Friday, November 11, 2011

Fredrick and Stephen Vickers: Ordinary people, an extraordinary time

"For Stephen, the war intruded on his education early. Studying in Europe, the fighting forced him to abandon his doctoral thesis research and return to Harvard University. Marrying Elizabeth, he moved to Hamilton, where he worked as a machinist to help the war effort until being drafted into the Canadian Signal Corps in 1943."

"Stephen’s action was limited by bad eyesight. He was rejected from battlefield service by the medical board, instead made a corporal and assigned as an instructor at a base near Kingston, Ont."

Saturday, October 29, 2011


As of 14 Oct 2011

While researching human interest stories for possible inclusion in an upcoming book (…) it dawned on me that the men and women who, since 1903, have served in Canada’s  communications and electronics related organizations, have come from a wide range of backgrounds; served in a wide range of capacities and locations; and gone on, upon release, to …

·         WW II: Clifford Clive was a member of 1 Cdn L of C Sigs who, after  D-Day, helped the Americans put the French telephone system back in operation, and participated in the move of a portion of the 1st  Czech  Armd Bde from the area of Dunkirk, France, where the formation had been besieging the city, to Klatovy, Czechoslovakia.

·         WW II: George Eckenfelder was a first generation Canadian whose father had been a French cavalryman. He was captured by the Germans on D-Day plus 3. A day later, some 140 Germans surrendered to George, and another Canadian Officer.

·         WW II:As a member of the ship’s staff, Ardwell H Eyres made some fifteen round trips between North America and Europe on the troop ship Ile de France. 

·         WW II: Robert Kerr was a Dispatch Rider in Italy. He was captured by the Germans and interred in Stalag VII A. In 1945, while still a POW, he volunteered to drive supplies provided by the Red Cross, in trucks supplied by the allies, from the Swiss/German border, to needy POWs in various parts of Germany.

·         WW I: Harold Leonard Nixon joined the Canadian Engineer Signals, in Canada, in 1916. In England, in order to enhance his chance of serving in France, he sought and received a secondment  to the Royal Engineers (RE). In France, he was posted to the 42nd Broad Guage Operating Company, Railroad Operating Division, of the RE. He  was subsequently loaned, by the RE,  to a Canadian Railway. Operating Company, with the RE holding a string on him. A narrative of  his exploits is contained here Link

·         WW II: Vic  Waters set up his own amateur radio station, VE5QH, while in his teens; went on to work at pioneering radio station CJOR;  served in Australia, as a Cpl, with 1 CSWG; then returned to CJOR to continue his lengthy, and distinguished, broadcasting career.

Signalman George Edward Thomas, MM

Signalman George Edward Thomas

On the evening of 29 April 1945, Signalman George Edward Thomas, of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Signals, was a member of a cable detachment consisting of a corporal. three linemen and one driver, in two 5-cwt cars. The task of the detachment was to lay a cable from a point on the east bank of the River Ems opposite Weener to a point on the Leda River. It was known that the area was heavily mined, but the provision and maintenance of line communications to the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, which was across the River Leda at Leer, and the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade which was to follow across shortly was imperative.

Before the line was completed. one of the cars blew up on a mine, killing the corporal in charge of the detachment and severely wounding the other two linemen in the vehicle. After seeing that his wounded comrades were attended to, Signalman Thomas took charge of the situation and carried on with the driver to complete the line.

However, upon testing through, it was found to lie broken. By this time, darkness had fallen and it was raining heavily, making visibility very limited. without regard to his personal safety, Signalman Thomas went back over the line, through an area that he knew to be mined and repaired the breaks. He continued to maintain this line throughout that night and all the following day, thus assuring line communications from Headquarters. 3rd Canadian Infantry Division to 7th and 9th Canadian Infantry Brigades at a time when it was most essential to the operation. 

This soldier’s courage, dedication and devotion to duty was an example and inspiration to all ranks of his section and his actions are worthy of the highest traditions of his corps.

For his action. Signalman George Edward Thomas was awarded the Military Medal.

Valour in the victory campaign: the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division gallantry ... By T. Robert Fowler … page 209

Corporal Ernest Augustine Stanley, MM

Corporal Ernest Augustine Stanley

Prior to and during the attack on the 19 February 1945 on the wood covering the approaches to Calcar [Moyland Wood], Corpora! Ernest Augustine Stanley was in charge of the line detachment of ‘J” Section, 3rd Canadian Infantry? Division Signals. The tactical disposition of the units required that the line communications be laid along a road which was in full view of the enemy and which ran parallel to the wood. The plan to capture this wood was intricate and to effect success, it was of paramount importance that line communications be maintained to all units under command at all times. For forty-eight hours prior to the operation, this road was under continuous mortar and heavy artillery fire and all during this time, without pause, or rest, or food, with members of his detachment being killed or wounded about him, Corporal Stanley laboured to build this line. He succeeded just prior to zero hour in completing an air line, thirty feet above the ground, and it withstood all mortaring and shelling throughout the operation, thus contributing materially to the success of the operation.

This non-commissioned officer’s matchless courage, determination and devotion to duty was an example and inspiration to all ranks of “J” Section, and his actions are worthy of the highest traditions of the Signal Corps.

For this action, Corporal Ernest Augustine Stanley received the Military Medal.

Valour in the victory campaign: the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division gallantry ... By T. Robert Fowler … page 40

Friday, October 28, 2011

Captain George Alton Cline

Captain George Alton Cline

Work of Signallers

UTS Roll of Honour 1914 - 1916 published Sunday, December 31, 1916

Sunday, October 29, 1916

Transcribed by: M. I. Pirie

Capt. George A. Cline was part of the 1st Contingent in August 1914. His contribution was covered in the pages of the Burlington Gazette. The UTS Annals (1916) describe him as "one of the few experts in signalling and field-telegraph and telephone work in Canada".
During the battle of St. Julien he had charge of the communications of the first Brigade which, thanks to his efforts, were kept intact. During this engagement he was struck by shrapnel which broke a tunic button and lead pencil, luckily leaving him unharmed. Later he was made head of the Divisional Signallers for the First Division and was attached to Headquarters. In the early summer of 1916 he received from the French government the order of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, a decoration conferred only for very distinguished services.1

October 29, 1916.

 I started to write you just one week ago to-day but had to stop for some reason and this is the first chance I have got since.
 Before I forget to answer your question, I hasten to inform you that my official position is O.C. 2nd Canadian Divisional Signal Company. I took over the command of the unit shortly before the Somme scrap and consequently had my hands pretty full for a while. I can't of course, tell you much about the business. I have seen a "tank" and have been in one. I have seen towns utterly destroyed by shellfire and watched the bombardment of several German strongholds. Best of all, I have seen Mr. Boche defeated and that is what we have all been looking for, for two long years. 
 You people at home have probably wondered what has been happening between times. You have heard of us at Ypres, Festubert, etc., and the intervals are blank. Those intervals represent, however, hard work with pick and shovel, building trenches, or digging in cable. Day after day we have to be ready for an attack or to attack - Sunday or Monday, winter or summer, rain or shine. But we have had time to think in these intervals and we have been looking for our "Day", which has, I believe, come at last. If next spring doesn't see the Boche in full retreat, he must have something up his sleeve worse than tanks. 
I saw Jarrett, who was in Form 1 when I left, in ...1 before we came South, and have just had a card from him to say that he is well. I hope he manages to get a decoration. My officers and men received three Military Crosses and thirteen or fourteen Military Medals for the recent engagements. We were lucky enough to have only two wounded. 
 Please give my best regards to the school in general. 

Link Attestation Papers

Link Canadian Great War Project

Link Canadian Great War Project

Link Major George Alton Cline, Greenwood Cemetery, Burlington, Ont.

Link Capt. George Alton Cline - UTS Schools ROH, Toronto, Ont.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Major W.B.M. Carruthers

Major W.B.M. Carruthers

Wallace Bruce Mathews Carruthers was born in Kingston, Ontario, on 13 February 1863 and, as the "Father" of the Signalling Corps (Militia), he led it during its early days.
Bruce graduated with honours from the Royal Military College on 26 June 1883 and took a commission as a Lieutenant (Lt) in the 21st Hussars of the British Imperial Forces.
Some years later he left the British Army and, after a two-year sojourn in Australia, he returned to Kingston and joined the 14th Battalion, the Princess of Wales Own Rifles (Militia).
When the Boer War broke out in 1899, in order to serve abroad, he reverted to the rank of Sergeant, and enlisted in the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. He returned to Kingston in 1900 and was discharged.
In 1901 he re-enrolled as a Lt in the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, and returned to South Africa in 1902. There, he served with distinction, in the course of which he was wounded and, for a short time, held as a prisoner of war. For his efforts he was later mentioned in dispatches, promoted to Captain (Capt), and presented with a ceremonial sword by the Corporation of the City of Kingston.
On his return to Canada, having noted that signalling inadequacies had severely limited the efficiency of British Imperial Forces, he successfully conducted a campaign to establish a separate signalling service to ensure standardization of signalling among Canadian Army units.
His proposal was accepted, and on 24 October 1903, authorization was given for the formation of the Signalling Corps (Militia), the first independently organized Signal Corps in the British Empire.
The stated function of the Corps was to supervise signal training of cavalry, artillery and infantry signal sections, and to ensure uniform methods of instruction and standards of qualification. Its authorized establishment was 18 officers and 72 other ranks.
On 20 March 1904 Capt Carruthers was appointed "Inspector of Signals" in the rank of Major (Maj), while Lt (Brevet Capt) F.A. Lister, Royal Canadian Regiment, was made "Assistant Inspector of Signalling".
Maj Carruthers established his Headquarters in the newly constructed Kingston Armouries in Artillery Park, while Capt Lister, worked from Fredericton, New Brunswick, and later Quebec City, Quebec. That same year, twelve District Signalling Officers were appointed, and the first Provisional School of Signalling was authorized. Over the next two years schools were held in eight Canadian centres, including Kingston.
By 1905 Maj Carruthers and Capt Lister were responsible for the supervision of all signalling instruction and practice in Canada.
In 1906 Maj Carruthers was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General (AAG) for Signalling and, the Corps continued to prosper.
By 1908 the Corps had grown to include sections in 13 Canadian centres, including Kingston.
In 1909, Capt Lister returned to regimental duty and Lt (Brevet Capt) A. McMillan became Deputy AAG for Signalling.
One month before Lister's resignation the Corps had gained a new officer in the person of Lt Elroy Forde.
On 21 October 1910, Bruce Carruthers died. He was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Colonel E. Forde, OBE, DSO, VD

Colonel E. Forde, OBE, DSO, VD

Mrs Bernice Irene Forde

Following in the footsteps of Major Bruce Carruthers, in the years between the First and Second World War, Colonel Elroy Forde greatly influenced the development of the Regular and Reserve components of what eventually came to be collectively called The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS). In so doing, he also had an impact on the socio-economic development of the Kingston area.
Born in Wentworth County, Ontario, on 10 September, 1885, Elroy Forde left school when he was about 13 years old and joined the ranks of the 77th (Wentworth) Battalion of Infantry.
In 1905, soon after he was commissioned, he became responsible for signalling in what was by then called the 77th Wentworth Regiment.
In 1909, he transferred to the Signalling Corp (Militia) where he served in a number of appointments up to and including Command Signal Officer.
In January 1915, as First World War soldiers concentrated in Valcartier, Quebec, for deployment abroad, then Captain Forde joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force as a member of Canada's 1st Divisional Signal Company. By the end of the War, he had been made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, been promoted Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt Col), and served as the Chief Signal Officer of the Canadian Corps overseas.
By 1 April 1919, with the assistance of Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, who had deemed him worthy to be put in charge of the Signal Services in Canada, Lt Col Forde had established the Canadian Signalling Instructional Staff, the first Regular component of the Corps.
Between 1919 and 1939, under Elroy Forde's leadership, in addition to fulfilling its own training commitment, the Corps performed many services for other organizations and individuals.
Some of the services performed included the establishment, operation and maintenance of radio networks for the Canadian Air Force Forestry Service in their fight against forest fires, the North West Territories and Yukon Radio Service to open the Canadian north to communications, and a nationwide system of radio beacons for the guidance of air mail planes.
During the depression, then Colonel (Col) Forde was responsible for a relief project to establish a permanent Canadian Signal Training Centre. To the continuing benefit of the Corps and the local community, Kingston was chosen as the site for the construction of today's Vimy Barracks. The project came to fruition in 1937 and, at that time, Signals training moved from Camp Borden to Kingston. During construction, hundreds of otherwise unemployed men found work and, over the years, thousands upon thousands of military and civilian personnel underwent training, or found employment.
Elroy Forde retired in 1942 and, among other things, became involved in setting-up the Kingston Corps of Commissionaires and, along with Regimental Sergeant-Major T.J. Wallis, taught the Fort Henry Guard the drill movements of the 19th century solider.
On 3 November 1953 Colonel Forde, OBE. DSO, VD died. He was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston. His headstone reads:

"For The Crown
And The Corps
In Zeal Effortless
In Enthusiasm Unflagging
In Loyalty Invincible"

His medals are on display at the Military Communications and Electronics Museum.

Link Attestation Papers

Air Vice-Marshal H.B. Godwin, CBE, CD

Air Vice-Marshal H.B. Godwin, CBE, CD

Harold Brandon Godwin was born in Westmount, Quebec, on 24 April 1907 and went on to graduate as an Electrical Engineer from McGill University in 1928.
Commissioned in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on 16 July 1928, he was assigned RCAF Service Number 99. He obtained his wings on 18 March 1929 and, early in his career, flew at Camp Borden, Ottawa and Trenton, Ontario.
Until 1934, the RCAF depended on the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS) for the operation and maintenance of its radio communication. Several RCAF officers, including Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Godwin, had been attached to the RCCS for a course of instruction. Also in 1934 F/L Pattison, a Royal Air Force Officer, was attached to the RCAF as a liaison officer to assist in the formation of a Signal Section. The new section became part of the School of Army Co-operation in Borden and F/L Godwin was appointed Officer Commanding and Chief Instructor of the new section. In 1938 he was appointed Air Signals Advisor at Air Force Headquarters (AFHQ), Ottawa, Ontario with the rank of Squadron Leader.
During the war, while in Canada, he was closely associated with signals including service as the Commanding Officer Wireless School, Trenton, Ontario; No.3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, Manitoba; and RCAF StationGander, Newfoundland. In addition he served as Senior Signals Officer, No.3 Training Command, Montreal, Quebec; and, as a Group Commander (G/C), Director of Signals, (AFHQ) where he succeeded G/C Ralph McBurney
Early in 1945 he was posted to England as an Air Commodore to command No. 64 Base and in 1946 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. His Commendation reads "Air Commodore Godwin did outstanding work in Royal Canadian Air Force Signals organization and operations in Eastern Air Command after which he was posted overseas where he became Officer in Charge of Administration at No .6 Group Headquarters and later Deputy Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, RCAF Headquarters Overseas. His untiring effort and clear thinking, together with his organizing ability, has been a considerable contribution to the solving of the many difficult problems met in the repatriation of the Royal Canadian Air Force since the cessation of hostilities. His conscientious, vigorous and enthusiastic devotion to duty is worthy of recognition."
In 1946 he also attended the Imperial Defence College, and was made Deputy Air Member for Air Plans.
On 1 January 1952 he was promoted Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) and made AOC, Air Material Command, again succeeding AVM Ralph McBurney.
From July 1955 to August 1958 he served as AOC No. 1 Air Division
AVM Godwin retired 13 April 1959 and joined RCA Victor.
He died in Montreal, 17 November 1994.

Warrant Officer Class 1, L.P. Reading, MSM

Warrant Officer Class 1
L.P. Reading, MSM

On 23 June 1905 Louis Philip Reading enlisted in the King's Liverpool Regiment at Warrington, Lancashire, England.
After two years service in the Aldershot Command he sailed for India and his first spell of Foreign Service. After serving at several outposts he trained as a regimental signaller at the Lahore Cantonment. In 1913 he returned to England, was discharged to the British Army Reserve, and shortly thereafter left for Canada.
When the First World War broke out, having left Toronto, Ontario for Ithica, New York, Lou proceeded (at his own expense) to Halifax, Nova Scotia to re-enlist. There, however, he was pronounced "no longer fit for war service". Undaunted he made his way to Toronto, apparently undergoing an improvement in health en route, and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a "medically fit" sapper. When his signalling background became known he was made an instructor and served as such in Ontario at Barriefield, Petawawa and Ottawa. Coincidentally he became a Company Sergeant-Major (CSM).
Intent on going overseas Lou reverted to the rank of sapper, but was later reinstated as a CSM. In England he taught field cable and visual signalling at the Canadian Engineer Training Centre, Seaford, Sussex, and at the Signals Wing of the CSME. At the end of the war he was picked to be an instructor with the Siberian Expeditionary Force, but the influenza epidemic in England delayed his departure for Canada and he arrived too late to accompany the expedition to Vladivostock. On New Years' Eve, 1919, after a short tour at the Signal Training Depot, Ottawa, he was once more demobilized.
After six months with the Department of Soldier' Civil Re-Establishment Lou again re-enlisted and headed for the Instructional Staff at Military District 3, Kingston, Ontario. There, among other things, he taught elements of signalling to RMC cadets.
In 1924 he was posted to The Depot, RC Signals, at Camp Borden, Ontario, as a Quartermaster-Sergeant (QMS). When the Canadian Signal Training Centre opened at Vimy Barracks in 1937 he returned to Kingston as an instructor in field cable and general line work.
When Regimental Sergeant-Major (RSM) T.J. Wallis was commissioned early in the Second World War, QMS Reading was appointed RSM.
In March 1943, after a long tough fight against failing health, SM Reading was once again discharged.
In 1926, Lou Reading had been one of the first members of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals to receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and, subsequent to his release he had the rare honour of being awarded the British Meritorious Service Medal (MSM). His medals are on display at the Military Communications and Electronics Museum.
Lou Reading died on 4 January 1958 and was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston, Ontario.
On 29 May 1998 the L.P. Reading Building, Vimy Barracks, Kingston, Ontario was named in his honour.

Link Attestation Papers

Major T.J. Wallis

Major T.J. Wallis

In 1927, Thomas James Wallis (Regimental Number 25658) was taken on strength of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS) as a Signalman, and immediately promoted Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO 2). In 1943, he retired from the RCCS as a major.The following excerpts taken from an article written in 1943 by Signalman D.G. Marsh provide an interesting glimpse of his military accomplishments."Major T. J. Wallis joined the Empire when most of us were less than a twinkle in our father's eyes. He is the only soldier in Canada who began to serve on ships, forsook them for horses, and is active in the period of mechanized warfare.In 1899, as a youth, he served in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, in the Boer War, on the destroyer Quail, the cruiser Retribution, and the flagship Ariadne. In 1904 he joined the Royal Horse Artillery, and - coming to Canada as a civilian in 1910 - he joined the Grenadier Guards of Canada. The year 1914 found him overseas with the 14th Battalion Royal Montreal Regiment, where he served five years, 240 days, including the period of the Occupation.Subsequently he was permanently employed as RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) of the Governor General's Foot Guards and when, in 1922, paid personnel of the N.P.A.M. (Non-Permanent Active Militia) were dispensed with, he was absorbed in the Instructional Cadre of N.D.H.Q. (National Defence Headquarters), Ottawa. In 1924, as a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment, he was posted to the R. C. Signals depot at Borden, as Instructor. On March 27, 1927, in one order, he was taken on R.C. Signals strength as a signalman, promoted to W02 and appointed QMS (Quarter Master Sergeant). … On April 1, 1927, he became W01 and the first RSM in the history of the Corps.Early in 1940 he received his commission, after 41 years of virtually uninterrupted service in the British ranks - a well and arduously won reward - and rose rapidly to his majority. … Perhaps the highest tribute to his brilliance on the parade ground was paid to Major Wallis in 1937 when he proceeded overseas as the RSM in charge of the Canadian contingent which attended the Coronation of King George VI.The length of this record is remarkable, but it does not fully explain Major Wallis. He provides a link between two types of army, and at a time when military technical experts are the rule rather than the exception his presence reminds us that drill is still essential. … His loyalty to the Corps, his ability to inspire men, his military knowledge and his bearing won him the lasting admiration of all who met him, and he was a legend to the RCCS.”Maj Wallis died in Toronto on 31 March 1956, and was buried in Barrie, Ontario. His wife Isobel, a son James, and three daughters Margaret, Gladys and Elizabeth survived him. During the Second World War, as a private in the Canadian Women's Army Corps, Elizabeth served with her father at Vimy Barracks. On 13 October, 1956 Training Building No. 1, Vimy Barracks, Kingston, Ontario was renamed the Wallis Building in his honour.

Link Attestation Papers

Major G.G Thomson

Major G.G Thomson

George Graham Thomson was born in Bawlf, Alberta on 13 August 1909; the oldest of Elizabeth and Arch Thomson’s three children.
At the turn of the 20th Century, traveling by harvest train to Alberta, Graham’s father had journeyed west from Ontario.
In 1905, after obtaining his teaching diploma in Camrose Alberta, Arch got a job at the nearby village of Killam and Elizabeth went west and married him. They then moved to nearby Wavey Lake, Alberta where Arch both taught and farmed.
In 1920 the family moved to Kingston, Ontario where Graham’s father began selling life insurance for the Standard Life Insurance Company before taking over the J.K. Carroll Agency and starting a real estate and insurance business.
Growing up in Kingston, Graham attended Victoria Public School, Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, and Queen’s University. His athletic pursuits included basketball, tennis and softball. Indeed he played on the Queen’s Senior Basketball Team, was a Kingston tennis champion and pitched for the Wally Elmer Red Indians, playing alongside some of Kingston’s great athletes such as Bob Elliott and Harold “Bucky” Buck.
In 1933 he joined the Non-permanent Active Militia as a member of the Princess of Wales Own Regiment (Machine Gun) (PWOR (MG)).
That same year, during the Depression, Graham left his studies at Queen’s University to work for a time as an assessor for the City of Kingston. He then joined his father’s business.
On 27 November 1937, in Chalmer’s United Church, he married Mildred Mahood whose father owned Mahood Drug Stores. Mildred, or Midge as she was affectionately called, was a close friend of Graham’s sister Betty, and the two families lived a short distance apart on University Avenue
. They had three children – Susan, George and Jane – who graced them with eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Mildred die in 1997.
In 1939 he joined the Canadian Army (Active Force) as a Lieutenant and in 1940 was posted from the PWOR (MG) to No 3 District Depot, Fort Henry, Ontario, and transferred to the Canadian Provost Corps.
On 21 March 1941, as recounted in the book Escape From Canada! The Untold Story of POWs in Canada 1939-1945, Graham was instrumental in the recapture at Clayton New York of Bernhardt Gohlke and Helm Rottmann, two prisoners of war who had escaped from Fort Henry.
In July 1941 he was promoted Captain and transferred to the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. He was then taken on strength of the 4th Infantry Divisional Signals, just before it moved from the Kingston area to Debert, Nova Scotia.
In February 1942 the 4th Infantry Divisional Signals was renamed the 4th Armoured Divisional Signals and in the autumn of that year Graham reached England as one of its members.
Graham served as the Adjutant of the Unit from June 1943 to September 1944 during which time its members supported the 4th Armoured Division’s operations in (France, Belgium, Holland and Germany)
In December 1944 he was posted to the No 1 Canadian Signals Reinforcement Unit, Aldershot, England. Shortly after his arrival he was promoted Acting Major, and went on to serve as the Unit’s Administrative Officer until May 1945.
By July 1945 Graham had been posted as Administrative Officer to No 1 Lines of Communications Signals, Breda, Holland and promoted to Major.
On 21 September 1945 he disembarked from a ship at Quebec City and shortly thereafter he was attached to the Canadian Signals Training Centre, Vimy Barracks, where he served until he was Struck Off Strength to the Reserve Active Officers’ General List in May 1946. He retired in Kingston in July of that year.
In 1947, upon the death of his father, Graham found himself in charge of Thomson Real Estate and Insurance Limited. Shortly thereafter Harry Jemmett joined with Graham to form Thomson and Jemmett Insurance. Much more recently Thomson and Jemmett Insurance amalgamated with Vogelzang and Associates Insurance Brokers to form Thomson Jemmett Vogelzang Insurance Centre.
In 1975 Graham asked his son-in-law, Terry Stafford, to take over the real estate business and he was pleased when his grandson, Brian, joined the business and became the fourth generation of Thomson men in real estate.
In addition to his military contribution to Canada, and his business contribution to the citizens and institutions of the Kingston, Ontario area, Graham has been a wholehearted volunteer who has played a leadership role in numerous community, cultural and religious associations and organizations. Of these, the following three are particularly significant to him.
Firstly, Graham and his family have been associated with the YMCA for much of their lives. While President of the YMCA he oversaw the merger of the YMCA and the YWCA in 1950. Indeed, as early as 1925 he began volunteering as the senior counselor at the first RKY Camp – a summer camp sponsored by the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and the YMCA that has been an important resource for hundreds of Kingston boys and girls who would otherwise not have had a camping experience.
Next, the more Graham gained from the community the more he wanted to give back by doing things of interest to it. One such thing was working with his good friend Padre Laverty to head up the fund-raising campaign for the establishment of the Outdoor Centre at the Cataraqui Conservation Authority on the 100 acres of spectacular recreational land it affords the citizens of Kingston.
Finally, in addition to being a founder and president of the Kingston General Hospital foundation, he has been a fundraiser for and Director of the Military Communications and Electronics Museum that is situated on the north side of Highway 2 across from the entrance to Vimy Barracks. It is a one of a kind museum that he and others have worked hard to create.
On 27 November 2002 Graham was one of the 63 Kingstonians awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of their contribution to citizens, their community, or to Canada.

CWACs and POWs

CWACs and POWs

In the book Athene, Goddess of War, there are many stories of Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) members who had interesting experiences while serving in Kingston, Ontario, and elsewhere.
 One such story involves a particular CWAC member who, in 1942, due to a shortage of barracks in Kingston, was billeted at the YMCA.
As related by her, she had a boy friend who had a car, and whose home was in Kingston. It was a hot summer for uniforms, so in the evening they would occasionally go for a ride dressed in cool civvies. Three German prisoners had escaped from Fort Henry. Two had been recaptured, but the third was still at large. On this particular evening she and her friend, with another couple, went for a ride east of Kingston. After being stopped at roadblocks several times they returned to Kingston and parked on the waterfront. They were there about half an hour, when all of a sudden a motorcycle policeman pulled up, opened their car door, and asked for help. It was a bright moonlit night and, as the policeman had gone by them on his patrol, he had seen a movement in the grass and had returned to check it out. The movement turned out to be the escaped German who had been creeping up on their car with a knife in his hand. The policeman had caught the German, but needed their assistance in getting his prisoner back to the police station.  The policeman and the escapee then rode downtown in the rumble seat of the car. As soon as the policeman and the German were out of the car she and her friends drove away as fast as they could since they didn't want to be questioned. A few days later her friend was pulled over by the same policeman as he wanted to extend his thanks, and said if her friend ever needed help, just to call him. Her friend asked that their names be kept anonymous and explained the trouble the girls could have been in for wearing civvies. It was a front-page story in all the papers, but their names were never mentioned.

Captain R.K. Cheng

Captain R.K. Cheng

Born on 16 May 1915 Roger Kee Cheng went on to graduate as an electrical engineer from McGill University in 1938, be commissioned as the first Chinese-Canadian officer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in 1941, and serve in Borneo as a member of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) component of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1945.
Second-Lieutenant Cheng began his officer training on 3 October 1941, probably at the Officer Training Centre in Brockville, Ontario. He was promoted Lieutenant (Lt) on 23 May, 1942, and completed his officer training at the Canadian Signal Training Centre in Kingston, Ontario, on 10 August, 1942.
Lt Cheng was then posted to the Canadian Signals Experimental Establishment (CSEE) in Ottawa, and promptly attached to the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC), and seconded to the Master General of Ordnance (MGO) Branch of the Director of Electrical and Communications Design (DECD). On 1 October, 1943 he was made an Acting Captain. On 27 May 1944, he ceased his attachment and secondment, and was taken on strength of No. 11 District Depot in  British Columbia.
From 28 May until 26 August, 1944, at which time he started five days embarkation leave, it is probable that Lt Cheng, was a member of an original group of Chinese-Canadians who became known as the Kendall Group, and underwent special training in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.
On 3 September, 1944, having finished his embarkation leave, Lt Cheng was promoted Captain, and posted to the "Q List", signifying that he was now officially on loan to the British forces. While details of his activities between then and 6 August, 1945, are sketchy, indications are that he, and five other Chinese-Canadians were landed, on that date, in Sarawk, in northern Borneo, by Catalina Flying Boat Upon arrival, the group joined a small British team which was gathering information on the movements of the Japanese as well as about conditions in prison camps in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, where about 25,000 British prisoners of war were being held. The day after the team landed, the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Although Japan surrendered, many isolated Japanese units refused to accept defeat and the war dragged on for months. The team's major accomplishment was assisting in transferring many emaciated prisoners to Australia before returning home themselves.
On 31 October, 1945, Capt Cheng was attached for all purposes from the SRD to. No 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group, a signals intelligence organization that had arrived in McMillan's Road Camp, Darwin, Australia on 18 April, 1945. He returned to Canada on 5 January, 1946, at which time he was again taken on the strength of No. 11 Disrtict Depot.
On 7 March, 1946, Roger Kee Cheng was discharged from the Canadian Army.

Air Vice-Marshal R.E. McBurney, CBE, CD

Air Vice-Marshal R.E. McBurney, CBE, CD


Ralph Edward McBurney was born in Montreal, Quebec, on 17 August 1906, and grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As a boy, he was intensely interested in electricity and radio, and later came to consider signals a most important element of flying.
Beginning in 1923, during the winter months, he attended the University of Saskatchewan and, in later years, the University of Manitoba. He graduated in 1930 as an Electrical Engineer, having spent some time as a member of the Canadian Officer Training Corps.
From 1924 to 1935, the main tasks of the RCAF were Civil Government Air Operations (CGAO) including forestry protection, anti-smuggling flights, mercy missions, the air transport of mail, and experimental work. Such work gave young people a lot of useful experience in flying and commanding small units, and gave command of several operational bases to pilots of the First World War.
Over the years a variety of aircraft were used for these purposes including some First World War machines. The RCAF Base at Ladder Lake, Saskatchewan, for example, was at one time equipped with 22 Vickers Vedettes, a Fairchild, a Vancouver Flying Boat, a DeHavilland and some Varunas.
A second important task was refresher flying training for First World War pilots and flying training for both Provisional Pilot Officers (PPOs) and direct entry officers from the Royal Military College in Kingston.
In 1924, while some university classmates joined other services such as the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS), Ralph joined the fledgling Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and was assigned RCAF Service Number 96. He was commissioned in 1927.
Ralph's first years as a PPO, Pilot Officer (P/O), Flying Officer (F/O) and Flight Lieutenant (F/L) were spent, in part, on courses in Borden, Ontario; Jericho Beach, British Columbia; and the Royal Air Force (RAF) School of Army Co-operation, Old Sarum, Salisbury, England. At other times he flew out of locations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories (NWTs) conducting forest fire patrols, and aerial photography and mapping. Gas caches were strategically placed so pilots could land and refuel. The weather and cloud cover often played havoc with these open-cockpit planes.
In 1931 Ralph’s summer in the NWTs was a special job to make “strip maps” of aerial routes being more and more used by the RCAF and civilian companies. He and his companions, in a Vickers Vedette and a Bellanca Pacemaker, flew along specified routes taking a series of three overlapping photographs. From these, 15 mile wide strip maps were produced giving good detail of the ground along the central five miles and good enough detail along the sides to help confirm where you were on the central strip.
From 1933 to 1935 Ralph served as an instructor at the RCAF School of Army Co-operation at Camp Borden, a Camp that was then also the home of the Depot RC Signals. Then, during 1935 and 1936 he became the first RCAF officer to attend the Officer's Long Signals Course at the RAF Wireless School at Cranwell, Lincolnshire, England. Upon graduation he received the specialist symbol "S".
From 1936 to 1942, with the exception of his attendance on the Staff College Course at the RAF Staff College, Andover, Hampshire, England, Ralph served as the Senior Signals Officer and Director of Signals at Air Force Headquarters (AFHQ) in Ottawa, Ontario. There he was involved in a multitude of activities including selecting the first 800 potential radar technicians requested by Britain as "direct entries"; introducing ground and airborne radars to the RCAF; adapting British and American radar research to RCAF needs; arranging the production of Canadian radar equipment; establishing radar defence stations on both Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coast; and arranging signal schools.
In 1943 then Group Captain (G/C) McBurney commanded RCAF Station Trenton, in Trenton, Ontario.
On posting to England, in late 1943, soon to be Air Commodore (A/Cdr) McBurney commanded conversion and operational training organizations within No 6 (Canadian) Bomber Group. From late 1944 to mid 1945 he served as the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) at Group Headquarters. Working for Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) McEwen he was responsible for flying operations of 11 Stations, 14 Squadrons, four Training Units, and over 300 bomber aircraft. During this time he was mentioned in despatches and made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
At war's end he returned to Canada and formed Air Maintenance Command to supply services previously performed by AFHQ.
Early in 1946, having been promoted AVM in 1945, he became President of the RCAF War Crimes Court and then returned to Britain as the Senior Canadian Air Force Liaison Officer at the Canadian Joint Liaison Office, London, England.
From 1948 to 1952 he was head of the RCAF Air Materiel Command and was involved with Government purchases of RCAF equipment, storage of closed airbases and the new cross-Canada radar lines.
In 1952 AVM/ McBurney, CBE, CD retired and joined Rogers Majestic, a company that was shortly thereafter purchase by Philips Electronics. Then, beginning in 1959, he joined the National Research Council of Canada until 1972.
On 23 October 1953, he was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Link THE CANADIAN ARMY 1939 - 1945

In all, twenty-eight Canadians actually saw service as special agents in France during 1942-44. Of these a large number were qualified French-Canadian wireless operators from the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. This Corps provided more men for the work than any other corps or unit of the Canadian Army. Eight of these twenty-eight valiant spirits lost their lives in the service, in several cases after savage torture. Several agents dropped in the early months of 1944 were apprehended very soon after reaching France. The reason for the difficulties of this period is clear enough. Our invasion was impending, and the German counter-espionage had received orders to liquidate the resistance in France at any cost. In certain instances the Gestapo had succeeded in “controlling” a resistance circuit; that is to say, after arresting its members, the Germans continued to send back false messages to London in the proper code. As a result of such a deception, at least two Canadians parachuted straight into the arms of the Gestapo in March 1944. On the other hand, several who were dropped into France during the weeks immediately before or after D Day were able to operate effectively and return safe and sound, for now the Resistance had taken the field in strength and the Gestapo was fighting a defensive battle. During these inspiring days more than one Canadian commanded an active Maquis force of strength equivalent to a brigade.