1 Wireless Troop

Ladner, British Columbia

The following article was submitted by Mr. John Coulombe of Ottawa who as posted to Vancouver Wireless Station 1955-1963. He was also a member of 1 Wireless Troop.

     I wonder how many folks remember that within VWS there was also a "combat arms" component known as 1 Wireless Troop. This unit was made up of personnel who for two weeks or so a year would leave their regular jobs at the "Site" and go out and "play soldier" in the boondocks. I had the dubious honour of being posted to that illustrious group. Here was I fresh out of training at Vimy barracks and now a seasoned veteran of one of the early campaigns against those pesky Fantasians in Gagetown. Seems to me we had trounced them royally but all these years later they still keep coming back for more. Anyway imagine my dismay to suddenly find myself among this group of "civilians in uniform."

     Some of the names that come to mind are Bob Lackey, Frank Reading, Doug Parker, Ted Wilhelm, Bob McKee, Al Fullerton, John Cummings, Fred Towner, Bill Narraway, George MacGillivray, Al Francis, Don McCron, Pierre Lepine ------- ahh the memory for names is fading.

     I won't soon forget my first experience with this combat ready crew - it was the fall of l955 - coincidentally the start of hunting season as I recall. I remember Lt.Col "Black Jack" Cummings and his trusty retriever Bouncer. We were all loaded onto a 40 passenger bus (real combat troops we were) and weapons were loaded onto another military pattern vehicle - shotguns, hunting rifles, fishing gear - come to think of it I don't remember seeing a military weapon of any sort - but then that could be my memory again. We also had a vehicle referred to as the "R"van where some of these folks would work - I seem to remember it was outfitted with some old AR88 receivers and perhaps the odd Super-Pro - I was still in the code class and not yet vetted for the "site" so I had no idea what this business was all about.

     In any case we headed up the Fraser Canyon Highway toward Williams Lake and on to Riske Creek. This was the most hair raising (I used to have some then) trip I've ever made. Our driver drove at breakneck speed most of the way. Someone commented that he must be very familiar with the road to which he replied - "No" this is my first trip. Talk about a confidence boost - anyway God must have been on our side because in spite of it all we did reach our destination. We made camp and the following morning most of the senior staff (anyone above the rank of Corporal) were off with their hunting gear etc on "safari" or whatever. We low-lifes remained at the base camp doing GD duties etc. I'll never forget, a short while later, the sight of old Bouncer dashing back into the campsite obviously terrified. Turns out the poor beast was gun shy and at the sound of the first shot he hightailed it back home. But old Black Jack would have none of that - this critter was going to be trained to be a hunting dog at any cost. The following morning there was Bouncer again - this time his ears stuffed with cotton. The poor thing was mortified with embarrassment.

     Someone remarked that WO1 Bob Lackey (he liked to call himself Lackey Bitch) was not part of the hunting party - "No" he said "I tried it once and didn't like it" Of course Bob neither smoked nor drank - he had tried that once too and didn't like it. Then some wiseguy noted that he only had one child. I cannot recall that any trophies were brought back from this escapade but for a young lad fresh out of of basic training and trades training and then a stint at the Regiment in Borden this was certainly an eye opener. To a man they were among the best at their regular business but "soldiers" they were not.

     My next experience came in 1956 - this time the group was a little more soldierly - there had been an influx of young blood - Jack Chaters, Jerry Jewers, Bill Hanna, Bill Keyes, Rod Babcock , Fern Lambert, Dick Leahy, Jack Bannister, Jim MacSavaney and others whose names escape me now.

     How I remember the sight of all of us assembled on the runway in front of Hangar 3 under the command of Lt Barkley and RSM Walter Sawatsky as we prepared for GOC's inspection - Walter had recently attended a Senior NCO refresher course and knew what soldiering was all about. Trying to impress us all he snapped to attention trying to look for all the world like a Stan Reading who had graduated from the Guards course or something. In any case he lifted his leg so high and so far back (ass-kicking I think it was called) that he just about took his own butt off. You should have heard all of us young'uns snickering at that one.

     This time we were to exercise over on the Island - at the Oyster River. It was a little more military in nature this time - we actually acted like soldiers - no hunting as I remember but most of the lads tried their hand at fishing without too much success. If memory serves me well the only one to catch a fish was Fred Towner. He hooked a pretty good sized salmon. Needless to say everyone soon got into the act but that was the one and only fish seen on the entire trip which prompted someone to speculate that the poor thing must have committed suicide out of sheer loneliness.

     I remember too that we were visited by Captains (Vince) Loney and (Steve) Chisholm during this time and believe this was the Genesis of what would eventually become 1 Canadian Signal Unit in Kingston.

     The following summer the bunch of us were loaded on a train and travelled to Camp Gagetown. Who will ever forget our stopover in Montreal where Bill Leeson, Bill Orr, and a couple of other Jr. NCO's were assigned to be our escorts as we took a short break in the big city. The memories of that military exercise are all fuzzy now - I believe we were there (Gagetown) for about a month or so.

     I don't remember exactly when 1 Wireless Troop disbanded - or indeed if it disbanded at all. Perhaps someone out there can fill in some of the details. I seem to remember there was a rash of postings to Oshawa at about this time but can't recall any of those details either.

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