Wednesday, September 7, 2011

HMCS Coverdale - The Role of WRCNS


After Special Wireless Station Coverdale opened its doors, the station was quickly staffed by personnel from the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service. Abbreviated as WRCNS, it is pronounced as WRENS. The organization was established in July 31 1942 in order to recruit women to replace men who were leaving for sea duty. Capt. Eustace Brock became the Director and Lt Cdr Isabel Macneill, OBE, became the C.O. of the WRCNS training establishment, namely HMCS Conestoga which was commissioned on June 1, 1943 in Galt Ontario. She was the first woman in the British Commonwealth to hold an independent naval command. There were 22 different job categories open to women, depending on their background and experience. They filled many jobs in every naval base in Canada. Just one year after the WRCNS was established, they were already earning high praise for their efforts. The WRCNS motto was: To free a man for service afloat.

By the end of the war, Wrens were working in 48 trades. Signals were a very popular occupation for which there was a high demand, so in 1942, the RCN took over an army camp at St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, to train hundreds of ratings, Wrens and Officers in a wide variety of communications related trades - not only operators but also technicians to maintain the equipment. For those who trained to copy Morse Code, the minimum speed by the end of training was 22 wpm.).

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WREN Tel(S) Jaqui LaPointe, a Special Wireless operator and member of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS), poses for a promotional photo in front of a CNF-4 console at Special Wireless Station Coverdale in August, 1945. The loudspeaker at her right wrist was part of an intercom which provided communications with the operations room a mile or so away. The speaker above the CRT was for the receiver. After the war, no WRENs operated HFDF equipment. By 1952, WRENS were stationed in the Operations Building on the main base but only for several years. (Photo by Leblanc, DND. National Archives of Canada, photo # PA-142540)

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