Military Communications and Electronics Museum | Musée de L'électronique et des communications militaires

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The Cold War

On 5 September 1945 Igor Gouzenko, a Soviet cypher clerk at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, defected. Information which he brought with him exposed the previously unknown degree to which Soviet Intelligence was targeting the West through espionage, subversion and outright theft of Atomic secrets. The Canadian investigation was dubbed the CORBY CASE.

Reaction to this defection initiated the forty five year long Cold War between the Soviets and the West and led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact.

On 9 September 1945 the Canadian Government sent Gouzenko and his family to guarded seclusion at the radio station at the old "Camp X" in Whitby where they were debriefed and lived under protective custody until suitable cover arrangements could be made for them to live safely elsewhere. They then settled in Mississauga where Igor Gouzenko died in 1982.


Concern about the Soviets establishing a small lodgement in arctic Canada created a need for a Mobile Striking Force. A series of exercises were undertaken to develop the necessary skills and to evaluate military equipment. These involved overland treks of up to 3100 miles and combined operations with up to 5,000 personnel. The expertise of the NWT&Y personnel proved invaluable.


In the early 1950s, Canada and the United States agreed to cooperate in defending North America from a Soviet bomber attack. Three radar chains (DEW Line, Mid-Canada Line and Pinetree Line) were built to provide attack warning and to direct interceptor aircraft against any intruders. Canada contributed up to 17,000 personnel and 19 Fighter Squadrons to this defensive system.

The NORADians

Signed in 1958, the North American Air Defence or NORAD agreement provided for air defence under joint Canadian/US control. Although automation reduced the staff considerably, there were still many personnel employed in underground control centres and on various radar chains. Life on the Pinetree Line was somewhat isolated but generally enjoyed by the technicians and their families. Hunting and fishing were popular pastimes!


Although various degrees of cooperation had existed for many years, the move to full integration met with considerable opposition. Such is the loyalty that members have to their cap badges, their regiments and their traditions. Nonetheless, on 1 February 1968 the new "Canadian Armed Forces" was formed and integration began. The Communications and Electronics Branch was formed on 1 October 1968.


To lower operating costs and better defend against the Soviet cruise missile threat, the NAADM project was undertaken in 1984. The southern radar chain was closed and new arctic facilities constructed to permit interceptor aircraft to be controlled from North Bay, Ontario. As this new system is largely contractor maintained, C&E Branch involvement in air defence has been greatly reduced.


Evolved from the wartime "Wireless Intelligence Service", the SRS continues to provide signals intelligence services for the Canadian government. Army, navy and air force personnel, along with their families, have served at over 20 different locations worldwide. The secrecy of the work, the isolation of the postings and the regular tours to the arctic made this a most demanding specialty.

Northern Lights as seen from Inuvik.