Saturday, August 27, 2011

Maj Henry Earl Koehler

Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

No. 1 Special Wireless Group of about three hundred (all ranks) was formed in Ottawa, slated for India, but sent to Australia. Trained in Victoria, B.C. for six months. In Jan. 1945 embarked at San Francisco on the U.S. troopship Monterey. Twenty-six days later they were off-loaded at Hollandia, due to a change in the ship's schedule, and left without means to proceed to Australia. Eventually they and a group of Australian Air Force personnel boarded a smaller U.S. vessel, the Shawnee, and refused to get off. The Americans authorized the Shawnee to proceed to Australia where they finally arrived twelve days later after an uncomfortable journey; the ship had been used to transport native labourers, was filthy, bug-infested and low on food. After a short period of wireless training with the Australians and Americans they proceeded by train and motor convoy to Darwin in northern Australia. Opened the radio station on Apr. 13, 1945. (20:00) Canadian military intelligence unit attached with Japanese-speaking personnel. Some shortage of trained operators became evident, heavy traffic, predominantly Morse code. The Japanese used a grouped variation of this code applied to "kana", their written symbols. Rations were Australian: mutton, canned goods, dehydrated food. Eggs rare, but two quarts of Australian beer per man per week. A boring station. Good movies, excellent, but dangerous beach: sharks, crocodiles, quick sand. Primitive sanitary conditions. Operations shut down quickly at the end of the war. After waiting two or three months decided to initiate their own return to Canada. Loaded all their equipment and drove to Alice Springs where they organized a train to Adelaide, drove to Melbourne and Sydney. Warm welcome by the Australians. After some difficulty, in Jan. 1946, they found a British freighter sailing for Vancouver, B.C. Assured the Captain that he would not have to provide for them. Persuaded the Australians to convert part of the upper holds to accommodation, built a cookhouse, showers and latrines on deck, installed their own diesel generators. Arrived in Vancouver, B.C., delivered their special vehicles to the Ordnance Depot, and the unit was disbanded. Thinks they deserve a theatre medal, although not on active operations. Anecdote regarding good relations with allies and emphasizes excellent treatment by the Australians. (37:00)

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