Saturday, August 27, 2011

Col William Stebbing Hamilton

Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

(Side 1) Born on June 10, 1920. In the post-war period he was involved in radio intelligence gathering. Prior to that, during the war, powerful radio stations were established by the Royal Canadian Navy on both coasts of Canada. It was decided that this work should continue and eventually several stations were set up, beginning in 1946/47, with the purpose of monitoring Russian transmissions. All three services participated, with as many as five thousand persons involved in listening stations, research and development. Hamilton commanded the radio station at Ottawa. During the war Canada sent an army radio station to the Pacific War (Australia) which included Japanese language translators. There they engaged in interpretation and interception of enemy broadcasts, direction-finding, and analysis of intelligence. During the Korean War Signal Corps personnel served aboard R.C.N. ships, monitoring Chinese and Korean messages. Recounts the important intercept of Chinese messages regarding their entry into that war. R.C.C.S. stations operated until satellite surveillance made them obsolete. By 1970 all operations ceased. General discussion of the Canadian effort. (25:00)

(After a two-minute pause, Hamilton conducts an interview with Maj. Henry (Hank) Koehler of No. 1 Special Wireless Group (1944). Time: through 45:00 to 37:00.)

Hamilton continues his account. During the period June 1969 to May 1971 he was Canadian Military Attache in the Soviet Union. He was a "legitimate spy". Canadians are not too serious about this, not too well-trained. Picture and military uniform recognition very important. (40:00) The objective of a military attache was to see things, most often with Russian acquiescence. Russian military organization, troop strength, training standards (which were high). Took many day trips to identify units, personnel and equipment, rail movements, etc. Some information was obtained from the Finns who had Russian equipment. (45:00)

(Side 2) Observed missile installations, usually seen from civilian aircraft. Prefabricated submarines assembled at Leningrad. Methods of obtaining information: direct observation (Soviet military personnel do not wear civilian clothes at any time), military publications, visits to military camps and schools, social receptions, museums, T.V. and movies, libraries and book stores. (10:00) Explains "Moscow neck", the stiffness associated with continuously looking up to locate microphones and antennas used by the Russians for surveillance. Trips in Russia had to be planned well in advance and were always accompanied by a Russian "Director". As official harrassment was a danger attaches always attempted to travel in groups of three or four. Russians always knew where one was; cars "bugged". Maids and chauffeurs were Russian and always considered to be informers. Electronic eavesdropping devices were in the homes of all diplomatic personnel. A "sweep team" (electronic detectives) in constant need in foreign missions. Comments on investigative fields other than military. (35:00) Also accredited to Finland where he had a good relationship. Compares the difficulties encountered in serving in Iron Curtain countries. (45:00) The training of Canadians for similar posts should be more intensive: memory, observation, photography, language (one year is not sufficient). Living and shopping conditions. Trips were often directed by Intourist which amused him by their blatant efforts to keep attaches and their wives from military installations. The Congo: from May 1962 to June 1963 he commanded the Signals Corps unit within the United Nations Force in the Congo. Describes the military-geographic situation. Radio-teletype system was established. The unit, 57 Signals Squadron, R.C.C.S., was organized at Barriefield, Ont. in 1960. Technical equipment was in short supply and eventually provided by the Americans who also flew it out to Africa. The Canadians were not entirely welcomed by the Congolese; some Canadians were jailed and had to be forcibly released. Rampant tribalism nearly tore the country apart. (25:00) There was also a R.C.A.F. presence; trained air-traffic controllers. Mentions need for bilingual Canadians, Katangan independence, military operations. Conditions in Leopoldville quite good. Service time: men, six months; officers, a year. Indian medical services not up to par. Anecdote. Canadians were forced to understand the African mentality. It required a little bribery to move ahead. Bottles of Scotch proved to be a useful currency. (40:00)

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