#4 Special Wireless Station - Riske Creek



The story of 4SWS and it's short history as related by
Capt (RCCS retd) Hance Legere.

     #4SWS located at Riske Creek BC, "was the Station that never was." Its saga began in late March or early April 1944 when it's establishment was authorized. A newly qualified Lieutenant by the name of Hance Legere who at the time was acting CO of #1SWS at Leitrim was posted to Vancouver and immediately given travel orders and tickets to proceed to Williams Lake, BC, and from there to the site of the new Station which was to be located at Riske Creek, BC, approximately 51 kms west of Williams Lake on the old Williams Lake - Bella Coola telegraph line, (Today BC Highway #20).

     In those years, travel in the BC interior could take on elements of humour depending upon your point of view. Lt Legere was introduced to Sgt Maj Stephanson who would proceed to the new site with him along with Stephanson's family. They were to leave the CPR train proceeding to Vancouver at Ashcroft, BC and proceed by Stage Coach (read bus) up the Cariboo Trail to Williams Lake the next day. Lt Legere had asked the conductor to ensure they were made aware of arrival in Ashcroft so they could get off the train. Upon arriving in Ashcroft, there was a lot of shunting and backing up as the train was being sorted out. All their luggage was packed and in the corridor, but the train started up heading towards Vancouver. About then the conductor showed up, Lt Legere asked the conductor when they would be arriving in Ashcroft, the conductor leaped for the emergency cord, halting the train and informed his passengers that the distant lights across the field were the lights of Ashcroft and he had completely forgotten them. Apparently backing up was no option since there was a following train. Lt Legere, Sgt Maj Stephanson, his wife and children with luggage were "dumped" at the side of the track. Grumbling, but acting like "good soldiers" they climbed through a fence and started off across a rocky field. Suddenly the moon emerged from behind the numerous clouds to reveal that they were standing in the old Ashcroft graveyard. Welcome to the Wild West Hance!!

     After arriving in Williams Lake by "Stagecoach" the travellers bunked at the Williams Lake Hotel for a day and then rented a car for the trip on a "very rudimentary" road, to Riske Creek. On arrival at the Chilcotin Lodge at Riske Creek they were greeted rather coolly by the caretaker who evidently believed his idealistic world was about to come crashing down. The Lodge had been chosen to house the crew who would build and operate the new Station. It had reportedly been built by a wealthy American to house families while hunters were hunting mountain sheep and chasing the large salmon of the Chilcotin. It was a huge log building with 14 sleeping rooms on the 2nd floor and 6 or 7 on the main floor. It had an impressive lobby and reading room, a large kitchen with a few essential stoves and fridges. There were no other supplies. It had never been quite completed and never lived in but was in "pristine" condition, no doubt due to the presence of the caretaker. One thing that amused Hance was the use of vivid colors in the bedrooms. Each room was furnished with a porcelain sink in colors ranging from bright yellow and green to a sickening purple. A few rooms had private baths, but very large and modern common bathrooms served the remainder of the Lodge. All of this way out in the bush!!!

     "The Lodge was furnished with a 50 KVA AC generator driven by a make or brake Petter engine with a gigantic flywheel. It was housed in a separate building that had a sod roof; quite often used in those cold climates. The generator hadn't been used much, but the vibration of its huge concrete base had filtered sand onto the AC generator brushes and pitted them extensively, so that even on light loads it sparked badly. So, one of our first jobs when we got settled was to manhandle the generator into a borrowed truck and drive it to Prince George, where a very efficient RCEME (Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers) workshop turned down the sliprings, and we had lots of electric power after that."

     Capt Legere's experience throughout the war was that SigInt entities were well provided for and establishing #4SWS was no exception. In this case requistions for supplies were made to Signals HQ in Vancouver and a Col St. Louis who was in charge there was most co-operative in sending shipment after shipment by rail to furnish their needs, including a jeep which arrived about a week after ordering it. Although the main focus was to get the Lodge ready for occupation, they did choose a quiet site for No. 4 SWS on a plateau to the east of the Lodge. However no construction took place at all. What they did do was haul in tons of supplies, most of it by jeep and some with the use of a rented truck. Hance states that "it must have been quite a sight to see that jeep laboring up the hairpin curves of Sheepcreek Hill loaded to the gills with beds, army, two tier, soldiers, for the use of!"

     Besides the Lt and the Sgt Maj, they were joined by two Signalmen who were extremely helpful. One by the name of Thill who had been an Alberta farmer was particularily useful as a jack of all trades well suited to the activity they were participating in. He was the designated driver. The other chap whose name eludes Hance was designated as the cook. Apparently he hadn't gone too far in his trade, but he became adept at catching trout in Riske Creek just down the hill from the Lodge, so fresh fish was on the menu at least twice a week. In reminising, Hance concludes, "I remember the time spent on that project fondly and I think we did a great job, even if it came to naught. We always had great cooperation from Col St. Louis and the Signal folks at Vancouver and we were left pretty much to our own devices; very unmilitary and much to the liking of the boys and me but not so (much) liked by (Sgt Maj) Stephanson who tended to be more military. We worked our butts off, for it was very isolated and there was little social activity. I never inquired what happened after I left for #1CSWG, (near Victoria in July 1944 where 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group was forming up prior to leaving for Darwin Australia). I met the other original appointees, (to 1CSWG), Capts March and Hall for the first time on the ferry carrying us to our first camp at Gordon Head (Vancouver Island). I would like to know the end of that story, but other things were so pressing at the time that I never thought to ask. I imagine the Lodge was turned back to its original owners, and it may even have housed a few hunters and fishers in it's day."

     A note here to include the movements of Lt JD Miller. Jack Miller had worked as a Signaller on the northern Stations (NWT&Y Radio System) and was posted to 4SWS and then attached to 1SWS at Leitrim about the time that Lt Legere was acting CO of that Station. It is believed that he never did visit 4SWS since this was an administrative device to get him transferred quickly. Lt Miller was then posted to Gordon Head and 1CSWG in July 1944.



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