Veteran Stories:
Bea Corbett

Navy

  • First graduating class of KANA Operators at HMCS St. Hyacinthe, Summer 1944. From training, Bea went to Gordon Head, Vancouver Island to listen to Japanese naval messages. Bea is at extreme right of front row.

    Bea Corbett
  • Article that appeared in the Kingston Whig Standard, November 11, 1996. Bea was interviewed in this article that commemorated the radio intelligence operators who contributed to the war effort from wireless stations in Canada.

    Bea Corbett
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"It was totally secret, as was the east coast work, but we were to be sure to take the secret to the grave."

Transcript

My name is Beatrice Corbett. It was Grant at the time that I was in the navy. I joined the service after finishing an Honours degree at Queen's University, which I finished in a hurry in the summer of '43. Applied to go into the navy but was not accepted until the following... rather not called up until the following March. My parents were pleased. My father had been in both wars, in the second war on staff here in Canada. I went to Galt in March 1944. I met a number of very interesting women from all levels and society and found them congenial. We did everything from scrubbing floors, which didn't bother me, to learning to march, which I loved and still enjoy. And then we were sent off to St. Hyacinthe, HMCS Signals School, where we were inducted into Morse code and wireless telegraphy, supposedly to serve on the east coast, listening to the German navy. Early July, an officer came in and told us we would not be going to the east coast. We would be going to the west coast and we had to learn a new form of code very quickly. It was called KANA. We would be listening to the Japanese navy, and we were on no account to mention this to our families, friends. It was totally secret, as was the east coast work, but we were to be sure to take the secret to the grave. So we transferred over from international Morse code to Japanese, which was the same in some ways but much more complicated. I can still do Japanese code, though I might forget what I did last week, but Japanese code will be with me until the day I die.
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