1 Canadian Special Wireless Group


Darwin, N.T., Australia

The following is an article submitted to the C & E Branch Newsletter by ex-Signalman Ron O'Reilly who served with 1CSWG in Darwin. Some paras have been omitted since they closely parallel the history laid out on page 1. However Ron has another slant on the whole operation with regards to "Japanese Campaign Pay", which no member of 1CSWG has received to this date.

     In May 1944, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army asked Canada to supply a special signals and Intelligence Unit, with its equipment, "to intercept transmissions from Tokyo which could not be heard in Canada". (Acutally Japanese military radio messages.) The request was approved by the War Cabinet on June 7, 1944. The War Establishment was approved on June 15 and authorized by the Minister on July 19. The Signals element for the Wireless Group was 13 Officers and 278 men. The Intelligence Section was to be composed of six Officers and 39 Other Ranks.

     The Group was to be made up of Signalmen already trained in the interception of Japanese Code (over 100 characters and procedures - the KANA code) and working at various Signal Monitoring stations across Canada, with approximately 30 additional men to be recruited and trained before proceeding overseas. The Intelligence Section was to be composed of men from No. 1 Discrimnation Unit in Ottawa.

     In late August a request was received from the Australian Government to have the unit despatched there instead of India. This change in plans was approved on October 23, 1944.

     ......The unit remained in Darwin until October 24, 1945 when it proceeded south by motor vehicle, train, and then again motor vehicles to Sydney, NSW, arriving there on November 24, 1945. The unit remined in Sydney awaiting transportation home until February 6, 1946, when we embarked on the T.S.M.V. Socotra (WebMas note: Indian freighter Sikotra), arriving back in Vancouver February 25, 1946.

     During our stay in Australia, No. 1 (Canadian) Special Wireless carried out the duties for which the Unit had been formed: The interception and analysis of Japanese Military messages, intercepting an average of 1200 messages a day. 1CSWG reported to the Central Bureau, Brisbane, Australia. Central Bureau was formed in 1942 by the Australian Military as a combined Wireless Intelligence organization. At the beginning of 1943, General Douglas MacArthur the American Theatre Commander, declared the Central Bureau to be the primary centre for wireless intelligence in the southwest Pacific Theatre.

     After the cessation of hostilities on August 15, 1945, General MacArthur requested that 1CSWG continue operating, but to place one "set" interecepting diplomatic traffic. The unit continued to operate until October 11, 1945.

     Following cessation of fighting, members of the Intelligence Section were sent to New Guinea, Timor, etc. to act as interpreters, etc. at surrender ceremonies, peace negotiations, etc. As well, six members of the Intelligence Section went to the Canadian Repatriation Group in Manilla, and four were sent to the Canadian Recovery Team in Japan to assist in investigations.

This is where Ron O'Reilly's story gets really interesting with regards to the Canadian Government's refusal to this point to provide the Japanese Campaign Pay which every serviceman in the Pacific Theatre was supposed to have received.

     On May 7, 1945, the Minister of National Defense submitted a proposal to the Governor-General in Council which contained Japanese Campaign Pay. The Japanese Campaign Pay was "additional pay payable to Officers and Men while serving in the far Eastern Theatre of operations" and "the above rates of additional pay would bring the general scale of Canadian Pay for the Japanese Campaign into a more favourable comparative position with the British and American scales for personnel serving in that theatre of war and would provide recognition of the extra hazards peculiar to that area". This propsal, which was adopted by Cabinet was to be applicable to all personnel serving in the Pacific Area.

     Following the announcement in the House of Commons, only those members of the service who re-volunteered would be sent to the Pacific Theatre. The Navy and Army proceeded immediately to ask for volunteers. The Navy paid Pacific Campaign Pay to all of their personnel serving in that theatre who did not volunteer for additional service from January 1 until their return home.

     The Army requested volunteers. Approximately 1600 members of the army who volunteered were given their promised 30 days of additional leave, and then sent to the United States for training. They all received their Japanese Campaign Pay while there.

     However, all members of the Canadian Army were not given the same opportunity to re-volunteer for Pacific duty. On August 2, 1945 No. 1 Special Wireless was inspected by Col Moore Cosgrave, Canadian Military Attache, Canberra. At that time the Unit War Diary shows that Col HDW Wethy, Commanding Officer, asked Col Cosgrave to "ask about Japanese Campaign Pay". On October 19, 1945, the members of No. 1 Special Wireless Group were given the opportunity to sign Form M.F.M2J, Supplementary Declaration of Service in the Pacific Theatre, which all members did sign.

     Even though the members of No.1 Special Wireless Group re-volunteered for Pacific service, spent a year out of Canada serving in the South Pacific Theatre, no member of the unit was paid Japanese Campaign Pay. The reasons given: the Unit was not named as part of the Canadian Army Pacific force; Members of No. 1 Special Wireless did not volunteer for Pacific service; and they state that "Special Wireless Group personnel were already performing duties in the Pacific theatre well before Japanese Campaign Pay was created".

     It was not until February 1995, that I received my Pacific Star medal. And not until May 1996 that I received my Defence Medal. So that other members could also share these medals, I was able to trace approximately one-third of our members and advise them of the procedures required so that they might receive theirs.

     It is the belief of all members of No. 1 Special Wireless Group that we did not receive equal treatment with members of the Canadian Army Pacific Force and the other Services who served in the Pacific Theatre.


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