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WO Frank Heath's history of RC Sigs station VEA

1923 - 1947


The Royal Canadian Signals Radio Station at Dawson City, Yukon Territory has the distinction of being the first station completed, and "on the air', of what is now known as the "Northwest Territories & Yukon Radio System, with headquarters at Edmonton, Alberta.

It was set up and ready for business early in October 1923; a few days later its Yukon mate at Mayo, Y.T. was completed and we were officially opened for public business on Oct. 20th 1923.

In 1923 the N.W.T. & Y. R. S. was not even thought of; except, perhaps as a rather remote possibility -- If the Dawson-Mayo link proved satisfactory. Prior to 1923 the then your and recently organized Signal Corps had gradually and somewhat painfully proved its metal and possibilities of providing comparatively long distance Radio communication with low powered, low coast equipment and maintenance. In the fall of 1921 the Corps first experimented with a two station link between Ottawa and the R>C.A.F. Depot at Camp Borden; next year we tackled Forestry Department communication in co-operation with the then Civil Aviation ranch, with similar stations operated at Winnipeg, and Victoria Beach, Berens River and Norway House on lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Early the following year (1923) we elaborated still further on this Manitoba System which had done yeoman service and earned for itself quite an enviable reputation for its work in remote places.

We had now gained considerable experience, "know how:" and personnel, and by the fall off 1923 we were all set to provide communication between the isolated mining town of Mayo, and Dawson City in the Yukon Territory.

Major W. Arthur Steel, technical officer of the Corps at that time, assisted by Lieut. H.E. Taber, planned and organized this first "Expedition Yukon" and the gear and equipment for it. Selected personnel consisting of Sgt. Bill Lockhart, Sigmn. Art. Lamb & Sigmn. Bill Whelan, destined for Mayo; and Sgt. Frank Hearth, Cpl. Cec. May and Sigmn. Charlie Routh booked for Dawson, gathered in Ottawa early in August 1923 for extensive "briefing" and outfitting for the then unknown Northern adventure.

To all of us the mere thought of going so far afield and into the sub-arctic and glamorous Klondike was on par with making a polar expedition. And judging from the amount of gear, special clothing and equipment with which we were issued, and the instructions and advice poured into our wide open and receptive ears and minds we were enroute to positive isolation and arctic rigours beyond parallel and contact with the outside world for the next two years.

The mere trip into Dawson in those days was something to brag about; as a matter of fact it still is, but whereas one may now fly at any time into the North country with speed and comfort, we then had to be content to follow the trail of '98. Four days to Vancouver, four days by boat up the coast to Skagway, Alaska, one day by train again to Whitehorse, then another two days by steamboat down the Yukon River to Dawson.

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