In true Canadian fashion — and despite dismal propagation — members of The Wireless Set No. 19 Group “soldiered on” in early May with VE-Day+60 activities using historic special event station call sign CF3VEDAY.
The call sign was the first ever issued in Canada with a 5-letter suffix, thereby itself becoming a part of history and setting a new milestone for Canadian Amateur Radio. All those stations contacting or hearing CF3VEDAY became part of history!
May 8, 2005, was the focal date because it was the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day) as well as the official opening of the new Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Intending to celebrate these events and also to recognize the Year of the Veteran, WS No. 19 Group members operated over eight days beginning May 5 and ending May 12, “Zulu” time, from several locations including the nation’s capital and from Orillia, Ontario.
While the majority of the activity with the special call sign was from a fixed location in Orillia, there was some operation from the “field”. This was conducted using vintage equipment (Wireless Set No. 19) from the Remic Rapids Lookout along the Ottawa River, about one mile west of the new War Museum. A Second World War encampment was established, complete with about 100 re-enactors, tents, trucks, tanks, artillery pieces and, of course, a signals station. This display was open to Ottawa high school students on Friday (May 6) and to the general public on Saturday (May 7).
The Wireless Set No. 19 Group Field Headquarters is shown front and center in this partial view of the military re-enactor’s campsite at Ottawa. Dave, VA3ORP, is seen standing the middle. CLICK THUMBNAIL
The signals display showed the WWII equivalent of a cellular phone system. The portable set was a Wireless Set No. 48 (a mere 34 pounds!) which worked back to a base station (WS No. 19). This was connected through a Remote Control Unit to a switchboard (Canadian-made UC-6) from which calls could be patched to several extension telephones (type “D” Mark V field telephones). Lest all of this “hi tech” gear fail, the backup systems included signal flags, signal lamps and a dispatch rider using either a jeep or bicycle.
For the on-air part of the display, members of the Wireless Set No. 19 Group got together for an evening CW net using vintage equipment. Check-ins came from Kingston (John, VA3GST), Toronto (Alan, VE3RIH) and from Fairfield, CT (Joe, W1GDZ and Vic, W1NU).
Of particular interest was a comment from Vic, W1NU, noting that the rig he was using (TBX-2/BC-348) was the same as the one that he had been training on during VE-Day in 1945. He had been in California preparing for the invasion of Japan.
The Victory Parade on Sunday (May 8) was very special. Dressed in WWII uniforms, members of The Group acted as chauffeurs to transport Veterans from the National War Memorial to the new Canadian War Museum. Thousands of people lined Wellington Street to cheer and thank the Veterans. Fifty-two vintage vehicles, all privately restored, participated in this parade. These included jeeps, trucks, tanks and an amphibious truck (DUKW). Signals unit was well represented with a 15 CWT Wireless Van and a jeep equipped with a 19 Set.
The final chapter of the Ottawa activities occurred on Wednesday (May 11) when Dave Lawrence, VA3ORP and Chris Bisaillion, VE3CBK, founders of the WS No. 19 Group, were interviewed live on CBC Radio’s “ Ontario Today” program. This was done live from the LeBreton Gallery of the new Canadian War Museum and consisted of an explanation of the Amateur Radio activities that had been undertaken to mark VE Day+60. In addition, the audience was challenged to identify a number of communications-related military artefacts. They did recognize a ground rod and the Morse Code key but had trouble with the lead weight for a bomber aircraft’s trailing wire antenna.
Chris, VE3CBK, acquaints a visiting family with vintage military wireless, wire line and visual signalling equipment at a display manned by members of the The Wireless Set No. 19 Group. The venerable Wireless Set No. 19, used by Canadian forces during World War II and built in Canada, was also used in the Korean War and into the early 1960’s. CLICK THUMBNAIL
Abdul, left, a security guard on the grounds, advised that he had used the No. 19 set in the 1970’s while a member of the Ugandan Signal Corp! Here he is seen checking out a vintage Wireless Set No. 48, accompanied by VA3ORP, center, and VE3CBK. CLICK THUMBNAIL
All in all, the time “in the field” was great fun. We met lots of Veterans, demonstrated WWII communications technology to students, and enjoyed the camaraderie of all those who had come out to mark the 60th anniversary of VE-Day. On top of that we had a great campsite, beautiful weather and just enough propagation to make the on-air activities a success.
Meanwhile, in Orillia, WS#19 Group member Bob Cooke, VE3BDB — who obtained the CF3VEDAY special event authorization from Industry Canada’s Amateur Radio Service Centre with the invaluable assistance of Radio Amateurs of Canada — was operating from his home QTH using a Yaesu FT- 990 transceiver to a G5RV antenna, the apex of which was up only 40 feet! While a 3-element beam was also available, it was used very sparingly.
Output power ranged from 100 watts to about 800 watts on some bands, the higher power being attained through use of an Ameritron AL80B amplifier. The amp came in handy and likely accounts for the good signal reports from stations that we could hardly hear due to conditions.
Although plans had included periodic use of a WS No. 19 (to be situated outdoors) as well as CW mode with modern equipment, band conditions (and weather) were so uncooperative hat Bob elected to concentrate on SSB operation. With the exception of a handful of AM and FM contacts by request, all operations were in SSB. Interestingly, there were no requests for CW, although the station stood ready to accommodate.
Bands worked (the operating log is on the CF3VEDAY website at <www.qsl.net/cf3veday>) reflect our desire to give as many stations as possible a chance to work us: 2m, 15m, 17m, 20m, 40m and 80m. All verified contacts who complied with the directions on the CF3VEDAY website will receive a unique and colourful QSL card, a real collector’s item!
A total of 326 contacts were made with many stations in Canada (including an Air Canada pilot at 40,000 feet over Calgary), and the USA, England, Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Morocco, Falkland Islands, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Russia, Slovenia, Belgium, Tajikistan, Brazil, Venezuela, Madeira Island, Northern Ireland, Scotland, St. Kitts & Nevis, Portugal, Czech Republic, Mexico, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Argentina.
We were very pleased to work VE3FYR, a WWII RCAF pilot of Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft, some 38 minutes into our operations. Per Ardua Ad Astra, Fred. (Note added from 16 May 2006 message to the Group: "It is with regret that I advise you of the death of Fred Richards, VE3FYR. He died in Toronto on Friday 12 May 2006. Fred was a long time member of our Group and he keenly supported our efforts to preserve military history. As a young pilot during the Second World War, Fred flew Hurricanes and Spitfires. One of his first missions was providing air cover for the Canadian raid on Dieppe, France, on 19 August 1942. Fred flew four sorties that day. I had the great pleasure of attending the annual Canadian Fighter Pilots reunion with Fred on two occasions. I was humbled to sit at the table with Fred and his buddies. Fred is survived by his wife Jean. They had been married for over 60 years. We have lost one of the 'good ones'. Per Ardua Ad Astra. Dave Lawrence, VA3ORP, NCS, W.S. No. 19 Group").
Above, CF3VEDAY Special Event Station QSL card, designed and produced by VA3ORP and VE3BDB. VE Day and Year of the Veteran images property and courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada. Canadian War Museum (CWM) image property and courtesy of CWM. CLICK THUMBNAIL
In operations from Ottawa 10 contacts were made, as well as 20 from near Kingston and one from Kanata. Surprisingly, several mobile DX stations were also worked by the Orillia station. However, often the signal report given out was 3x4 or 2x4 or even less, while CF3VEDAY usually received true 5x9 reports. In other cases, signals coming in to Orillia were 2x2 one minute and 5x9 the next, such were the roller-coaster band conditions.
Those dismal conditions were perhaps a blessing in disguise as they allowed Bob to take time out and view the televised proceedings from Ottawa on May 8, including the pleasure of seeing VA3ORP’s smiling face as he operated a jeep while dressed in the uniform of a WWII RCAF Sergeant (aka Sgt. Shatterproof?).
A special website, which is still running at <www.qsl.net/ cf3veday>, was set up to provide information about the special event station itself and also to be a jumping off point to other sites that contain a wealth of information about VE-Day and the war in Europe. They are well worth visiting.
Certainly the involvement in WWII of Canada’s army, navy and air force is of paramount interest. This country’s contributions were significant. (Putting a million persons into uniform from a total population of only 11 million is worth recognition.) It was felt that such knowledge is sadly lacking in today’s society, not only in Canada but also in other countries. This belief was borne out when, on several contacts, we had to explain what VE-Day is and was. Hopefully, Amateur Radio, through CF3VEDAY activities, raised awareness in at least some quarters.
While we did not work as many stations as we had hoped — and certainly not as many as had hoped to work us — the special event can be considered a great success. We did what we set out to do: salute Canada’s Veterans and mark the opening of a new facility, which provides recognition to those same Veterans. It was gratifying to receive thanks from many stations which expressed gratitude that we had undertaken this special event.
The fact that it all took place on and around the 60th Anniversary of VE-Day and raised awareness with our contacts made the event that much more significant. It was also more meaningful to the Group. Of course, operating on such an important date, using a historic call sign having a first-ever five-letter suffix, added to the excitement and broke new roads for Canadian Amateur Radio!
The Group thanks all Amateurs and SWLs for their efforts to participate. More information about the WS#19 Group can be found online at <www.qsl.net/ve3bdb>.
Photos used on the front cover of TCA magazine can be viewed by clicking the thumbnails below. From left to right they are: (1) back of special event CF3VEDAY QSL card; (2) Chris VE3CBK and Frank VA3CGJ (with bike) at display of wireless, wire line and visual signalling equipment. Also in the photo is a rear view of the 15 CWT in which was installed a working WS#19. Frank's call sign suffix 'CGJ' is that used by the famous Canadian warship HMCS Haida; (3) WWII 15 CWT truck, crewed by VA3CGJ and VE3CBK, with operating 19 set installed, was in the May 8 parade in Ottawa. Note the Canadian Ensign attached to the radio antenna. The vehicle is owned and was restored by members of the Oshawa Military and Industrial Museum and was one of 52 restored vehicles in the VE DAY + 60 parade. Photo by Bruce Gill; (4) The venerable WS#19, used by Canadian forces during World War Two and built in Canada (originally in the UK but improved in Canada), was also used in the Korean War and into the early 1960s.
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