Digby Island staff about 1915. Jack Bowerman on far right.
Staff Names A through B
Dots and Dashes
Sparks, a key master was I
Dots and dashes from times gone by
Somewhere in space they still fly.
Ted Severud, retired operator
West coast wireless operators wages in 1926 varied between $1500 to $2500 per year. Below is the 1926 pay sheet for many of our lads.
Collected here are many names and photos of the west coast wireless staff and their families. These names cover a span of some 50 years and include not only the operators themselves, but other station staff such as the mechanics, lighthouse keepers and neighbours. Some poking around has matched up faces with names. There are still many names without photos. It appears the operators may have spent only months at some stations, as lists of staffing often show conflicts--for instance, one list will show Harris at Pachina in 1912 while another source may say he was at Dead Tree in the same year.
[*The flagged BCD letters indicate the names have come from a British Columbia Directory, a commercial enterprise enumerating the businesses and occupations of the residents at a particular location. I have a feeling the year of the directory reflects the previous years efforts.]
Acton, Charlie A 1923 BCD* lists Charlie as being at Bull Harbor. No occupation is given, but he would have been a radio operator. A C.J.Acton appears in a photo of the Radio Regulations Branch veterans.
Ainslie, R. (Bob) Ainslie joined the wireless
service after discharge from the Royal Navy in April of 1912. Second
operator at Lazo in 1916 ($75/mo.). His rank on January 1918 was RNCVR
(Special) W/T operator. He helped with the installation at Bull Harbor and
was appointed OIC when the station opened in 1921.
A 1922 BC Directory lists Bob at Comox. The 1923 and 1924 BCD* list Bob in Bull Harbor. He was also at Pachena, but just when is unknown. Married. 1926 net wages $1,966.50
Alan, Harry V. 1923 Estevan operator.
Amie (?), Alec Operator at Alert Bay in the 1949 to 1955 period. Eventually took a job at Kitimat.
Aitkens, Francis Charles Aitkens' daughter
writes (June 2007): "He was born (Francis Charles Aitkens - called
Chas or Charlie) in Sept 1904. His family farmed in Gordon Head. He
completed school in Victoria (Vic High) to Grade 9. He was larking about and cutting classes
the next year and his father enrolled him at Sprott-Shaw in a radio
course (?). That would be about 1921. By 1923 - age 19 - he had
graduated. I don't know the exact sequence, but possibly Point
Grey, then Bull Harbor, then Pachena (1927) where he boarded with
"Mrs Mac" (?). He also mentioned being based at Gonzales Hill
to me, but I don't know when. Some time before 1930 he was posted
to Estevan. In 1931, my mother Gene came from Edmonton to Estevan to
visit her brother Clarence (Tommy) Thomas, who was also a radio
operator, and may have been there on relief duty (?). I think Tommy was
also at Alert Bay at some time. My parents were married in 1932 and
left Estevan in about 1936-37. From then until 1939 he was leading
crews to install radio beacon stations throughout British Columbia. In
1939 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Special Forces,
doing much the same work. In 1947 he signed onto RCAF regular forces
and retired in 1957. He then went overseas with International Civil
Aeronautics Organization to Syria, Nepal and Afghanistan and retired
again in 1967. My dad died in March 1996 and my mother Gene is still
alive at 99. (Sadly Gene passed away in August of 2007--FWS)
In Larry Reid's book, operator Aitkens is shown on strength in November 1923. Chas appears in Bull Harbor Wireless in time for the 1920 edition of the BCD*, but by 1923 the BCD* lists him at Estevan Point Wireless. His name appears on the 1933 station Christmas card. His time at Estevan is recorded from then on until 1937 BCD*.
Aitken, John Telegraph operator at Victoria. Clipping is from June 1917.
Allan, Harry V. Allan was a married radio operator at Estevan 1931 when Aitkens arrived. Allen left the station in July 1933. His replacement was Cecil Gray. BCD* shows him there 1930 to 1932.
Arnold, Horwood James (Jim) D.S.O. b. 1890. He immigrated from
the UK in 1911, most likely trained in the British Post Office. He
was, along with Greer, the first operator on Triangle Island (1911
Census). He was there when Bowerman arrived in the summer of 1912 but
left after a short time, being relieved by Harold Tee. While at
Triangle he shinnied up the 200 foot mast to restring an antenna. He
also had a stint at Gonzales (1910/11) and Cape Lazo.
He was at the chief operator at Ikeda Wireless on the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1914 when the war broke out. He received permission to resign, fired up the Evinrude in his 16 foot boat, and made his way down to Alert Bay, and from there to England and joined the Royal Naval Air Service. He had a special interest in making wireless function in aircraft. As a matter of fact, he earned his DSO as a wireless operator in an aeroplane providing shell spotting off the east coast of Africa (1915 sinking of the SMS Konigsberg, Battle of the Rufigi Delta). His machine was eventually shot down, he and the pilot surviving the cartwheeling crash on water.
Unfortunately a June 1918 news item reports he had been accidentally killed in England performing a flying stunt.
Arnaud, Frank I. He was born in 1914. This Daily Colonist January 01/49 photo shows him handling traffic at the Victoria Station.
Bairstow, Douglas Whitley In 1916 he was the fourth operator at Estevan earning $2.25/day. A newspaper article on the sinking of the F.P.V.Galiano (Jim Hume--Time Colonist Sept 17, 2007) has Bairstow testifying at an inquiry that he was an employee at the Wireless Station that October 1918 night the vessel foundered.
Balcombe, Harold K. Acting third operator at Point Grey in 1916 at $2.25/day.
Bannerman Operator at Estevan in 1912.
Baker, S. A. Wireless operator in the C.P.R. Steamship "Tees" according to the November 19, 1909 edition of the Victoria Times. The Tees was a freighter carrying goods to the communities and lighthouses along the British Columbia coast.
Barker, J.E. Noted as being at Prince Rupert (Digby?). Salary was $85/month in 1911. Could have been an operator.
Barnsley, J. 1915 freight clerk and wireless operator on the Union Steam Ship "Camosun".
Barnum A newspaper clipping from the 1930-40 period mentions Mr. Barnum as a radio inspector. Radio inspectors investigated interference complaints, collected radio fees, granted radio licenses for operators and stations, inspected stations and ensured the applicable regulations were adhered to.
Baugh-Allen, C. Trainee (operator?) at Gonzales in 1916. $45/mo.
Beart, William Edward Ed appears in the Aitkens
1937 Estevan Point photos. He came to replace operator
Stark. Beart is listed on the station in the 1937, 1938 and 1939 BCD*.
He was married.
In June 2012 I received an email from a lady in the UK who was researching her maternal grandfather's brother, Edward, and she verified this photo of him. (1896-1976)
Beatty, Dave A bachelor residing at Estevan during the Aitkens period. The 1937, 1938 and 1939 BCD* say he was a handyman about the station.
Begg, Jake Operator. No other info.
Bennett, Edwin Guy Guy joined the wireless service in the 1912 from England. On the "Galiano" as an operator in 1915/16 drawing $60/month. At Pachena in 1916 as acting officer in charge. $77.50/mo. plus OIC allowance of $7.50/mo. Bowerman lauds him, and Bill Clarke, for the early clearing of the land and creating the vegetable and flower gardens at that station. He went back east for First World War duties (RCNVR) and never returned to the west coast. During WW2 he was Assistant Director of Radio Censorship and organized a special radio interception service. For this work he received an Member of the British Empire in 1946. Photo is from his retirement.
Berry, Jack(John) J. Joined the wireless service in the 1911-12 period, most likely from the British Post Office. Berry arrived on Triangle Island wireless station on the SS Leebro with Bowerman in 1912. Berry had his wife and two little boys with him. Bowerman . appreciated her fine cooking. He left Triangle in 1913 for a stint at Gonzales. He appears in a 1914 photograph taken by Lofty Harris in Alert Bay. He operated at Dead Tree Wireless on the Queen Charlotte Islands and stayed for a long time. At Dead Tree his wages were $75/mo. in 1916. He was also listed as an early operator at Alert Bay.
Bersea, Keith Operator at Pachena in 1951.
Bigmore, Harry Over his years at Estevan Point, 1927 through to 1939 (at least), he is listed either as an operator or a telegrapher.---(BCD*)
Black Joined the wireless service in the 1911-12 period, most likely from the British Post Office.
Blacklock, Charlie Operator at Victoria in 1947 but appears at Pachena in 1948-51.
Bond, V.J. Larry Reid's book has him listed as an operator on November 05, 1923. Some years later there is a newspaper note of his retirement from the position of radio operator on the Fisheries Patrol Vessel "Malaspina".
Bowden, W.J. West coast wireless service office janitor in 1911. $15/month. Still there in 1916. From the look of the wages it must have been a part time job.
Bowerman, W. John (Jack) Jack's photos albums
and narrative are used throughout this site. See this time line. Officer in
Charge at Triangle Island in 1912. 1916 he is the OIC at Digby making
$90/mo. plus OIC allowance of $7.50/mo. His rank on January 1918 was RNCVR (Special) W/T operator.
Larry Reid's book shows him at Point Grey Wireless on November 05,
1923. 1926 wages $2,080.50 In 1948 he received an M.B.E. (Member of the
Order of the British Empire.) His amateur radio call sign was VE7XR.
Passed away at 95 years of age in Victoria, B.C.
"Letter from W. J. Bowerman, Dept. of Naval Service Radiotelegraph Branch, Digby Island BC dated Dec 3rd 1916 acknowledging the receipt of 14 NID 151 forms."
Victoria Daily Colonist December 6, 1938 "Mr. Bowerman was born at Bognor Regis, England, and came to Canada first in 1910. He joined the Government radio service in 1911 as wireless operator, commencing duty at the Gonzales Hill station. Later he did a round of duty in connection with other stations on the British Columbia coast, among other places isolated Triangle Island (1912), where the operators and lighthouse attendants were fortunate to get mails and supplies several times a year. During the latter part of the Great War, Mr. Bowerman was transferred to Atlantic Coast radio stations for duty, and also served as wireless operator on British transport vessels. Transferred back to British Columbia after the war was over, he was officer in charge at Point Grey and Estevan stations in turn. Appointed radio inspector for Vancouver and the British Columbia Interior in 1925, he continued in the capacity until promoted recently to succeed E.J. Haughton, retiring superintendent."
Boyd Boyd joined the wireless service in the 1911-12, probably from the British Post Office. He was relieved by Bowerman and Berry's arrival on Triangle Island in 1912.
Bradbury, Charlie H. Charlie was a telegrapher from either the commercial or railroad systems in the UK. (b.1871) He was the first operator and Officer in Charge at Cape Lazo Wireless Station in the fall of 1908. In 1910 he received a $85/month salary at that station. He was married to Dorothy. (The British Columbia on-line archives have a couple of Bamfield Cable Station photos dated 1903 taken by a Charles Bradbury. 1901 Census lists a Charles A. Bradbury working as stevedore in Chemainus. This guy was born in 1874.)
Bradbury, Louis H. H. Brother of Charlie Bradbury. He was the OIC of Pachena Wireless Station when it was commissioned in February 1908, and is mentioned in a Sept 1909 Colonist article as still being there. May 1910 has him as the OIC at Estevan. Larry Reid has him receiving $75/month as OIC of Estevan Point Wireless in 1910.
Brunton, Miss Emily (Emma) Mary Brunton arrived on
Triangle Island in late 1916 as a housekeeper for the operators. Larry
Reid reports she had the dwelling ship shape in no time and the cooking
was excellent. The down side was that she insisted on the operators
dressing up, right down to the polished shoes, for meals.
She left the station in October 1918 around 5 PM on the ill fated FPV "Galiano" and by 3 AM that night had vanished with the vessel in a storm off the south east tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Curiously The Colonist newspaper reports the Galiano had brought up an unnamed replacement housekeeper on the same trip. It is assumed she was safely put ashore on Triangle but nothing more is known of her, but perhaps she was a figment of the reporter's imagination.
Buchanan, J. A. In January of 1910, Buchanan was the first operator back at Pachena after it was closed due to a lack of qualified operators. (L.H.Bradbury had been moved to Estevan as it was the more important station.) As station OIC he received $85/month in 1910. Relay duties between Estevan and Gonzales (Victoria) were now handled by Tatoosh on the American side, thus no need for Pachena at the time. He was a telegrapher from either the commercial or railway systems.
Burford, W.T. Burford was at Point Grey with
Bowerman during the 1920-24 period. He helped, as secretary, with the
operators petitioning Ottawa for better working conditions. He eventually
left the service and worked for a large labour organization in eastern
Canada. 1926 net wages $1,740.00
(From Chuck Davis' www.vancouverhistory.ca)
August 21, 1924 The planet Mars was closer to Earth than it had been for many years. That lent exciting credence to the Province's Page One story: "Mysterious signals picked up at Point Grey wireless station during the past few weeks culminated this morning in a recognized group of sounds which lead the operators to believe that Mars has succeeded in establishing communication with the earth. Four distinct groups of four dashes came in over the ether at 7:12 a.m., when Mr. W. T. Burford was on duty. These dashes were not in any known code but started on a low note, gradually ascending and concluding with a "zipp.' The signals were not sent by spark nor continuous wave and the theory that Mars has at last managed to "get through' is gaining support."
Burgess, J.Hartley Government Telegraph (landline) operator, Alert Bay, 1928. He handled the land line communications.
Burns Operator at Estevan in early 1958, shortly before the station relocated to Tofino Airport.
Busswood, W.J. Busswood is listed in the 1925 Marine & Fisheries Dominion accounts for 1925. He may have been an operator.