The Foundations of DRTE
(The following notes were taken from pages handwritten by F.T. Davies. They were probably written in 1972 or so, and are a draft of the first part of the history that he was writing. There is a more polished, typewritten version, but this one is included because it is more personal)
"This is not a proper history of DRTE, for which the hundreds of reports and published papers form the basic material. DCDRB(Ops) asked me to write a more personal story something like his story of DRNL after the transfer to NRC. It is more than a year since I left DRTE (which is now CRC of the Department of Communications) and I think that I should cover the early history more particularly because much of this is not known to the present younger staff. These notes then are intended only for past and present members of DRB, especially those linked closely with DRTE.
"Like nearly all the DRB laboratories, DRTE had its origins in the Services during WW II, in this case as Section 6 of the Operational Intelligence Centre (OIC-6), RCN. The section was concerned with the application of ionospheric data to communications and detection in the HF radio band. The section was small, even when S/L J.C.W. Scott (RCAF), Lt. L.H. Wylie (Canadian Army Signals) were seconded to join Lt. J.H. Meek (RCNVR), Miss Rita Richard and myself. The RCN set up two ionospheric stations at Chelsea, Quebec and Churchill, Manitoba with the aid of Messrs. C.W. McLeish and R.E Freowau?? of NRC. Signallers were trained by us and we continued to do this for the RCAF, Army and DOT ionospheric stations which were located at Portage (Man.) Torbay (Nfld.) Prince Rupert (B.C.) Baker Lake, Chimo and Resolute (NWT). The end of WW II saw a rapid demobilization of all three Services with consequent rapid change of operators at the ionospheric stations. Operational Intelligence was demobilized in 48 hours in August 1945 except for Section 6 which continued to be supported by the RCN under the supervision of a Canadian Radio Propagation Committee. This committee was linked to an allied central committee in Washington and included members from NRC, DOT, and CBC. This arrangement continued until DRB took over the responsibility for the committee, our small section, and the research aspects of the ionospheric program. COT took over the Services ionospheric stations wile we continued training, equipment and analyses of data.
"We were in fact orphans after WW II. DRB hadn't planned to include this research and did so only because (a) the Services could no longer support the set of stations, (b) NRC declined to accept an RCN request to take this responsibility, and (c) DOT agreed to run the field stations but not the training nor data utilization.
"It had become necessary to continue an ionospheric service as part of the rapidly growing international effort which in a relatively short time included more than one hundred ionosondes around the globe. In this the Canadian ionosondes were much more important than their number because they spanned the northern auroral zone in which ionospheric disturbance was a maximum. (At that time there was no equivalent ionosonde net across the southern auroral zone). Scott, Meek and I with Miss Richard as secretary, were transferred to DRB in August 1946 and were joined by Dr. R.C. Langille who brought with him from Army Operational Research the continuing radar program called "Stormy Weather", a study of local weather by radar. This program, with equipment and DRB grants, was later transferred to McGill University where, under the direction of Dr. Stewart Marshall, it has proven a very creditable scientific success.
"DRB did not decide to build a full Telecommunications Establishment until some four years later when the two early laboratories, RPL (in a surplus RCN signal station at the Experimental Farm), which developed from the original ionospheric group, and EL (at Rockcliffe), were combined in a single DRTE. This was located at Shirleys Bay, but for a decade EL continued to grow on the Montreal Road, closely linked with CSRDE(Army). As superintendent of both wings, I spent alternate days east and west of Ottawa and in the process got to know people in both wings rather better I think than any of my colleagues. Jim Scott (RPL) and Jim Cox (EL) were the first superintendents of these separate laboratories when these had grown to fill two large new buildings.
"The term 'superintendent' was not customary in Canada in the sense of laboratory superintendent. I remember being drafted to the jurors panel in the Carleton Fall Assizes and was interviewed in my turn as panel members registered. Two men before me described their jobs as superintendents which meant apartment house supervisors. I simplified explanations by describing myself as a laboratory director.
"The early history of DRTE is not fully understood unless it is realized that NRC retained the military research fields of Radar, Antennas (Radar and Communications), Direction Finding, and Electronic Tube development after WW II. NRC's large division of Radio and Electrical Engineering had done a remarkable job for the Services in these fields during WW II and had a very experienced staff to continue. It was only in later years when NRC interests broadened into space developments that radar, electronics and D/F were added to the main role of DRTE - i.e. communications.
"The Glassco Commission in 1962 recommended that ionospheric and communication research in DRTE should be transferred to NRC, perhaps in ignorance of the RCN request to NRC to do this in 1945.
"From the earliest days the link between DRTE and NRC Division of Radio and Electrical Engineering has been close and has always included cooperative effort. During the past decade this has been particularly in the space fields of rocketry, earth satellites and radio astronomy.
"After WW II we learned that in Germany and Japan, as was the case in the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA, the Navies took the initiative in applications of ionospheric data to communications. In all these countries except Canada ionospheric programs were transferred to civilian agencies particularly, in the cases of Australia and The Netherlands, to the Post Office. In the UK also communications has been an important responsibility of the Post Office, so the recent transfer of DRTE to the Canadian Department which includes the Post Office has a lot of precedents. Norway is the only country I believe where ionospheric research still continues in the defence department as a responsibility of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, with which DRTE has also maintained close cooperation."
The following paragraphs were included with the other notes. They clearly are notes for a talk to some visitors:
"This Establishment started in the RCN 'Y' services and has retained its major objective of improving radio communications and radar systems in a countermeasures and particularly Canadian environment.
"The map will show what we mean. Canada is a natural geophysical laboratory for the study of disturbed radio conditions of the ionosphere which are associated with the auroral zone as well as the polar cap. The auroral zone in Canada extends much farther south than anywhere else in the North Hemisphere because it is approximately symmetrical with and axis (Geomagnetic axis) in NW Greenland. This zone extends, under ionospheric storm conditions, over a good part of Canada. It is essential to measure the ionization with height at many places across this zone in order to make radio frequency predictions. This has also to be done to find diurnal, seasonal and solar sunspot variations.
"Universities do not do this kind of basic research so we have done it ourselves, and extended our techniques from ground based radars to rocket experiments from Churchill and also are making a satellite for measuring the ionosphere from the topside.
"Basic support of our main Communications and Radar Systems developments is also furnished by advanced technology of the Electronics laboratory, in transistor circuitry and a variety of solid state physics research. This includes making a solid state computer which we are now using in our computation centre. We have developed an airborne navigation aid now in use in RCAF and commercial aircraft.
"Our first satellite experiment, carried on Transit 2A last June was successful and gave the first measurements on cosmic noise above the ionosphere. The next experiment in aid of the satellite program will test our antenna system, in particular in a high altitude rocket in the US in mid April. Our satellite is scheduled for launching in a near-polar orbit about a year from now.
"We have maintained close contact and joined in combined trials of communications and airborne jammers with the UK Services and the Farnborough (RAE) and Slough (RRS) Establishments.
"I will not attempt further details as I think you will be more interested in some demonstrations of communications systems which is, I think, our most important contribution."
The following is also taken from handwritten notes. F.T. was very proud of the DRTE staff and their accomplishments:
"Miss Rita Richard served as secretary, trouble shooter and confidante to all women employees from RCN OIC/6 and DRB for seven years when she became Mrs. R.C. Langille. Miss Edna Salter and J.W. Cox were joined by A. Warwick, C.A. McKerrow, D.H. Hansen, and R. Stevens from DOT, L. Hagg from Army Signals and J. Bennett and J. Bateson from UK. P.A. Field joined from CBC and contributed more than anyone to the early publication "The Monthly Median" which served to keep the staffs of ionospheric stations and RPL in fairly close communion. As editor following J.H. Meek, he included interesting excerpts from scientific and engineering journals besides articles from RPL staff and personnel news items of the network. The Median was very popular with everyone and owed a great deal to the extra efforts of Meek and Field.
"Quite early in its history RPL took in as many University students each summer as DRB allowed and they provided a continuing stimulus as well as establishing links with nearly all the Canadian Universities. This practice made an important contribution to ideas, to friendship, and allowed RPL to carry out a great deal more useful research than could have been done solely by the regular staff. The same practice with equally fortunate results was continued in EL. For much of the history of DRTE some forty university students, many of them repeaters for two or more years, joined every summer to liven us up. Among these students were J.H. Chapman, now Assistant Deputy Minister for Research in DOC, C.O. Hines, now Prof. of Mathematics of University of Toronto; J. Hogarth, Prof. of Mathematics at Queen's; P.A. Forsyth, later Director of Physics at Western University. The entry of students during the summer resulted in a two way link with Universities as some joined DRTE and some DRTE officers returned to Universities. Among the latter were A. Cowan, Director of Physics (Waterloo); D. Frood, Director of Physics (Lakehead); N.H. Moody, Prof. of Medical Electronics (Toronto); D. Hay and E. Vogan (Western); R. Montabletti (Sask.); R. Daters (McMaster); P. Eastman (Waterloo); and K. Bateson (Algonquin).
"T.W. Straker who joined us from Cambridge (UK) subsequently returned to UK as a senior director of Marconi's Radar Division. He like several other New Zealanders after him, was a very able research director. When Brigade Major of the NZ Division in the desert war, Tom was personally taken prisoner by Rommel himself. He later escaped prison in Italy, found his way into Switzerland and acted as science instructor for the many Allied POWs who had found their way into Switzerland.
"One of our recruits to EL from the Army was Art Adams who was not only a skilled draftsman but a very shrewd cartoonist. In EL, as in other Engineering Laboratories, there was a continuing and generally friendly rivalry between the technicians, the machinists and the draftsmen. This is reminiscent of the "deck versus black gang" at sea. Adams invented a remarkable character named Tugleigh the Technician who was pin-headed and stooped over with long arms, fingers touching his toes. This was supposed to be a technician and was always portrayed as a very loyal and conscientious character with very little sense.
"Another recruit with a remarkably cheery sang froid was carpenter Leo Fournier, who had served in RCAF bombers for more than two full bombing periods in perhaps the most dangerous job of WW II - rear gunner. When in a bomber with a New Zealand crew they were badly hit by flak and the pilot considered crash landing in occupied France. "In that case", said Leo, "I will separate from you chaps. Your NZ accents are bound to get you caught while French is my mother tongue anyway!." Two other recruits were also rear gunners - Jack Bloom and Peter Jacques.
"John Chapman's early experience as a young officer in RCAF was perhaps the most unexpected. He was posted to West Africa and when the CO found that he was a scientist he was assigned to direct the building of quarters for a large number of Swahili-speaking Africans. These experiences are capped by that of DRB's Chief Scientist George Field who found himself being returned to Canada after a scientific conference in UK aboard the battleship "Rodney". At sea she was directed to attach, the German "Bismarck", all guns going red hot!"