30 Radio Detachment - Cape Bauld, Nfld.

1943-1944 - General Report - National Archives of Canada

1943 - 1944

As it is expected that soon the tour of duty of the personnel at this Detachment will be completed, it is felt that a general report covering all phases of life at this isolated unit would be of interest and possibly serve as a "yardstick" for the coming year's operation. The report is divided into general headings and recommendations have been made in the light of considerable experience at this Unit.

It is felt by the writer, that the period covered by this report has been quite successful. Many difficulties have been encountered, but, due to the vigorous enthusiasm of the personnel, they have, for the most part been "licked".

Life generally at Cape Bauld is very quiet and tends to become rather monotonous after a few months. Notwithstanding, morale has been very good considering the enforced isolation, the very poor mail service and the lack of recreational facilities.

MORALE - Morale at Cape Bauld has been very good. This is due mainly to the fact that the men are above average in intelligence, and have been able to make the best of the situation. As is pointed out under the heading "Recreation", the camp is very poorly equipped and in this regards it is amazing to see the wide variety of chairs, desks, chests of drawers, etc. that the men have built with scrap lumber for their own comfort in off duty hours. There is another reason for this too - the men are able to keep busy in their leisure and thus pass the time more quickly.

MAIL - Mail in the Writer's opinion is the biggest single factor in morale at Cape Bauld. Frankly, the Mail Service has been very poor. During the summer the Coastal Boat carries the mail, and a fairly regular service, about every three or four weeks, is maintained from late in May until late in December. During the winter, the Service is very much worse. The mail travels overland by dog team to Deer Lake, a distance of about 300 miles. From Deer Lake it goes by railway to Gander and thence to Canada. This winter the average time taken by first class mail to get from here to Canada was eight weeks.

During the winter, incoming mail was dropped to us by aircraft at intervals of three or four weeks. This was greatly appreciated by all personnel, and mail day was the highlight of the month. In this connection much credit is due to the aircrews who "bombed" so accurately that throughout the whole season not one bag of mail was lost. However, this system of correspondence is a bit one sided as outgoing mail went out overland as described above.

As may be seen on the attached map, there are two places within a few miles of the camp that would be ideal summer and winter landing areas for aircraft, Roncier Bay and Quirpon Harbour. Of the two places, Roncier Bay offers the best winter landing surface. During the winter, salt ice forms to a thickness of at least twenty inches and as the Bay is protected, the ice isn't affected by the tide or heavy sea. Quirpon Harbour would have been ideal most of this winter, but as the harbour is open at the North end, it is always possible that a heavy sea may break up the ice in a period of twenty four hours.

F/O Jim Westaway, from Gander, who on two occasions landed on the ice at St. Anthony Harbour with a Norseman on skiis, stated that ice landings on Roncier Bay, or on Quirpon Harbour (when conditions permit) would be equally safe as both of these areas are somewhat larger than St. Anthony Harbour.

It is strongly urged that a regular mail service be started, particularly during the Winter months.

Quite apart from the question of personal mail, it is felt that some scheme of regular mail service should be initiated to take care of official mail. It is not at all unknown to receive three or four messages from EAC or AFHQ asking us to expedite replies to letters which we had not even received. This causes a lot of delay, needless work, and no doubt many branches at EAC and AFHQ, who are not aware of the isolation of this Unit, think we are a pretty hopeless crowd, as reports, letters, nominal rolls, etc., are always months late arriving in Canada.

RECREATION - Too little attention has been paid to the welfare and recreation of the personnel at Cape Bauld. The only forms of recreation available are playing cards, table tennis, reading and listening to the radio. During the winter, skiing is possible a few days of the month, and in the summer, such games as Volley Ball and softball are played.

Building No. 14 is termed as our Recreation Hall, and it is in this building that a ping pong table is set up. This building also houses a small library. The Recreation Hall is small (approximately 20 by 40 feet) and is not large enough for even a modified game of basketball, or floor hockey or any one of a dozen other sports.

There is no Canteen at this Unit. We have cigarettes, biscuits and chocolate bars for sale in the Equipment Stores (building No. 3) but this can hardly be termed as a Canteen.

On all radio detachments on the East Coast, despite the fact that in many cases they are close to their parent units or a large town, much has been done for the welfare and recreation of the airmen. All the Detachments have a properly operated Canteen and Airmen's lounge, which through the efforts of the Auxiliary Services, have been very comfortably appointed. The Detachments in Canada have an excellent Recreation Hall which is ideal for entertainments, and many indoor sports. The writer also understands that movies are shown at all Detachments once or twice a week. In addition to all this, many of the Detachments are close enough to towns or cities where a wide variety of outside entertainment is available.

And yet at isolated Units like Cape Bauld - where the need for all this is very great - little or nothing has been done.

The following is very strongly recommended:-

  1. That a well stocked, properly operated Canteen and lounge be established. Building No 14 could be readily used for this purpose. The Canteen stock would be carefully stored in the Nissen Huts (Buildings 1,2 5 and 6) which are not being used.

  2. That a 16 mm. moving picture be supplied to this Unit. During the winter months, the film could be either flown in with the mail, is such a service is initiated, or dropped from the air in Dropping Canisters. There would no doubt be some delay in returning the films, but it is felt that any cost involved would be justified in providing necessary recreation at such an isolated post.

  3. That a Recreation Building be erected, and equipped for various indoor sports. This building need not be too large, but should be of sufficient size to permit a Badminton court, and to allow a modified game of basketball.

CANTEEN- Much has been said regarding the question of a Wet Canteen at isolated Detachments. Squadron Leader EA Kenny, the former Officer Commanding at Cape Bauld, wrote a letter on this subject, which the writer understands has been the reason for an order against the operation of a properly operated Wet Canteen. S/L Kenny's letter is dated May 31st, 1943, file S.51.

The writer, with a copy of the above mentioned letter in front of him, and also in the light of considerable exerience at an isolated post, finds it impossible to agree with S/L kenny's argument.

If S/L Kenny's argument apply to No 30 Detachment, then they apply equally to any RCAF Unit where a canteen is operated. Experience gained at other Radio Detachments by the writer does not disclose any impairment of the ability of the Radar or W/T personnel to perform their duties, but rather the converse is true. The Canteen at No 3 Detachment, Tusket, NS for example, was always the scene of pleasant good fellowship and little trouble was experienced with individuals who desired to imbibe too freely.

S/L Kenny has visualized a scene of constant drunkeness, which should not be the case in a properly operated canteen. If a canteen was operated at Cape Bauld, it would be under strict control and drunkenness would not be tolerated here, any more than it would be in a well operated Canteen in Canada.

The writer, and the Administrative Officer at this Unit, both of whom are only moderate drinkers, unanimously agree that a properly operated Canteen and lounge should be established, as being of prime necessity for the welfare of the personnel and a tremendous asset to morale.

As was mentioned under the heading "Recreation" there is ample storage space for Canteen stock, Beer and a soft drink concentrate. The buildings are easily heated, so there would be no danger of perishable stock freezing during the winter.

ESTABLISHMENT- As at the time of writing, the establishment is not satisfactory. The chief trouble lies in the fact that during the winter season, (from December to June) little work can be done due to the severe weather, while during the other half of the year, there is tremendous amount of work in preparation for the winter. During this season, the entire year's supplies have to be landed, and hauled up over the hills to the camp. Since the majority of personnel are on shift work it is impossible to muster more than a few men during the day for the very difficult task of hauling supplies from even the nearest Cove to the camp.

Referring to the attached map, it may be readily seen that there are two coves fairly close to the camp where supplies may be landed. Unfortunately both of these Coves are very exposed and as all supplies have to be taken ashore in lightering craft, it is impossible to unload the boat on other than very calm days. As was the case last spring, the majority of the supplies have to be landed at Quirpon and then brought around by small boats. In this connection, $1,300.00 was paid last summer to the local people to haul drums of oil from Quirpon to Lighthouse Cove. It is true that we had two scows and outboard motors, but other transportation was necessary in addition to the scows.

May it also be noted that during the summer fishing season it is difficult to hire boats from the local people, as they and their boats are working almost day and night in the fisheries.

To sum up:-

  1. The entire year's supplies have to be landed at Quirpon and transported, by boat, to the camp during the summer.
  2. The camp is on an island, and we are largely dependent on the local people for transportation.
  3. When we need transportation, it is difficult to hire boats, as the local people are busy fishing.

The following changes are suggested:-

  1. That a Marine craft be made available to this Unit. The general Utility boat as described in CAP 89 would be ideal. It would be employed as a lightering craft, or as an escort vessel for the scows. It would also be employed to transport personnel in the event of emergency (see Health). Pidgeon Cove would provide a safe anchorage for such a boat during the summer. During the winter months the boat could be easily hauled ashore from Pidgeon Cove with block and tackle as are a number of boats owned by the local people.

  2. That a motor boat crewman be posted to operate the boat during the summer.

  3. That a tractor operator be posted to operate the tractor and attend to its maintenance. This work is very important, through the use of the Tractor they have been able to save a good many hundreds of dollars in casual labour and dog team hire.

  4. A recent amendment to the establishment deleted one Equipment Assistant and one clerk general from the establisment leaving only one clerk steno, in the Orderly Room. It is felt that the establishment be amended to include one Clerk Accounting. This airman would be familiar with equipment as well as the accounting and book-keeping in connection with the imprest account.

The following sections are considered satisfactory.

  1. W & B Section. This section will operate satifactorily providing the Tractor Operator (see above para. section c) is posted. Otherwise, the only competent personnel to operate and maintain the tractor is one of the Diesel Fitters, leaving the Diesel Section short handed. At present, we have a Construction Hand who has been invaluable. It is strongly urged that the establishment be amended to include a Construction Hand.

  2. Radar Section. This satisfactory as per establishment.

  3. W/T Section. The present establishment is satisfactory, providing that two Wireless Mechanics are posted as per establishment, rather than only one as at present.

  4. Service Police. This establishment is satisfactory.

  5. GD's. The number of GD's on establishment is OK. It is essential, however, that all the GD's the establishment calls for be posted. At present we have only one GD on strength and we have operated under a severe handicap, particularly in the Mess and Power House. In addition to regular duties, all personnel have a great number of extra duties (such as washing their own bed linen and clothing, hauling oil and attending to stoves) which they would not be required to do on a less isolated unit, and the necessity of "Joeing" men for duty in the Mess constituted, for a time, a serious threat to morale. Therefore, the importance of filling the GD establishment cannot be stressed too highly.

It is suggested that the following be deleted from the establishment for the reasons shown:-

  1. Telephone Operators. Unnecessary as there are only house phones in use at this Unit.

  2. Disciplinarian. The NCO in charge of Service Police can easily look after this work.

HEALTH-The health of the personnel has been generally good. In this connecton the Hospital Assistant has forwarded a monthly report to the PMO and it is not necessary therefore to enter into detail on this subject.

Apart from our Hospital Assistant, the closest medical or dental facilities are at the International Grenfell Association Hospital in St. Anthony, approximately 25 miles distant. The staff at this fine organization have been of great assistance in treating minor ailments and for dental work. In addition to this it has been very comforting to know that in the event of a serious illness or accident, the modern hospital and competent staff at St. Anthony were standing by.

Transportation to St.Anthony is quite a problem, particularly in the summer. In this connection, the boat suggested under the heading of "Establishment" would be a great asset. As was pointed out, the local people use their boat constantly during the summer for fishing and we were absolutely dependent on them for transportation. Of course, the same is true during the winter in hiring dog teams, but during this season the people are not busy and no trouble is experienced hiring a Komatick and driver on very short notice. Either by boat or overland, it is a three to four hour trip to St. Anthony from the Detachment.

WATER SUPPLY- The water supply question is one that deserves consideration. During the winter months, water for drinking, use in the Mess and ablutions is hauled from either Cod Cove or Sealet Ponds by dog team. During the past winter we hauled about 225 gallons per day. Additional water for washing clothes, etc. was obtained by melting snow, which incidently did not prove very satisfactory. The water from these ponds is clear, and tastes good. We assume it must have been OK to drink for the very good reason that no one has been sick.

During the summer it is not possible to haul water from these ponds, as, of course, there is no snow and the tractor could not possibly negotiate the bogs and swamps between the camp and either of the ponds.

Last summer a small basin had been blasted in the rock on the cliff behind building No. 13. A pipe was connected from the small pond to the Mess, and as the pond is on a considerably higher level than the Mess, running water, using the siphon principle was obtained in the Mess. Recently this basin has been drained, greatly enlarged, thoroughly cleaned and shale laid at the bottom. In addition the area has been fenced to keep the dogs from polluting the water. It is estimated that with the usual rainfall in this section of the country, an ample supply of water will be available during the summer. It is proposed in the near future to install a hot water heating system in the Mess if we have sufficient pipe and fittings on hand.

Last fall, a shallow well was dug behind Barrack Block No 25, and due to the efforts of a few of the personnel, an excellent system of hot and cold running water has been installed in both the new barrack buildings (Nos 24 and 25). As the well freezes during the winter, this system operates only during the spring and summer.

A deep well - sunk to 150 or 200 ft and a deep well pump would undoubtedly provide an excellent water system, and the pipes could be suitably packed to prevent freezing during the winter. In addition, a system of this sort would allow checking the purity of the water, and chlorination if it were necessary. Installation of this type of water supply is not considered essential as we are getting along quite well under the present conditions.

It is suggested, however, that the Hospital Assistant be supplied with some scheme for checking the purity of the water, and some form of purifying agent, possibly in tablet form, be made available.

BUILDINGS AND HEATING-The two new Barrack Buildings (Nos 24 and 25) constructed last year are excellent. The majority of the personnel are comfortably quartered in these buildings. Only two Nissen Huts are presently being used as quarters - hut No 10 and hut No 4, the latter being Detachment sick quarters. Recently, hut No 2 has been equipped with several beds and serves as day sleeping quarters for those who are on night shifts. Building No 13, the Officer's Quarters and Administration Building is also adequate.

The independent oil heating units have proven very satisfactory; far superior to Quebec Heaters or any other coal burning units. The oil stoves have given little trouble and require little maintenance to keep them serviceable. The heat may be controlled by adjustment of the oil valve, and, even in extreme weather, it is only necessary to fill the tanks three times a day, where a coal burning unit would require almost constant refuelling and attention.

MESSING AND RATIONS-The standard set by the Mess Staff has been high considering the great quantity of tinned meat and dehydrated vegetables they have to use. The rations lasted well although for the last eight or ten weeks of the tour of duty we were out of a great number of commodities and butter and sugar had to be strictly rationed in an attempt to stretch the dwindling supply.

The lack of fresh food is very noticeable. Dehydrated vegetables taste fine for about the first month or so, but after ten or twelve months they are pretty "grim", and it has been observed that the majority of the men will either not eat them at all, or take very small helpings. However in fairness to the Mess Staff may it be pointed out that the trouble does not lie in the preparation of the vegetables but rather that we were all fed up with them and would have liked the real thing for a change.

As there are excellent facilities for storing fresh vegetables it is strongly urged that at least a six months' supply of vegetables be shipped by the last boat in the fall. This would enable the Mess Staff to alternate between fresh and dehydrated vegetables and thus materially increse the standard of messing.

It is suggested that the ration of the following commodities be increased as we were out of most of these items for several months:-

  1. Brown and white sugar
  2. Tinned fruit
  3. Fruit Juices
  4. Tinned cooked vegetables
  5. Dry evaporated apples
  6. Jelly powders
  7. Raisins
  8. Jam
  9. Corn Starch
  10. Baking Powder

EQUIPMENT-The question of equipment would be quite satisfactory if all concerned realized that Cape Bauld is in a very isolated location and that during the Winter the only way equipment may be received is in cannisters dropped from aircraft. In addition to this they should realize that if we "holler for bits and pieces" we really need the equipment and the demand should receive some priority.

The policy has been to submit an estimate of requirements for the ensuing year. This estimate is very carefully compiled and an effort is made to anticipate what will be required. A list of these requirements was forwarded to EAC on file S.10 d/19 Mar/44 covering the period 1 July, 1944 to 1 July, 1945. It is practically impossible however to anticipiate everything, so quite possibly urgent demands will be received from Cape Bauld during the coming winter.

The foregoing is particularly true in the case of Radar Section as it is absolutely impossible to anticipate every breakdown. During the past winter several breakdowns occurred in the Gantry and turning gear and had it not been for the initiative shown by the technical personnel in effective make-shift repairs we would have spent long weeks "off the air" awaiting for spares.

It is therefore suggested that demands of this nature be given priority and every effort made to hasten delivery.

Demands from Cape Bauld are seldom made by E.42 but rather by signal to 4 Repair Depot rpt.1 Group Hqs. rpt. EAC. The reason for this of course is because of the very poor mail service.

Scale B.25. This scale of issue proved quite adequate for use at Cape Bauld. The writer understands that suits aircrew have been deleted from the scale of issue and that the personnel now at Cape Bauld have not been supplied with "Battle Dress". In the writer's opinion Battle Dress is far more practical than "Blues" and it is strongly urged that it be added to the scale of issue and made available to all ranks. It is very doubtful if the ordinary snug fitting Blue tunic could even be buttoned over the heavy sweaters that one must wear to keep warm during the severe weather, and in this connection the loose fitting battle dress blouse is ideal.

Sgd (HC Houston) F/L

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Updated: April 8, 2003