1 Canadian Special Wireless Group

Page1

Darwin, N.T., Australia


5 March 1945, LCol HDW Wethey, Commanding Officer, 1CSWG, accompanies Gen Sir Thomas A Blamey, C in C Allied Land Forces, Southwest Pacific Area on inspection of 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group while the Unit was billeted at Chermside Camp, Queensland, prior to proceeding to Darwin N.T.

The following is a history of 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group (1CSWG) as detailed in their Souvenir Booklet which was compiled by members of the unit at the end of their tour of duty in 1945.

CLICK HERE for 1CSWG's Nominal Roll.

CLICK HERE for a Canadian Soldier's view of
Australia and it's people - August 1959.

CLICK HERE for another member, Raymond Cadiuex, of 1CSWG.

CLICK HERE for the dedication of the 1CSWG display
8 Jun 2001 at CFS Leitrim

CLICK HERE ALLIED SIGNAL INTELLIGENCE UNITS
AND OTHER SECRET UNITS IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

CLICK HERE NO. 1 SPECIAL WIRELESS GROUP
ROYAL CANADIAN CORPS OF SIGNALS (RCCS) IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

In June of 1944, the Minister of National Defence authorized the formation of:
Serial-1657 - No. 1 Special Wireless Group, R.C. Signals
Serial-1798 - No. 1 Special Wireless group Intelligence Section, C. Int. C.

     Staff work in connection with the formation and equipping of the group had been going on in Ottawa for some months, and as soon as the formation was approved action was taken by the Director of Signals and the Director of Military Intelligence to post Officers and men to the two units.

     The first four members of the group were Capt HL Hall, Capt RE March, Lt. JH Legere, and Lt. JD Miller, who were posted to it on July first.

     It had been decided that the unit should be formed and trained at Gordon Head Camp, Vancouver Island, and on July 13th Capt Hall, who was then the acting CO, and Capt March, the Adjutant, arrived in Victoria and commenced work. The first NCO to reach Victoria was CQMS HS Carleton, and first OR's, five former members of No. 10 Area Signal Company, Vancouver. They arrived at Gordon Head on July 15th.

     Throughout the balance of July, officers, NCO's and men continued to arrive, some of the vehicles were received, and equipment and stores reached the Victoria dock in an ever increasing flow.

     On August 1st when LCol. HDW Wethey arrived in Victoria to take command of the unit, its strength was 5 officers and 49 men. It shortly became apparent that Gordon Head Camp could not hold both our unit and the Casualty Retraining Center which was beginning to move in. On August 11th, the unit moved in its own transport to Mills road Camp, Patricia Bay.

     The unit rapidly began to take shape. Personnel continued to come into the unit until, by the end of August, the strength was up to 253. The first task was to set up the station and the necessary aerial masts and to prepare the training huts. Also, there was the well known general cleanup of the camp.

     On August 21st Cpl Kurtz of the Kent Regt and two other NCO's commenced instruction in basic subjects. On the same date the first classes were held for the training of Operators Monitor Sigs. By this time sections were forming up and new men were being posted for training and duty

     The Glee Club has the honor of being the first club formed in the unit. A group of interested personnel met in Hut 11 on August 31st and a Glee Club was formed having as its immediate aim the presentation of an "amateur night" in conjunction with the Legion movie. This day was also marked by the first opening of the Wet Canteen.

     On September 25th MajGeneral GR Pearkes, VC, GOC of Pacific command visited the camp. After inspecting the troops on the MT compound parade square he continued a visit of the unit in training.

     During the month of October the unit was well entertained with a Variety Show presented by the Glee Club which followed a movie program. Also a Concert Party and a Variety Show were presented by the Canadian Legion.

     Packing of equipment began at the end of October. A packing expert from the United States had come to instruct in the packing following the arrival of most of the equipment during the month of September.

     The good news regarding furloughs was received on November 4th following LCol Wethey's return from a trip to NDHQ. Embarkation leave together with seven days furlough was to be granted. The following week the radio station closed, training classes ended, and all available personnel were engaged in the task of completing the packing.

     The first weeks of December saw the camp practically empty with the members being away on leave. The final packing was completed and the equipment moved to the docks at Ogden Point.

     Christmas day was marked by a light fall of snow giving the much deserved "White Christmas." In the morning a parade of all personnel was held and the CO gave a talk outlining future plans. The unit, he said, would be moving to Australia. Christmas dinner with all the trimmings was served by the Officers and Sergeants. The two mess halls were well decorated for the occasion with fir boughs, a Christmas tree in the centre of the hall, and red and green table decorations.

     New Year's was spent waiting for departure. In the first week of the New Year the unit was inspected by MajGen GR Pearkes and by Col WL Laurie, Director of Signals. MajGen Pearkes gave a farewell message.

     On January 13th a convoy of motor vehicles moved the unit out of Mills Road Camp. Embarking on the CPR Princess Charlotte the unit sailed to Seattle from where it proceeded to Camp Stoneman, California. Here followed five days of perfect relaxation and enjoyment. Approximately two hundred members of the unit visited San Francisco and the remainder enjoyed entertainment in Pittsburg and Camp Stoneman itself. While at Camp Stoneman, Col Guy Gurney, Canadian Military Attache to Washington inspected the unit and took the salute on the march past.

     Too soon the stay at Camp Stoneman ended. By river boat the unit was transported to San Francisco where the USAT Monterey was boarded and at six o'clock on the evening of January 20th the unit sailed out under the Golden Gate. During the first few days many of the members suffered from "mal de mer" but in a few days the sea calmed down and they gained their sea legs.

     The trip was made with personnel of several other countries. Members of the USO provided entertainment and a fairly comprehensive library of fiction was placed at our disposal. This helped immeasureably in passing the time. In addition there was a "GI" show held with personnel of the unit taking part. On January 28th the Equator was crossed. King Neptune and his party boarded the ship and all personnel were subjected to his court until proven "Shellbacks". The following day we had the experience of crossing the International Date Line and losing a day.

     Early on the morning of February 4th, we put into our first port, Finschafen, in that tropical paradise of New Guinea. Two days were spent here taking on water and supplies and unloading mail. From here we continued on up to Hollandia where American units were disembarked and our unit changed over to the ill-famed USAT Shawnee. After sitting under an equatorial sun awaiting the pleasure of "This is Major Johnson the Transport Commander," troops were finally allowed aboard to find the bunks already occupied by lice, bed-bugs and cockroaches. The remainder of the afternoon and the following morning were taken up with the job of disinfecting and cleaning the ship's quarters. From Hollandia we sailed on February 10th, proceeding down the New Guinea coast and stopping at Oro Bay (where American troops and casualties embarked) and at Milne Bay for oil.

     The very welcome sensation of again feeling solid ground underfoot was experienced on February 16th when we docked at Brisbane. Lt Legere, who with Lt Larkin had travelled to Australia earlier by air, met the unit and directed us to Chermside Camp. The stay in Brisbane was marked by the overwhelming hospitality of the Australians. The Australian Comforts fund arranged weekends to interesting districts in the suburbs of Brisbane. All was not play while the unit was at Brisbane. MT prepared their vehicles for future use, the operators worked with the No. 1 Australian Special Wireless Group, and members of Intercom took classes in operating and procedure. In addition to this routine work, the equipment had to be moved and various fatigues carried out in the camp. On March 5th the unit was inspected by General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area.

A sad event for all in the unit was the death of Sgmn DJ Green on March 3rd. He was drowned at Maroochydore while surf bathing. Services for the late Sigmn Green were held on March 5th at St. Joseph's RC Church, Nambour, and burial was at Woombye-Palmwoods Military Cemetery.

Photos provided courtesy of Michelle Flood Wallbank


The following photos of the Green funeral are provided by Maureen Spencer, daughter of Sgt Reg Robinson

             

During the Unit's tour in Darwin, another member passed away suddenly.
He was Lt John David Miller. Click here for details.

     On April 4th the unit departed from Camp Chermside to Exhibition Station where it boarded a train. The three day train trip to Mt. Isa was one which will not soon be forgotten. Attempts to sleep in crowded day coaches, eating mutton three times a day and a detour at Home Hill because a railway bridge had been washed out were interesting details in Queensland's mode of travel.

     At Mt. Isa a two and a half day stop was spent unloading the equipment from the train onto trucks. In the evenings Mt. Isa was visited and although some had difficulty in making the return journey to camp, all agreed that they had a good time. From Mt. Isa the trip to Darwin was made by motor vehicles, stopping each evening at staging camps. Upon arrival at McMillan's Road Camp in Darwin on April 18th the unit was played into camp by the N.T. Force Band.

     Work commenced immediately preparing the camp for use. Antennaes were laid out, trenches were dug for cable, the station was set up and numerous other necessary tasks were completed. On April 30th the first regular shift went on duty at the station. As the unit commenced its work it was found necessary to re-organize the sections in order to form a more efficient working organization.

     On May 8th the news came of the cessation of hostilities in Europe. The unit heard Prime Minister Winston Churchill's broadcast on the BBC through station 5DR. The following day a Thanksgiving Service was held. Major Pick gave a short address and also read a Special Order of the Day by MajGen JJ Murray, GOC N.T. Force. The remainder of the day was declared a holiday.

     The unit was now prepared to take over the complete job formerly done by the Australian Special Wireless Group. On May 18th, although Australians were still maintained, the Canadian Special Wireless Group became responsible for the working of the station. On May 14th classes were resumed for the instruction of partially trained operators. The Rear Party arrived on May 31st providing additional personnel for the work.

     With the unit running smoothly, personnel were able to devote more time to sports and activities. All the clubs began to function. The "Static Press" started weekly publications on June 4th. The Glee Club was active preparing for the recital by the Darwin Choral Society and for a variety show put on in the camp on August 20th in conjunction with the "Canuck" orchestra. Besides this the quartette "Harmony Four" appeared weekly on 5DR. The Camera Club commenced building a dark room where members could work. The first unit dance in Australia was held on July 16th with the "Canuck" orchestra supplying the music. A regular feature of the camp's entertainment was the movies which were shown three times a week through the kindness of the U.S. Signal Corps. In addition a sports program was arranged including the favorite camp sports of softball, volleyball, swimming and boxing.

     On August 2nd, Col Moore Cosgrave, Canadian Military Attache to Australia, visited the unit. In the afternoon he inspected the unit on parade and took the salute on the march past. After the parade Col Cosgrave congratulated all ranks on parade for the splendid turn out and the general conduct of the unit since coming to Australia.

     The news of Japan's acceptance of the Allied surrender terms laid down at the Potsdam conference came on August 15th. A Thanksgiving Service was held with 85th Wing RAAF led by Chaplain Clayden of the above Wing. The remainder of the day and the day following was declared a holiday for all troops not on duty.

     Within the short span of a year the gigantic tasks of organizing, training, moving overseas, and going into operation had been accomplished. The job assigned to this unit has been carried out, and in such a manner as to win the praise of those under whom it worked. The history of the unit will not be complete until it has arrived back in Canada and has been disbanded. However, regardless of what follows, members of the unit can stand with those of other Canadian Units, proud of their record.

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