The Foundations of DRTE
(F.T. Davies)

A Brief History of CRC
(Nelms, Hindson)

The Early Days
(John Keys)

CRC's Pioneers


Bits and Pieces


The Alouette Program
The ANIK B Projects
David Florida Laboratory
Defence Communications
Detection Systems
The DRTE Computer
Doppler Navigation
HF Radio Resarch
The ISIS Program
Janet - Meteor Burst Communications
Microwave Fuze
Mobile Radio Data Systems
Prince Albert Radar Lab.
Radar Research
Radio Propagation Studies
Radio Warfare
Search and Rescue Satellite
Solid State Devices
Sounding Rockets
Trail Radio


John Barry - Doppler Navigation
John Belrose - The Early Years
Bert Blevis - The Role of the Ionosphere and Satellite Communications in Canadian Development
Bert Blevis - The Implications of Satellite Technology for Television Broadcasting in Canada
Richard Cobbold - A Short Biography of Norman Moody
Peter Forsyth - the Janet Project
Del Hansen - The RPL Mobile Observatory
Del Hansen - The Prince Albert Radar Laboratory 1958-1963
LeRoy Nelms - DRTE and Canada's Leap into Space
Gerald Poaps' Scrapbook
Radio Research in the Early Years
John Wilson - RPL as I Recall It, 1951-1956



Annual Reports





A Brief History of CRC

LeRoy Nelms and Bill Hindson


RPL main building on Prescott Highway.
Photo CRC 51-RPL-0168

CRC's beginnings trace back to the creation of the Radio Propagation Laboratory (RPL) during World War II. The RPL was formed in 1944 as a result of a request from the Royal Canadian Navy, which wanted help in its campaign against submarines. The National Research Council (NRC) was asked to study ionospheric conditions affecting the transmission of radio waves. The Department of National Defence (DND) formed a Canadian Radio Wave Propagation Committee, to which RPL provided technical advice. The RPL originally consisted of three scientists; Mr. F.T. Davies, Mr. J.C.W. Scott and Mr. J.H. Meek. These three scientists are regarded as the founding fathers of the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment, which is now the Communications Research Centre. Following World War II, RPL became part of the Defence Research Board (DRB), formed in 1947, as a collection of several military research laboratories.

When the Radio Propagation Laboratory (RPL) was first formed, it was housed in Naval Headquarters in Ottawa. In 1947, this unit moved to a building provided by the Navy on the Prescott Highway, just outside of Ottawa. The construction of an additional building to house scientific staff permitted the concentration of all RPL staff at the Prescott Highway in 1949. While the buildings are no longer there, a commemorative plaque remains as a reminder of RPL's years at that location.

The laboratory expanded in terms of both staff and commitments, until accommodation had become a really urgent problem. A large new laboratory was constructed at Shirleys Bay, eleven miles west of Ottawa, where there was space for large antenna installations and where there was relatively little radio interference from the city. (Jerry Brennan has provided a photo of the beginning of construction of Building 2a at Shirleys Bay) A huge copper screen, which extended twenty-five feet past the walls on all sides, was buried beneath the foundationsof the new building to ensure the complete grounding of the building. Meanwhile, to minimize internal electrical interference, the entire elevator shaft in the laboratory was lined with copper sheeting. The technical design of the building was drawn up by Mr. P.A. Field of the Defence Research Board (DRB). After a number of delays, the new laboratory was unofficially taken over from the contractor and occupied by staff in September 1952.

Concurrently, the Defence Research Electronics Laboratory was housed in temporary accommodation provided by the Army's Canadian Signals Research and Development Establishment (CSRDE) in Rockliffe, where they were working on communications equipment problems. The group originally worked in three rooms in the main CSRDE building, but a temporary hut was soon erected and was used as a laboratory until a permanent building could be constructed. The site chosen for the new laboratory was adjacent to the Army's Canadian Signals Research and Development Establishment in the NRC compound on Montreal Road in Ottawa. (Keith Bedal has provided photos of the EL staff and one of the labs from the period 1950-53.)

The Electronics Laboratory building was officially opened on June 13, 1952.

In 1951, RPL (renamed as the Radio Physics Laboratory) amalgamated with the Defence Research Electronics Laboratory (DREL), a small establishment working on communications equipment problems, to become the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE). Mr. Davies was the Chief Superintendent, with Mr. Scott as Superintendent of RPL and Mr. J.W. Cox as Superintendent of the Electronics Laboratory. At this time, RPL's work covered six sections; Atmospheric Physics, Radio Prediction, VLF, Ionospheric, Microwave Propagation and Theoretical Studies. The Electronics Laboratory had five sections; Transistors, Radio Warfare (ECM and ECCM), Components, Navigation, and Radar. The RPL was originally located on the Experimental Farm. In 1952, it was moved to a new site west of Ottawa at Shirleys Bay*, Ontario, where radio interference was negligible outside the city limits. CRC has remained at this site and expanded it over the years. Today, CRC's neighbours include companies such as Nortel, Alcatel and Mitel.

For several years, DRTE's activities were dominated by the design and construction of several scientific satellites, beginning with Alouette 1 in 1958. The success of these activities continues to be a source of pride for CRC.

In the late 1960's, Dr. John H. Chapman wrote a document, known as the Chapman Report, recommending that Canada should have its own communications satellite network. This report influenced the federal government's decision to establish the Department of Communications (DOC), as well as Telesat Canada. The government gave DOC responsibility for the existing Alouette-ISIS program, as well as providing support to Telesat Canada through background research and development. DRTE staff, buildings, resources and programs were transferred to the new Department to become its research branch, under the name Communications Research Centre (CRC).

CRC's new mandate focused on civilian communication. However, CRC continued to provide support to DND in telecommunications research and development through a cooperative agreement, and to operate a portion of DND's technical program, an arrangement that is still in effect.

(Since 1994, CRC has been operating under the auspices of Industry Canada).


Nelms, LeRoy and Hindson, Bill. "DRTE - From WWII to CRC" in "A History of the Defence Research Establishment Ottawa 1941-1991", eds. Jim Norman and Rita Crow. Ottawa: DREO, 1992.

LeRoy Nelms, 1968

CRC Photo 68-17281

Bill Hindson, 1965

CRC Photo 65-10770

Another view of the Prescott Highway site. The contrast of the photo has been manipulated to show the radio antennas.
Photo courtesy of Len Bodé

Page created on June 14, 1996 by Cynthia Boyko
Last updated on February 5, 2001 by Stu McCormick