Appendix E - Operation "SILLITOE"
The "Maple Leaf Mailbag" programme on Radio Canada International
hosted by Marc Montgomery
(30 July 2001, 01:07 to 01:13 GMT. Frequency 13.670 MHz)
Montgomery: ...Now stay tuned because coming up next we speak to Dave Lawrence
of Kingston Ontario. He's a founding member of the Wireless Set Number 19
historic military radio group and he'll tell us about an interesting
radio anniversary...Dave, it's good to have you with us once again.
Welcome to the programme.
Lawrence: Hi Marc.
Montgomery: This is an important month for people who are interested in
military radio. Perhaps you could tell me why that is.
Lawrence: Well, it's 60 years ago that a Mr Sydney Sillitoe returned from
England and with him he had the plans for the Wireless Set No. 19 that was
the general purpose radio used by the Canadian Army during the war.
Montgomery: In fact, it was used by most of the Commonwealth armies
Lawrence: That's right. It was the general purpose radio used by everybody.
Montgomery: And wasn't it even used in some American applications as well?
Lawrence: The Sherman tanks that they made for the Lend Lease Program,
the ones that were shipped to Russia, most of those had 19 Sets in them
and that's why you'll often see both cyrillic and English writing on a
Montgomery: So these were darn common radios and darn important radios,
I guess, during the second world war!
Lawrence: Oh absolutely! There were well over 100,000 of them made
just in Canada.
Montgomery: So 60 years ago Mr Sillitoe went over to England because the
radio was, in fact, designed in England. Correct?
Lawrence: That's correct; made by the Pye Radio factory in Cambridge.
So, Mr Sillitoe at the time was working for Northern Electric, went over
and spent about two months learning how they made them and came back in
July of 1941 and by Christmas they were making 19 Sets in Canada. So,
the turn-around time from bringing a handfull of drawings to actually
having production coming off of the line was just marvellous.
Montgomery: I'm just guessing that Mr Sillitoe's trip over was probably
kept fairly secret.
Lawrence: That's right. Even some of the details were kept from him. He
ended up flying, I think it took about 12 hours in a Liberator to get across
to England, the plane crash landed in Preswick. So, the trip over was pretty
exciting and on the way back the had to come through Lisbon with all his
drawings and it took about 30 hours total time to get from England back to
Montgomery: Now what is your particular connection with this event?
Lawrence: Well, actually Mr. Sillitoe was involved in another radio design,
one for the Air Force, the general purpose radio that the Air Force had,
the AT1/AR2. Mr Sillitoe worked on the design team of that. For that project
they were working 18 hours a day for months on end, sometimes sleeping in the
lab. As it turns out, I have both an AT1/AR2, the Air Force general purpose
set, and a Wireless Set No. 19, the two radios that Mr Sillitoe worked on
during the war.
Montgomery: How did you commemorate this July event of Mr Sillitoe's return
to Canada with the 19 Set design?
Lawrence: Well, what we did was put together a little commemorative message
that I sent from Kingston, using the AT1/AR2, to Chris Bisaillion, VE3CBK,
in Ottawa and he received that on a Wireless Set No. 19. So, for that 60th
anniversary of Mr Sillitoe's trip to England we took the two radios that he
worked on and put them back on the air.
Montgomery: What distance are we talking about between Kingston and Ottawa?
Lawrence: Oh just a little over 100 Km but that's well beyond the design
range that the sets would normally be expected to operate.
Montgomery: And what was the message you sent?
Lawrence: Well, it's fairly short. It says, "This month marks the 60th
anniversary of your return to Canada with the plans for the Wireless Set
Number 19. Your work on that set, plus your previous work on the RCAF AT1/AR2,
resulted in significant milestones in Canadian military communications
history. Rest assured that your contribution to the war effort is not
forgotten. This message is being sent from Kingston using an AT1/AR2 and
received in Ottawa on a Wireless Set Number 19."
Montgomery: You've actually given this message to Mr Sillitoe, who's
Lawrence: That's right. He's a young man of 93, living in Surrey BC at
the moment, not in the best of health but he received the message (actually
by mail, I sent it to Ottawa and from there it was mailed to Mr Sillitoe).
In fact, he has already replied to us.
Montgomery: What did he say?
Lawrence: Well, it's a very nice letter. He says, "You all do me a great
honour commemorating my contribution to the war effort with the design and
production of the AT1/AR2 for the RCAF for ferrying Lancasters and Mosquitos
across the Atlantic, and the 60th anniversary of my return to Canada with
the plans for the Wireless Set Number 19 and subsequent adaptation for
production on this continent. Your continuing recognition of my efforts
is greatly appreciated, and indeed, a great compliment and surprise to me
after 60 years. To me it is now all far away and long ago. Signed Sydney
Montgomery: All right! Well listen, that's a very interesting little
project that you embarked upon. If people want to find out more about
your group, the 19 Set Group, there is a website where they can get
information on that. Perhaps you can tell us what that is.
Lawrence: Sure. The website is "www.qsl.net/ve3bdb". That takes you
to the website and I know on the website there are pictures of 19 Sets
and the AT1/AR2. We will have the messages that were sent and received,
posted on the website in the next couple of days.
Montgomery: Well Dave; dot-dot-dot-dash.
Lawrence: Well di-di-di-dah-di-dah to you Marc. Take care and good
talking to you. Hope your listeners are interested in our project.
Montgomery: Good-bye Dave.
Lawrence: Bye now.
Montgomery: Dave Lawrence is a founding member of the 19 Set Group
and you're listening to the "Maple Leaf Mailbag" on Radio Canada
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