Veteran Stories:
Rose Davis

  • Pictured here is the "Hush Hush" radio station on the outskirts of Winnipeg, Manitoba where Rose Davis worked as a Radio Operator copying code from overseas U-boats hoping to intercept important war messages, 1942.

    Rose Davis
  • Rose Davis (3rd from left) with her colleagues standing outside their radio station, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1942.

    Rose Davis
  • Rose Davis standing with two shopkeepers on her day off in downtown Glencoe, Ontario, 1943.

    Rose Davis
  • Rose Davis' friend and colleague, June McMillan, in Glencoe, Ontario where both worked after Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1943.

    Rose Davis
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"We got to know the sound and the tempo of the different countries who sent messages. We copied them; and if we heard a message we thought was important, the supervisor would take it downtown"

Transcript

My mother was looking at our weekly paper one day and saw an advertisement from Radio Labs in Winnipeg. I wrote to them; and one very windy summer day on our farm, a man called in to interview me from Radio Labs. He said I would take six months of radio classes by mail, correspondence, and then I would move to Winnipeg for training and Morse code and also practical, which was building a simple radio. So sometime in the fall of 1940, I left home to start the radio operator’s class in Winnipeg. After six months of class in Morse code, we wrote an exam for the Department of Transport. The ones who passed were given jobs in the Department of Transport. I was sent to what they called a ‘hush hush’ station, which was a small building on the outskirts of Winnipeg. There were about eight operators and two supervisors. We sat at a radio unit and roamed around through the radio dial for U-boats or subs, as they were called. We got to know the sound and the tempo of the different countries who sent messages. We copied them; and if we heard a message we thought was important, the supervisor would take it downtown to a building in Winnipeg where the decoder would decode it and send it on to Ottawa. We were copying, oh, I would say five countries. There was Spain, Russia, Germany, Sweden; and you know, we wouldn’t have understood it anyway, the code. The different ways they sent the messages, some of them were so different. I think it was Spain that was very drawn out and sounded like a whine when they sent it. Whether it was the distance we were from where they were sending it, that might have had something to do with that. But we knew who we were copying then, when we heard them. I was at this certain station for some time when a sign was put up on our board to say the Department of Transport was looking for two operators to transfer to Glencoe, Ontario. My girlfriend and I put down our names; and were very surprised that we were the only who wanted to go. We were sent down first class on the train and found Glencoe a nice friendly town. Our radio station was outside of Glencoe; and we stayed at that station until the war was over. When the war was over, they told us to go back to our home, as we were taking a soldier’s place while he was at war. There has been never any mention of what we did in the war ̶ how the operators helped to win the war. The people in uniforms are always praised and thanked, but I’ve never heard anything about what the operators did in the Department of Transport. We were very dedicated as anyone in uniforms.
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