In July 1942, seventeen (17) years before the present lighthouse at Cape Scott was lit, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) established a radio detection finding (RDF) transmitter and receiver at the point. Work was started in July 1942 and the station was online in December 1942. It continued in operation until September 1945. (please see reference notes below).
Late in 2005 the lighthouse keeper at Cape Scott, Harvey Humchitt, received an inquiry from Ernest J. Ferguson who was reminiscing about his earlier life and wanted to visit Cape Scott, his old haunt from 1942. He was a well-retired RCAF Pilot Officer who started on Cape Scott in July 1942 as a Leading Aircraftman (LAC).
In his email he wished to visit the area once more but Coast Guard would not permit it because of his age (he was 85 years old this year ). Since then he has written Harvey and myself and given us a few black and white photos and stories of his time setting up No. 10 Radio Detachment on Cape Scott.
Ernest wrote: You were interested in my time span at the Cape. I was an LAC (RDF Tech) during my time at the Cape and rose to Pilot Officer. I arrived with the very first civilian construction workers who were building the barracks, mess hall, the plank road and operations building. Later perhaps eighteen months, the Air force allowed me to go Air Crew. During the construction we lived under canvas.
Our job was to install the RDF equipment which was very secret during the war. Once we had the diesel electric going and the gantry operational we had to calibrate the equipment. Once everything seemed to be working well the next problem was communications. The Air Force gave us good equipment and directions.
Personally I seemed to volunteer to do all the high wire work. The Air Force sent us short telephone pole climbing spurs instead of long tree climbing spurs. For a period my days work was cleaning two suitable trees to string our antennae. One day I was very very high up one of the trees and the short spurs failed to support my weight. I had a wonderful ride down and left two fifty foot long peelings where my short spurs took the bark off the tree. No injury – just a thrill!
Another interesting story. The Air Force gave us emergency rations.Guess what? One cow! None of us knew a thing about animals. Suddenly one day we had a new born animal. This one was not on inventory!
The cook just couldn’t stand having all that wonderful meat available and not on inventory.
One day he decided to butcher the poor wee thing.
We did enjoy the meal, however the poor mother was very sad and she decided to run away. Suddenly she was lost and our emergency rations were gone and our inventory destroyed. The cook worried about that and wondered what he would say.
Notes below with permission of Department of National Defence – C&E Branch from the document “The History of Canadian Military Communications and Electronics”
In 1942 construction of a chain of radar stations for surveillance of the Pacific Coast began. By November 1943 it was in place.
Initially the stations were called Radio Detachments and in 1943 the title “Radio Unit” was adopted. The term RADAR was not adopted by Canadians until late 1943. The chain ceased operations with war’s end in mid 1945.
The units were:
7 Radio Unit (GCI) Patricia Bay (southern Vancouver Island)
8 Radio Unit (GCI) Sea Island (near Vancouver)
9 Radio Unit (CHL) Spider Island (near Bella Bella)
10 Radio Unit (CHL) Cape Scott (northern tip Vancouver Island)
11 Radio Unit (CHL) Ferrer Point (northern Vancouver Island)
13 Radio Unit (CHL) Amphitrite Point (central Vancouver Island)
26 Radio Unit (CHL) Langara Island (northern tip Queen Charlotte Islands)
27 Radio Unit (CHL) Marble Island (central Queen Charlotte Islands)
28 Radio Unit (CHL) Cape St. James (southern tip Queen Charlotte Islands)
33 Radio Unit (MEW) Tofino (southern Vancouver Island)
X-1 Detachment (CHL) Jordan River (southern Vancouver Island)
1 The Pine Tree Line website was taken offline when the owner, Ren L’Ecuyer, died July 23, 2005.
2 Ren L’Ecuyer passed over July 23, 2005 – JC