"One ship I was on, the captain, he was a former rum runner, off of Nova Scotia and his first mate was an RCMP officer. So that was interesting. They were of two - both sides of the fence, as it were."
Well first of course, I had to take a training course [at No. 31 Royal Air Force Radio School] in Clinton, Ontario and that was a school offered by British airmen and they had the radar first, of course. And they were training Canadians to operate stations.
And the course lasted several months and we learned all about the radar and then we were sent out to small detachments as they called it, in Atlantic provinces to sometimes build the station and sometimes just to operate it. So that was where I came into the picture.
I was in all the Atlantic provinces and this was intended to be a protection for Canada in case the enemy got across the ocean and by air, and the radar stations were situated on small islands as a rule or in some appropriate places where they got a good view of the coast. That was the whole principle of it, to protect the coast.
So I experienced several radar stations starting in Nova Scotia and then through Newfoundland and Labrador and then back to Prince Edward Island where there was one station and also in Saint John, New Brunswick, there was a station here at one time. I can’t think of any other places that I was at. One outside Halifax called Bell Lake where they had a radar station there; I was there for a short time. And the most exciting ones of course were those in Newfoundland and traveling by ship to get to them was an experience in itself. The Air Force had commandeered a couple of former schooners that were used by rum runners back in the 1920s and put Air Force personnel on them to - at least dressed them in Air Force uniforms - to man them.
One ship I was on, the captain, he was a former rum runner, off of Nova Scotia and his first mate was an RCMP officer. So that was interesting. They were of two - both sides of the fence, as it were. Anyhow, they traveled out of Dartmouth to go up to - I traveled to go up to Newfoundland and the most northerly tip of Newfoundland, on a small island. I was on this ship which was all Air Force-dressed personnel and with those two as officers.
It was a very, well, lonely experience because we were isolated so much. But we did have lots of food until they came at Christmas time from the nearby communities and we had a recreation hall of sorts and they stayed in there and danced half the night and had a great time.
In the meantime, our radar station was operational and we communicated the information of aircraft flying over from Goose Bay and Labrador to England. And we would track those aircraft. And we didn’t of course communicate with them; it was just to follow them on our radar and report it. There would be two hundred in a batch going over. So it was quite exciting to see all those aircraft on the radar.