Between 1948 and 1968, the Electronic Warfare rooms of HMC ships and many naval radio stations were staffed with members of the Communicator Supplementary or Radioman Special Branch. These were not regular radio operators. Rather, they were members of a branch whose duties were considered secret. Originally created as Communicator Supplementary (CS) in 1948, this branch was renamed Radioman Special (RS) in 1960, but the badge had been changed in 1955. It remained RS from 1960 until the amalgamation of the Armed Forces in 1968. Duties of CS/RS operators included the interception and analysis of "opposition" emissions, both radio and radar.


The CS and Communicator Radio (CR) branch badges were the same. The maple leaf at the top was standard on every branch badge in the navy. Superimposed, were the wings of mercury over two signal flags.  Joining the wings of mercury was a circle. In the circle there was a letter which denoted a specific trade. The individual badges are shown below.

Communicator (C)rypto
 Communicator (S)upplementary
(Badges courtesy Ed Paquette)

Communicator (R)adio
   Communicator (V)isual
  Communicator New Entry*

* The badge with a blank circle would be for a new entry or basically-trained rate before he specialized in one of Radio, Coding or Supplementary. (Badges courtesy Ed Paquette)

By 1950 there was a CR, CS, CV, CC, rating all with the same badge with the exception of the letter in the circle. Shortly after that, the navy combined the CV and CR to CM and made them one and the same. The CM ratings did a watch in the radio room and then did a watch on the bridge as a Signalman. This only lasted a couple of years and it was just too much for one trade. They went back to CR and CV. CV was Communicator Visual, the Signalman. The CC disappeared sometime around 1953. Just before 1960 the trade name changed. CV became Signalman SG with crossed flags. CR became Radioman RM with the wings of mercury and knob. CS became Radioman Special RS with the wings of mercury and the DF Loops. These badges were changed in 1955 but the trade name did not change until later."


rs_badge.jpg rm_badge.jpg
Radioman Special (RS) badge.
1955 - Feb 1968
Radioman (RM) badge.
1955 - Feb 1968
(Both badges courtesy of Spud Roscoe)

The RS and Radioman (RM) branch badges were very similar. Both had the maple leaf with the wings of mercury. Where the wings of mercury joined, there was a solid knob on the RM badge and the loops of the MF/ DF antenna on the RS badge as shown above. The knob and loops were the same size and one had to look closely to see the difference.


Taken in 1959, ABRS Spud Roscoe shows the Radioman Special (RS) badge. Spud says that he joined as a Communicator Supplementary (CS) rating in 1956 but their branch was renamed Radioman Special in 1960. It took a while for the old CS badge to disappear. He had the old badge on some items of clothing and the new badge on other pieces of clothing.  (Photo courtesy Spud Roscoe)

This was the white CS badge used  from 1955 until 1968 and a rate wore it on his white uniform, dungaree shirts and dungaree jacket. The dungaree uniform was known as #5 and was the working uniform. (Image courtesy Dan Gillis) 

In the 1950's,  the RCN bought a supply of gold thread badges from the Pakistanis. These badges were not very popular, to say the least.  The thread around the border soon discoloured and the actual badge, which was quite crisp and
sharp soon became scruffy looking. Many of the CS and RS rates opted for the purchase of gold-wire Tiddley badges rather than wear these imports which were referred to as "Pakistani
Badges" or "Paki Badges" at the time. COs and senior officers did not like them either. (Image courtesy Ray White) 
This is Communication Technician Third Class (CT3) USN badge. The CT branch of the USN was the counterpart to the RCN  CS/RS rate.  This was worn on the left arm and signified the rank as well as the specialty.  In this case, it is a CT3, which was the equivalent of a Leading Seaman in the RCN.

Many CT3's and CS were on exchange programs between the USN and the RCN.  (Image courtesy Ray White) 

Ratings in Aldergrove, Churchill, Coverdale , Gloucester and Inuvik all eventually wore the appropriate cap tally as their stations became commissioned. Ratings in all other Naval Radio Stations wore the tally "HMC Radio Station". (Image courtesy Jim Brewer)

Ray White, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class RCN (Retired) provides some general information about the CS rate and other changes which transpired during his service with the navy. "The term "CS rate"  was used for all members of the Communicator Supplementary trade until about 1960 when all the Radio trades, and others, underwent a designation change. CS became Radioman Special (RS), CR became Radioman (RM), CV became Signalman (SG), etc.  With unification later in the 1960's, RS became COM RSCH 291.

About 1950, another change took place when all the old designations were renamed. from WT Operator (always referred to as Sparker) to Communicator (CM) and included the group that later became our mob, the CS rates. Signalman became Communicator Visual (CV), and another low-key trade, Communicator Crypto (CC) performed duties which later became part of all the trade specifications.

Another "aberration" occurred in about 1961 when a new Port Division was introduced, namely, Gloucester which used suffix 'G' on the official number. The other Port Divisions were 'H' for Halifax and 'E' for Esquimalt.  Ours was the only trade in the RCN to have a Port Division dedicated to a single trade. My serial number went from 9256-H to 9256-G but the transition for most of us wasn't easy to get used to. It all went by the board anyway when the Social Insurance Number was introduced throughout the Canadian Forces and the concept of Port Division disappeared.

Another significant point concerning the CS/RS trades was the various sub-specialties, such as Operator, Technician, Linguist, etc. These were included in the trade without showing what the individual's real job might have been. From the period up to the late 1950's, the CS trade had only two trade groups - Trade Group Two and Trade Group Three. When I left Gloucester as a trained operator, I went from OSCSS to OSCS2, something that other trades found very difficult to understand. At the other end of the spectrum, Trade Group Three was the level for qualification to Petty Officer Second Class. On completion of the qualification course a Leading Seaman became LSCS3. Then, in late 50s, the level of trained ordinary seaman became TG1 - OSCS1. All P1s and Chiefs became Trade Group 4 at the point of introduction of the new policy and all subsequent advancement to Trade group 4 was by a formal course, held in Gloucester

Communicator Supplementary (of which I was a member from 1951 to 1972) had two streams - Operational and Technical and throughout the Supplementary Radio System there were fully equipped tech shops and CS-rates who were fully qualified as technicians.  When CS changed to Radioman Special (RS) the technical stream was integrated into the Electronic Technician (LT) branch".


Ray White provides some details about the type of training provided to CS and RS rates.

"Communicators (Supplementary) (CS) were specifically trained to receive messages without the possibility of requesting repetitions.  This is the basis of intercept operations.  Having said this, I should point out that in the early part of the 1950s, say, when I received my first CS course, we were taught to receive and send.  Each training position in the classrooms had a typewriter bay and an old brass Pusser key. We were taught to receive manual and automatic Morse, both plain language and different kinds of crypto, figure and letter codes.  Emphasis was on the Cyrillic, or Russian alphabet, which, in addition to the international characters, had characters that we called "Tiddley" characters:  .-.- was tiddley A, ..-.. was E, ---- was H, ..-- was U, ---. was O.  These were for reception of Russian.

There were also accented characters for other languages, -.-.- (Tiddley C, also known as the commercial commencement signal) --.--  (Tiddley N, I think) .--.- (Tiddley P) etc etc. They were written with the letters having a line above them.  When typewritten, there was a dead key which did not advance the platen. This key had an overline on it and was hit before the letter and produced much the same result as the handwritten or printed character.

Emphasis was on printed copying, with secondary training given on typing. We were also given considerable manual morse transmitting training, which was intended for operation of the communication circuits between stations. We operated such circuits between Aklavik (CFV) and Churchill (CFL), Masset (CFS) and Aldergrove (CKN), and Frobisher (CFI) and Churchill, as well as Padloping Island (VFU8) which was manned by CRs in the mid-50s.

Having said that, the quality of Morse receiving was vastly superior to sending, mainly because most CSs did not get the practice necessary to hone a fist and keep up the skill. CS operators were renowned for their exceptional skill at copying poor Morse.  But they were also quite good a automatic morse at speeds up to about 28 wpm for long periods.  On many occasions, when CS operators were on ships they would often participate in the squadron and fleet morse copying competitions and had very good records against their CR messmates. However, the same competitions included sending manual morse and the CS personnel did not come near the CR skills.

In the mid to late 50s, morse training at Gloucester took a turn for what I would call the worse. A USN LCDR (by the name of Tamburello) was appointed in charge of  CS training and he brought USN Comm School methods with him. He minimized copying by pencil, and concentrated on typewriter copy. He did away with plain language and concentrated on five letter and five figure groups.  He did away with use of the telegraphic key.  These changes had a detrimental effect on operator skills and thus left it to watch supervisors at Churchill and Coverdale to bring the new operators up to scratch. All in all CS operators sharpened their blind reception skills because of the inability to request repetitions.

We had our personal "bugs" in Churchill and Aklavik and the Ops Chief would set a test to ensure the operators knew how to use the bug. I am sure Masset had a similar process. In Frobisher, we used a bug on occasion to work CFL and VFU8.  Operation on the Atlantic and Pacific HFDF nets, however, was limited to a standard flat key. Semi-automatic keys, like Vibroplex and Simplex and other bugs, were taboo. This was a USN ruling".

Tom Jenkins provides an update to the 291 Comm Research trade mentioned earlier in this article. "The Canadian Forces no longer has Military Occupation Codes (MOC) therefore MOC 291 no longer exists. The MOC has been replaced with the Military Occupational Structure Identifications Codes (MOSID). They are five digit codes, and 291ers have been classified under MOSID 00120.

As for the name of the trade, nothing has changed there. We are still Communicator Research, though it is often printed in error as Communications instead of  Communicator. That being said, I do believe we will continue to refer to ourselves as 291ers for a long time yet. Somehow "00120ers" doesn't have the same ring to it! "

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Aug 9/08