To time date our trade and begin at the beginning, how many remember our "Performance Checkers" on the AIMS-11B, our operators on the TPS-501 or 502, and the GObC boys with their 6x50 binoculars perched on buildings and constructed pedestals straining to see something-anything. On a night of exercise you strained your ears to count the number of engines and counted the taillights and remembered the color of the bulbs so you could report the raid. A Dakota or Expediter or C-119 maybe. Our fighters, the Vampires and Avengers, would thwart the raid and tear down the runway at 90 Knots and some times get airborne. The glory days – remember?
In 1950 they changed the name of the trade to FtrCop – Fighter Control Operator and an influx of women swelled our ranks. The WD’s (Women’s Division) sure added color, spirit and made life more harmonious in those remote, forested hill topped radar sites. When I arrived at Lac St. Denis, 220 women and 40 men made up the complement. My first R-211A (PER) was assessed by a female Sgt. and reviewed by a female Flying Officer. Equal rights in the military were ahead of our civilian counter-parts.
Our weaponry at this point (outside of the LEE Enfield-303) was our Avengers (piston aircraft) and the Vampires (jet). The Vamps were literally flying coffins as no ejection system existed in them. If you had problems you rolled them over and tried to fall out, hoping to miss the twin-boomed tail section as it passed over your derrierre.
Stacked altitudes weren’t practiced a lot in fighter attacks, as evidenced in October 1954 when two vampires approaching a Dakota target from either side met head on just east of North Bay. They were obliterated, needless to say. However, our Avengers still fill the air with their bumble-bee hum spraying the Spruce Bud worm in the forests of New Brunswick. God, I feel ancient already.
We were in the jet era though in 1954; CF-100 squadrons were formed, T-33’s were actively flying and the F-86 Sabres were being tested and manufactured. A lot of them were in the Korean theatre showing their abilities, which have placed them in History books as weapons to be reckoned with in a one on one fight.
Time was now flying – The trade was changing, sectors were being formed. Some of them were Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto and Jericho Beach BC. We called it the British Columbia Airforce – The Untouchables. A transfer out there meant obscurity. I believe there were guys and gals who went out there that were never heard of again. The east coast at this point (namely Newfoundland and Labrador) was manned by our American counter-parts. They were stationed at spots like Saglek, St. Anthony and Stephenville. At Saglek, a TSgt. and two airmen built a raft and struck off down the Atlantic to escape the out back. They are permanently buried at sea.
I joined on an ad in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper that said join the RCAF and see the world. I spent 12 years racing around Quebec from site to site. I pleaded insanity and they finally sent me to Germany. Over there we had four fighter wings, two in France and two in Germany, plus radar sites and the Combat Centre in Metz France. God, what an era!
I ran the switchboard (Manual System) at 4 Fighter Wing Baden Soellingen, Germany. We employed 13 women of all nationalities, German, French, Greek, Italian, American and Canadian. I didn’t learn a whole lot of the languages, but I learned a lot about the women and it took a lot of savvy and politics to run that management situation. An example is the time the Greek lady brought an arm full of corn to our house door. What the hell do I tell my wife? It was a custom only, I swear.
This article was written by MWO AG Alkerton and published in "The Attention Arrow – An AWC/AD Tech Newsletter – Spring 1983)