2 Canadian Special Wireless Section (Type B) (CE Newsletter Article)
History - 2 Canadian Special Wireless Section Type "B"
Second World War Canadian Army Signal Intelligence Experiences of Major R.S. Grant, MBE, CD
Compiled and Edited by Captain Norman A. Weir, CD
- 1 Preface
- 2 Acknowledgements
- 3 Forward
- 4 Introduction
- 5 Special Wireless Command and Control
- 6 Security
- 7 Intercept Targets
- 8 Intercept Resources
- 9 Events Leading to Normandy
- 10 Normandy and Direction Finding
- 11 More Operational Highlights
- 12 Bomb Attack
- 13 Boulogne and Calais
- 14 The Low Countries
- 15 Across the Rhine
- 16 The Human Factor
- 17 Final Comment
- 18 Epilogue
- 19 Appendices
- 19.1 Appendix I - Award of Member of the Order of the British Empire
- 19.2 Appendix II - Nominal Rolls
- 19.3 Appendix III - First Canadian Army Intelligence Directive No.4
- 19.4 Appendix IV - Field Standing Orders Canadian Y Unit Type B
- 19.5 Appendix V - Unofficial Wartime Diary
- 19.6 Appendix VI - Technical War Diary: February and March 1945
- 20 Notes
This is a story concerning the Canadian Army's No.2 Special Wireless Section Type B and the personal experiences of its Officer Commanding, Captain R.S. Grant.
The story was first told to me in the fall of 1983, but because of security implications and the sensitive nature of signal intelligence it could not be published until now.
As a retired military officer and amateur historian. I have always been interested in the activities of signal intelligence (sigint) units. Many books have been written about American and British sigint exploits in the past several years. I believe, however, that this is the first in-depth story dealing with the important sigint role of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during the Second World War.
The main story is a transcript from several cassette recordings made during the course of my interviews with Mr. Grant. The text is supplemented by the addition of several, never before published, appendices that help to amplify the story. Since the story is transcribed you are there during the course of the interviews. I recall the first question: "Tell me about your Special Wireless experiences ..."
Editor (Captain Norman A. Weir, CD)
Many people have assisted me in several ways to tell this story. I have tried to mention all of them in the following remarks. I thank R.S. "Bob" Grant for permission to record his Second World War signal intelligence experiences. With- out the support of the "C&E Branch" this special edition would not exist, hence I thank the Branch executive for their approval to publish. Also, without the transcribing done by Shelley, and the outstanding typing effort by Sheila, Penny, Mary Anne, Thelma, Dorothy, and Flora this document would not have been possible. Mary G. of Wang helped. Mr. David Kealy formerly of National Defence Headquarters, Directorate of History, is thanked for his photographic support. The support and encouragement from Commander Hillaby, Majors Hooker and Pittarelli is acknowledged. Further, comments by R.H. Roy, Professor of Military & Strategic Studies at the University of Victoria were most welcome. Captain Barber, Messers Berthelet and Bernard are thanked for their graphic arts effort. Also, those in the Secretary of State Translation Bureau who arranged and assisted in the translation of the text are thanked for their efforts, while Colonel R.K. Martineau and Major J.A.R. Bourassa's quick revision of the French translation helped to achieve a final product. Lieutenant-Colonel Wethey's assistance in revision of the final text is appreciated. The encouragement of Dr. Alex Douglas, Director of History at National Defence Headquarters, is also recognized. The personnel of the Public Archives Canada helped in a most professional manner. The same is said for Lise Bailey of DG Info, the personnel of NDHQ ODDS who prepared the cover in addition to the layouts, and who could forget NDHQ DPSCU who arranged for the printing. Finally, my appreciation is extended to Lieutenant-General S.F. Clark, one of Canada's most distinguished soldiers, for his review of the manuscript and writing of the foreword.
Norman A. Weir Captain (retired) Ottawa, Canada
During the Second World War certain groups of men in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals were engaged in secret work which was of great importance to our army commanders. Their task was to intercept enemy wireless transmissions, identify and fix the locations of enemy positions and send the intercepted messages to our intelligence staff for analysis and action.
These "Y" units, as they were called, were a source of invaluable information to the commanders in the field. Owing to the nature of their job very little has been written about them. In this account Major R.S. Grant gives us for the first time a fascinating view of how the "Y" units operated, the difficulties encountered and the successes achieved.
Major Bob Grant and his late brother Bill were young pioneers in building up a competent "Y" service.
Lieutenant-General S.F. Clark, CBE, CD Chief of the General Staff 1958-1961
Colonel Commandant Royal Canadian Corps of Signals Communications and Electronics Branch 1966-1973
Victoria, British Columbia
I think it's best I start with my own introduction to the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RC Sigs/Signals).
I started with Signals in 1936 in Calgary when I was sixteen years old. I joined the 13th District Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) and took various wireless and line courses in the evenings at the Mewata Army Barracks whilst still in high school. During the summer I attended summer training camps. I was also a radio amateur operating my own station (VE4GS) and became proficient in the morse code to a level of thirty to thirty-five words per minute copied on a typewriter. This proficiency was arrived at because my father was part owner of broadcasting station CFCN; he was a customer of the Press Wireless News Service which sent the latest news from New York City by high speed morse on the High Frequency (HF) radio band throughout the day. Ted Heavens was the primary operator, and I was learning to be the part-time assistant.
I would like to describe a bit of Signals training in my early days, from 1936 through to about 1938, when I was in the 13th District Signals. I mention it as a warning to those who think you can declare war, then raise an army, and go off and fight.
Some of our training consisted of getting out Aldis lamps and going out to the Sarcee Hills. There we would flash morse code messages from one hill to the other. We also used heliographs which required orientation with the sun as well as your receiving station. I felt I was in the Khyber Pass of India fighting tribesmen.
Another activity was operating our elaborate horse-drawn cable layers which required great skill and team-work. Or, in the case of wireless using the old army C set. I am not sure when the C set came into being, whether in World War I or shortly after. I am sure it was the only set used by any army which was still using long wave radio transmissions for field work with correspondingly big and awkward components and aerial systems. Someone told me it was intended to be carried by two men and a mule.
It came with large trunk size panniers to hold the parts. The transmitter and receiver were in individual wooden linen- covered boxes. The receiver used a loop aerial on a tripod while the transmitter used a wire aerial needing two masts and a large ground mat. When you got it working a distance of ten miles the signals received sounded as if they were coming from the moon.
To give you an idea of operational usage I will describe an exercise I took part in. I was a boy corporal and was told to support the Cavalry - and I do mean Cavalry. This was the South Alberta Horse Regiment with farm boys and their horses. The men got paid twice because they brought their own horses. They also had their sabres and Lee Enfield rifles.
I was to provide wireless communications with a C set back to brigade. We were using an "impressed" vehicle which was an old civilian truck hired out to the army on a daily basis. We would be travelling along with these horsemen when the officers would say they wanted communications with brigade. At that point, with the help of two or three other signalmen, I would unload the panniers and get the masts out with the guys, erect the 2 thirty-foot masts with the aerial, unroll the large three-by-thirty foot bronze screen ground mat under the aerial, and connect the transmitter. Next, set up the receiver and its loop aerial system. Finally, get the Stewart-Turner gasoline generator going and the final tube in the transmitter glowing and tuned; then, try and contact brigade down the road. Working as fast as we could, it would take between a half and a full hour just to set up our equipment. By that time the officers were ready to move and everything had to go back into the truck.
I recall the first night. We billeted down along the banks of Pincher Creek so the horses could be fed and tethered. I had not eaten that day and eventually someone said: "Here is your meal" as he handed me half a loaf of bread and half a tin of bully beef. Back I went, pounding away on the morse key under the prairie sky and stars. The battle conceived was that the Permanent Force unit, the Lord Strathcona Horse with their horses, was to attack us from the direction of Banff. We were defending Calgary, and our defence units included the Calgary Infantry Battalion.
I can remember the battle in its final stages when we were having a final shoot-out on a plateau. By this time we Signallers were no longer needed and could watch the goings on. The infantry was forming in a long line across the plateau and walking forward. After about one hundred yards another line was formed. and then another advancing towards the bluff. The South Alberta Horse was advancing in front of them. Suddenly, with a surge, a whole line of Lord Strathcona Horse appeared over the edge of the bluff, and a lot of shooting with blanks took place. About this time Frank Ho Lem, a local Chinese restaurateur and a sergeant in the Calgary Regiment, and also, by the way, a Bisley shot, didn't want to miss a bet; he quickly got ice cream trucks out to sell ice cream along the lines of infantrymen. The battle sort of ended there as did our summer training camp. I compare this with the goings-on in Germany, the modern aircraft, the tanks, and the radio equipment. I don't think we would have stood a chance without at least three or four years to allow for a catch-up.
With my interest in Signals, coupled with the desire to build a bank account to attend university, I joined the Permanent Force Signals with the intent of serving a tour in the Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System operated by them. At that time I had about three years of service and was a sergeant in the NPAM, but received an immediate demotion to signalman upon joining the Permanent Force. So in November of 1938, I arrived at the Royal Canadian School of Signals in Kingston as a new recruit. I spent eight months under training on Signals regimental and technical courses before World War II became imminent in August, 1939. Just a few days before the war started there developed an immediate need to relieve the shortage of operators at the Army Signals Station VER in Ottawa; eight of us were selected and sent on our way within a couple of hours of being told. My brother Bill, Ray Fleury, and I were three of the eight. The letters "VER" were the international radio call-sign assigned to the Army Headquarters radio station.
Upon arrival we were quickly informed that we would start immediately on twelve-hour shifts - twelve hours on, twelve hours off, seven days a week - i.e., eighty-four hours per week. We had to find our own accommodation and food, and after adding in an allowance we were to receive a rate of pay of four dollars per day. The station was located at Rockcliffe Airport and had three operations rooms, one each for the Navy, Army, and Air Force. We were under very heavy pressure with high traffic loads and hardly had time to find out that the war had started. We had been there for about two months, September and October, when one day the three of us - Bill, Ray, and I - were told to report to Major W.J. Megill at the Directorate of Signals offices in the Elgin Building. He informed us that Army Signals were going to start a new business known as "Y". He said: "at the moment we know nothing about it, but we'll give you a room, some radio equipment, and set you up in the basement of VER with RESTRICTED ENTRY. So go down there and start".
That's the way I got involved in Special Wireless or Y work. So as you can appreciate I was in the Canadian Army Y work on Day One. We were given operator numbers to identify our intercepted material; Ray was number one, Bill was number two, and I was number three; these numbers rose into the hundreds as the organization grew. We set up the intercept equipment and, with some operational direction which started to filter in, became familiar with the activity in the HF band. We then started to look for subversive and other unusual activities slowly expanding into military targets. Once we were asked by the FBI to monitor a certain frequency and listen for the call-sign AOR; apparently it had to do with a German submarine and secret agents along the eastern seaboard of the United States. We picked up this weak agent transmission and it became an intercept assignment for several weeks. After a couple of months another building across the road from VER, a test site used by the Signals Inspection and Test Department, became available and this became the first Army Y station.
Operators started to show up in increasing numbers, including my lifetime friend, Ted Heavens, as they were selected and posted in. Shortly after, Captain H.D.W. Wethey, the designated Officer Commanding, arrived back from England where he had been on a familiarization course. His arrival was followed by Lieutenant E.M. Drake as his assistant. Captain Harry Wethey went back into the main army stream in a few months upon being promoted to major. Ed Drake took over and became the Senior Signal Intelligence Officer in Canada throughout the war. By the end of the war he was a lieutenant-colonel. I continued to work in operations at this station till December, 1940.
At that time a notice was posted on the station notice board asking for volunteers to join a field Y unit about to be formed. My brother Bill and I put our names up and were accepted. We then left fixed station Y work, and started in with Captain J. W. Anderson to help him organize and train the first field unit known as No.1 Canadian Special Wireless Section Type B. This was a corps-level unit formed to support 1st Canadian Corps Headquarters. We moved into the "Cow Palace", complete with straw, at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa and trained the unit in most aspects of technical and general soldiering necessary to a field Y unit. I was a lance sergeant, my brother a sergeant, and Harold Whincup was the other sergeant. We worked day and night for six months till about June, 1941.
About halfway through this six-month period, Bill and I were told to report to Major Fairfax Webber in the Directorate of Signals. He informed us that we had been selected to be members of the first class for officers to be commissioned from the ranks. Major Webber, however, said that we were desperately needed in No.1 Canadian Special Wireless to help get them ready for overseas. He inquired as to whether we would object to being delayed until the unit was ready; we agreed. Just as the unit was leaving for overseas, Bill and I were pulled out and sent to the common-to-all-arms Officer Training School at Brockville for general officer training. By the time we had finished our Signals officer training at Kingston in the spring of 1942, the army was forming the 2nd Canadian Corps, and another Type B unit was needed. My brother was appointed Officer Commanding and I was made second-in-command. We started all over again to form and train another Y unit, No. 2 Canadian Special Wireless Section Type B, which we took overseas in August, 1942. I took command from my brother in England in the spring of 1943 when he was sent to North Africa on attachment to the 1st British Army to do Y work. I spent the rest of the war with No.2 Special Wireless Section Type B. Our activities included; operations in England, the landing in Normandy, the advance through France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany; finally, with our Corps taking the surrender of the German forces in front of us near Oldenburg in Northwest Germany in May, 1945.
After that I came back from overseas, went to Queen's University for four years, completed my engineering degree and went back into Signals. I graduated in 1949, and on promotion to major I assumed command of Ottawa Wireless Station which was a major post-war communications station. After about three years I was assigned to the Directorate of Signals at Army Headquarters as a staff officer where I had tri-service committee responsibilities in Electronic Warfare, Technical Equipment, and Planning.
By 1957, the army was thinking of promoting me to Lieutenant-Colonel and putting me back into the general Signals stream of command. I did not relish this so I resigned my commission. I then joined the National Research Council holding several different positions of increasing responsibility until retiring in 1975.
Special Wireless Command and Control
Having given this personal background. I would now like to talk about the buildup of signal intelligence units in the Canadian Army during World War II. I would then like to say a bit about the position that a Officer Commanding holds in such a set-up because it is different from most army units.
There were of course two main Y activities, fixed station operations and field operations. While field Y was developing, an expanding fixed station operation was also growing up in Canada. In addition to the Ottawa station, others were established at Grande Prairie and Victoria. I believe the main targets of the Canadian based stations were subversive activity, South American commercial and political events with the Axis countries, and Japanese operations in general.(1) However, as I left fixed station activity early in the war, I wish to restrict my remarks to field or tactical Y as it applied to the European theatre of military activity.
The lowest level or most forward field Y units that existed in the Canadian Army were those assigned in support of a corps headquarters. For those not familiar with army organization I should state that a division was the basic army formation. The size of a division was about eighteen to twenty thousand men. A division contained all arms and services. At times small battles were waged by parts of a division. Looking at a main theatre of operations, the generals always wanted to know how many enemy divisions they were facing; their own planning was also in terms of divisions. When you had two or more divisions you established a hierarchy headquarters formation with additional support troops, extra artillery, signals, medical, supply columns, etc. This was the corps. When you had two or more corps you formed a field army, and two or more armies formed an army group. Field Marshal Montgomery commanded the 21st Army Group in Europe.
So in terms of Canadian Army formations, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division was formed, then the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, and then 1st Canadian Corps Headquarters with support units, one of these latter units being No.1 Canadian Special Wireless Unit Type B. This was the unit I joined at its formation in December, 1940. As Canada continued to build its field forces more divisions were formed - 3rd Canadian Infantry, 5th Canadian Armoured, and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. Two smaller units, 1st and 2nd Canadian Independent Tank Brigades were also formed to function as additional armoured support to the infantry divisions. With this additional build-up, a second Canadian corps was formed in Canada to control these additional divisions. It was coincidental that my brother Bill and I became officers at that time and were assigned to the new Y unit being assembled in Kingston to support 2nd Canadian Corps. Our unit was mobilized 5 May, 1942.
When we arrived in Halifax by train from Kingston, in August 1942, the convoy was forming in Bedford Basin. I counted the troopships and found out we were to have twelve passenger liners or troop ships. As I viewed the destroyer escort I realized it was to be an American convoy with thirteen destroyers, a cruiser, and a battleship. Our unit thus left for England.
The ship we were assigned to was the HMT Cameronia which was a sixteen thousand ton ship. I later learned that she had been built in 1919 as a passenger liner, torpedoed in December 1942 by aircraft, reconditioned for the Australian immigrant service in 1948, and then scrapped in 1958. Now back to the story, the ship had just arrived from Africa and had unloaded German prisoners of war, and as soon as they were off we went on. As I think of this ship, I still ask myself why we put up with such things. I was shocked when I went on board and saw what the men were going to have to put up with. It was to be jam packed with troops. As far as I can recall there were forty-five hundred troops on the ship and tens of thousands of cockroaches. When I went down to the purser's office, a notice read that the ship was equipped to carry one hundred and twenty passengers. There were a few extra deck rafts but that was all. The hold had been loading for a day or so with the 4th Armoured Division's tanks and guns: when the loading was finished the ship had about a five degree list to one side. So we formed into the convoy in Bedford Basin and our ship was angled over for the whole trip.
I asked a crewman about the ship and he said: "Our Captain is not going to wait for this convoy. As soon as we get out, we will head off for England in a hurry". The convoy left with the troopships in three lines of four each and we were rear and centre. The thirteen destroyers formed around us. Somewhere in the middle of the convoy near us was the cruiser; further up, dead centre middle, was the battleship with the Commodore in charge of the convoy.
It was the accommodation for the men that shocked me. When you got down five decks, you found you had men in hammocks slung from the pipes, men laying on the table they ate on, and more men lying down on the deck. There was very little chance if the ship was hit that any would get out. They tried to compensate for this crowding by having extra long boat deck drills to stay out on deck for as long as possible.
Other things which interested me, being a signaller, were the messages passed to us by signalling light from the battleship. Like the one I read on the first day: "Why did you have a light on your port bow all night, please explain?" Then another: "You're making far too much smoke". Followed by: "Try and hold your position" and then: "The speed of this convoy will continue to be fifteen knots". At this point I went to the back and checked the ship's log; we were flat out at thirteen and one-half knots. About four days out of Halifax, the Commodore signalled: "If you cannot hold your position, I am going to recommend your immediate return to Halifax". He sure didn't seem to think much of our troopship but there was a solution. The convoy zigged and zagged and we went straight ahead. We would see the convoy disappear over the horizon, and three to four hours later we would see the convoy again and be back in position momentarily till it disappeared off in the other direction. So every six to seven hours we were in position. The cruiser had a plane on board but to my knowledge there were no enemy attacks. The plane was catapulted several times and dropped a few bombs but only for insurance or practice. It was nice to be greeted by the Sunderland flying boats as we got near England, and a day or so later by some Spitfires.
One condition which aided our adaptation to the sea was the weather. It was reasonably good at start but got rougher as we neared England. By this time however, we had our sea legs. Eight days from Halifax we were in the British Isles and tied up in Glasgow at the King George V dock. When our ship tied up, it started to get dark and strict orders were given to not light a cigarette or show any light. They decided to layover all night and unload us in the morning. Other ships in the convoy came in, and my rough estimate was we must have had eighty thousand troops in the convoy. We were by far the smallest ship. One of the big American ships pulled up in front of us nose to stern and "on" went all the flood lights; the entire dock was lit. It was unloaded all night and the troops were gone by the time we woke up. So there is some difference of opinion on the unloading of ships.
The day we unloaded was the day of the Dieppe raid and, of course, we were very interested in what was happening. We moved all the way down to the Aldershot area and went under canvas with the 2nd Corps Signals. Lieutenant-Colonel J.H. Eaman was their Commanding Officer; Bill and I knew him very well. We asked if he knew where Odiham Airport was because our youngest brother, Flight Lieutenant D.M. Grant, DFC, was there with the Royal Canadian Air Force 400 Squadron flying Mustangs. Jake Eaman said to take a couple of motorcycles and go see him. It was my first indoctrination into the fighting part of the war because my brother had been flying over Dieppe most of the day at tree-top height. After looking at the holes in his plane's wing, I wasn't sure how he got back. It makes you think of the slim margin there is between life and death. One pilot had a band-aid over one eye covering a bullet burn. His head could have been an inch further forward or his speed marginally different. Major Ron Marks, who was the army-air liaison officer we met there, was very shaken having just lost most of his friends when his regiment the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry landed at Dieppe.
Sometime later in 1943, while we were in England, the First Canadian Army was formed and amongst its support units was a new Y unit, No.3 Special Wireless Section Type A. Captain J. W. Anderson was promoted to major to command this larger Y unit. A still larger field Y unit did exist in the European theatre. It was known as a special wireless group and was in support of the 21st Army Group Headquarters. Canada did not field an army group in Europe. However, there was a Canadian Special Wireless Group formed in Canada late in the war to operate in Australia. Lieutenant-Colonel H.D.W. Wethey commanded it. Its activities are briefly described in History of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 1903-1961, edited by John S. Moir.
Now to talk organization, as it specifically applied to the smallest Y element - the Type B unit. It consisted of two main parts, the Signals component known as Special Wireless Section Type B and the Intelligence component known as Wireless Intelligence Section Type B. The Signals component was about seventy-eight personnel, i.e., two officers and seventy-six other ranks. The Signals personnel included operators, drivers, despatch riders, technicians, cooks, storemen, and a clerk. The Intelligence component included three Intelligence officers and about nineteen other ranks, the latter being linguists and analyst corporals except for one sergeant. These two components functioned as one unit with the Senior Signals Officer being the nominal commander and administrative officer, as well as running the Signals side from a technical and unit movement point of view. The Officer Commanding the Wireless Intelligence Section controlled and assigned the frequency coverage of the various radios in the set vans and the Direction Finding (DF) tasks. The other Intelligence officers and corporals did the analysis and compilation of signal intelligence and passed it to the Corps Headquarters Intelligence staff. As a composite group we were five officers and approximately ninety-five other ranks.
Because all of our activities were directed against the German Army, most of the Intelligence corporals were European immigrants living in Canada with a knowledge of German. They also tended to be a little older than most of the Signals operators. The operators had been selected from general signaller recruits and were mainly around eighteen to twenty years of age upon entry. Now to interpose some information on the actual staff control of Y in the First Canadian Army which developed in 1943. The control consisted of a two officer staff element located with Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Wright's Intelligence staff at Army Headquarters. An Intelligence (special) General Staff Officer l(s)GSO2 position, held by Major A.H. MacKenzie as the Senior Y Officer, was an Intelligence trained and oriented position. My brother Bill held the second position. He was the l(s)GSO3. His position was Signals oriented. The Senior Intelligence Officer saw the production of signal intelligence through these two I(s) positions. This staff element was physically located at the nearby Army Headquarters Y unit which was No.3 Special Wireless / Wireless Intelligence Section Type A. Major H. Bowes commanded the Wireless Intelligence portion while Major J. W. Anderson commanded the Special Wireless portion of the unit and was the overall Officer Commanding.
I would now like to say a few words about "command". Although I did not realize it when joining the unit, command of a signal intelligence unit is a special kind of command because it gives you a good overview of what's going on. If you must go to war and can choose a job, in my opinion, it is one of the better ways to go. As a relatively junior officer you have much more freedom than in the usual army unit. Let me explain this.
When we arrived in England the unit was under the umbrella of the 2nd Canadian Corps Signals, a unit of about eight hundred to one thousand men. For about six to eight months we were administratively under their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jake Eaman, while we took special training at the Special Operators Training Battalion, Trowbridge, Wilts.
At the request of British Army Intelligence it was decided we should be operationally deployed in England. We were told to move away from the 2nd Corps Signals and take up a location in an area on the south coast of England. I now found that I was a Detachment Commander, an arrangement which continued for the remainder of the war. Functioning under "Kings Regulations Canada", I found, I had almost the full disciplinary power of a lieutenant-colonel and also, in my case, no boss except Brigadier-General S.F. "Fin" Clark who was the Chief Signals Officer of 2nd Canadian Corps. There were no Signals majors or lieutenant-colonels to report to. I saw Brigadier Clark only once in this initial period of about a year when he, at my request, agreed to join me in viewing a new British intercept van design I wished to have procured and mounted on our Canadian truck chassis. We were controlled by the 21st Army Group in London; their interests lay only in locating us in a certain area and in our producing a daily output of signal intelligence which went to London on a daily despatch rider run.
So upon being told to detach ourselves from 2nd Canadian Corps and find a location on the coast near Worthing, the Wireless Intelligence Officer Commanding, Captain Stu Parker, and I went down to the area in a jeep, and looked around until we found a nice location in Angmering-on-Sea. The street along the coastline had about ten to fifteen evacuated houses and a small gambling hall of some sort, a nice size for an intercept receiving set room. So we stopped by the British Garrison Engineer's office in the area and I informed him I wanted to take over the street of empty houses. An officer checked them over, I signed a "marching in" statement and we had a home. Then I went looking for money, medical and dental facilities, food, and gasoline. We drove to a nearby British supply depot and were added to their indenting list for daily supplies. I found the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, I believe originally called the 2nd Canadian Independent Tank Brigade, in Worthing who had a paymaster, doctor, and dentist. Our other immediate problems were solved when they agreed to provide these services.
I suppose this independence arises from the situation where the Intelligence people say; "We are not really your boss, all we want is your output". The Signals people say "you are really attached to Intelligence so we are no longer responsible for you". Therefore, as long as you keep a bit of communications going between Signals and Intelligence you acquire tremendous freedom in getting on with your operations.
We were not completely forgotten. Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) in London knew we existed as copies of various administrative directives arrived. We had to produce Part I and Part II Orders, normally the requirement of a unit of eight hundred to one thousand people. These orders we sent directly to CMHQ Corporal McKnight, the Orderly Room corporal, looked after this administration in first class style.
Another example of not being forgotten by CMHQ was when we were told to look within the unit for good operators who could speak French and were willing to volunteer for other duties; shortly after some British interviewing officers arrived. Of the operators they interviewed, Signalman AI Sirois was selected and CMHQ told me to strike him off strength in Part II orders. Some of the men, at a later date, said that they had seen him in London and he was wearing a British Army captain's uniform. A year or so later, when we were in France and had overrun a certain area, I received a welcome letter from him telling me he had been operating behind the German lines with the French underground and was now returning to Canada. Needless to say I was pleased to know he was alive and well. I have since read about some of his activities in Canadians Behind Enemy Lines 1939-1945 by Roy MacLaren. I believe he is now a judge in Saskatchewan.
Another example of administration which raised new problems I had not dealt with before was a serious and most unfortunate accident whilst at Angmering. It was a beautiful June day and one of the men decided, after we had been there for several months, that he would like a better view of the sea and ships. The barbed wire and checkerboard of little concrete pillars at the front edge of the lawn which dropped off on to the beach were weather-beaten as were the signs which said "Danger Mines". With familiarity breeding a little contempt he walked through this twenty foot deep barrier, but on the way back stepped upon an anti-tank mine and more or less disappeared.
The first thing to do was to contact the Engineers, go into the mine field with a sapper and mine detector, and pick up the little bits we were able to find. Then deal with the local police, arrange for temporary storage of the human parts at the local infirmary, and complete the coroner's inquest. The next step was to arrange for the casket, the burial site, and the military funeral party. Setting up of the Board of Inquiry was greatly helped when a nearby British major agreed to head up the inquiry. This was followed by the filing of the report to CMHQ and, then the hardest part, the writing of a personal letter to the man's mother.
We had a fairly heavy administrative load but in exchange for the freedom it was worth it. I went through the entire war without any close personal direction. When in Normandy I went to see Brigadier Clark on about three occasions. He always left me with a feeling of complete trust in my command and gave me one hundred percent support any time I needed it, whilst not leaving any doubt that he would let me know any moment he was not satisfied with the unit's performance.
I would like to mention command responsibility in unit movement. After rejoining the 2nd Canadian Corps, just before Normandy, we received copies of all operations orders and other related material needed to plan moves. This helped us to synchronize our location with that of Corps Headquarters. Upon arriving in Normandy we kept ourselves fully aware of the pulse of battle with information from the Corps Intelligence staff. This was done by visiting the corps operations briefing tent and also by keeping our ear to the ground for other word-of-mouth sources. We knew when Corps meant to move. We tried to make sure we did not get needlessly too close to the fighting, although on the odd occasion we did, but nevertheless be far enough forward at all times so we would have an advantageous position to pick up radio signals and carry out intercept operations. We did not want to be moving too often or over too long a period, because our support to Corps was difficult to maintain during these periods despite using a forward and rear party type of operational set up. The key to successful moving lay with the experience and able support given by the Non-Commisioned Officers (NCOs) and men. Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds also helped greatly, probably not knowing it, by keeping his lines of communication to the divisions short, i.e., keeping Corps Headquarters well forward.
A few comments on security. Y information can give a tremendous advantage to any commander fighting a battle but like anything else it has certain problems associated with it. It is perishable. You know it's not much good if it is untimely to a commander. It has the problem of being subject to deception. The source must be protected. If you are intercepting good information from a radio link and our military response appears to the enemy to be closely tied to his communications, he may send out false information. Mind you, successful deception has its problems too. For reasons of the above, and possibly because of limited resources, an organizational decision had been made that Y units would not exist forward of corps level.
How signal intelligence is handled by commanders and the Intelligence staffs is also important for its protection. We were told that the Intelligence staffs tried to have Y information confirmed from possibly two additional sources, i.e., air reconnaissance, captured prisoners, or documents. Thus delaying its use made it difficult for the enemy to associate Y as part of the intelligence.
I would like to mention our operations after we crossed the Rhine and moved forward in direct support of the 4th Armoured Division in battle and how we responded. We were pleased with our results, but were apprehensive when Intelligence staff, untrained in the handling of Y, were sending messages forward saying: "Intercept says this. . .". Fortunately at that stage the German forces were somewhat disorganized and we hoped that they could not respond with deception. The normal phrase that was supposed to be used was: "A reliable source says. . .".
Document classification was another aspect of security. A special codeword was added to the classification of all documents requiring restriction within signal intelligence channels and these documents were handled on a "need-to-know" basis.
Now a bit about physical security of the unit. A unit of one hundred or so men is a reasonably sized fighting force if correctly trained and organized for such purposes. We had trained and structured the men into an infantry type organization so that each would know which section, platoon, etc., he was allotted for fighting purposes and who were his NCOs and Officers. With rifles, Bren guns, and a few Projectors Infantry Anti-Tank we felt we could make some sort of accounting of ourselves. This defence was used only once. We were in loose contact in France, near Cassel, when a Maquis element informed us that two officers and sixty German 55 soldiers were moving towards us. They were one and one-half miles away. Maquis was the name given to the French resistance fighters. The information given was that the 55 had killed a Maquis, a civilian, and wounded another individual. We sounded the alert and took up a defensive position. As it turned out the Germans did not materialize - thankfully for us. Apparently, they were trying to rejoin the main body of the German Army; later we learned they had been taken prisoner.
The targets we were working against were the German forces in Europe. We were located in England at the start of our operational phase and subsequently went to Normandy, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. In signal intelligence you need to know as much about your signal targets as possible and this includes procedures, peculiarities, equipment, codes and ciphers, habits, call-sign system, frequency usage, and much more.
A few words on the German signalling structure, their ciphers and codes should be informative and, keep in mind, I am thinking as a Signals officer not an Intelligence officer. I was technically responsible for the unit; the output from the unit - the breaking of the various codes and the call-sign structure was not my responsibility but rather that of the Wireless Intelligence Officer Commanding. I was, however, intimately aware of what was going on. Mainly we worked against the German Army and their general signal system. From this, I hope you will recognize the advantage of the long "phoney" war period which gave us the necessary development time.
It is paramount in signal intelligence that you build your background information and have the required time to do it. One of the important achievements by the British signal intelligence organization working in England was the building of the German Army call-sign book for subsequent use by the Y units. This was accomplished through the use of material intercepted by Y units and stations including Canadian Special Wireless units located in England.
The Germans were fairly methodical. They used a call-sign book for allocating call-signs to formations in the field; this was done by using a daily adder or subtractor. These call-signs changed daily at midnight simultaneously with a change in the assigned radio frequencies thus causing a complete identification discontinuity to a radio intercept position.
A main, daily task for us was to associate the call-signs in use with the German formation units and select out of these the good intelligence producers. It was a new ballgame every day at midnight. However, if an intercept operator could associate a new call-sign on the air with any specific transmitter's previous day call-sign we had the key to the complete new call-sign distribution for the day. This was achieved by finding the relative locations of the old and new call-sign in the book and then counting out the column and row offsets. These offsets applied for that day to all the other call-sign changes as well. We would then know the new call- signs of all the other stations we had on intercept coverage before midnight. A radio band search by intercept operators would then relocate the stations on their new frequencies.
The call-sign book took several years to build but by the time we went to Normandy we had a copy in our hands. It became a competition between Y units to see who could be first on the Y communications radio circuit with the new settings. It was usually in the order of a few minutes after midnight that this occurred.
Now about signalling methods. Fortunately for us, the Germans were great believers in morse code; our intercept operators did not have to know the language to copy the messages. The content could be examined later by a linguist or analyst. Also, morse being a very reliable communications method ensured the quality of intercept would also be good. The frequency band in which we did most of the intercept was in the low HF range, i.e., 1500 to 4000 kilohertz. This was true for the conventional divisions, but the parachute divisions used the low end of the Very High Frequency (VHF) spectrum around 28,000 to 30,000 kilohertz. In using these higher frequencies, there was some belief that we would not be able to intercept them; a lot more plain language German was sent in morse on this band.
Another important area of development and buildup while we were still in England was the various German Army code books, and I am talking about codes, not ciphers. The army at lower levels used Three-Letter (TL) codes. Once you had identified the code you could use your reconstructed code books for identifying the phrase meanings. In fact, by the time we were in Normandy, the Intelligence corporals had the books nearly memorized, and as the operators handed in the messages they could write the plain language English under the TL code groups without hardly looking at the book. We believed that in some cases we were clearing the traffic faster than the German signallers were. Sometimes, to discourage analysis, a code message would be disguised by the enemy as a cipher; we also looked for these because they could be handled like a code.
The Germans also had ciphers, one being called Raster, but we at the Type B level dealt mainly in plain language, TL codes, operational signals, and DF.
Our DF locating capability was considered accurate to a one thousand metre square, but of course intercepted locations from message content would be more accurate than that, in some cases to a ten metre square.
The intercepted cipher messages were passed back in signal intelligence channels for others to work on and became part of the signal intelligence output known as ULTRA.
The Germans also used some special procedural signals which were identifiable and traceable to certain divisions. e.g., a letter J in the message preamble used only by, say, the Panzer Lehr Division. We made identification and location of one German division on our front solely by this and our DF facilities. It was identified twenty-four hours before any other means showed it was there. German divisions usually had numerical identifications but there were exceptions. The Panzer Lehr Division was a special division equipped with the very best of equipment and the most experienced of soldiers. It was used to train or teach others in the best ways to run or fight an armoured division. Smaller battle groups often were identified by the Commander's name. Examples of this are indicated in the Technical War Diary of March 8th and 9th.
Operator "sending" or "fist" characteristic personalized some radio nets and these were of course very useful at call-sign and frequency change time. Equipment peculiarities such as a rough or chirpy sound similarly helped at this change time.
The German signal procedure caused us a problem as it was intended to do. Their concealed call-sign system required the use of good experienced intercept operators. On some of the nets they would have as many as ten to fifteen stations and use only the one call-sign of the control station for group calls. Alternatively, the link call-sign was used to single outstations contacts. It was a challenge for an outsider to figure out which station was sending and here peculiarities of the equipment or operators helped a good intercept operator in his identifications. More on this identification problem and its challenge to DF operations will be discussed later on.
How busy were the German nets? This is difficult to answer except to say we had busy periods and quiet periods. An army falling back on its communications system should be able to use more line than wireless if it is in a controlled fall back. Of course the mobile elements pretty well have to use the wireless. Then again, proper wireless use calls for restraint and good wireless silence practice. In general it's true that if no battles are in progress the wireless use is way down but it still must be tested to ensure it works when you need it. So it's safe to say wireless activity builds up with the first phase of battle and intensifies throughout the battle. The German signal security was good and they were not on the air any more than they had to be. Later on, as the war developed into its final stages, their organizational structures were breaking down and it made it much easier for us.
The resources that we mounted on intercept would be seven or eight operators at one time. This might not seem like much but we had day to day continuity to fall back on, and with a good "search" operation we could screen out nets of little value and concentrate on the good intelligence producers. Also a good intercept operator could handle several idling nets at one time.
I would like to describe the organization of our unit and its equipment. Of the seventy-eight Signals there was myself as Officer Commanding, then a lieutenant as second in command, and a sergeant acting as Unit Regimental Sergeant Major and overall administrative sergeant. Also, we had a quartermaster type sergeant who looked after the equipment and ensured the daily supply line of food and petrol. We then had a lance sergeant as the chief operator who was responsible for organizing the operators into shifts and arranging replacements. Thus with thirty or so operators available there were three shifts of about seven or eight intercept operators with a corporal operator supervisor. From the available operators, we also had to man the DF detachments and the radio communications.
The main operational group was housed in three large vans, two of them being set vans and the other the Intelligence compilation and analysis van. They were grouped in a T configuration with a canvas covered catwalk so you could walk easily between them. These vans were three-ton lorries with 4x4 drive. The two set vans had six operating positions in each, three down each side. The main type of receiver used in intercept was called the National HAC. It was possibly the best HF receiver available to anyone in the war but was in short supply and hard to get. It had precision tuning making it easy to return to a frequency or to transfer nets between operators and sets. It was calibrated for frequency using a frequency meter.
In one of the vans there was a DF control position, and the control operator's job was to steer the direction finders onto frequencies as well as to receive the bearing reports back from the DF detachments. He operated his communications from this position, remotely controlling the transmitter van. It was usually located at the camp extremity to cut down interference to the intercept operations.
We used the Wireless set No. 22 for DF communications and a Wireless set No. 9 for the signal intelligence inter-unit net. The two DF detachments were located forward, usually at division or brigade level, some five or six miles forward of the main unit.
The DF detachments consisted of a 15 hundred-weight (cwt) wireless van type vehicle which had a 22 set with charger equipment installed. It towed a small 6'x 6'x 6' wooden caravan type trailer which was the DF trailer containing the direction finding loop device called a B & C loop. It was developed by the British and worked very well into a National HAG receiver. A centre table across the trailer allowed the DF operator and communications operator to face each other enabling them to work as a close team. There were two doors in the trailer at opposite ends to allow access to each position. The DF detachment consisted of three operators and a driver. Because the loop direction finder was subject to "night-effect" on the radio signals, the DF operations were carried out mostly in daylight to avoid poor bearings and errors. Because of this we could manage with three operators, with two on duty at anyone time.
Now coming back to the intercept vans. When German parachute divisions showed up on our front, we were scrambling to increase our low VHF coverage and to replace the National HAO receivers with the Hallicrafter S27 receivers which were considered one of the best types for that frequency range. Before we got to Normandy we did not realize the importance of the VHF coverage. The VHF aerials used were fairly rudimentary. We had a collapsible seventy-two foot mast and gin pole, and rigged a VHF dipole with co-axial feeder line at the top of this mast. The mast had been provided for the HF coverage. We found twenty-five foot horizontal wires terminating on twenty-foot high line poles quite adequate. We fanned out the HF aerial from the set vans in sort of a "maypole" configuration and probably achieved a bit of directivity. The main source of power at first was a two or three kilowatt, 110-volt alternating current generator with a gasoline engine made by Onan. It was very marginal in size for our power load but later on we received ten-kilowatt Onans powered by jeep engines and mounted in trailers. They were a very good and reliable power source and were, I believe, United States Army Signal Corps equipment. Besides the large vans for the operations center, I had another one being used for the telephone exchange and the signal intelligence radio communications and message enciphering areas. It was really a reserve set van in case we lost one because there were no reserves of this special fitment in the army.
Later on we obtained a captured German magnetic tape recorder and fitted it in this reserve van for remote recording of voice intercept. The Germans invented the magnetic tape technique and this was the first tape recorder I saw. It used a paper tape with a magnetic powder bonded to it. Also we acquired a tripod-type of loop direction finder when we overran a German weather station. We used this DF in a tent at the main unit location. It gave us a third line for location fixing and was manned to good advantage when DF information was high priority.
The vehicle complement for the combined unit was twenty-two vehicles and four trailers i.e., 5 motorcycles, 1 jeep, 2 heavy utility personnel, 4 three-ton operation vans, 3 fifteen-cwt wireless vans, 2 fifteen-cwt general service trucks, 5 three-ton general service trucks, 2 DF trailers, and 2 generator trailers.
Events Leading to Normandy
The two years we spent in England were invaluable in preparing us for field operations. We were working against the 7th and 15th German Armies across the English Channel. We worked against them every day of the week for two years and got to know them like the backs of our hands. When we went to the West India Dock in London to go on the landing ship and land in Normandy, it was just a case of closing down the sets and re-opening them in France with all of our favourite customers. When in England we were not completely tied to army targets as there was some inter-service consolidated coverage. We use to work on the weather flights out of Bad Zwischenahn. The German Air Force were sending out planes all the time on weather reconnaissance and we were able to plot their positions and pass this information to the Royal Air Force (RAF).
"We began monitoring this German traffic soon after arriving in the United Kingdom late in 1941, early 1942. Bad Zwischenahn was the base of German Air Force weather flights called "ZEN IT" flights. Daily, at about 0600 hours, a long range, four-engined Condor would leave Bad Zwischenahn for a weather reporting flight which usually took it over Holland, along the East Coast of Britain, Scotland, and towards Iceland. The flight normally returned to its home base of Bad Zwischenahn but occasionally it would be necessary to recover to Stavanger in Southern Norway. The flight's main purpose was weather reporting but en route it would also report on shipping and other activities.
The daily routine began with the aircraft still on the ground tuning its set, warming up and synchronizing its engines. Once airborne it would report course, speed and altitude, when crossing the Dutch coast, shipping sighted, and routine weather returns.
Our operators and Intelligence analysts became very familiar with this daily routine and could recognize the unit readily. The importance of this lay in the following. All German units at that time changed call-signs daily. Each German unit was assigned a page and row in a large call-sign book. Each day a qualifier was used which was added to the assigned page and row number thus giving the unit daily, different call-signs. We had the book which I believe was obtained in North Africa. Thus, once we identified the Zenit flight, it took little time to obtain the qualifier in use for that day. Hence any other German unit which was monitored that day, and had been previously identified, could now be identified for the day.
British, Canadian, and later American intercept units would compete daily to determine who would first catch the Bad Zwischenahn Zenit flight and come up with the daily qualifier. One was allowed only a few minutes when traffic began but many times our Canadian sections were first in this race.
These routine flights and their reports proved useful training for the Intelligence analyst. It was not too difficult to break into the grid reference codes, codes concerning shipping, the nature of ships observed, etc. Through these Zenit flights, the Intelligence staff obtained considerable practice on TL codes, the mainstay of German low grade coding systems."(2)
One sideline - it was only a couple of days but interesting. The Allied Command was concerned that maybe the Germans had obtained the secret of our proximity fuse. The higher authorities thought if the Germans did have it they would use the fuse in the shells of the coastal guns shooting from Calais and Boulogne across the channel at Folkestone and Dover. So they gave me a VHF panoramic display receiver and told me to set it up where the shells were expected to land. In the short space of time, while a shell was in flight and before it hit, we were to try to detect a transmission coming out of the nose of the shell. This was done, no transmissions were detected, and we didn't stay there any longer than necessary. All that could be said was that to our knowledge they were not using the proximity fuse in those big shells.
Our last location in England before going to Normandy was in a little village called Pett Level. It was just east of Hastings and near Battle where King Harold fought William of Normandy in 1066. While there I was told to report for a British Army intelligence briefing on the invasion. We were told that D-Day was to be the first of June. There was a big briefing map showing the stages of the planned advances in a series of concentric rings indicating how many days after D-Day before we reached these points. I recall the furthest ring including Paris by D plus ninety. Well, I know things did not develop as planned because we were away short of the timing of some of the rings, but by the final one we were back on schedule. We did most of our vehicle "wading" preparation at Pett Level. There were plasticine kits to cover and waterproof sparkplugs and wires, breathing hoses up over the vehicle roofs for the carburetors, breathing vent pipes to the gasoline tanks so they would not develop airlocks, and procedures for disconnecting fan belts. In the driver's training for wading one of the most important parts to learn was not to flinch. As the water came up over a driver's legs, his middle, and then his chest he had to learn not to take his foot off the gas pedal because the motor might cough and quit.
While at Pett Level we saw the Germans start the V-1 buzz bomb phase of the war. The first night was rather eerie. We were on high ground with the Rye marshes to the east and below us. The V-1s appeared as red dots coming from France with a steady staccato sound and were unlike anything we had seen before. Then all the anti-aircraft guns in the Rye marshes opened up and fired all night. By morning the element of surprise had worn off; it was settling down as just another problem to solve. When daylight arrived it was the fighter planes turn to engage these flying bombs. The fighters could not quite match the V-1 speed so they would take up positions five to ten thousand feet higher in altitude and then patrol in waiting. The Ground Observer Corps personnel stationed along the coast would hear a bomb and give its location to fighter command by telephone. Fighter command in turn would direct the fighters on patrol in locating the flying bomb. The planes would descend at diving speed enabling them to overtake the bomb, and either explode it with gun fire or upset its gyro control by placing a wing under the bomb's wing and flip it out of control.
One morning I remember waking up in our thatched roof cottage and saw, through the window out to sea, a buzz bomb coming directly towards us with a Spitfire on its tail with guns firing. The bomb was hit and crashed in front of the cottage with the explosion and concussion going seaward.
A little incident happened with one of my drivers, McMurtry, for which I should thank him. The 2nd Canadian Corps was forming over in the Dover area which was thirty to forty miles away from us. The Corps Commander was Lieutenant-General G.G. Simonds who, I felt, was as fine a Corps Commander as you could find. He was also a spit and polish general and probably felt it was a good image for the men's morale. He had taken a Staghound armoured car and had the turret removed and replaced with a wrap- around windshield and pennants and some white paint striping. The General sitting in this vehicle with a beret and an outriding escort of military police with white gauntlets and white leggings was quite impressive.
My driver was on a run with his lorry somewhere and was standing next to his truck when the General passed. He was an excellent driver, a good hard working soldier, but we always had trouble getting him to look the part. His uniform was always rumpled and his red hair usually needed cutting. As I understand it, when the General went by, he sort of said: "Hi. General" and waved. Maybe, also his vehicle was dirty. Anyway, I don't think Lieutenant-General Simonds was impressed; he noted the unit number, which was 446 with its Signals marking together with the Army unit crest. We were officially Army troops, although designated to support the Corps, so we did not carry the 2nd Corps crest.
When Simonds got back to Corps Headquarters he quickly called in Brigadier Clark, the Chief Signals Officer, and asked which unit was 446. Upon looking up his listing, Clark replied "2nd Special Wireless". Then the General asked who are they, he was informed that we were part of the Corps. So I think the discussion went: "Where have they been? - what has been happening to them? - do they know that a war is about to begin? - they are going to Normandy shortly - You had better find out". All this went on unknown to me. So we were sitting in this lovely little thatched roof cottage at Pett Level overlooking the sea and having our cup of tea when the telephone rang. I picked it up and the voice said: "This is Brigadier Clark. I'll be down tomorrow to inspect your unit." This was the first contact I had with Canadian Army command in quite some time, but anyhow I got together with the other officers and NCOs and informed them about the inspection and said we would carry on just as we were doing. Lance Sergeant Lorne Long, the Chief Operator, asked about smoking as Signallers on duty are not supposed to smoke. I said we will do exactly as we are, smoking and everything.
Brigadier Clark arrived, with two or three other officers, not looking too friendly. We took him around the unit, down over the hills, showed him the billet houses with the kit layouts, then all the vehicles we were readying for Normandy. We showed him all the workshop fitments we had built up in the vehicles, all the various devices which made them more useful, the waterproofing and the general state of maintenance. His face started to relax and he seemed more and more impressed with the unit. He came over to the operational complex, found all the vehicles deployed with camouflage nets and exactly as we should be in battle. He came into the set vans and noted that the men were smoking. I told him it was easier on their nerves in this particular type of work as it helped to relax them. So he said: "If I want them to stop, I'll let you know." Of course, I never heard from him on that matter. We took Brigadier Clark and his staff up to our nice little cottage where Corporal Curik, the Senior Cook, had made some very nice cookies, cakes, and tea. I was very pleased when Brigadier Clark said to me: "I want you to know that I am going back to report to the Corps Commander that he has no worries whatsoever about the operational efficiency of this unit." For the rest of the war, Brigadier Clark maintained this attitude towards us and never again had to check on our performance. We knew he was there and he gave me the best of support whenever I asked for it. He did not worry about the operations of my unit.
My unit was not involved in the invasion phase of the Normandy landing. Things had been readjusted because of the way the invasion was going and the crowding of the troops within the beachhead. The order of landing for many of the units was changed because of this. The advance and reconnaissance parties for the 1st Canadian Army Headquarters arrived in Normandy on the 16th of June and my brother, Captain W.E. "Bill" Grant, was with them; thus he was the first Canadian Signal Intelligence Officer to land in Normandy. So around June 30, 1944, we closed our set vans down and went in convoy to the West India Dock, London with the waterproofed motors over-heating and backfiring but nevertheless getting there. We got to the marshalling area, stayed till July 5th and proceeded to the dock for loading on an American Landing Ship Tank (LST) that morning. All the time buzz bombs were dropping around but we were not hit.
It would be of interest to tell you about the problems of loading the ship. The load was to consist of my unit, a couple of other small units, and a British General Transport Company. I easily got all my vehicles on the top deck along with the other vehicles of the small units. Then the upper deck ramp was raised to fill the main hold with the transport company vehicles. The British Army drivers had been handed these United States Studebaker tractor trailers the day before they had come down. I don't think they had ever backed up a tractor trailer in their lives, but they had their pride and were having a heck of a time getting them loaded side by side and nose to tail. In fact one managed to get the trailer across the hold and the tractor facing forward. But eventually and with the help of some American sailors who had been commercial transport drivers they were all loaded and in fact with room left for one more; so a British three-ton lorry and driver was called forward and backed inside the nose of the ship and the doors were closed.
I was designated the Senior Army Officer on the ship and we pushed off down the Thames River and out around the estuary toward Normandy. I then talked with the driver of the last lorry on - the first to go off - and found it was the only vehicle on the ship which was not waterproofed. I then talked with the United States Navy Lieutenant-Commander, the ship's captain, and asked if he could open the front door and drop the truck in the sea or did he have any other suggestions. He said he could not open the door at sea, but he thought with our timing we could make a low tide landing and he would run the LST in as far as it would go. We spent a rather pleasant cruise from there on until we got to Normandy. It was a beautiful sunny day and the men were basking in the sun. The Americans had opened rations from the States with ice cream and other items the boys hadn't seen for two years and they were really enjoying it. The ship's captain said he had been told to feed us well and he was going to do it until his food ran out. To show our appreciation, we went into our skimpy liquor supplies and presented him with a nice bottle of Scotch which he really appreciated.End of Pull
Normandy and Direction Finding
We arrived in Normandy at Gold Beach on the 7th of July, the LST edged its way around through debris and a few floating bodies that were still in the water. We anchored for the night. The RAF were doing a night bombing raid with heavy bombers on the city of Caen about five miles in front of us. On the morning of the 8th we grounded on the beach and with the ship well in I looked at the water and figured the vehicles could wade without waterproofing as it was only about a foot and a half deep. One thing which did concern me was the possibility of the first vehicle quitting if it hit any obstacle under the water, thus preventing the rest of the vehicles coming off. So I got up on the British lorry's fender, next to the driver, and told the driver to go where I said because I could see straight down in the water very clearly. We did this and came up onto the beach nicely with the rest of the vehicles following. From there we went to a field which was our designated marshalling area and carried out the initial phase of the de-waterproofing and heard awful tales from a liaison officer of the terrific pounding the 3rd Division was taking at Carpiquet Airport near Caen. About that time my brother Bill showed up and said he had located a good site for me; so we went forward. By this time it was getting dark; a couple of bombs were dropped near us and we lost some canvas but no one was hurt. We took up our first position in Normandy against a stone wall surrounding a church grounds near the village of Cairon. The church was badly bombed. There had been considerable fighting in its grounds as we picked up many wooden bullets which had been spent in the fighting. These were used by the Germans for close-in fighting so they would not carry across to their own troops when closing in and firing from opposite sides.
So we started our operations in Normandy in support of Corps. The 2nd Canadian Corps Tactical Headquarters had become operational on June 29, and the main headquarters a week later. Two things were immediately apparent. One showed the value of our previous operations in England, the other the lack of preparation. The 21st Panzer Reconnaissance Regiment was the eyes of General Rommel. It was a German armoured car unit which he had fanned out across his entire front. Their communications leap-frogged all the normal communications echelons to report directly to him on the state of battle. They used a TL code. We could identify the unit immediately and read the code. We felt we were clearing the German messages to the 2nd Canadian Corps Headquarters faster than the Germans were to Rommel.
Now to mention the deficiency. As soon as we landed I knew we were in trouble with our DF system because of its laboriously slow radio control system. This problem was created by communications security procedures which had bothered us in England but no one had faced up to it. It was intended that we use a Slidex code to encode the message at DF control, send it by radio, have it decoded at the DF site, turn the direction finder onto the wanted frequency, take the bearing and send it back. The German Army used a concealed call-sign system which did not assign a call-sign identifier to a particular station so much as to linking the radio path between control and each outstation. This made it difficult for an outsider to know which station was sending. Their radio nets could have up to ten to fifteen stations working into a control station on a star basis. Our "out" DF detachment had to be steered by radio communication onto the different operating frequencies and we had to know on which one of the many netted stations the DF bearing had been taken.
If we could obtain a single bearing from one detachment we would then have a "line of bearing". Whereas bearings from two different detachments on the same station gave us a "fix" of location through the intersection of the two line bearings.
As our old control system could not even assure us of knowing on which station the bearing had been taken, we had to throw some caution to the wind and quickly devise a system which was also immediately adopted by the other Canadian unit.
We had to take some security risks or have no DF results at all. So the first thing I did was to borrow a motorcycle and drive to the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers' supply depot of technical supplies. I asked them for about twenty telephone keyboard switches and indicators out of spares they held for the "U.C. 10 line" telephone exchange. On the way there I had noticed a burned out and stripped jeep. I needed a panel to make a control unit so I hacksawed out a panel-sized sheet of steel from the jeep. Using our various hand tools I was able to build a control panel with ten switches and indicators. I also installed a keyboard switch at each operating position. The operators were told that in addition to their other procedures they were to push the switch down anytime their net was active and raise it immediately when it was not. With a switch down the related indicator light was "on" at the control panel. At a glance the DF controller knew which links were active. With the corresponding switch on the control panel pushed down he had the intercepted signal-to-line in one earphone. Along the top of these indicators were plastic plates for writing with crayon pencil the net's frequency and its prencoded Slidex coding. Also written on the plastic was the priority given to the net for DF information. Then we came up with a simple signalling procedure to the "out" DF detachments to control the time of bearing taking. We serialized every DF request and the controller broadcast the requests in response to the changing activity displayed on the control panel but without regard to how the "out" DF crews were coping.
At the "out" DF detachments, the communications operators were busy talking the DF operators onto targets from the radioed information and writing down bearing results called out by the DF operators.
So the procedure was like this - the controller would want a bearing on a new frequency so he would send out the frequency in Slidex. At the right time moment he would send a serial number and a morse dot meaning take bearing, then two dots to stop. If he wanted another, a new serial number and the same procedure. When there were quiet periods on the net, the DF communications operator would send back in Slidex all the bearings for those serial numbers that they had been successful in taking and these were then plotted using the logs from the intercept positions to identify the twenty or so stations on the net that the bearings were taken from. This way the same serial from both "out" DF detachments meant they had a synchronized bearing and with the intercept operator's log the information on which station it was taken on and a "fix" of location was plotted. This system was used by us throughout the war. We had one of our best operators, Lance Corporal Ron Whiting, on DF control and he was a very busy man.
Just after we arrived in Normandy we made the first deployment of the DF detachment. I took the unit to the area where I wanted it to be located. It turned out to be near a British artillery unit overlooking a wide valley with the enemy on the other side. I told the crew to set up and went over to talk with the British to ask them to keep an eye on this isolated detachment and asked for help if needed. They were very willing to give any help and I returned to the crew. I was bothered by the location they had chosen, so on a hunch, had it moved to the reverse slope and more "hull down". When I returned in a few days they told me they had been shelled and also how the place they would have been in originally had been heavily hit. Needless to say you feel very good when a little thought saves your men from being casualties.
More Operational Highlights
I would like to return to operational highlights and events. Here again I wish to repeat I was the Signal Officer not the Wireless Intelligence Officer and was preoccupied with administrative problems, moving the unit, and maintaining the technical performance. The Intelligence officers and NCOs working under the Wireless Intelligence Officer Commanding were running the set vans, putting the sets onto targets, calling for DF, and producing the end product. I say this to emphasize I was not handling the signal intelligence material. So let's start with Normandy.
The main purpose of signal intelligence, in the initial phases, was to contribute to building the strategic intelligence picture so the theatre commanders could launch major attacks. The landing in Normandy did not go quite as planned nothing ever does -- and we were not as deeply into Normandy in the initial stages as we had expected to be. We were having considerable trouble in breaking through the enemy; nevertheless, every time the British and Canadian forces launched an attack, the Germans would commit more divisions to hold us. At Montgomery's Headquarters the decision had been made to make the major breakthrough on the United States front near St. Lo. With the transfer of enemy divisions onto our front, the St. Lo front would be suitably weakened for the event.
From a signal intelligence point of view, line DF information became important because it was reasonably easy to identify the main communications of the different divisions since DF indicated their general locations. We were making corps level attacks with three to five divisions at a time about once a week. Through these successive attacks the German forces were being pulled in more and more against the British and Canadians in what was called the left hinge area.
I can recall being awakened by Major Mackenzie to discuss an urgent operational situation. He explained that our DF information had identified the movement of a new German division from the U.S. Army front. He asked me to reconfirm it with absolute certainty. He said: "Bob, it is very important that we know this DF information is correct. This is the last German division, in terms of twelve to thirteen, that we had to pull in from the American front before they are prepared to launch the breakout attack". As it turned out, it was not DF from my unit but from the 3rd Canadian Special Wireless Section Type A, the Army unit. It was confirmed that the division had moved, and it was only a matter of a few days when the Americans launched the attack and broke out at St. Lo.
On another occasion we were needed to give information on our own troops; this concerned an attack going in south of Caen by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. The Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, was pacing up and down because he was not getting the type of reports back from the attack that he had expected. What he was getting back was confusing and his Intelligence staff came to us and said: "What are you getting from the Germans, are they experiencing Canadian armoured attacks?" Actually we were not getting much activity, but we were getting some reports of tank engagements away to the left and at right angles to the intended line of advance and this was reported. General Simonds, I am sure, was starting to worry. I understand Simonds got hold of a liaison officer and told him to get down to division and with another officer get down to brigade and then down to battalion and get back with a report. Our information was correct. As it turned out, the 4th Armoured had met heavy resistance and had veered off its axis of advance in trying to outflank the enemy. The attack was not successful. I remember there was a new divisional commander in short order.
At the time of this attack we were in our fourth location since arriving in Normandy. It was an abandoned French farmyard in a wheat field south of Caen and about five miles south of the Orne River called Point 72 on the map. It had been a heavily defended German position from looking at the dugouts and bunkers. The 2nd Canadian Corps Headquarters was down the road some three or four miles, and we had our usual telephone line to them for passing our information to the Intelligence staff. The DFs were, of course, spread out on about a five to ten mile baseline. It was while we were here that I was involved in a personal incident which could have turned out tragically, but I'll tell it for what it is worth.
I had called Brigadier Clark saying I wanted to get hold of some German tank radio equipment to examine it for frequency range, modulation methods, power, and dial settings to become more familiar with its capabilities. He called back advising there was a knocked-out German tank at so and so map reference and I could have anything in it. I took Corporal Stan Lucas, my instrument mechanic and a visiting Wireless Intelligence officer with me in my jeep. We found the tank with some dead Canadians around it but it was burnt out completely. I noticed the ground appeared to have been mined so we gingerly left and went back to the dirt road in the middle of the wheat field. I then turned west heading towards May-sur-Orne hoping to find another tank.
The sun was on the horizon and there was a heavy haze with clouds of dust in the air. As I came around a damaged church about fifty feet in front of us there were two soldiers fighting. With the sun in our eyes they were just silhouettes and one had a Canadian helmet on. I glanced down and saw a third man, a Canadian, with blood pouring out of his head. The man without the helmet swung loose, saw me and raised one of his many weapons, a revolver, and commenced emptying it at my jeep. With some difficulty I was able to get from behind the wheel and raise myself to take careful aim over the top of the windshield. I am sure the hammer on the revolver was almost all the way back when the helmeted man screamed: "don't shoot, he is a Canadian." He then jumped on the side of the jeep and we reversed quickly behind the church. We then went forward on foot as the other man had fallen down and we removed his weapons. We took the one uninjured man back to his unit, and he said he would arrange to pick the others up. It seemed best to leave the problem within the unit as I knew the battle strain they had been under. I am thankful it turned out okay. I expect a mixture of calvados and battle strain had taken its toll.
We did not get involved in quick reaction signal intelligence too much. We would pick up some nets with fire orders from the enemy artillery. On some occasions, like the time they were setting up a fire plan to knock out a bridge under construction by the Engineers, we were able to inform them in time to take a prepared position for minimum casualties: after it was over they passed back their thank-yous.
Once we received a direct bomb hit on the unit. The fighting in Normandy was finishing. The Falaise pocket had been closed and we had tens of thousands of German prisoners around, many badly wounded. We were just turning north towards the next main city, Rouen, some seventy-five miles away. We were on the edge of the Falaise pocket and set up in a field or orchard for the night. An anti-aircraft artillery unit was in the next field. It was difficult to move around at night because of the traffic congestion. The heavy tanks moving at night were not the best of road companions when there were no lights. Finding units at night is difficult so you memorize as much as possible in the daytime and you note items of interest like the nearest Regimental Aid Post. A unit's location was usually identified at night by a large tin can with nail perforations through its side out- lining the unit number and illuminating it with a lantern inside.
German aircraft were no problem in the daytime but they liked to stooge around at night, drop flares, find targets of opportunity, and then drop bombs. We thus worked out a procedure for the man assigned to guard duty in the camp to ignore planes flying over, but when flares started to drift towards the camp to alert everyone and bang on the sides of the operations vehicles. On this occasion, I recall waking up with my ears ringing and trying to orient myself with anti-aircraft fire and plane cannon and tracers all around. I pulled the bed on top of me for a second or two, then got into the slit-trench. One of the men ran over saying we had two or three wounded. I had them moved into the spare van which we set up as a temporary dressing station because it had battery powered lights as our power generator had quit. We had some shell dressings so we checked and dressed their wounds. Lieutenant Al Wilkinson who had been in the tent with me had a cut and some small shrapnel in his neck. One of the drivers named Brown had a badly torn back of his leg and shrapnel in his stomach; Siwak, an instrument mechanic, had several cuts across his back. Recalling the location of the 4th Armoured Division Regimental Aid Post, I decided to take them there in the jeep. Sitting down in my seat I felt something very hard, it was the nose ring of the bomb, which had come through the canvas roof. When I got to the Regimental Aid Post I was concerned about Brown so I pushed my way through the many wounded Germans and told the doctor I had some wounded Canadians. He asked how bad and I expressed my concern so he said bring them right in. From there the system went to work on them. The men progressed back through channels to the hospital.
In the morning I counted fifty-two holes in the sleeping tent. I was glad for my Li-Lo bed as it was only six inches off the ground versus the eighteen inches of the officer's issue one. Next to that tent was the eating table lean-to where our little radio had taken a direct hit. I'd say ninety-five percent of our canvas was ruined for the rest of the war. The anti-personnel bomb had made a direct hit. This type of bomb opened up and dropped thirty or forty smaller bombs out in an area pattern and each of these was filled with shrapnel. When the bomb dropped there was an immediate duet between the plane and the anti-aircraft guns with tracers going in every direction, but we had no further damage. Our generator gasoline tank had been holed, we had to change about fifteen truck tires and one truck's engine seized as we progressed to our next location. It was damaged beyond our repair. We loaded all the damaged material into our trucks and towed the damaged truck to our next stop. We reloaded all the useless equipment into this truck and abandoned it in an apple orchard. Following procedure, we notified the recovery unit of the truck's map reference location, indented for a replacement and had it catch up with us in a day or so. Dan Blanchard, my driver, sewed up my jeep's roof canvas and put a bandage on his slight wound. As he said: "It was nothing" he was not anxious to be evacuated from the unit.
Reconnaissances always had a little unknown in them, even if you were back at Corps. Sometimes things were not the way you were told. Sometimes there had been a counter-attack and you had to change your plans once you saw the situation.
I will tell you of one such case that happened on 26 August. We were near the town of Brionne and advancing towards Elbeuf on the Seine when the fighting got confused. There was a river at Brionne, the counter-attacks were holding up our advance and at the same time Corps was trying to establish a headquarters forward of this location. So when Lyn Stephens and I arrived in my jeep we were not allowed to cross the river. Looking at the map it appeared we could go south to Le Neubourg about five miles away and cut back in. We went down the road not seeing anyone till we contacted American troops in Le Neubourg. We then cut back into the Canadian area of responsibility going northwest out of the town. The road had a lot of white tape along the verges indicating a mined area. I travelled up the tarmac road, missing the pot holes, at a reasonable speed of about thirty-five miles per hour and got into the Corps Headquarters designated area. When I got there I found two or three vehicles - the Corps Headquarters Reconnaissance Officer and someone else trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately for us the Reconnaissance Officer saw I was going too far, whipped onto his motorcycle and said: "Stop; another one hundred yards and you're dead, as the next little rise in the road is covered by German machine guns". I was most grateful to him and sorry to have to say he was later killed on a similar reconnaissance in the Breskens area of the Scheidt. By this time I realized Corps was much too premature in its plans and I was going back to hold my unit until things cleared up. So we went back down the same road. By this time the Engineers were coming forward and had removed German anti-tank mines, Teller mines, from the pot holes I had been missing so nonchalantly.
When we got back to the crossing at Brionne, Captain Jack May of the Corps Signals Line Section was there worrying about his reconnaissance. I told him where I had gone and about the mines and he decided to use the same route. He led his party all the way up, but when they left the road to investigate their line laying problems one jeep was blown up and his sergeant killed.
Boulogne and Calais
After we crossed the Seine at Rouen, we worked our way in the direction of Dieppe staying well inland because the coastal road, which had been the German West-wall defence, was heavily barricaded and mined. We were in very loose contact and no signal intelligence was resulting. We were in the area of Gressy and Lieutenant Wilkinson was in charge of the site reconnaissance on 1 September. There were still isolated pockets of bypassed German soldiers in this area. Wilkinson combined our party with a French Maquis group and took thirty-seven German Army prisoners. The Maquis then swept the area to ensure our new site was free of any other troops before our forward party moved into location. The prisoners were, if I remember, mostly Poles who never wanted to fight anyway. We had the usual tense moment when they didn't know whether they would be killed and whether they should drop their weapons or not.
On the next move I was moving the forward party of about one third of the unit. At the same time unbeknown to me the move of Corps had been cancelled. It was raining heavily and, after a while, we had the eerie feeling we were alone as there were no other signs of army life. I held the other vehicles back and proceeded with only the heavy utility van I was in. We were getting near the Cap Gris Nez area, so I went a few more miles and circled back till eventually I ran into an armoured car of the 3rd Division Reconnaissance Regiment, the forward element of our forces. I went to the car and found no one in it. There was a barn nearby so I went in and a rather startled young officer and the rest of the crew were brewing coffee. They were very surprised to see me. I suppose they didn't expect any Germans either, especially on such a miserable rainy day. I then asked the lieutenant if he knew where Corps Headquarters was and got a very blank look. I don't think he had ever heard of Corps. When you are in a reconnaissance unit you first of all know about your own troop of cars, then your squadron and I suppose the regiment, but brigade, division then corps, all those rear echelon formations - no way. That ended that reconnaissance and we pulled back from whence we had come till Corps came up with new plans.
We continued on more or less up into the Cap Gris Nez area and took up a position near the two fortress cities of Calais and Boulogne. They were now cut off from the German Army but nevertheless fully manned with German Army fortress troops.
The Germans recognized the value of denying us the use of every port they could hold. The capture of these two cities fell upon the shoulders of the 3rd Canadian Division and we were included in the forces assembled to mount the operation. It was an entirely different type of operation. To carry it out we had to await the availability of the "funnies". This was the 79th British Armoured Division equipped with all the unusual weapons that had been concocted to meet certain unusual situations. For example, if a commander ran into unusually heavy mine fields he could request the "flail tanks" of this division. If he was going to reduce heavy concrete emplacements he could use tanks with what I believe was called a "spigot". They had the ability to lob a land mine against the side of the emplacement. If the in-fighting situation was bad, and you couldn't win without excessive casualties, the "crocodile" flame-throwing tanks might be needed. If the obstacles are trenches or small streams the "alligator" tank, with a jack-knife type of bridge structure on its turret, could be used to bridge gullies and have the normal tanks run over the tops of them. The 3rd Canadian Division was held up because the "funnies" were busy further back with the British working on the capture of the fortress port of Le Havre. The 2nd Canadian Division had stopped at Dieppe for commemorative ceremonies.
We waited a week or more to get access to the "funnies", which time, I am sure, was not wasted while the attack plan was worked out. Boulogne was the first target. As the attack went in German radio circuits livened up and the Germans started to report and inform their headquarters of the state of battle and of various local fighting situations. The Fortress Commander of Boulogne, General Heim, seemed to be a popular commander and encouraged and praised his men for their actions. Many Iron Crosses were awarded over the radio, but our steady progress led to surrender after about a day and a half of fighting. The next operation was against Calais. As the operation progressed I can recall one of the outposts reporting that he was out of ammunition and had tanks and infantry right in front of him. The officer's reply was to tell him to use his pistol and needless to say we did not hear anything more from him. The Calais Commander by contrast seemed cold and ruthless and little interested in his men's situation; he was quite willing to expend his men's lives for the Fatherland in a senseless situation.
While we were at Calais and Boulogne the squadrons of planes carrying the airborne troops for the assault on Arnhem flew over; they were coming from England. This attack was going in some two hundred miles to the north of us. So by this time British and American forces were spread through Belgium and into Holland.
The Low Countries
The crucial port of Antwerp was not open because the approaches to it, the lower Scheidt Estuary, were still held by German forces on both sides of the estuary. The port was crucial to the finishing of the war because it was large, had good facilities and the supply lines to it were short. The supply lines back into Normandy ports were getting impossibly long. The Canadians were given the job of clearing the Scheidt Estuary. It probably was the most important job the Canadian Army did in Europe. It was really a messy job with awful fighting because of the low lying countryside with lots of dykes and water. In many areas the soldiers had to attack by wading through cold water and holding their weapons high in moving from dyke to dyke. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions did a terrific job culminating in the capture of the south side of the estuary, Breskens Peninsula, and the taking of about thirty to forty thousand prisoners.
A key to the collapse of the south side was when Lieutenant-General Simonds launched a seaborne attack across a large bay with part of the division in assault craft. While the 3rd Division closed up the south side, 2nd Division did an equally excellent job under unbelievable fighting conditions by going up islands on the upper part of the Scheidt and across causeways and dykes. Of course, British Army units were also involved like the seaborne assault on Walcheren Island. The RAF supported us using heavy bombers to blow up the dykes. With the approaches cleared and repair work completed in Antwerp, the port was opened. During these operations we were located near Ghent. While here we unfortunately lost Signalman McCartney who drowned in a canal. Captain L.A.D. Stephens, the head of Wireless Intelligence, left to start a career in the Department of External Affairs. Captain Dick Hanneson replaced him.
I find it hard to recall any significant signal intelligence during this phase of operations. Maybe it was because of the type of fighting conditions and with little movement of German troops "in" and those who were there had their backs to the wall; thus the use of line communications was well suited to this occasion.
By this time it was October. A shuffle of forces was in progress with the Canadians available to again take up the position on the left side of the extended front. This involved us taking over the Nijmegen area in Holland from the British. We moved there and set up operations at the little town of Wijchen about six miles south of Nijmegen. We spent the winter in the Nijmegen area with the snow and everything. It was not a very nice climate. We produced a reduced output of signal intelligence. When things are stationary radio traffic is down and our output reduced accordingly. One highlight while we were there had to do with the V-2s. They were then operational and I recall a V-2 hitting Antwerp and killing about two hundred persons, including Canadians, in a theatre. We had been in the vicinity when others had hit with a loud explosion followed by the freight train sound from the column of air behind them. At Wijchen, we could see the vapour trails as the rockets left the launch pads. The operators searching the radio band started to find new radio signals with different procedures. By visual correlation it was apparent they were connected with the launch. This information was passed back to England for whatever value it was.
The only occasion that Brigadier Clark asked us to do something was in connection with "Arnhem Annie". I guess she was getting under the skin of some of the people at Corps Headquarters and maybe the thought arose of laying a few well-placed shells to stop her broadcasting to our troops. He asked me if we could locate her with DF. Our DF showed she was using the Dutch broadcast transmitter facilities at Hilversum. We passed this information to Corps Headquarters and heard nothing further from Corps on the matter.
As the year was coming to an end the biggest assembly of troops ever to be placed under Canadian Army command was brewing up. This was interrupted by the German Ardennes offensive. We became very thin on the ground as troops were redeployed to build shoulders to contain the German offensive and stop the breakthrough to Antwerp which was the main objective. We had our anxious moment but it was contained and thoughts returned to the launching of the attack from the Nijmegen area up through the Reichswald into Cleve to reach the Rhine at Emmerich. This area had been the German Siegfried line. A Canadian. General Crerar, was the Army Commander and for this particular attack he would have had about five hundred thousand men under command in the initial phases. It included most of the British divisions, 30th British Corps, the Polish Armoured Division as well as Canadians. After the attack and the capture of Cleve the concept was that the forces would realign; the British Army would take back most of the British forces because the front would then be wide enough for both the 2nd British Army and the 1st Canadian Army to operate in. We also knew the attack was to be preceded by the biggest artillery barrage of the war on German troops in the Reichswald.
My brother Bill, who was bored with being a staff officer at Army Headquarters wanted more interesting work. When it was decided to make up a small forward detachment to operate in the Reichswald he was only too pleased to take it over. We made up a composite detachment from my unit as well as the 3rd Canadian Special Wireless Section. We used a set van and generator, and assembled a few operators and intelligence personnel. Captain Wayne Connor was the Wireless Intelligence officer and Bill was the overall Detachment Commander. They moved into the forest and set up operations. With the concern of the concussion from the expected heavy shelling we sandbagged the van right to the roof. The detachment was intercepting fairly low level radio circuits when the attack started and this information went straight to 30th British Corps which was the corps controlling the divisions in the attack. Their Intelligence staff felt the Y detachment did a tremendous job and, in fact, wanted the detachment to stay on with them in support after the realignment. This was a real compliment, coming from a staff that had been honed to a fine degree of professionalism over four years of war against General Rommel in Africa as well as Northwest Europe. However, the detachment was disbanded and the resources reabsorbed.
We went forward with the 2nd Canadian Corps to take up a position on high ground in Cleve near the water tower. This height was advantageous for our low VHF intercept from the German parachute divisions. We shifted some of our Medium Frequency (MF) HAG receivers out of the set vans. From Cleve the fighting turned southward towards the Hochwald where the parachute divisions were fighting hard to maintain a hold on our side of the Rhine. It was here that we got one of our more important individual intercepts during the campaign. The military situation had reached the point that we had to cross the Rhine before the final stage of the war would begin.
Sitting in England were several of our airborne divisions ready to launch an advanced attack on the other side of the Rhine, thus enabling a quick bridgehead to be established. They could not move until they knew when the last German forces would be cleared from our side. The intercept message from an enemy parachute division went something like this: It stated that the German forces would now withdraw. It gave the withdrawal times, the blowing times for each of the bridges and the redeployment locations of the anti-aircraft and other artillery. It was a long message and important because Army Group could now give H Hour and D-Day for the launching of the airborne attack as well as set up the ground based attacks across the river.
The British signal intelligence unit to the right of us supporting the 30th British Corps did pick up part of the message, about the last ten percent. We sent the information back on the signal intelligence radio net to Army Headquarters and they sent it on to Army Group. A light plane arrived with a colonel and some other senior officers to check out the information.
In Cleve we lost our motor mechanic Corporal Folkeard from a shrapnel wound in the leg. The same "88" shell also drew blood along the scalp of one of the drivers, Deluca.
Across the Rhine
On the 2nd of April we left Cleve and crossed the Rhine on a long pontoon bridge into the city of Emmerich, through it and into mixed open and wooded country to take up our first position across the Rhine near Zeddam.
Sergeant Essex took this reconnaissance, went up and found a place. Later we went forward to meet him. Again it was raining and cold. He said it had been really scary. He had huddled with one of the others under a ground sheet with a Bren gun while firing was going on from all three sides and he didn't know who was who. It was quiet when we arrived with occasional firing between the combat units. My unit was about two and one-half miles from the enemy. We spent an uneasy night there because we could tell from our intercept sets that the strength of the VHF signals put the enemy extremely close. I believe with our twenty-odd vehicles moving forward and the labouring of the engines on the hills, we must have sounded like an armoured column so they had left our selected area in a hurry. This, I say, because in the morning we picked up many weapons leaning against the trees including some of the sub-machine guns of the type used by paratroops. So this time we were thankful we made so much noise.
The front was a little confused and you could not really fight a corps size battle because of the lack of main arterial roads. It was springtime, the mud was thick and there was a lot of rain. Tanks as well as most vehicles going off the roads tended to bog down. It was low and flat country after we left the Rhine. We had reached the German town of Meppen, some eighty miles to the north of Cleve, when we were given orders to give direct support to the 4th Armored Division. We were to leave Corps Headquarters which was staying in that area and join the 4th Armoured Division Headquarters. This request had come from the Division Intelligence staff and to my knowledge it may have been the only time in the Canadian Army when a full Y unit moved forward to a divisional headquarters.
It was an interesting time because the German communications security was breaking down, their formations becoming hodge-podge and even drawing personnel from their various military cadet units. We had a fair amount of captured material including maps with the German grids in eight figures allowing a location accuracy of ten metres square. Our intercept was good. It was telling us the times of the counter-attacks, the make-up and size of formations being used and what sort of support they would have. Also, when commander conferences were called we knew the time of the meeting, the house, and its location. According to the Division intelligence staff, one hundred percent of the counter-battery artillery was fired based upon our intelligence and they were running about twenty-five percent of all airstrikes on it. We had the German gun locations to a ten metre square accuracy from message content and using captured maps with grids.
We began to worry about security as we seemed to become "integrated" into the firepower of the Division. The Intelligence staff was not trained to handle signal intelligence at that level and yet they were very anxious to get useful information forward to those who needed it. They were saying things as: "Intercept says you are being attacked at such and such a time by so and so formation". We were concerned about the possibilities of enemy deception. Anyway it was only a four or five day situation but we were pleased for the praise they gave us. We also became used to, but not comfortable with, the German mortar fire from their multiple barrelled mortars and almost lost Signalman Sturroch when his helmet was taken off by a sniper's bullet. By that time the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division which was fighting another divisional war had moved up to the top end of the Netherlands and taken Groningen. Then, under Corps orders, 2nd Division was told to disengage, move around behind the 4th Armoured and up its right side striking towards Bremen. We were ordered to leave the 4th Armoured and join the 2nd Division in its attack.
I believe the usefulness of our support to the 4th Armoured Division can be shown by the Divisional Commander's remarks when we were being detached. As I understand it Major-General Chris Vokes got onto the telephone to Brigadier Elliot Rodger, the Brigadier-General staff 2nd Canadian Corps, and hotly demanded that we remain with the 4th Armoured. This we were told by Rodger; he called in the Wireless Intelligence Officer Commanding, Dick Hanneson, and told him, in no uncertain terms, we were never to let any commander lay claim to our unit.
We joined 2nd Division and worked our way with them towards Bremen. It was getting into the last few days of fighting and I don't recall any significant signal intelligence in those last few days. Instead of going into Bremen, we were ordered to join Division Headquarters in a move towards Oldenburg. We had just got our convoy on the road to join the order of march of hundreds of vehicles when we stopped. We were on that road for five hours because nothing was moving. When we eventually inched up to the location chosen for the new 2nd Division Headquarters, we found out why. Division was using a column of six-ton recovery lorries with winches working in tandem to get the vehicles off the road and into the fields. I'd never seen so many vehicles stuck in the mud in my life, with four-wheel drive vehicles right down to their under- frames. It wasn't the best time of year or best terrain for fighting a war. About the time we arrived, we were told the Germans were capitulating, and we were to send several of our linguists to participate as interpreters in the signing of the surrender. The surrender was taken as I recall by Lieutenant-General Foulkes, the 1st Canadian Corps Commander. I believe the Army Commander was ill in England.
After the surrender, we moved to join the 2nd Canadian Corps Headquarters at the town of Bad Zwischenahn about fifteen miles west of Oldenburg. There we took over a small hotel as our final location in Europe. One day whilst visiting Corps Headquarters I became aware of the effectiveness of a movement control procedure I had instituted and used throughout all our moves.
The trouble with a small unit is you are always outranked - you have no clout. We would choose a location and a lieutenant-colonel would say he was going to take it, so who is to argue. Sergeant Essex and I worked out a system. Essex was a barrel-chested lumberjack from British Columbia, and not someone you would argue with in a physical sense; so this was a help to start. The modus operandi was this. He would stay at our chosen site and say to anyone: "My Commanding Officer has ordered me to stay at this location as our new headquarters", Of course, Commanding Officer usually meant lieutenant-colonel; he was careful never to say Captain Grant. This worked very well throughout the whole war, but after we got to Bad Zwischenahn I was visiting Corps Headquarters and Major Ron Marks, the General Staff Officer Air, said in a joking way: "Yes, after 2 Special Wireless has chosen its location, the rest of the army can then look around and dig in". Pursuing the background of this remark, I found out what had happened when I had asked Essex to get us a real nice billet for our final location in Germany. Essex had chosen a school building and lo and behold a major showed up saying: "Sorry, Sergeant, we need this building" to which Essex gave the usual reply. The same to the lieutenant-colonel who followed. Finally Lieutenant-General Simonds, the Corps Commander, arrived and said "I'm sorry, Sergeant, but I need this building for a hospital", At that point Essex said "Yes sir", saluted and left.
While there we relaxed. As I was an amateur photographer I took photographs of the unit, dividing it into groups of about ten men with their associated vehicles, I developed the film in my little caravan which the drivers had built for me on a fifteen-cwt general service truck. Also, having liberated a certain amount of German Air Force darkroom equipment, I was able to make one thousand enlargements so each member of the unit had a complete set of ten.
The unit was disbanded - it just happened that way. Part I Orders, 2 Cdn S.W, Section Order #22, 2 June 1945 paragraph 6 general states: "this is the last Part I Order of this unit on its disbandment on the 26th June 1945. Best of luck to all. A.S. Grant Officer Commanding 2 Cdn SW Section".
The army system for returning to Canada came into effect. Point scores were totalled for everyone. There was a number one priority however. If you would volunteer to fight in the Pacific war, you could be on the first troopship home. After that it was a case of a formula involving the number of years of army service, the number of years of service overseas, etc. The men were then all posted to holding units according to their individual scores and the unit ceased to exist.
Now a short comment on the leave system for troops in the field. To relax the officers and men, a leave system was set up to give everyone about three days away from the unit every three months or so. Sometimes you have to be lucky about the timing. It turned out for Captain Dick Hanneson and me that our leave coincided with the taking of the surrender. So we had a quick drink with the men in celebration, grabbed our kits and were driven to the nearest train station. We went all the way back to Paris and arrived at the Canadian Officers' Club. I believe it was called the Maple Leaf Club and was right next to the Opera House on a second or third floor of a big building. We arrived there the night of the official Victory in Europe Day, the 8th of May. Without going into detail, let's just say it was a terrific night to be in Paris.End of Pull
The Human Factor
Originally this started as a technical narrative and overview of a Y unit's operations, but I could not keep from reflecting on the human contributions which made the unit a success.
Armies are primarily organizations of people rather than machines. How well the men are trained, how well they are led and how good their morale is will show up in their performance, team work, and pride in the unit. There are other words for this like "esprit de corps". I have always felt that esprit de corps in RC Sigs units rated very high amongst all army units and being somewhat prejudiced I would say the highest.
In my case, I started in the Permanent Force with a group of about 400-500 professional soldier signallers that existed before World War II. With foresight Colonel Elroy Forde, the Father of the Corps, recruited only potential signallers with a high educational standard because he foresaw the need for drawing on this nucleus for officers in the next war. We became professional soldiers through the courtesy of the Corps Regimental Sergeant-Major T.J. Wallis, an ex-Royal Marine, a legend of discipline and military bearing, yet under it all, a wonderfully fine man. He and Colonel Forde forged the esprit de corps of the Signals so deep none of us could ever forget it or ignore it. I like to think, with this guidance to Bill and me, we were able to imbue embers of these qualities into our wartime special wireless section.
I now provide an acquaintance with the activities and responsibilities of the various groups of soldiers in day-to-day living and operations starting with the Intercept/ Direction Finder Operator. He was the reason all the rest of us were there.
Intercept/Direction Finder Operator
When the intercept operator placed his earphones over his ears he entered the "war of the ether" as it has been aptly called, and joined all its inhabitants, the radio signals of friends, enemies, and bystanders. His brain had been trained to recognize and identify all these spectrum occupants.
The art of interception included operating through interference created by the strong signals of various allied military wireless stations. The saturation level from local signals was usually reduced by locating the Y unit some distance from the Corps Signals Wireless Park.
The operator's main hardware tool was the good quality, high performing radio receiver, the HAC, which was known in those days as a "single signal" type of receiver. This description meant that by judicious use of the receiver's controls and their manipulation, together with the band-pass circuitry built into the receiver, the operator could make it very "frequency selective" and reduce the interference problems to as low a level as was possible within the limits of the existing technology of the day.
The operator did not have available any high-performing directional aerials to further enhance the reception. The numerous changes of location and mobility of a field Y unit dictated the use of simple aerials, easily assembled and disassembled. Also, we had to maintain a low physical profile for camouflage purposes. For these reasons, we also used transportable vehicle-mounted loop antenna direction finders rather than the more accurate fixed-installation Adcock arrays.
With these tools, training, dedication, and above all an agile mind the operator did a commendable job. His mind was a "signal recognizer" developed through experience and training. When he went into a "search" mode, he had to listen to the radio signals, identify them as to origin, select out an enemy signal, and then pass the intercepted messages, signalling preambles and chat to the Wireless Intelligence staff to ascertain if this was of current interest and thus would add in any way to the intelligence picture. If so, it became an intercept assignment. The organizer of all the set van activity was the supervising operator.
When assigned to DF duties the operator had a lonely existence. He was one of a crew of four men isolated, off by themselves for months at a time with the only contact through a daily ration and mail run by truck or despatch rider, or the wireless link back to the unit. His immediate neighbours could be anyone, infantry, artillery, armour or civilians. The important thing was that he be located for a good DF baseline for "fixing" purposes, low site errors, and within the radio intercept range of his targets. His operational role was similar to that of the intercept operator; that requiring rapid tuning of the direction finder receiver, rapid identification of the targets, precise timing in the taking of DF bearing, and then communicating the results.
Other basic tools of the operator included the log form and the message form known as the "red forms" because they were printed in red to ensure they were easily identifiable and not mixed in accidentally with ordinary communications material. It was on these paper forms that he documented his output in "hand-printed" writing. Filling in the logs required that the operator record the usual information entered on most communications logs such as time, date, frequency, call-signs, mode of transmission, and serial numbers. Additionally it was the main work sheet for the Wireless Intelligence analyst. Here the operator gave not only information sent by the enemy, but notes on all his observations of peculiarities, unusual procedures, identifiable equipment differences induced into the signal - chirpy notes, key clicks and any personal sending habits of the enemy operator. As the coverage of a new net progressed and different stations showed up, he developed the net diagram with associated call-signs on the net. In addition, the entire message preamble was copied onto the log including the first two cipher groups in the text if it was a cipher message. These groups contained the deciphering keys for the message and they were important to the higher-level signal intelligence processing of ULTRA output from the German "Enigma" enciphered messages.
In filling out the message form, the preamble was duplicated onto the form as it was previously entered into the log, making a double entry necessary for the operator while the intercepted enemy operator continued to send. It can be appreciated the operator could be a very busy man. The operator lived and thought as a member of the enemy signals net he was covering.
Another group of men in the unit was our three motorcycle despatch riders - called DRs. Our Y wireless net did not have much signalling capacity. Hence, it had to be reserved for urgent operational information handling. Morse code enciphered with a system called the Brigade SS frame was used on the net. It used a daily changer one time sheet overlaid with an opaque plastic sheet with windows. The system was very slow but considered very secure. For volume communications our life blood was the despatch rider. These three men did wonders for us in many ways and under all kinds of conditions. This included the daily runs with operational material to the Army level and the flanking Corps level Y units. They had many other duties, including convoy control, locating our upcoming ration and petrol duty trucks, leading them into the new unit locations, and maintaining contact with the DF detachments. They also acted as a source of information in fluid situations on the locations of other Army units of importance to us. Sadly, Red Hunter, on of the three, did not make it back to Canada due to kidney failure, attributable to the hazards of the job and possibly aggravated by a motorcycle accident while we were in England.
Drivers and Mechanic
The vehicle drivers and vehicle mechanic were one of the larger groups of men in the unit. They gave us our mobility. They carried the bulk of the heavy work and chores in the unit, including the convoy runs, the vehicle maintenance, and duty runs for food, gasoline and stores, and also the DF detachment support runs. They had guard and camp duties. Together, they were a good solid group and I knew when we were on long moves through strange country that every vehicle would show up at the end of the move. Corporal Lyons, the vehicle mechanic, was "tail end johnny" and with any vehicle in trouble he and the driver concerned would have it back on the road, one way or another. We had a record, which says it all, of never having lost a vehicle, except due to enemy action, right from Normandy through to Germany.
I benefited from their ingenuity once we were in Germany. While at our Cleve location, Lyon suggested that maybe I should have a caravan and offered to have one constructed by the drivers on one of our fifteen-cwt General Service trucks. The idea certainly appealed to me and they did a fine job, giving me a luxury living quarters with a bed, writing desk, washing sink and mirror; this I used till the end of the war. It also became a photographic darkroom with enlarger which was put to good use for my and the unit's benefit.
One person I developed a close bond with was Dan Blanchard, my batman-driver. This trade description, as listed in our unit establishment, is a British Army term which seems degrading to the ears of most Canadians, but in actual fact the job was anything but that. He had all the duties and responsibilities of the other drivers, but in addition had his camp chores centered around the small officers group together with the batman of the Wireless Intelligence Section. We travelled most of the time together and developed an unspoken respect and camaraderie for each other. We worked as a team on unit moves, and I always knew that when I was preoccupied with the unit's problems my personal kit and bedding would always appear at our new location.
On one occasion, Blanchard and I took a day off from the war when we were not in close contact with the enemy. Our unit had bypassed Dieppe and continued up into the Abbeville area for its next stop. However, we took the jeep, a Bren gun and some food, and travelled back along the deserted coastal road, the "West Wall" area. Past road blocks, mined road verges and fields filled with upright posts wired with elevated wire grids armed with grenades to counter any airborne landing attempts by the allies, till eventually we arrived at Dieppe. There, I bought some flowers and paid respects to my younger brother, Flight Lieutenant D.M. "Bitsy" Grant, DFC at the Canadian war cemetery where he was buried. We then returned to our unit.
Then there were the cooks. How do you feed 100 men for three years on army rations and keep them happy? I am sure the cooks had their frustrations as well as their satisfactions. It has been said an army marches on its stomach and I for one would not deny it. We had three cooks, Corporal Curik, and Privates Wistard and Harman, all quite different in temperament. Curik had his dry humour and was very much aware of his responsibilities. Wistard was affable, light hearted and determined to enjoy every minute of life. Harman was studious and on the quiet side. Together they made a good team. We organized the unit with only one kitchen whereas some of our British counterpart Y units set up a separate kitchen for the officers and detached one of the cooks to it. I felt we should eat the same food, prepared in the same manner from the same pots as that of the men. This way, when the food became boring and bland, the officers were as anxious to improve it as were the men and we were in a better position to do something about it.
Food for the Canadian Army came to us through bulk input from Canada to the British Royal Army Service Corps who then mixed it in with their other sources for rations and we effectively drew British Army rations. The U.S. Army in England maintained their own supply lines right back to the US. The British units were also backed up with the Navy, Army, Airforce Institute (NAAFI), an organization we were aware of, but no one bothered to inform us of the small extra issues of eggs, condiments, and other niceties available as supplements to improve the variety of meals. This was found out after we had arranged an unofficial exchange of cooks for about a month with the British 108 Special Wireless Section while we were in England. This exchange was to enable both units to pick up any cooking tricks to add to the daily menu variety.
I also "negotiated" for a suckling pig with Captain Shepherd, Officer Commanding of the 108th, who had learned "survival" in Africa with the 8th Army. It cost us two Canadian battledress uniforms which were a nicer green colour than the British brown ones. Also, ours were not impregnated with a white anti-gas powder which made theirs very stiff and uncomfortable. The pig's birth had been concealed by a farmer from the agriculture registration inspector. Shep had obtained a couple of them. We kept our pig alive and growing in the unit for we were getting close to leaving for Normandy, and I wanted a good sendoff meal for the unit. A few days before we left, I let Curik know that it would be a good time for a nice fresh pork meal.
Once we were in Normandy, the supplies alternated between periods of boxed and fresh rations depending upon the movement situations in the ebb and flow of operations. Boxed rations came in cardboard boxes, each box being a 24 man-day ration pack which could be used for 24 men for one day, or one man for 24 days, and any combination of men and days as long as it multiplied out to 24.
The low point of our boxed ration existence came when we would open up the tinned can with the main meal ingredient to find a horrible concoction of herring in a gooey tomato sauce. This occurred all too often, and I swore that when I got back to Canada I would stuff it down someone's throat. We actually went short in eating our rations because no one would eat this mess, and we just kept storing unopened cans of it in one of the trucks. We tried bartering them away with local civilians but after an initial introduction to it they would not take it even as a gift. I don't remember what eventually happened to the cache but maybe someday one of the cooks will enlighten me.
We were in the Calais area when we reached one of these low points. We put our heads together for a solution. One of our better ones was the making of a field oven out of sheet metal dug into the ground and fired by a flamethrower "life buoy" shaped tank. It was intended as an infantry man-carried flame throwing unit but was equally useful to us for the oven. After successfully bartering with the locals for baking powder and other condiments, the cooks gave us some of our nicest meals complete with cakes, cookies, and pies.
I was saddened to hear after the war that Cpl Curik was killed in a car accident shortly after returning to Canada.
Electrical and Electronic Maintenance
Electrical and electronic maintenance fell upon the shoulders of Corporal Stan Lucas and his electrician Signalman Siwak. Lucas was, of course, a key man to operations because our intercept was only as good as the state of the equipment. I never remembered him becoming overly excited and with his very even temperament he seemed to carefully plan and carry out his workload. He always had things under control and the equipment in top-notch condition.
We had one man in the unit, Signalman Kay, classified as general duties. Kay's biggest contribution, besides helping in the many undefined mundane tasks which showed up, was that of the unit shoemaker. After completing his qualifying course and being issued with a large leather bag of tools and supplies, he proceeded to keep the unit "on its feet" through application of these talents throughout the campaign.
Another key group in the unit were the senior NCOs, these being the two sergeants and the lance sergeant who worked closely with Lieutenant A.H. "Al" Wilkinson, his replacement Lieutenant "Vic" Lodge, and myself. Of these men I cannot speak too highly. With Sergeant "Butch" Essex organizing the personnel and on occasions cracking the whip, Sergeant Speed keeping the supplies coming forward and under control, and Lance Sergeant Lorne Long detailing duties and organizing the operators, everything ran smoothly. Together with the Orderly Room Clerk, Corporal I.R. McKnight, documenting our administration, I felt we made a good management team.
Now a final comment and with it the statement that, I believe, I am a second generation "siginter". In 1914 my father went overseas during World War I with a Signal unit. While there, he decided that he would like to get into the new thing called the Royal Flying Corps and was transferred to it; he ended up in the technical side. He was an aerial photographer, a developer of electrically-heated flying suits, and a signaller sending back information and directing railway gun fire. He was quite an inventive person and received an award of fifty pounds from the British government for a couple of signalling device inventions. Also, he won the Medaille Militaire given to him by the French and, as a boy, I asked him what it was for. He told me that when he was flying as an observer and directing railway guns to fire, it was a pretty slow business. It took quite a while to range the guns and when the shell came over he would spot the hit. Having nothing else to do he would also copy German wireless communications and watch their shells landing and spot them. In due course, he found he was getting repeats and began to understand the German fire plans. I understand in some cases he had these plans several hours before the shelling. One day, he copied a large fire plan and on noting the target area found a new French regiment had been moved in. He informed the authorities and they had sufficient time to take evasive action. He saved many lives and was awarded the Medaille Militaire. On that basis, I say I am a second generation siginter.
In a once "Most Secret" intelligence directive, now declassified, that relates to and helps document Major Bob Grant's story there is the admonition to all that while there is little secrecy about the bare fact that interception of enemy wireless traffic is carried out, all else connected with the activity must be treated as highly classified. As a result, even those of us who considered ourselves as being at least partially in the business for many years - by being in wireless, or signalling - knew little or nothing of the people or the work involved in sigint. To the general public, sigint is surely one of those cloak and dagger activities normally left to fiction writers to write about.
But Bob Grant's account changes that situation! It relates a hitherto untold and unpublished part of the real history of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, adding another dimension to the already wide and vital role played by that distinguished Canadian Army organization long before its merger with RCAF Telecommunications and RCN communicators in the Communications and Electronics Branch of the unified Canadian Armed Forces.
The modern day C&E Branch Executive will be grateful to Captain N.A. Weir for his initiative in editing and publishing these revelations, not only because they fill a gap in the public history of a founding organization, but also because they present an exciting and human representation of a C&E Branch activity. May they also inspire the hope that there is another Bob Grant out there, still keeping the record for us.
J.D. Richards Brigadier-General
Colonel Commandant Communications and Electronics Branch
Appendix I - Award of Member of the Order of the British Empire
Award of Member of the Order of the British Empire to
Captain Robert Stuart Grant
The Royal Cdn Corps of Signals
The valuable intelligence obtained through the interception of enemy wireless traffic by 2 Canadian Special Wireless Section throughout the entire period of the European campaign was due to the outstanding manner in which its commander, Captain Grant, carried out his duties. Throughout the campaign this officer was tireless in his reconnaissance for sites which would produce the greatest amount of information. By the bold and skillful deployment of his resources, together with his outstanding technical handling and keen leadership, he made a most valuable contribution to operations.
Appendix II - Nominal Rolls
Personnel Who Served With No.2 Canadian Special Wireless Section Type B
Captain R.S. Grant
Captain W.E. Grant
Lieutenant W.V. Lodge
Lieutenant J.A.H. Wilkinson
|B32453||Lance Corporal||Bingham, T.D.|
|B32835||Lance Corporal||Coulson, W.L.|
|B32445||Lance Corporal||Folkead, G.R.|
|H95445||Lance Corporal||Green, G.E.|
|B32444||Lance Corporal||Greenleese, C.S.|
|A 114366||Signalman||Holden, A.R.|
|K77478||Lance Sergeant||Long, L.E.|
|K71435||Lance Corporal||MacLean, A.H.|
|B50012||Lance Corporal||Paquette, K.J.|
|D116374||Lance Corporal||Park, H.M.|
|A68222||Lance Corporal||Sheffiel, C.J.|
|B57273||Lance Corporal||Stoner, R.A.E.|
|D116411||Lance Corporal||Wert, W.R.|
|K71728||Lance Corporal||Whiting, R.S.|
|H38944||Lance Corporal||Willis, D.G.A.|
|D116353||Lance Corporal||Yanofsky, H.|
Personnel Who Served With No. 2 Canadian Wireless Intelligence Section Type B
This section of the original publication has not yet been transcribed
Appendix III - First Canadian Army Intelligence Directive No.4
This section of the original publication has not yet been transcribed
Appendix IV - Field Standing Orders Canadian Y Unit Type B
This section of the original publication has not yet been transcribed
Appendix V - Unofficial Wartime Diary
This section of the original publication has not yet been transcribed
Appendix VI - Technical War Diary: February and March 1945
This section of the original publication has not yet been transcribed
- Originally Published in Communications and Electronics Newsletter 1986 Special Wireless Edition