Masset, British Columbia

During the Initial Operating Phase, Naval Radio Station (NRS) Massett (old spelling) was constructed in the fall of 1942, at what is/was 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.

The following narrative and all pictures on this page have been provided by Mr Chester Williams of Galiano Island, BC. Chester was posted to CZT from February to October 1943, his rank was Telegraphist. He had spent all of 1942 aboard the Corvette, HMCS Dawson, operating off the West Coast. When he was discharged, he was an Acting Leading Telegraphist.

"It (CZT) was situated east of New Masset and adjacent to the road which terminated at Tow Hill. The road was mainly used by trucks transporting clam digging crews and the fruits of their labour back to the cannery in town. There were two buildings. A small one which housed the diesel generator and provided a shop for the Motor Mechanic. The main building was a two story structure with a basement. It was an exact copy of a "Port War Signal Station". There was a bridge deck complete with electrical outlets for the signal lamps. (The signal bridge) was accessed by an inside ladder from the top floor. The basement provided room for the coal or wood burning furnace and boiler which provided hot water for the heaters and domestic use. Laundry facilities and storage space were also located in the basement. The main floor consisted of one large space for sleeping and recreation . Off it was a good sized gallery, the "heads" and I think the cook's quarters. Upstairs at the front was the Operations Room and beyond that was the Officer in Charge room and office. The signal bridge was only used the odd time and only for sunbathing!!

"We were provided with a Jeep for transporting staff and supplies. It was not long before the Motor Mechanic found necessary parts in the village to construct a trailer for carrying 45 gallon drums of diesel, etc. He even had the good fortune to resurrect an old motor bike for his personal use. Our supplies arrived via the weekly passenger ship or by "Fisherman Reserve" vessels. Personnel could arrive by the passenger vessel SS Cassiar or by an RCN ship as I did aboard a Bangor minesweeper.

"The original crew consisted of PO Tel (Telegraphist) George "Jock" Reid, who was there to greet us as the OIC. The remainder included a PO Motor Mechanic, a Cook, 5 Telegraphists and I believe, 2 Seamen for general duties. There was a mixture of RRCN and RCNVR ratings. Two of the Operators and the Mechanic found houses to rent in the village so they brought their wives in from Vancouver. We worked 4 (hours) on and 8 off, watches. While I was on board there was several changes in the complement. Not long before I left, the Special Operators arrived on the scene and began monitoring foreign communications. They would have been the forerunners of the staff to occupy the new facilities being constructed at Old Massett.

(Editor's note: I believe that the "new facilities" that Chester refers to would eventually be converted to a transmitter shack. It was built at the far end of the village of Old Massett just up and off the beach. As well, sometime during or just after this period in 1943, a DF (direction finding) shack was constructed on the Delkatla flats, about a mile along and just off Cemetery Road.)

"I do not have any pictures of the (radio) equipment as it wouldn't have been prudent to be taking such photos in those days. All I can remember is that it was mostly Marconi. I'm fairly sure that we had an FR12 which ran off a 12 volt system. My memory of the equipment is very unreliable. All the FY vessels had had that set. We used to copy the broadcast from CKG Prince Rupert and then re broadcast for any Auxilary vessels in our vicinity. I think we were transmitting somewhere around 2400kcs. We had to monitor 500kcs at 15 miniutes after the hour and again at 15 to the hour for 3 minutes for any SOS calls. The morning watch had to send a weather report to the RCAF base Alliford Bay, where the Navy also had operators, at daylight. The only time this was accurate was when the clouds were in the tree tops or if there were none in the sky.

"We were well received in the Community and welcomed to take part in all activities. The foreman from the construction crew started Scottish dancing events. The skipper of the RCAF rescue boat played the sax in the orchestra. All kinds of fun. Before our arrival there had been some sort of "dust-up" and the Hotel beer parlour was closed down. The closest supply was at Port Clements which could only be accessed by boat. You either had to make arrangements with a fisherman or make your own beer. More fun! This was not new to me as I grew up in the same type of community. Out at the Station we occupied ourselves in different ways. There was a ping-pong table for indoor sport. We would at times go along with the clam diggers and make some small change. One operator was a good hunter and would bag a deer or a Canada goose. We would visit a couple of old homesteaders who lived up the road from us and were ekeing out a living by selling goats milk and eggs in the village. Another fellow and I started to cut firewood. There was a crosscut saw and axe left over from the construction job and there were lots of downed trees left from the clearing for the buildings and the aerials. When Ernie, the faller and rigger saw what we were doing he he said that there were quite a few widows who could use the wood and he would deliver it for us. We set up a site for stacking a cord at a time and soon had others join the party. It was something to pass the time, create muscles and help someone keep warm during the winter. My partner in the wood cutting caper never left Masset until retirement time. He ended up working for the provincial government as Road Foreman."

click a thumbnail for the larger picture

Ops Bldg Motor Mechanic 2 RCN Rates Rec Room Mat Air Strip Mat Air Strip Clothesline Main Street Karlscourt Transportation

This is a photo of Chester taken on the ocassion of his 94th birthday in 2012.

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