Masset, British Columbia

Masset lies at the top end of the Queen Charlotte Islands about 100 kilometers west of Prince Rupert and 1000 kilometers north of Ladner, the former home of Vancouver Wireless Station. During May/June 1966, I was involved in a Sig Int collection trial between VWS and NRS Masset. During the trial we produced approximately 80 percent more usable material in Masset than in VWS. That trial sealed the fate of VWS and the noisey electrical environment of that on.

     What was known as Naval Radio Station Masset had its beginning in the fall of 1942. The military history of Masset has at least three distinct phases or operating periods which were: the "Intial Operating Phase", the "Intermediate Period", and "The Present". Intertwined with the first 2 was the "Delkatla HFDF Site".

     During the Initial Operating Phase, Naval Radio Station (NRS) Massett (old spelling) was constructed in the fall of 1942, at what is presently referred to as the "Old Site", located about 3 kms east of the Village of Masset on Tow Hill Road. In those days the unit operated as a relay station for ship to shore communications, being a satellite station to Montreal Circle in Prince Rupert. There were 5 such stations operating along the BC coast during WW2. These stations were so located that their reception was excellent with a few rare exceptions; Masset's reception probably topped the list in this category, being able to communicate with all stations during the night, although daytime conditions were somewhat restricted. NRS Massett with callsign "CZT" was officially manned February 23, 1943.

     During 1943 the RCAF unit 9CMU arrived. They built a steel mat landing strip and constructed a prefab camp out on the beach off Minaker Rd. By 1944 this unit was manned by approximately 60 airmen. Their living conditions were much superior to that of the Navy. Local RCAF planes, based out of Aliford Bay, were frequent visitors, as well as CANSO's and PBY's which arrived daily. Mail, movies and supplies were available to the Navy daily after the arrival of the RCAF, a decidedly marked improvement for them. The air force also provided emergency transportation for civilians as well as the RCN.

     Also, during 1944 the RCN was invaded by some 35 SO's or Special Operators, who were Kana Code trained. With the installation of teletype machines, the "secret" installation at the Old Site was put into use.

     In the fall of 1945, with the end of the war, the station was closed and placed in caretaker status. It remained that way until 1949, when the Navy again returned to resume operations in the Delkatla Slough.

     The Delkatla Slough site, consisting of 2 small buildings and antennae was constructed in the spring of 1944 on the northside of the flats approximately 2.5 kms from Tow Hill Rd. HFDF capabilities were also provided for at the flats site, but these were never used during the war, possibly because the end was in sight. This site was also under caretaker status in the fall of 1945.

     The Intermediate Op Phase began in June 1949 when the Delkatla site was reactivated. However many problems were encountered with transmission lines, buildings and the laying of cable. One constant problem was that of tides. During extremely high tides, the water would rise to cover the base amplifiers on the antennae and flood the walkways between the buildings. To alleviate a shortage of space, permission was obtained from Esquimalt to move 2 buildings from the Wireless Station at the Old Site.

     The transmitter (PV500) was moved from the Slough to the old Loran building behind Haida village because of interference with DF ops when transmitting. A new line was run through the bush to the old DOT TX/RX building in Masset and then connected to the existing cable running to Haida. This TX/RX site was used until 1964 when the facilities were moved to the Old Site.

     About this time there were also a lot of renovations being done at the Old Site which when completed relieved the difficulties of single mens's accommodation. This project was completed in August 1952, providing accommodation and cooking facilities for 12 men. A project in 1951 saw the construction of 4 married quarters (MQ's) at the Old Site. These were completed in May 1952 bringing the toal MQ's to 8, including the 4 in Masset village. In December 1957 a new 24 man barrack block was also constructed at the Old Site.

     From 1949 to 1964, the Old Site was used for both accommodation and operations. In 1964 in order to centralize all ops, the Delkatla DF site was closed and the equipment moved to the Old Site. A new antenna system was constructed to the rear of the Wireless building towards Tow Hill. This new Old Site was now called Naval Radio Station (NRS) Masset.

     During the period of 1967 to the spring of 1972, many of the present facilities of Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Masset were constructed. The survey for the MQ's and antenna farm sites was carried out in 1967 with work on the Operations site beginning in June 1968. The new Ops site was completed on 15 December 1969 and officially accepted for occupancy on 13 February 1970. The following year the Adminstration building was completed and occupied and all other buildings and MQ's were accepted by January 1972. The domestic site consists of:

  • the adminstration/support building which houses the headquarters, supply section, workshops and motor transport section;
  • a 10 bed hospital with 2 pediatric cribs, including a dental clinic for service personnel and dependants, xray lab, obstetrical and pharmaceutical services;
  • Barracks accomodation for 4 officers and 62 other ranks personnel;
  • a kitchen and dining facilities and 3 Messes;
  • a recreation building containing a swimming pool, theatre, snack bar, gymnasium, weight room, squash court, bowling alleys, beauty parlour and barber shop. In later years a 2 sheet curling rink was constructed;
  • 201 3 and 4 bedroom, full basement MQ's (7 old MQ's are also located in the Village of Masset;
  • a sports field;
  • over 10 kms of roads;
  • a complete store, sewage and water distribution system and complete site landscaping;

         The new complex was officially opened on 28 March 1972. The Old Site (NRS) still remained and some of the buildings were renovated for occupancy as MQ's, office space, barrack accommodation and storage. In 1972 an outdoor storage building for Construction Engineering supplies was built to the rear of the Admin building and a Butler building for supply stores was later erected in the same area.

    Canadian Forces Station Leitrim Detachment Masset

         CFS Masset operated until February 1997 when it was converted to remote operations. The unit was officially stood down on 4 April 1997 and re-established at that time as CFS Leitrim Detachment Masset. Since stand down, virtually all the facilites have been turned over to the Village of Masset and most of the MQ's have been sold privately.

         During its heyday, CFS Masset employed more than 300 military and civilian personnel of which approximately 130 were of the 291 Communications Research persuasion. The remote operation carries on with about 30 military personnel, none of whom are 291ers.

    Finally someone who has read this page (13 Jul 2011) has sent me some numbers of personnel in Masset since the new century began. The numbers above were recorded in 1997 after CFS Masset became CFS Leitrim Detachment Masset. David Walsh of Kingston NS has provided the fol info, which is in the Guestbook:

    "Just some FYI on the Det: I don't know when you wrote your info pages on Masset but there haven't been 30 people in Det Masset for a very long time. We had 9 military plus 1 civilian CE from 2003-2006. In 2006 the manning went down to just 7, then 6, and eventually no CE. It should be 7 again at this time."

    What a great posting it was in times past!!

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