultimate trade designation, attend a three week Communicator (CM4.)  training course which involved both the radio and visual trades. Following the CM training period, the students would join their respective Communicator Supplementary (CS), Communicator Radio (CR) or Communicator Visual (CV) courses of instruction. My instructors, were P1CS  B. "Knobby" Clark and P2CS E. Hayward. Our studies closely tracked the curriculum laid out for the CR classes but with less emphasis on transmitters. Select this link to view training activities at Cornwallis.

HMCS Cornwallis gate entrance. (Photo via Pierre Dubuc). 
After completing Comm School training from January  to April  1954, we arrived at Gloucester in late April. The instructor assigned was us was P1CS W. "Bill" Amos. Although the classroom was above the garage and other wartime facilities, Gloucester was expanding with new construction during this period. When we started at Gloucester, we were already qualified at 12 wpm International Morse and proficient in the use of the telegraphic typewriter. The six Cyrillic morse characters were soon included with our Morse alphabet and copy speeds gradually increased to 25 wpm.  By the time we graduated from Gloucester, with the rate of OSCS1 in August 1954, much of the new facilities were already in use. My initial outstation would be NRS CHURCHILL for the period of 1954-1956".

Ray White recalls his first assignment to an outstation after graduation. "I left Gloucester in 1952 as OSCS2, (Ordinary Seaman Communications Supplementary 2nd Class) bound by train to HMCS Churchill.  This was the Korean war era and because of "rowdiness" on the trains by soldiers and sailors, there were Army MPs and Navy Shore Patrols. I was challenged by a P2NQ Shore Patrol from HMCS Chippewa (Winnipeg) and he wouldn't believe that an Ordinary Seaman could be Trade Group Two. He was a leftover from WWII and was NQ or "not qualified in any trade" since was nothing on his right arm to indicate a trade qualification.. I guess it disturbed him that I had two Trade Groups to my credit and he had none. Regardless, he had me taken over to Chippewa and they sent a message to Churchill saying, ostensibly, that they had nabbed an impostor. Churchill replied that I was legitimate and he had better be on the train scheduled to arrive on the following Sunday. This was my only run-in with the law".

RAD Tech

Several people provide information about the RAD Tech trade. Ray White recalls. "In the 1950's, technicians who serviced transmitters were former CS operators who had been given specific technical training.  These techs retained the designation P2CS3, C2CS3 and C2CS4.  They made regular visits to the transmitter site for each SUPRAD station but did not have to be present for basic frequency changes. In Frobisher Bay we had exactly the same practice in place. Our tech was P2CS3 Mike Gallagher who did all the planned maintenance at the transmitter site but did not have to be there for operational frequency changes which were done by dialing up the new frequency. In my time our transmitter was an RCA AT-3 and the remote control console at the operator position was of RCA origin and comprised a telephone-type dial for the changes.

In the RCN world, the term RAD TECH did not exist until some time later, likely when the Canadian Forces were integrated. Basically, before the introduction of technically-trained CS-rates, we used seagoing members of the RT trade, usually of the rank of Chief. The RT trade became the ET trade in the early 50s - ET designated Electronic Technician. Once a core group of CS technicians was in place, the SUPRAD organization stopped using the RTs/ETs. I believe this may have been for security reasons as SUPRAD had already a core group of suitably cleared personnel and it was more appropriate to use them rather than clear non-CS personnel for what would have been a very short period".

Eric Earl trained as a RAD TECH in the 1960's after his two's course.  "We were called RAD Techs and we operated within the SUPRAD system. We trained initially as 291 operators then were chosen to be techs and indeed were subsequently  called RAD Techs. A RAD Tech was not a separate branch within the SUPRAD system as I recall although some of the techs that I worked with  subsequently went to other arms of the armed forces. I specifically remember  one fellow that went to the air defence radar station in Saskatchewan which of  course outside the SUPRAD system. While I served in Coverdale, I was assigned to watch the transmitter site at Scoudoc, NB for some period of time specifically to change frequencies and indeed to insure that the transmitters were up and in operation".

Lynn Wortman also provides some additional information. "I started out as a CS (or as they call it now 291) in 1958 and after my Trade Group 3 course  I became a Rad Tech which was part of the CS group.  Some people actually went back to being a operator after completing the Special Equipment couse in Gloucester. After the SE equipment course in 1965,  I went back to Churchill as a Rad Tech. In Churchill, 1965 all our traffic sent was via CN landline therefore there was no need for transmitters technicians".

Military Occupation Codes

Military Occupation Codes (MOCs) were the designation given to the various trades replacing the terms used in the three services prior to the Unification of the Armed Forces. This section will summarize key dates for changes in the CS/RS trade.

* The RCN trade “Radioman Special” replaced “Communicator Supplementary” on January 1st, 1960.
* The term Radioman Special disappeared on October 1st, 1966 when MOC “COM RSCH 291” was introduced.  All trade designations throughout the armed forces were replaced at this time by various MOCs, such as “RAD TECH…”
* They all had a descriptive abbreviation followed by three digits. Incidentally, the Communications  Research  trade is the only one to become known throughout the service by the three numbers only – e.g. 291er

As a further matter of interest, the Canadian Forces rank designations came into effect on Feb 1st, 1968.  Thus a Petty Officer First Class in the Sea Element became a Warrant Officer, as did a Staff Sergeant in the Land Element and a flight Sergeant in the Air element.  A C2 or equivalent  became a Master Warrant Officer, and a C1 or equivalent became a Chief Warrant Officer.

By 2005,  the Canadian Forces no longer has Military Occupation Codes therefore MOC 291 no longer exists. The MOC has been replaced with the Military Occupational Structure Identifications Codes (MOSID). They are five digit codes, and 291ers have been reclassified under MOSID 00120.


Click to enlarge photos which are linked

glo_ar88.jpg AR88: In the 1950's, the RCA AR-88 receiver could be found at Gloucester and also the diversity version, the model DR-89. The AR-88 would be superseded by the Hammarlund SP-600. (Photo courtesy Ray Robinson's Communications Museum)
glo_dr89_s.jpg DR-89Diversity Receiver: The DR-89 consisted of a 7 foot tall rack which contained three AR-88 receivers, a Tone Keyer with combined output meter, a Speaker Panel, a Meter Panel with meters for all three receivers, an antenna patch panel and a power supply. When used in a diversity installation, the AR88's did not have S-meters installed because the S-meters for all three receivers were actually installed outboard on the Meter Panel of the DR-89 rack. For more photos, select here (Photo courtesy US Govt War Dept, 1945.) 
chimo_pa142540_s.jpg Sparton CNF-4 HFDF: A CRT based DF set with 2.7 mc to 25 mc coverage depending if it was the A, B or C variant. Photo by Leblanc, DND. National Archives of Canada, photo # PA-142540)
upd501_s.jpg UPD-501 Radar DF set: When it first saw service in the 1950's, the UPD-501 could only detect emissions in the 'X' radar band. In the 1970's the system was redesigned to provide coverage in the X, S and K bands.  (Photo by Jerry Proc)
glo_dau_s.jpg DAU HFDF Set: 1.5 to 30 mHz. Select here  for technical details. (Photo by Jerry Proc) 
glo_mdf5_s.jpg MDF5 MFDF set: Frequency range of 265 to 670 Kc (Photo by Andre Guibert) 
grd501_s.jpg AN/GRD-501. Eric Earle,  KG4OZO, now living in Atlanta, Georgia was a former CS rate and he confirms the presence of the AN/GRD501 DF set while he served at Gloucester in 1962.(RCN photo). 
glo_sim1_o9507_s.jpg April 20, 1957: Mystery Simulator. Does any know what this simulator was used for? It appears to consist of one CW transmitter(?), four receivers and one plot table. (Photo# O_9507 courtesy DND, Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre provided via by Robert  Langille)
glo_fh4s1_o9508.jpg April 20, 1957: FH4 HF Direction Finder. Frequency range: 1 to 24 MHz. To the right rear is the FH-4 external power supply with top and front grilles missing.  At the right front is the FH-4's  voltmeter which was was usually mounted on the bulkhead. (Photo# O-9508 courtesy DND, Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre provided via by Robert  Langille)
ampex_601s.jpg 1956 - 1960: Ampex 601 dual track tape recorder. (Image courtesy of RCN)

Ray White comments on the UPD-501. "The use of the UPD-501 was taught in the Electronic Warfare classes at Gloucester for CS-rates and RS-rates who were going to sea. (In the late 50's sea-time was a pre-requisite for promotion to Petty Officer First Class). Training was difficult because there were no real X or Y band radar emitters near Gloucester so recordings of British SU radars, USN radars, as well as some of the expected Soviet Union navy radars were used.  This training was quite effective because our operators in the 9th Escort Squadron had a number of "radar hits" in which  the correct or approximate pulse repetition rate was determined.  On at least one exercise we were able to advise the Operations Room of the presence of a British sub (ultimately found to be HMS Alderney) that was operating its radar on manual sweeps  -- this in defiance of the established radio and radar silence policy".

John Murison adds. "When I was stationed in Gloucester in 1954, our D/F transmisions were sent to a transmitter located at Leitrim's transmitter station. I used to maintain a crystal set for Glouster's assigned transmitter'.

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


glo_site_plan_1960s.jpg 1960 Site Plan:  Click to enlarge. (From "History of Canadian Signals Intelligence") 

Fall 1962: This aerial view of Gloucester is looking north-east. The road leading into the station was oriented north-south, with the south end connecting  to the road cutting across the lower right corner of the picture. Originally known as Ottawa-Carleton Road #8, its name was changed to Mitch Owens Road. (Dept . Energy Mines Resources photo H RR 2355, Picture 06 1962).

Ray White elaborates on some of the sectional information provided  in the 1960 site plan. 

#1 Officers Wardroom Mess at left end; C&PO's Mess and Accommodation at right 
#2 This was the original wartime base. In the decade of the 1950's, the remainder of the buildings were erected. 
#3 Main barracks block for Leading Seaman and below ; Medical Section and Dentist Office.
#4 Leading Seaman and below Galley and Cafeteria.
#5 Operator Training School. It consisted of classrooms, as well as offices for the Training
Officers and also for the Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers who did the actual instructing. The large empty area in front was the parade square and flag mast.
#6 Technical Training and Landline Comms. -  Technical training took place in the building at the end of the school. There were technical labs and various technical areas such as radio, crypto etc. This building also housed the Communications/Crypto Center. As this was an administrative centre, the only operational crypto was the KL-7.
#7 Gym - It was a  large, modern building that used laminated wood construction to support the roof. 
#8 Sports field, with softball diamond highlighted. 
#9 Permanent Married Quarters. This area originally consisted of dozen residences. The section nearest the road entering the base was built prior to 1951. The remaining PMQs were built in the late 1950's. The row of parked cars near the PMQ area belonged to personnel who did not have authority to park inside the secure perimeter of the station. Not clearly evident in this photo was the Main Gate building, which incorporated a cell for disciplinary cases and was the daytime office of the Master-at-Arms and, in off-duty periods, the office of the Duty Petty Officer. 

Potable water at Gloucester was very hard and slightly sulfurous tasting because the aquifer was situated close to the Carlsbad Springs spa. The water there was reputed to have therapeutic qualities. 

Training Officers were the commissioned officers, usually holding the rank of Lieutenant or Commissioned Officer1, who were in charge of the overall operation of the school. Officers performed some instructional functions for senior personnel, such as training radio technicians, cryptographers and those on Trade Group 4 courses.

The basic establishment consisted of several training officers, several Chief Petty Officers (First and Second Class) who controlled the output from the Instructional Production Office, and, as well, Instructor Petty Officers (First and Second class), who prepared study plans and did the actual instructing in the classes.

Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System

On 19 July 1966, the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio Systems (CFSRS) was created in preparation of the unification of the Canadian Forces.  Stations previously controlled independently by the three services (indicated in the parentheses) would now be directed by a Commander headquartered at HMCS GLOUCESTER. These stations were:

CFS Alert, North West Territories. (Army)
CFS Leitrim, Ontario (Army)
CFS Ladner,  British Columbia (Army)
CFS Whitehorse, Yukon (RCAF)
CFS Churchill, Manitoba (RCN)
CFS Inuvik, North West Territories (RCN)
CFS Gloucester, Ontario (RCN)
CFS Bermuda (RCN)
CFS Frobisher Bay, North West Territories (RCN)
CFS Coverdale, New Brunswick (RCN)
CFS Gander,  Newfoundland (RCN)
CFS Masset, British Columbia RCN)

Alert was basically an Army station, but its complement was becoming increasingly Navy and RCAF. A tour of duty was normally six months in duration. When consideration was being given to a station in the high Arctic, there were already two "experimental" stations in existence -  Resolute Bay, NWT and Alert. In  approximately 1958, Resolute was discontinued and Alert became the high Arctic station.

The Supplementary Radio Activities Consolidation Plan of 1966 intended CFS Flin Flon to be part of the CFSRS group but it is not known whether this implementation actually happened.

This newly organized system would be responsible for the operation of facilities conducting communications research, HF direction finding and  providing intelligence information to CFHQ (Canadian Forces Headquarters) and other authorized agencies.Gloucester also had its legends. The navy, in is wisdom, created a new watch which assigned one sailor with three WRENS  in the DF shack during the early 1950's. When word got out, everyone wanted to be a watchkeeper at the shack! Another legendary story was about the guys and gals that were sneaking over to a nearby farmhouse and making use of it's facilities. It went on for a while,  but once discovered,  the guys received a quick draft to Coverdale and Wrens from Coverdale were sent to Gloucester.


1943 - 1943 Lt. Evelyn Cross (Wren)
1943 - 1944 Betty Crowther (Wren)
1944 - 1945 Grace Merrill (Wren)
1945 - 1947 P. J. Prately
1947 - 1949 J.R. Watson
1949 - 1952 S.B. Shore
1952 - 1955 John S. Hall
1955 - 1961 D.S.K. Blackmore
1961 - 1969 A.P. Johnson
1969 - 1970 C.H. Walker
1970 - 1971 LCDR Donovan C. Filewod
1971 - 1972 W.G. Hillaby
1972 Gloucester closes



SOSRS = Senior Officer Supplementary Radio System
SRS = Supplementary Radio System
CFIOG = Canadian Forces Information Operations Group

1949 - 1952 S.B. Shore SOSRS
1952 - 1955 J.S. Hall SOSRS
1955 - 1961 D.S.K. Blackmore SOSRS
1961 - 1970 A.P. Johnson SOSRS, then SRS after 1966
1970 - 1973 W.R. Allen SRS
1973 - 1975 T.J. Reader SRS
1975 - 1977 D.A. Kidd SRS
1977 - 1980 P.E. Morneault SRS
1980 - 1982 K.J. Perry SRS
1982 - 1985 J.C. Heenan SRS
1985 - 1989 N.W. VanLoan SRS
1989 - 1993 J. Croft SRS
1993 - 1995 P. Tappin SRS
1995 - 1998 J. Stevens SRS
1998 - 2001  R. Alward CFIOG
2001 - 2003 R. Leitch CFIOG
2001 - 2005  D. Neasmith CFIOG
2005 -  J. Turnbull CGIOG


The station was closed in 1972 as part of the plan to centralize communications training at CFB Kingston. CFS Gloucester is commemorated by Building B69 , E Squadron , CFSE, CFB Kingston. David Smith, a former member of the RCN and RS rate who trained at Gloucester drives by the former base frequently. He reports that one of the last vestiges of his time, namely the baseball backstop was just  removed in June 2005. In its place, a cairn has been dedicated to all those who worked, trained and served at Gloucester. All that's left of the former base is the original gymnasium which is now the Greely Legion Hall. Please refer to the Closure and Memorabilia section for photos.

Wartime Facilities
Peactime Facilities
People 1
People 2
Morse Code Training


1. The RCN had the rank of Commissioned Officer, which was usually the rank given to a senior non-commissioned officer, such as a Chief or Petty Officer who became commissioned from the ranks. He or she wore a single gold ring as rank insignia and in this sense was not distinguishable from a sub-lieutenant except for  age and experience. Commissioned Officers were respected, especially by senior officers, for their experience and maturity. When the Canadian Forces were integrated, the rank disappeared and these officers were known as "CFR" or Commissioned from the Ranks.

2. The definite increase in German radio traffic volume certainly would play a part in the decision to open Coverdale, but a more important reason would be the need for a good "cut-off" for DF bearings - to allow for a significant intersection of lines of bearing to assist in the triangulation and determination of the position of the targets.

3. Cornwallis was located in Clementsport N.S., a portion of which is now in Deepbrook. The base closed in 1994.

4. The CM acronym means Communicator. In the late 1940's, the RCN amalgamated the two communications disciplines of radio and visual into a single entity called Communicator, whereby all communicators would be responsible to effectively  perform to the specifications laid out in the  radio and visual communications trades. That amalgamation was a dismal failure so it was cancelled in short order.

Contributors and References:

1) Ray White e-mail: <r.p.white(at)>
2) Don Cameron e-mail: <dcam1863(at)>
3) Spud Roscoe e-mail: <spudroscoe(at)>
3) Canadian Warship Names by  David Freeman. Vanwell Publishing, St. Catharines, Ont.
4) Bruce Forsyth's  Canadian Military History Page
5) SUPRAD Consolidation Plan. May 1966.
6) HMCS Gloucester badge image courtesy Ready Aye Ready web page.
7) Fighting the U-boats Weapons and Technologies - Sonobuoys by Terry A. Gardner
8) DND Web page
9) Pat Barnhouse <pat.barnhouse(at)>
10) RC Sigs web page.
11) Elsa Lessard. WREN  e-mail: elsal(at)
12) Diversity Reception Web page
13) David Smith <drdee(at)>
14) Lynn Wortman <lynn.wortman(at)>
15) Dorothy Robertson, WREN : Extracts from "I go (Not) Down To The Sea in Ships". Used with permission.
16) Dorothy Schuthe, WREN.
17) Eric Earl,  KG4OZO eearle(at)
18) "The Canadian History of Signal Intelligence and Direction Finding" by Robert Lynn Wortman and George T. Fraser
19) George .T Fraser <caperfca(at)>
20) Donna Loewen <donnal(at)>
23) Robert Langille, C.D., President EWCS (Electronic Warfare Consulting Services)  <>
24) JCWise <jaceywise(at)>

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Aug 20/17