Mid Canada Line “War” Stories

Saga’s, stories, tales, (and lies) from those who served on the Mid Canada radar Line.




The Cuban Missile Crisis.

By Bruce Jorgenson

Suddenly some of the Air Force guys at Stoney Mountain started carrying revolvers. That was kind of a scary thought. All those inexperienced guy carrying guns. One night the Sergeant (there was only one on the base) was showing another guy how to load the revolver in a room off Ops, when the gun went off accidentally, firing through the wall into the Ops room. I have noticed different letters in the guestbook that refer to Cuban Missile crisis. It probably stands out in everyone’s memory.

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The Last Flight of Helicopter CF-JTH.

By Cal Booth During my year at SCS-500 (Winisk) in 1964-65, I spent as many of my days off as possible flying in the helicopters or the old twin-engined Anson (“Bamboo Bomber”) operated by TransAir. In all, I made 67 trips. I visited every DDS from Site 412 in the east (located on Bear Island in the middle of James Bay) to Site 524 in the west (just inside Manitoba).

One such flight was particularly memorable. At approximately 10am on a clear, calm morning, pilot Pender Smith lifted off from Winisk airport, carrying myself and one other passenger, bound for Site 503. We never got there.

About 5 minutes into what would have been a 15-minute flight, the helicopter’s engine quit cold. As you may know, a helicopter doesn’t just fall out of the sky when the engine quits. However, ideally it needs short ground-run to make a good emergency landing. In this case, the “ground” being muskeg and bush, a ground-run was not possible. The end result was the helicopter was totally destroyed. We literally rolled it into a ball.

CF-JTH crash site photo.

Photo of CF-JTH before its unfortunate end.

All three of us walked away without a scratch. Although we weren’t more than 5 miles from the airport, walking back was impossible due to the muskeg. Another helicopter had gone further east a little earlier and we knew his return path would bring them within a mile of our location. So, we readied the flare gun and waited.

After about 2 hours, we heard him in the distance. We let him get as close as we dared, fearing if their viewing angle became too great, they wouldn’t see the flares. Just to be sure, we sent up 3 flares as quickly as we could re-load and fire. It turned out our fears were unfounded. Both the pilot and the front seat passenger saw the first flare the instant in cleared the trees!!

After our return to the airport and a cup of coffee, the pilot insisted I go for a ride with him in another helicopter. This was a wise thing he did. Although I was a little shaken by the crash, this ride was the best medicine. Three years later, after leaving the RCAF, I obtained my Commerical Pilot’s license (on airplanes) but my plan to become a helicopter pilot was ultimately thwarted by a slight vision problem in one eye.

For me, the MCL was an adventure — one I shall never forget. I was fortunate enough to obtain a set of the official crash photos and also we cut out the piece of fuselage that has the registration letters painted on it. It hangs on the wall here in my computer room.

Cal Booth


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Bringing the Cold War a little Closer.

By Carl Reade

In late 1961 or early 1962, an incident occured that brought the “Cold War” a little closer to home for me. I was working the midnight shift, alone, at Bird, suddenly the radio came alive with a voice calling “Anthrax Control, Anthrax Control this is Baker 58, do you read?” I responded, saying I read him ‘loud and clear’, how me, over? He could read me 5×5 then proceeded with his message/request. He wanted me to contact his home base and requested an immediate return to base and clearance to go to ‘angels 75’, the reason was that he had ‘a red light on’!!! I contacted his home base and after explaining everything to the Duty Controller and exchanging correct ID and authorization, time codes, got the necessary clearances. I called Baker 58 and after exchanging the correct authorization, time codes, give him his clearance to return to base and climb to angels 75. I then requested the type of aircraft, he replied that Baker 58 was a Baker 58. It was then I realized that I had a SAC B-58, Hustler, aircraft that was carrying A or H bombs that had a red light on. The red light could mean anything, from something minor to something much more serious. I did not hear of any B-58’s crashing or digging a big hole in Manitoba anytime after that incident so I assume the plane and crew made it back to base without further incident, but it did make the ‘cold war’ more realistic for me.


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Hello World!.

By Cal Booth

It was on a graveyard shift at Winisk. Around 2am, a very bored Canadian Marconi tech wandered into the Ops Room with his coffee and sat down in front of the centre console. A few minutes later, one of the links was triggered. While I was up to tend the chart recorder, the tech reached up and grabbed the VHF Air/Ground/Air microphone, hit the push-to-talk button and said, “Hello world, this is Winisk — Over”, and returned the mic to its hook. A few seconds later, the VHF speaker came alive with, “Hello Winisk, this is the world — Over”. The Tech’s jaw nearly hit the floor. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. I immediately recognized the familiar radio sound of a PanAm “Clipper” and about five minutes later, he called in with a position report — (for those who were there) passing over “Big Owl Radio”. Ahhh, the good ‘ole days.


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Talking Machine??

By Eric Defrae

218 Was the first site to be unmanned. There must have been a new tech on the Test board, I was at 215,and this is what I heard on the EOW.

“218 300”

“218 300”

This went on for some time

“218 300”

Unknown Voice. “218 is an unmanned site”

“218 218 300”

Unknown Voice “218 Iis an unmanned site”

“218 218, Is that 218”

Unknown voice. “Yes and us machines don’t talk to humans”

Anybody on the line knew that the voice was Morris Stnwniczy

I know that is the wrong way to spell his name, can anybody help out? I would like to get in contact with him. He went to Bird as DDS Supervision and then to ADCOM.

Eric Defrae

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The Pub With No Beer!

By Stanley Salmon-Coker.

(originally Stan Coker)

How many people remember the pop tune “The Pub With No Beer”? It was my birthday, and I had been flown in from one of the sites. After a meal, it was all down to the bar for a drink. Later I sorted out my change and put it in the juke box, selecting the above record……….seventeen times . They tried disconnecting the machine, but as soon as it was reconnected up came that record.

Stan Coker

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The Polish Prince.

By John K. Leslie

In 1957 Ed Bustin, my cohort at DDS 218, left the MCL. A not so subtle rumour had it that two technicians manning a site near Hopedale, Labrador were at odds. My great fortune was to have one of the protagonists, Morris Stawniczi (?) arrive at 218, complete with .22 calibre rifle. We immediately agreed that each day we would take turns working outside the building. Morris wanted this arrangement, having had a belly-full of conflict at his previous site. After all, personnel had no choice in selecting co-workers. We were tossed together ad hoc. Sharp differences could arise between a pair of strangers, and why not? Thus the “war within”.

The work scheme was short-lived, although it continued in a general manner, as was necessary. On occasion, when supplies were low, one of us would take the rifle and hunt ptarmigan to supplant our stock of food. This was necessary in winter when weather conditions were such that the ‘chopper’ was grounded for up to two weeks at Knob Lake.

Morris and I were very compatible, although he professed to skate on the right wing of the political spectrum and I, the left. Indeed, we frequently chided and insulted each other and as often as possible found differences on a wide range of topics. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to believe that laconic Morris could not adjust to the peculiarities of anyone, including the obnoxious. And I’m sure I was obnoxious at times, especially when our pet dog and I played hide and seek in the equipment room. When I opened my scalp on the edge of jutting equipment during one chase, Morris scanned the gaping wound and in derision, stated: “Red suits you!”

Routine check of the POL tanks meant climbing on top, opening a port and lowering a plumb line. My error was to consider one of the tanks empty, save for a shallow layer of water at the bottom. The purge began just before I made the last turn on the drain plug. Morris grabbed the plug and secured it after a violent struggle with the devilish force of the effluent. Both of us were soaked to the skin and just stood for a few moments roaring with laughter. Knob Lake never discovered the reason for our excessive use of diesel, but Morris easily explained loss of perhaps 30 or 40 gallons. Now it can be told! During a short spell without smokes, in desperation I shoveled snow blocking the entrance to dormant construction tents. Perhaps the long-departed construction crew left a few cigarette butts. These I found, and obtained enough tobacco to roll for a few days, much to Morris’ amusement, if not disgust. A few years later I heard a report on the radio describing the death of a technician at (I think) DDS 218, at the hands of a black bear. Apparently, the bear unexpectedly came upon the technician at those very construction tents.

I last saw Morris as he stood at the chopper pad, clutching our small dog. Two technicians on a site to the east of Knob Lake were at war and I was sent to replace one of them. Another example of the “war within”.

Regretfully, I have been unable to find Morris listed in Canada411. But what is his surname, STAVNICKI, STAWNICZY, or ??. I have four photographs taken at DDS 218, including two of him posing with his precious .22 rifle. Another shows him at a water hole in winter with two buckets hanging from a shoulder yolk. A fourth photo shows him dealing with a broken track on the Cat tractor.

We very much enjoyed the rugged terrain and our simple Siberia-like life, but agreed that the MCL was one hell of a waste of public funds.

Many co-workers on the Line have faded from memory. Not Morris. He was a pleasure to know, a quiet, philosophical creature, and a fine chap. Morris, gdzie jest ciebie?

I am grateful to Eric Defrae for his poignant story “Us Machines”.

John K. Leslie

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UFO’s at 309

By Eric Defrae

There were three of us at the site at the time, it was 11 at night and we were having a smoke outside. Someone pointed at the sky and said, “what the hell is that”, it was like a shooting star but much slower. There was nothing on the radar. I called Operations and reported it, and was told that they were going to make out a UFO Report. I told them that I did not want to get mixed up with spaceships, and to forget it. I was asked, “Was it flying?” “Yes,” I replied. “Did l know what it was?” “No,” I said. “So it is an UFO!”.

After two more night sighting 5 minutes later each time I gave up reporting them”

By this time the EOW was humming about spaceships that had landed at 309. Even on 4380Kcs sites were telling choppers not land at 309, as the Purple People Eaters, were there. (Remember the song?) It was getting really bad. Over and over I was asked, “Are the space people still there?”

The last straw was when a chopper landed, and a guy jumped out with a very cheap camera (with flash bulbs) and asked, “Is this the site that sees the UFO’s?” I was on the verge of saying that they are asleep, and get very mad if I wake them, but thought better of it.

The last I saw of him, he was standing in the chopper taking pictures.

A few days later Operations called and asked if I was the guy the reported the UFOs. (Oh God, now what?) I pleaded guilty, and was informed that it had been identified as SPUTNICK 2. Wow and we were the only ones that saw it.

After that there was no more talk about UFO’s, back to peace, but never quiet on a DDS

Eric Defrae

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Proof of God’s Existance.

By Matt Mullaly

After 47 years, I guess I can fess up to a long-forgotten crime – theft of Federal Government property. Surely the statutes of limitations have run out by now.

“Red Nick” Nicholson and I were on the same wave (5th.) of MCL trainees at 407 St. Lawrence in Montreal. After training, he and I were both posted to the Great Whale Section (400) in July, 1957.

While we were waiting for delayed chopper transportation to our designated sites (me – 330 and him 410) because of fog, the powers that be (our Bell Ops. manager) decided to volunteer Nick and me to the NCO Mess manager to help stack stuff in one of their warehouses. The summer sea lift was on and freight was being unloaded from a ship anchored well out in shallow Hudson Bay to a converted WW2 vintage landing barge and then fork lifted to the various warehouses.

Now Nick and I loved to down a few? beers now and then and indeed , during our 6 months of training in Montreal, we had done that many times- especially at those two taverns across from the school on St. Lawrence..

And, would you believe what they had us stacking in that warehouse? BEER! Thousands of cases of Molson and Dow and Labatts. Nick and I saw the possibilities immediately. As soon as the fork lift guy left a load, we would stack the cases as quickly as we could and then sit back and enjoy several cans from our unlimited supply. This went on for most of the day.

Needless to say, we were feeling pretty good at the end of our shift. And readily volunteered for similar duty the following day. Unfortunately, that was not to be as the fog lifted and off we went to our postings.

However the kicker happened after supper that first evening. When Nick and I went to the NCO Mess, the manager singled us out and gave us free beer all evening for the wonderful job we had done.

If that isn’t proof of a Divine being, I don’t know what is.

Matt Mullaly

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Northern Propagation?

By Matt Mullaly

It was late in the evening in the Traffic Control Tower at Great Whale back in 1958

Suddenly a voice on the VHF alerted the sleepy tech on duty.

VOICE: 400 XXX123, how read? Over.

400: XXX123, I read you 5 by 5. How me? Over.

VOICE: Strength 3 and you’re breaking up. Over.

400 (in a pleading, defensive tone): Perhaps you’re farther from me than I am from you? Over

Matt Mullaly

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A Ticket Home.

By Matt Mullaly

Both the NCO (which included al non-management civilians) and officer’s messes (which included civilian managers and civilian pilots and the Mountie and the RC priest and the Protestant minister and the two female school teachers) at Great Whale followed Quebec law by closing at midnight, with last call around 11:30.

On a particular Saturday night, one of the Bell techs (Bill) discovered that even though last call had been sounded at the NCO mess, the Officers Mess had been granted an extension to stay open until 2:00AM for a special party. When he became a “little” vociferous in demanding equal treatment, the top level Bell manager at the site (Gibbie) was summoned to the NCO Mess and he proceeded lay down the law. After some preliminary discussion, the conversation became a little heated:

Gibbie: Listen, you punk, when I was your age, I was working on the (WW2) Alaska Highway Project.

Bill: Why the @#$% weren’t you in the service like my dad?

By the following week, Bill was back on his old Bell job in Montreal.

Matt Mullaly

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Is the Mother Lode Still at the Bottom of Hudson’s Bay?

By Matt Mullaly

The vital stocks for both the NCO and Officers’ mess in Great Whale River arrived on schedule via the sea lift of 1957. After a little while it was noticed that the odd can of Molson’s ale was “off”. This was then quickly remedied by a replacement can by staff. However, as more and more cans were found to be somewhat less than desirable and more “free” beers being given out, staff became concerned and notified Molsons in Montreal.

Molson’s sent a representative to Great Whale, who quickly became the most popular guy on site as he gave out copious quantities of free beer and, of course, replaced any of the “off” stuff.

His investigation isolated the problem to a particular batch by the serial numbers on the cans and replacements were arranged to be flown in. It was decided that the “bad” stuff (about 10,000 cases as I remember) would be put on the landing barges and dumped in Hudson Bay. It became fairly common knowledge that not all the beer got dumped. It seems that the dumping crew (unfortunately I wasn’t one of them) managed to bury several hundred cases in the fairly large beach and surrounding sand dunes. And, although the beer may not have met Molson’s standards, it certainly met most everyone else’s – especially if the stuff was free. And the secret was well kept.

I wonder if all the beer that was actually dumped in the bay is still there or has some enterprising type salvaged and recycled it?

Matt Mullaly

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More Than One Way to Kill a Bear.

By Matt Mullaly

After my basic training in Montreal, I was posted to the Great Whale (400) section of the line in July 1957. And after a few days at 400, with much trepidation, I took the weekly supply chopper to DDS 330.

I was 20 years old at the time and was about to become responsible for a DDS.

Upon arrival, Don, the resident tech who was on his way home, after spending a year on the line, introduced me to my new world. Bill (he cook), the living quarters, the equipment room, the diesel room, the survival hut and the area around the site. The building was on a rocky outcrop on a small hill with lots of muskeg close by as well as some dryer areas with small stunted spruce trees.

One area that Don (about my age) particularly wanted to show me was “the bear pit” which included one very dead black bear. Here’s the way Don explained it to me:

Periodically, for about a month, Don and the cook had seen a bear prowling around the site. Although they burned all of their garbage regularly, the bear continued to hang around. Don contacted the Mountie at Great Whale. He came and spent several days at the site, intending to shoot the bear. But, as luck would have it, there was nary a sight of the critter while the RCMP guy was there. And, of course, as soon as he went back to Whale, the bear reappeared.

As there was a strict rule against firearms on site, Don decided to try it his way. He rigged up a 6X6 metal grid with wires left over from those used to guy the tower. Then he put a big hunk of raw roast beef in the middle of the grid.. He wired both the grid and the beef back to a 220V circuit on the A/C power panel and kept an eye out.

Sure enough, the bear appeared that same afternoon as Don watched for it. The poor beast did the expected and, when the juice flowed, in reaction to the AC, it clenched the meat more tightly in its mouth and gripped the wire grid more tightly with its claws, thus ensuring its own demise. Don said that it was smoking at the end.

By the time I arrived on the scene, the bear, which I’d guess was relatively young (a few hundred pounds or so) was getting a tad high. And odor got higher as time passed. As a matter of fact, that part of the site stunk until the early winter snows came, which in those parts of the world was in late August.

Our instructors in Montreal had stressed that, in addition to all the techie stuff they taught us, we would need a fair amount of individual initiative to survive at those DDS’s. And this was my first example of what they meant.

Incidentally, in my two years on the line, mostly at DDS’s, I never saw another bear. And that’s not a complaint.

Matt Mullaly

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Cool Clear Water.

By Matt Mullaly

In spite of the fact that Northern Canada in the vicinity of the line contained thousands of lakes and rivers, water was always a problem at DDS’s.

This was partially because the sites were built on whatever high ground was available in the selected engineering area and because much of the easily available water there was swamp/muskeg water.

Consequently, in most cases, this meant lugging water from the nearest available lake or river.

Most DSS’s had a vehicle which we knew as a swamp buggy – one of the early vintage snow machines produced by Bombardier. It had a little enclosed space which housed the driver’s seat and controls, two caterpillar type tracks and a shelf above each track where 45 gallon water drums could be attached. In some places you can still see similar vehicles which are used to plow sidewalks.

Ours didn’t have plows and winters on the line presented specific problems for these vehicles as they easily got bogged down in deeper snow. They had a disposition to clear the snow beneath the tracks, leaving the rest of the buggy sitting on the snow – going nowhere.. In this situation, or if the vehicle broke down, as they were notoriously unreliable, the only other option for water was melted snow. This chore was performed in the diesel room which was always warm. I’m not sure of the ratio but if memory serves, it must have taken 40 gallons of snow to extract a gallon of water. It certainly seemed like that at the time.

In summer months, some relief was provided by rain water as the buildings were equipped with eavesthroughs feeding 45 gallon drums at all four corners.

Rainwater, although generally pure, has few minerals and is quite bland to the taste. On my first assignment at site 330, we added slices of lemon or lemon juice to give it a little character. Over time, Bill, the cook, and I realized that , in spite of adding more and more lemon additive, the water wasn’t tasting all that good.

A little investigation of the rain barrels (they had removable wooden tops) quickly revealed the problem. Hundreds (thousands?) of dead maggots on the bottom of the barrels. The source of the maggots was determined to be dead birds which had flown into the tower or guy wires and had landed on the building roof. The pipes leading to the barrels had screens which neatly kept the rotting birds directly in the water flow.

Needless to say from then on, all drinking water on that site came from the lake, which was a half mile away.

Matt Mullaly

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Goosey, Goosey, Gander.

By Matt Mullaly

It was 9:00PM or so at DDS 330, on an autumn evening in 1957. Bill, the cook and I were playing cribbage and listening to the radio – probably WKBW from the Albany area, WPTR from Buffalo or WWVA (all country music ) from Wheeling, West VA, Those were the stations that we could receive fairly consistently after dark.

Suddenly there was a hell of a THUMP at the diesel room end of the building. My first reaction was “Oh s**t, diesel problem”. But a visit there showed the on-line diesel unit purring like a kitten. And a walk around the building with a flashlight showed absolutely nothing.

This was more than a little disconcerting because, as far as I knew, the closest people were 30 miles both east and west at the next DDS sites. And the only bear in the vicinity, at least the only one I was aware of, was slowly decomposing outside. (see BEAR anecdote above).

Anyway, back to the crib game. About an hour later, another THUMP at the same area of the building. Same reaction – same result. Except that now I (a 20 year old rookie tech responsible for all this federal property) was getting very concerned. And who does one call for a THUMP problem – at 10:00 at night – in the wilds of Northern Quebec?

Although the THUMPS did nor reoccur, I certainly didn’t get much sleep that night. The cook slept well though as he didn’t give a s**t – Not in his job description.

Next morning, the mystery was quickly resolved. Two geese, on their way to warmer climes, had had an argument with the tower or the guy wires. They lost and both ended up on the metal roof of the building. No wonder they made such a noise as they were big buggers.

The good news was that we had fresh goose at 330 for quite a while. Cooking what I wanted WAS part of the cook’s job description. (big grin)

Matt Mullaly

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Anecdotes from the Mid-Canada Line.

By Rene Trumpler

An interesting anecdote that I recall at Cape Henrietta Marie was the amphibious barge that was floated ashore to the beach (there may have been two, I can’t recall). The vehicle was I believe diesel powered and about 15 feet long and designed with huge broad tires that cleared the flat bottom of the barge by no more than a foot. The intent was to transport material, e.g. oil, hardware, etc. from ships to the beach and then over the muskeg to a road where it could then be transported to our site about 3 to 5 miles inland. The cost of the vehicle must have been well over $100K. To make a long story short, the initial test run which consisted of an unloaded barge, got as far as the beach and into the muskeg perhaps another 100 to 200 feet and then bogged down. I was there for over a year and it never once moved again. In all probability it is there to this day.

Another story involved George Morrison a 25 year old Site Engineer at Cape Henrietta Maria. George was a Nova Scotian and a recent graduate of Dalhousie University. As was usual each morning, George dopped by the equipment room to shoot the breeze and have a cup of coffee. As I recall, he wasn’t there very long before he fell to the floor and died from what appeared to be a massive heart attack. We attempted all the artificial respiration techniques we knew, but to no avail. Probably it would not have helped George, but in the situation we felt helpless and frustrated by the slow response we received from the medical people located at the SCS in Winsk. In fact, it wasn’t till late in the afternoon (approximately 8 hours later) before a plane arrived with a doctor who pronounced him dead. That day, moral was pretty low amongst our group of about 25 site emplyees and Winisk became the target of our frustration. The feeling was that nobody cared about us at 410. as a result rumours started, one of them being, “did you hear that poor George was sent home COD”.

Subsequent to the death the only contact I had with George’s family was a response to a letter I received from his sister wanting to know the circumstances surrounding his death.

As I recall there was a second death at our site which involved a construction worker who fell in the process of working on the tropospheric 10K antenna. I believe he worked for Dominion Bridge. However we were not very involved in this incident.

Another experience we had involved our cook Cliff who worked for the catering outfit (perhaps Crawly MacKracken). In the process of moving the kitchen and eating quarters from the temporary location to the new facilities, Cliff took it upon himself to issue an edict that no one was to have any coffee, or food, until the move was completed. This of course didn’t sit too well with our crew who were used to having their morning brews. Threats were made by the two sides in this dispute and I became involved when one of our staff said, “I had better talk to Cliff because I’m going to kill the bastard if he doesn’t smarten up”. At this point I approached Cliff and suggested that the guys were quiet willing to make their own coffee and I guaranteed him that noone would get in his way. Cliff then issued his second ultimatum which was, “if the guys get coffee, then I quit”. My response was, “its your choice Cliff”. And quit he did. Now that wouldn’t have been so bad as we could have had another cook from the SCS within a day or so, had the weatherman cooperated. This was not the case and because of inclement weather it took about 5 days before the new cook arrived by plane. Cliff sat around on his fat a** for the five days and did nothing. As I think of this now, it is a wonder that Cliff wasn’t killed.

Rene Trumpler

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Doppler Juice.

By Matt Mullaly

Booze at DDS’s was strictly verboten. And, of course, being forbidden fruit made it that much more desirable. Generally, in my time there, most of the sites were indeed dry. I occasionally had a buddy smuggle a few beers from the mess at Great Whale and send them to my site but that only teased. And knowing the guys working at Whale had full access to a wet canteen didn’t help.

Mechanics visited the sites at regular intervals and spent a week or two performing routine maintenance on the three diesels. And it was Ken, a diesel mechanic, who taught me about the mysteries of distillation. Raw materials were locally obtained – sugar, tinned fruit, fruit juices, molasses, yeast – all easily ordered from Whale. Fermentation was accelerated by locating the batch of mash in the diesel room, where it was always warm – and soon smelly.

After about a week, the stuff was ready to be “processed”. Again, the necessary equipment was readily available – a sealed metal container and a length of copper tubing formed into a spiral. This spiral was then placed in a pail with one end connected to the metal container and the other end protruding through a hole near the bottom of the pail. The mash was put in the container, which was then put on a burner of the electric stove in our kitchen and the pail with the copper spiral was kept filled with cold water.

Then, physics worked its magic. I would guess that we obtained about a half gallon of alcohol from the five gallon batch of brew. There was a rough and ready method to test the condensing booze, which was generally known as “doppler juice”. That was to set it afire with a match. When the output of the still no longer burned, the alcohol content was considered too low and the process was halted. I learned later that this process probably indicated an alcohol content of 90% or so – pretty deadly stuff. I’ve heard that on occasion, a little doppler juice in the carburetor was actually used to help start vehicles on cold mornings.

However, when mixed with fruit juice (roughly 10 to 1) , it was quite palatable as before, during and after dinner cocktails.

Ah, the joys of a misguided youth.

Matt Mullaly

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Enough to Spoil Your Whole Day.

By Matt Mullaly

One day in 1958, the chopper from 300 had flown out to 321 stopping at the various sites between 300 and 321 to deliver supplies, mail, personnel,etc.

321 was the western extremity of the Marconi section at the time and consequently was commonly used as a lunch and refueling stop by the helicopter crews. Unless weather changed, they normally flew back to 300 after lunch.

Whenever a chopper took off from a DDS, the tech there would normally announce that fact on the order wire. the common communications (party line type) channel between major site sectors. In my case, at DDS 324, all sites between 300 (Knob Lake) and 400 (Great Whale River) inclusive could speak to each other and be heard by everyone else in that sector.

The chatter after lunch that day went something like this:

Tech at Site 321: 318 – 321

Tech at Site 318: 321 – 318

321 : The chopper is on the pad ready to leave for your site.

318: Roger 321.

321: He’s just lifting off the pad.

318: Roger 321

321: Holy !@#$, he just crashed.

318: Roger 321

And indeed the helicopter had lifted off the pad and come down with a BANG. Apparently, the accident investigation committee subsequently determined that the problem was either water in the aviation gas (av-gas) or someone had inadvertently filled the fuel tank with diesel oil – I don’t remember.

But I’ll never forget that that exchange between 321 and 318.

Note: There were no injuries in this incident.

Matt Mullaly

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Alone in the Bush.

By Matt Mullaly

In the spring of 1958 I was posted to DDS 324 – the furthest site from Great Whale – our Sector Control Site.. I was a young 21 year old Bell tech and responsible for the site and the cook was about 40 and a veteran of Northern bush camps. And he didn’t appreciate being “told” what to cook and when by a young kid like me. But, whether he liked it or not, that was what he was there for.

He and I had absolutely nothing in common and a growing animosity soon developed. Unlike a quarreling married couple who were together through choice, he and I were there, 24 hours a day, simply because of a throw of the dice.

One of my escape ploys was alcohol. As, I had learned how to brew booze at my previous site, I put the necessary ingredients and hardware together. And, of course, I was aware that this was against the rules although no one had ever explicitly told me that and I hadn’t asked. And I shared the resultant booze with the cook although I ensured that both his and my consumption rates were reasonable, which didn’t always please him. And, day by day, our relationship deteriorated.

The chopper from Great Whale flew to our sites about once a week and as it arrived and left each site along the way, the resident tech would alert the tech at the next site to be ready to collect the mail, food, maintenance parts, etc. with minimal delay for the chopper people.

On a particular day, not only did the guys at the other sites relay chopper /departure information but they said that there were two of our bosses on it – our immediate supervisor and his boss. Something big going on here as those guys never left the comforts of Great Whale.. And they didn’t even leave the aircraft at any of those sites. But, when they reached 324, they all came off the chopper. And that’s when I knew that I had a problem.

Shortly after their arrival, my boss and his boss took me aside and asked me where the still was. I quickly realized that they knew and that the only other person who knew was the cook, who was “interviewed” in another room.

After a dressing down by my bosses and being told about the evils of drink and threatened with immediate expulsion back home (this from these two guys who frequented the Officer’s Mess in Great Whale every night) I was told that there was another “problem”. They said that the cook had just quit and would I be willing to stay at the site until they sent another cook.

Seeing that I seemed to be between the proverbial rock and hard place, I agreed.

Long story short. I spent three weeks alone at that site. In spite of regular requests (after two weeks, daily requests) to my boss, they just couldn’t seem to find a spare cook. In retrospect, It’s fortunate for both them, Bell and indeed me that I didn’t have an accident out there alone. Part of my regular activities included using the swamp buggy for various site work as well to go to the lake for water.

I knew that I was being punished and by the second week, in frustration, I stopped washing the dishes. As there was a copious supply of dishes at all the sites to cater to visiting maintenance crews, chopper crews stopping for meals, etc. , the site had plenty. When, after three weeks, they finally sent a replacement cook, upon entering the site, the first thing he saw was the great pile of unwashed dishes. He wanted to quit right then and there but as the chopper had already gone, he was stuck there. He turned out to be an OK guy.

By the way, the day they visited, my bosses took my still with them. I often wonder where it ended up.

Matt Mullaly

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By Matt Mullaly

Part of my tour on the line included a stint traveling alone to each DDS in the Great Whale (400) sector to update the various equipment with the latest hardware modifications. That was a wonderful job as I got to visit every site in the sector and spent a week or so on each. This allowed plenty of time to get to know each tech/cook team (and their ideocryncies) and to explore the countryside at each site. In the 400 sector, the environment varied from muskeg (324) to hilly and relatively dry (330) to proximity to a large river (the Great Whale) at 342 to the Hudson Bay shore (406) to a small island in James Bay (409).

Upon arrival at one site (403 I think), both the tech and the cook quickly made a point of letting me know that, in addition to being religious, they were teetotalers and didn’t appreciate alcohol or respect anyone who used it. I was non-committal but I could see that this wasn’t going to be a fun week.

On my first evening there, when supper was served, they bowed their heads and one said grace. There was a glass of fruit juice in front each of us, which was normal as we didn’t drink the local water on most sites.

I took a slug of my juice and BINGO!!!. My drink, as I quickly discovered that it was 10% fruit juice and 90% doppler juice (moonshine). Of course, their claim to holiness had been a ruse and we all thoroughly enjoyed the humour – and the booze.

Rather than being a trying week, that one turned out to be one of my most enjoyable ones.

Matt Mullaly

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I Didn’t See Anything!!

By Eric Defrae

It was one of those great winter days, blue skies, no wind. Another tech and myself were down at the airstrip at 410, when we saw smoke far out in the Bay. A ship? But the bay was frozen solid, nothing open for a ship.

We talked about it for awhile and thought that the best thing was to tell no one, as they would think that we were “bushed”(nuts), and l was thinking of the UFO at 309, so we kept quiet.

Some months later one of the guys was going on leave and we had a little party. Someone, who had a little to much to drink, jumped up and said that he had seen something that no one else had, and very proudly he said that he saw a ship in the Bay in the winter.

Someone else said he saw it too, then another one, and another.

It turned out that we ALL SAW IT but no one had said anything.

Eric Defrae

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The Lap of Luxury & the Canis Lupus (the Wolf).

By Eric Defrae

I had been a site tech for almost two years when Marconi took over SCS sites 400 500 & 600. There were lots of promotions, and among them was Morris (The Ukrainian). Although we had a rocky start we became great friends and remained so for the next 15 years.

A few days after the takeover I was sent to SCS 600, and at lunch met the Bell techs who were packing to go home. They were a great bunch, One of the fellows who joined the group found out that I was a “new” Marconi tech, and started to tell me horror stories. When I told him that I thought that I would be going on to a DDS site, the horror stories got worse. He proudy told me he had been here four months, but never been on a DDS site. He told me that he would give me three months and I would quit, I didn’t get a chance to say anything.

The next day I was given the last four eastern Manitoba DDS sites, and was dropped off while the chopper went on to pick-up the crew. It was great to see how flat Manitoba was compared to Labrador.

The first thing I did when I went inside was to look in the freezer. I saw beef, milk, pork and bacon. As I closed the door I stopped dead. MILK !! Good God it was fresh milk. I couldn’t belive it. In the living quarters were pleanty of books, and as I looked in the diesel room I remembered that the site was on well water and there was a FLUSH TOILET. WOW!! No more melting snow no more catching rain water from the roof, and scopping the dead birds out of the drums. No more calling for a water lift.

And then the rest of the crew arrived, Glen the cook, Gordy diesel man and Bill the electrician.WOW !! no more cooking for myself. It was like staying at a 5 star hotel, and getting payed.

It was a few months later, I think that it was at 530, Glen who slept in the small hut, he had gone for the night when one of the guys saw a wolf come on to the site, as if he owned it, (and maybe he did). He kept walking around the hut where Glen was, we hoped that he didn’t leave the hut. After awhile the wolf left.

In the morning Glen came in and asked if we’d seen ALL the wolves. He said he’d counted 12. He looked sad when we told him that it was just one that kept circling the hut.

I called Morris at 600, and asked if could he bring some “extra equipment” to the site. It went very quiet. I told him to send the model 303, then he knew that his rifle was the “extra equipment”. The following day he arrived with the “extra equipment”. We took a walk, circled some trees and came back on our same path. There were our foot prints AND the wolfs. He had been following us. We didn’t have the “extra equipment” with us so it did not take us long to get back to the site. We never saw the wolf again until the next month, when we tried to give him the hot foot. But that’s another story.

Eric Defrae

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Not Your Average Afternoon Stroll.

By John Rowe

DDS 342, April.14, 1957, Sunday, Weather clear and sunny.

“After lunch 4 of us (F-B foreman, electrician, laborer and myself) decide to take a walk, snowshoes and all. We left about 1 pm and headed off toward a small mountain about 2 miles distant. When we got there about an hour later we could clearly see site 400 about 5-6 miles away and after a short discussion decided to strike out for it. About an hour later we arrive at the river (Great Whale) but separated from it by 2 100′ cliffs covered in deep snow. We throw our snowshoes over the edge and climb down, rolling most of the way and getting thoroughly drenched in snow – in the boots, in the parka, in the pants, etc. – we continue along finally arriving at about 3:45. Met with a few of the guys who didn’t really believe we had come on foot, had a bite to eat and half an hour later set out for the return journey with 342’s tower as a guide. This leg of the trip was twice as tough as the first leg due mainly to fatigue and the fact that we had to climb back up those cliffs. Darkness set in but we had the tower light to keep us on course and 3 hours later made it back – dead tired, feet soaked and blistered, barely able to walk. The cook made us something to eat and I went straight to bed.”

John Rowe

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My Name is Swan.

By Roger Cyr

On the 1st of April 1955, I was transferred from Greenwood air base to a helicopter squadron at RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec. We were to provide air support during the construction of the Mid Canada radar lines along the 55th parallel.

A mixture of WW11, Korean War veterans and young airmen like myself who had joined the air force in the early ’50’s made up our squadron. Many of these men remain my friends after more than fifty years.

Once established at Bagtown, as most called it, my sergeant sent me to the flight line where I was to meet the NCO in charge of maintenance who’s name completely escaped my mind by the time I reached the hangar. A man standing behind a desk asked if he could help me and I said I was looking for the Flight Sergeant but I’d forgotten his name. It sounds like the name of a bird I said.

What is your name he asked? LAC Cyr I replied. Well, LAC Cyr I am the bird you are looking for. And, the name is SWAN, and don’t you ever forget it, for I am never going to forget yours.

He asked me to make a tent that could be used as a shelter when our technicians were servicing the helicopters away from base. He also said to send my sergeant to his office when he arrived.

When the sergeant arrived he walked over to a helicopter that was undergoing routine maintenance and climbed up on top and stood looking at the rotor blades. He told me to get him a long steel bar from the tool crib and hurry back. When I returned he was standing on the floor and ordered me to take out an eyebolt that was on top of the rotors. We can put a hole in the tent and that will help secure it when the bolt is back in.

That’s not a good idea Sarge I said. That bolt is there to hook a sling to when the mechanics are removing the heavy component. We could damage it if we try to remove it. That’s an order he said, just as FS Swan appeared. What the hell is going on here Cyr he asked? When I told him, he chewed the Sergeant out and told him to get out of his hangar and never return.

A man by the name of Caius Blackett and I made a crude cover and packed it for the trip north. When the squadron flew to Knob Lake on the 1st of May both of our names were on the manifest. We flew out of Knob for a month, ferrying men and equipment to the radar sites before returning to Bagotville when another crew took over. During the next three years we saw much of the sub-arctic as we continued working on the radar lines.

In January of 1956, the squadron moved to Rockcliffe, near Ottawa and my name was with the advance party. I knew by now that FS Swan never forgot my name. Nor me his!!

We never used the tent I made with the help of my friend.

Roger Cyr

March 23, 2002

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Who Dropped It??

By Roger Cyr

In June or perhaps it was late May of 1956 and I was back at knob Lake for the third or fourth time. After almost fifty years I have a difficult time remembering all the trips I made into the Eastern Sub Arctic during the two and one-half years I spent with 108 Comm Flt helping build the Mid-Canada Line.

An H-34 Sikorsky out of Knob Lake with three crew members aboard experienced engine trouble and sat down hard on the shores of one of the many lakes that dot the northern landscape. A camp containing civilian workers was near by and they were able to find shelter and get a message through to Knob describing their predicament.

For reasons known only to powers far removed from the rank of LAC it was decided that I should be flown out to “guard” the helicopter that lay on it’s side in the water and muskeg of an un-named lake along the 55th parallel. “We will be back to get you tomorrow.” The crew of the H-21 told me as they flew away over the lake and sparsely wooded hills in a westerly direction.

Fifteen minutes after leaving me to fend for myself they too experienced engine failure and smashed into a small clearing wrecking their machine and seriously injuring one of the civilian workers who they were transporting to Knob Lake.

Finally on the fifth day another H-21 arrived and I was on my way back to Knob. Not so I was informed, for it was then that I learned of the plight of the other helicopter and the reason I had been left so long “guarding” the helicopter in the lake. I was dropped off at the latest crash site to help with the salvage operation. When I arrived the H-21 was on its side with a long jagged gash down the fuselage where one of the blades had pierced the metal and severed the arm of a civilian worker.

A Tech Rep who was based in Ottawa and two senior officers were inspecting the damage and they recommended the chopper be airlifted back to Knob and eventually Ottawa where a more extensive inspection could be done. Although I cannot remember the Tech Reps name, he and I had met during the previous winter when he smashed into my new car in the Squadron parking lot. He was from the southern USA and had never experienced a Canadian winter!

It took us the better part of three days to winch the fuselage into a position where we could remove the engine and rotor heads. We prepared the helicopter for transport back to Ottawa and I returned to Rockcliffe having completed my tour at Knob.

I had been back at the squadron a week before the helicopter arrived looking more beat up then when I had last seen it. Senior Officers and Technicians arrived to inspect the damage, and when the Tech Rep recognized my face he called me aside and said, “you dropped it.” “It did not look like that when I inspected it at the crash site.” “What am I going to tell my Company and especially Squadron Leader Hyslop.” “This looks very bad for me suggesting to them that the ship could be repaired.”

“I was not there when it was airlifted out.” I said. They all left for a meeting in the CO’s office.

That afternoon I received a phone call from the Squadron Orderly Room requesting my presence in the CO’s office. I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach as I stood at attention in front of S/L Hyslop.

“Good to have you back Cyr,” he said. “I had a phone call from you mother when you were in Knob, she hadn’t heard from you for a while” “You should write home more often”

Photos of the damaged Aircraft

Roger Cyr

May 2005

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The Maple Leaf Hotel.

By Roger Cyr

In 1956 The Maple Leaf Hotel sat on the southeast corner of St. Laurent Boulevard and Montreal Road in what then was known as Eastview. This became a favorite watering hole for members of 108 Comm Flt from the nearby airbase at Rockcliffe.

When the Squadron moved from Bagotville in January of 1956 the advance party was billeted there for approximately one month. It was not long before we became friends with the proprietor, Bob Simpson who played football for the Ottawa Roughriders.

One of the many problems crews had when returning from northern duty on a weekend was with banking. This was long before ATM’s and if one returned to home base late Friday night or even Saturday cash money would be in short supply. We often pooled our few remaining dollars to have a party at the Maple Leaf with other crews who had been at Winisk or Great Whale River when we all got back from the north.

We had in the squadron a man from the city of Verdun who had a taste for the “Demon Rum” and the ladies. Not necessary in that order, but since he had been at Whale for a lengthy spell the latter was foremost on his mind.

I had arrived from Knob Lake late on a Friday and moved into the Hotel for the weekend where I planned to enjoy the pleasures of one of the many ladies who frequented the establishment. On Saturday just after lunch the person in question arrived along with perhaps thirty other unshaven, insect bitten members of our squadron and they immediately took up residence in the bar and began drinking and relating their stories with the men from Knob Lake. It was not long before their cash was depleted and many drifted away back to base or to the Hotel Office in hopes that Mr. Simpson would honor their cheque for twenty dollars.

The Hotel was booked and our friend had to secure lodging at the tourist cabins across the street. A considerable length of time had passed and when he had not returned to the party we became concerned that he may have fallen asleep. Another man whose name I cannot remember and I walked across the street to his cabin. The shades were up and we could see our friend walking back and forth clad only in his underwear. He was speaking in French with a young lady who wore tight fitting yellow toreador pants and a white sweater that emphasized a pair of 38’s concealed within.

When we entered they ignored us and continued arguing, and the conversation went like this:

“The price is twenty dollar in advance.” I heard her say. ” I only have ten bucks. I’ll give you the other ten on Monday when I get to the bank.” He said. “No it’s twenty now or I leave.” She said. “Loan me twenty Roger until Monday.” “I just got in from Knob myself, where am I going to get twenty dollars?” I told him. ” Hurry back to the Hotel and borrow twenty from Bob Simpson.” He pleaded. “He’s away on a road trip with the team” I offered as an excuse for not borrowing money from Mr. Simpson that would be of no benefit for me. “How about doing a free one then.” The man from Verdun asked. “No freebees.” the woman said. “Well then do it for love.” He offered as a last resort.

She walked to the door, turned and said.

“Love does not pay the grocery bill.”

Roger Cyr

May 2005

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Knob Lake.

By Roger Cyr

In May of 1955 the air force sent me to Knob Lake which is located between the province of Quebec and Labrador, right smack on the 55th Parallel. I had been in the north of Canada on several other occasions but this time I was to stay for awhile.

108 Comm Flt was providing helicopters and crews to fly and service them during the building of The Mid Canada Line. A line that was to stretch from Hopedale on the Atlantic coast to Dawson Creek, B.C. We were responsible for the eastern portion of the line.

I arrived along with twenty-five or thirty other airmen aboard a C-119 flying boxcar with enough spare parts to keep our choppers serviceable for the length of our mission, which was to last one month. We managed to erect a marquee tent to protect our equipment from the elements and went about cleaning up the landing pad of any loose impediments that would cause damage to our fleet when they were taking off and landing.

Several things occurred the first week that still sticks in my mind after the passing of fifty years. The first one is Kenny Durst speeding through the town of Shefferville towing a trailer with a load of debris from the helicopter pad and Dale Boston clinging precariously to the sides of the trailer. The safety officer of the iron ore company who thought he “owned” the town forbid him to ever enter “HIS” town again.

During the clean up of our work area one of the sergeants was directing a civilian dump truck using hand signals that were standard procedure to air force ME drivers. Unfortunately the driver was unfamiliar with these signals and did not apply the brakes when signalled to do so and backed his rig into a deep ravine standing the truck on it’s end. Another unhappy incident and from then on we had to provide our own vehicles and drivers.

In 1955 helicopters were still a novelty and the local inhabitants of the area would come by to look them over. One of the choppers was slightly damaged during one such visit and I was assigned the job of armed guard during the long evening hours. I was provided with a side arm and instructed to keep the visitors away from the fleet and answer any questions they might have. Little did they know that there were no bullets in the pistol! At least Barney Fife had one bullet, even though it was in his shirt pocket!

Nearing the end of my first evening as guard one of the Corporals who flew on the helicopters came by with some locals and saw me standing by “his” chopper and inquired as to what I was doing with the side arm. “Guarding the helicopters from the “Indians” I replied.

“Do you know my name?” he asked. “Yes, it’s Cpl Johnston.” I said. “Well I’m an Indian and I’m responsible for this helicopter.” He screamed. “Now take that gun from around your waist and get to hell out of here.” “I’ll speak to the Flight Sergeant about this.”

I got just a little bit smarter that evening. I found out the hard way that one should always engage brain before opening mouth!

Roger Cyr

October 2005

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By Ron Moody

Young Boy to Old Man.

In 1962 This young man, then 23 years of age was recruited from the UK by a guy called Mason to be an engineer on the Mid Canada Line. Eventually arriving in Montreal at the Marconi school of how to do it.

After a short course of familiarization, on the various equipment, I was allocated and duly flown up to Schefferville Labrador and on arrival indoctrinated into the “ways” of SCS and DBS living.

There was a vacancy for a site engineer at Hopedale 201 on the eastern coast and me, being “green and keen”, plumped for the job. Now as SCS 200 was on the USAF base down the hill from 201 there was a job need to get into their security restricted control room. To do so you had to swear allegiance to the USA. Well that to this rookie posed a bit of a problem, as I had previously sworn allegiance to our Queen in the UK. This was for a National Service commission in the RAF.

Eventually I was called in front of the duty officer, for their procedure, when BANG I told him of my dilemma. This, so called, problem hadn’t been dealt with before and he duly referred it upwards in his chain of command until it got to major Mac. We had quite a chat about loyalty, morality and conscience and he being a battle hardened veteran eventually gave the good advise of, “Oh just do it son.” No problems after that except whenever I met the guy who swore me in, he would greet me with “HI YA TWO FLAGS.”

Good times were had at 201 where we had a team myself, two technicians a French Canadian cook and an odd job man doing the cleaning and general maintenance. The village of Hopedale was past the USA outpost and situated in a bay where seaplanes used to land in the summer months with supplies, no shortage then of un-loaders just in case a crate “came open.” We got to know the locals as our odd job man used to collect all the used teabags and the villagers had a recipe to ferment them into (well you know what).

To get down to the base or the village, we had a truck and a small tracked vehicle, called, I believe, a Bombardier. Now that was OK for the drivers among us but our poor old cook couldn’t drive and so as to get a beer, or two, or several!, at the base; he had to walk down the shortest way he could. This entailed following a pipeline. Well one day we had a whiteout between him going out and coming back, apparently he started off OK on the return journey but lost the guiding pipeline. We weren’t too concerned and he eventually turned up the worse for wear never to touch another drop (until next time). I suppose this discourse will seem to be revolving around the social need for alcohol, but it wasn’t all that way, as, between those things called work and sleep we enjoyed ourselves using the facilities at the base for R&R along with a bit of walking and fishing.

Highly against the rule book (what rules?) I got myself a rifle and used to stomp many a mile with the secure thought that I could match any MONSTER I might meet.

Back to the Booze.

On another occasion our odd job man was firing up a Herman Nelson hot air blower, used to pre-heat the helicopter engines. Well he was doing this in his wooden workshop, and you’ve guessed it “whoosh” we had a fire on our hands, the whole building was ablaze in no time. As the building was close to the main living quarters we thought it prudent to call on the USAF for help. Now somewhere along the line HERMAN NELSON (the machine ) got distorted into HERMAN NELSON ( a person ) being burnt up. Great consternation. Fire engines fire chief and medics, all bells ringing! This was just before Christmas and 201 had had it’s beer ration delivered a day or two before. As you can imagine then, we had to pay in kind.

Well time went by and after a few months I had to get back to Knob Lake to see a surgeon in the hospital for a minor operation. During that time I went out to service equipment on a couple of DDS. It was while I was on one of them that J.F.K. was assassinated. Real serious times then, Red Alert and me on my own with a “bushed” cook. That was the only time in my two years on the MCL that a sense of fear came over me. Although this old man now 76 can look back to the many dangers of the time, Downed Helicopters, Bears, Wolves,  Hypothermia, Getting lost in the bush. But then – young to old – that’s life isn’t it? I would not have wanted to have missed those days for anything.

Ron Moody

Updated Oct. 2015

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The Best 2 Years of My Life

By Barry (Oli) Twist

I was on the Marconi section of the MCL from about April 1962 to May 1964; initially as a D.D.S. (Doppler Detection Site) technician, and then as a member of Calibration Team 13. This meant that we traveled along the entire length of the Mid-Canada Line (MCL) from Hopedale to west of Winisk. I reckon I travelled some 5400 miles by either Sikorsky S55A or Vertol H21 (plus some fix wing jobs). When I first arrived at Schefferville (Knob Lane/Burnt Creek), the chopper pilots took me on aerial tour including some huge waterfalls and showed large herds of caribou. (One pilot I remember was “Blacky”)

Whilst ‘doing’ D.D.S’s, I had a little bit of fun like climbing 20 feet up a tower & jumping off into a (known!) depth of snow. The next activity that the cook did NOT appreciate: – I had an exhausted CO2 cartridge which was too much of a temptation. The neck was unscrewed and a nail hammered up the inside. The cartridge was half filled with water and the sealed neck screwed back. This was placed on a bonfire which was fueled with drip-feed diesel. Sometime later, there was an almighty bang.

As technicians will recall, if you use the loo you clean it (nobody else will!). So one goes outside (irrespective of weather). One time, with pants down, both a black bear AND caribou approached. I wondered which would get to me first. (There was a tech killed by black bear under the same circumstances.)

Life was a little saner on the Calibration Team. Test equipment was brought in from one D.D.S; re-calibrated and then taken out to the next D.D.S. (I had a sledge made to assist). Of the the Team members, I was the one who preferred to do the chopper travel. On one occasion, we encountered a tractor train. The chopper came in from behind, flying about 12ft above the tractor. The driver got on the hot wire at the next D.D.S.; was the wire ever ‘hot’; swear words in every conceivable language.

My boss was a French Canadian, Realle St. Pierre. This, I decided, was too much of a mouthful so I called him Fred. (He did not mind). At one S.C.S. (Sector Control Station), having moved on from the previous S.C.S., I was asked the name of my boss. I said “Fred” and before I knew what had happened, everybody on this S.C.S. was soon calling him Fred!

This article started when I looked some of my photos & came across one of a thermometer with the spirit curled up in a little ball at the bottom of the stem (guessing at -32F). I thought “this cannot be the coldest” so, checking various sources, came across -49C at Schefferville, 10th March 1964. Then I found “War Stories” and decided (even after 51 years) that I could make a submission – just forgive my memory for details! Neither does one forget the mosquitoes. You just hoped for a breeze to ground them.

My time on the MCL was the best two years of my life, being paid to fly in helicopters (5400miles), being in a complete wilderness with wild animals, watching the Northern Lights night after night, being in the right place at the correct time to experience a total eclipse of the sun, saving enough money for air fare back to Blighty, a brand new Land Rover and half a house (in the two years). Wild animals included ground squirrel, porcupine; wolf that I fed twice about 10 feet away and a red fox sufficiently unafraid to take food from my hand. (I heard a tale of one technician who used to have a fox come into the D.D.S. and sleep on his parka).

Winisk (Weenusk):- Two of us techs were asked by the Supervisor “Would you make a Radio (Broadcast) transmitter?” Two on-site carpenters built two studios and Dave (?) and I built the transmitter. It was licensed as CKWN – The Voice of Winisk. The antenna was a dipole on top of the recreation block. (We were licensed for 10 watts input to the final stage – I think the output to the aerial was at least 10W – we were getting reception reports from U.S.A.).

If I have this bit correct: – A tech at Winisk married a local but was not allowed supplies from the site. He brought a mobile home and parked it outside the S.C.S. A group of us helped to dig a well (through permafrost) for them.

At Winisk, if the train was late, “Oh dear, it’s been derailed again” (They were over a mile long.)

A hearsay:- At the time of Kennedy’s assignation, a tech sent a teleprinter message “the quick red fox jumped over the lazy imperialist’s dog’s back” and pulled out the plug before the sender was revealed. How true this was I don’t know!

One last one: – Landing on Bear Island with a cloud base of about 100 feet was ‘fun’. Flying around the island several times until the pilot was certain (?) as to where the aerials were located and coming down more or less directly onto the runway. (Only one of the two towers was equipped with a radio beacon.)

Added December 2015.

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Hopedale 201 DDS

By Mike Lee

The site at Hopedale had most of the same technical equipment as Knob Lake (300SCS), except for the telephone exchange and the chart recorders watched by the airmen. Technicians permanently manned 201 DDS with a cook to look after us. A mechanic & electrician maintained the diesel generators calling in on routine visits.

The Diesel Generators.

Our cook in the 201 DDS kitchen.

The DDS equipment building and the main living building were about 10 yards from door to door. But the site was very exposed on the top of a hill. When the wind blew up a snowstorm you could not see one building from the other. We had a rope between the doorways, to find our way. I have known the blizzard so bad that I turned back after one yard, to try again later. I made it on my second attempt.

We had a telephone line running between the two buildings on the ground, normally safely under the snow. Every now and then during snow clearing, the snowplough would break out telephone line. I tried soldering it together. A soldering iron does not get very hot in the snow. I gave up and just twisted the wires together in the end.

Just outside the DDS door was a slopping slab of exposed rock. This got a bit slippery when the first snow fell. Someone had the idea of melting the snow off the rock we walked across. We had a large space heater, about the size of a domestic freezer, but on wheels. It was known as a “Herman Nelson”, the name of its manufacturer. We put the output 6″ hose of the heater under a tarpaulin spread over the rock. The snow melted OK, but then promptly refroze as ice. We tried running it for days, but in the end finished up with an ice covered rock, until spring!

The “Herman Nelson” was powered by liquid fuel and normally kept in a wooden framed outbuilding. One day it caught fire & before the fire was out it had destroyed both heater and it’s building. A few days later on the USAF base an airman said how sorry he was to hear that “some guy called Herman Nelson had burned to death.” So I learned never to take second hand stories at face value.

The DDS and the whole area is normally quiet except for the hum of the diesel generators. The 11th and 12th August 1963 was a bit different. At 3.00am the diesels stopped, so we were up until 4.30 am fixing things. Then at 7.00 am in the morning we were woken by what sounded like a double explosion. Then another pair of window rattling bangs. We jumped out of bed to see what had blown up. All we saw was a pair of fighter planes. My first thought was it was bombing and I hopped it was an exercise. After all the cold war was getting pretty warm at that time. A few minuets latter the planes flew off and no smoke to be seen.

We phoned the base to get any news. What they told us was that the fighter planes had broken the sound barrier, just over the radar sites. Their shock waves tested the inflated domes over the radar antenna.

My bedroom area.

Test Board and TTY (Xmas day 1963).

The pile of Teletype (TTY) tape on the floor on Christmas day is due to the custom of sending pictures & greetings in the form of the holes in the punched tape, without any regard to anything that the hole coding was in letters or symbols.

Mike Lee,

January 2016

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Bears are Dangerous

By Mike Lee

Sid Smith was a Canadian technician who I worked with on the Mid Canada line, for some time. He told me that he owned a Jaguar car and once in the mountains, near where he lived, a lad had tried to out race him and crashed into a ravine. Sid did not stop or go back to see if anything could be done.

It was 17th September 1964, my first week as the Line Supervisor. I had gone out to 321 DDS and Sid Smith was at 303 DDS further along the line. In the evening I heard Sid’s cook called Knob Lake to say that Sid had not retuned from a walk. Now that it was dark nothing could be done until daylight.

As soon as it was light enough a search party was set up, and flew to 303 DDS. A bear chased the first search party, who took refuge in the DDS building. A relief party shot the bear from a ‘chopper’. A lucky shot through a paw slowed it down enough to get in a killing shot.

They then set out in all directions to look for Sid. It was some time before they found him. He was quite close to the buildings but out of sight over a drop of about 10 foot. He was very dead.

I got to 303 DDS later and found signs of what happened and heard from the search parties. There had been a fight with the bear about half way between the survival hut and the main DDS building. There was also a floor brush there. The bear had a knife cut above one eye, a few inches long. I think Sid had collected the brush from the survival hut and with his sheath knife had tried to get past the bear into the DDS main building. Sid had a bash to the side of his head. There were drag marks on the ground (but I saw no blood). He was found about a few dozen yards away, dropped about 10 feet down over a small rocky cliff. So he could not be seen from the site buildings or chopper pad. The search party had gone far and wide, nobody expected him near the site.

Sid had soil rammed under his fingernails, due either from trying to stop himself being dragged along the ground. A more horrifying thought is he clawed at the ground due to the pain of being eaten alive. The bear had eaten so much of Sid’s middle parts; that the search party picked his body up on a blanket, as they feared he would fall in half.

So those are all the gruesome details, and what I remember about Sid Smith. I have never lost a man since!

My Closest Encounter with a Bear, on the Steps of 215DDS.

(This was June 1964. After September I would not have got that close!)

Mike Lee,

January 2016

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