At the start, as a [Royal Canadian Corps of Signals] wireless operator, our job was to communicate between squadrons or between stations. We also operated telephone switchboards and we had to operate the switchboards. Some of them, the ones at division headquarters, were quite large, a couple hundred jacks. We worked on those and then we operated a wireless set, and [were] posted to different units within the division to operate the sets working back to divisional headquarters. And we kept that up until we went overseas.
I went to France with the British [Infantry] Division and I was attached to that division for about a month or so before being posted back to [II] Canadian [Corps] Headquarters. Our job was to make sure the stations stayed on frequency. There was so many sets operating; there was so much noise on the frequency band that the men tried to find a quiet spot. Our job was to get them back up where they were supposed to be on that frequency, and also to listen for any breaches of security.
Some stations were speaking, yes, but the majority were Morse Code. It’s a funny thing with Morse Code, each man has a different hand; and he also has a different fist. And you can tell who the man is by his fist. And we didn’t know his name, but we’d mark down "Operator So and So," a description of what it sounded like and that was sent back for identification. So we could follow that man no matter where he was posted.
When you’re sending Morse Code, it’s dots and dashes; and some men included little variations that a man makes. [tapping Morse Code] They make little variations in there, little pauses and drag a note; and we’d put down their characteristics: short, snappy dots; drags a little on the dash. It’s hard to describe, but it’s something you feel.
We never really looked at them. We just wrote down, kept on writing, you know, because we didn’t have time to stop and look at, and read messages. You get on to it there, you get the heading and go into what he was, what they said they were doing, and then go to the next station. So that I never did read what I had written [laughs].