ST. ROCH RADIO ROOM

This web document describes the radio fitting aboard the RCMP vessel St. Roch. It is still in development so information may change as new documents are discovered.

QUICK  HISTORY

The RCMP Schooner St. Roch was launched at North Vancouver in April 1928. She was designed as a supply vessel and floating detachment for the Arctic and had a rounded hull which allowed her to winter in the ice of northern waters. On June 23, 1940 she sailed from Vancouver and navigated the North-West Passage, arriving in Halifax on October 11, 1942. She was the second vessel after Roald Amundsen's Gjoa (1903) to traverse the North-West Passage. However, she was the first vessel to traverse the North-West Passage from west to east.

Between July 22 and October 16, 1944 the St. Roch returned to Vancouver via a more northerly route through Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait in only 86 days. In doing so she became the first vessel to traverse the North-West Passage in both directions. She would make history one last time in 1950 after she travelled through the Panama Canal, making her the first vessel to completely circumnavigate the North American continent. Her seafaring days came to an end in 1954 and she is now a main attraction at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
 
 

st_roch_image.jpg
Tthe RCMP ST. ROCH was not a member of the RCMP Marine Section. She was a special-build supply vessel constructed in 1928 and remained with “G” Division, the division by which she was built and operated. “G” Division is that section of the Mounted Police that controls their activities in the northern part of Canada (Vancouver Maritime Museum photo)
This is a cutaway graphic showing the starboard side of the St. Roch. The radio room is on the port side. (Courtesy Dept of Supply and Services, 1983)
SPECIFICATIONS

Vessel type: Started as a Schooner. Later converted to a Ketch.
Length : 104 ft 3 in.
Beam: 24 ft 9 in
Draught: 11 feet
Displacement: 323 tons
Top speed: 8 knots
Launched: May 7, 1928
Paid off: 1954
Crew: 19

Sixteen years after being launched, St. Roch was refitted at Dartmouth, N.S.  in preparation for her 1944 voyage.  A much larger deckhouse was constructed with individual cabins for the crew, the 150 hp diesel engine was replaced with a 300 hp. diesel, and there were other, lesser, upgrades.

Retired RCMP S/Sgt. Dan Lemieux of the Vancouver Marine Museum provides this detail regarding the power plants. "The 1928-1943 engine was a 150 hp Union Diesel, six-cylinder, four-cycle, with single acting 8 1/4 inch diameter cylinders. The propeller was a single screw, three-bladed propeller, 58 inches in diameter, with a 35 inch pitch.  At 340 rpm, it  produced a top speed of 8 knots.  The engine consumed 290 gallons of fuel in a 24 hour period at optimum speed.  Since the vessel could only carry 7,000 gallons of diesel, (25 days sailing),  it was necessary to carry many 45 gallon drums of diesel.  When the main tanks went dry, the crew had to wrestle the drums out of the hold and transfer the contents into the tanks.  St. Roch cruised at 6 knots for best fuel consumption.  After the 150 hp engine was extracted during the 1944 refit, it was fitted  into  a fishing vessel on the West Coast.  That vessel sank in a storm and that engine is now resting on the bottom of the Bay of Alaska.

The second engine produced 300 hp.  It was also a  six-cylinder, four-cycle engine but having 11 inch diameter cylinders.  At 350 rpm it only produced a top speed of 8 knots.  Dockyard mateys tried a 4 bladed propellor but it caused vibration, so they went back to the original three bladed one.   More power....but no increase in speed.

In Halifax they installed a new battery bank on a platform in the engine room.  A small gasoline auxiliary engine was used  to charge the batteries.   This allowed the crew to use the radios and other electrical devices without running the main engine.   It was especially helpful during the 11 winters they spent frozen in ice in the Arctic". T he quarters were  crammed and access to food and outside contact was limited"

RADIO ROOM HIGHLIGHTS

Radio call sign: VGSR

1928-29: This was St. Roch's maiden voyage and her first trip into the Canadian Arctic. The vessel sailed from Vancouver on June 28, 1928, wintered at Langton Bay, and returned in the fall of 1929. On launch, she was fitted with state-of-the-art radio equipment. This consisted a  100 watt, medium wave (375 to 1428 KHz) main transmitter, namely the Canadian Marconi 100W4 ( S/N 62)  which is used for all ordinary ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore work. Also installed  was a 50 watt short wave transmitter whose model number is is not known at this time. It was a HF set  for communicating with stations beyond the range of the main set such the area around Hudson Bay or, possibly Ottawa. Two receivers were fitted: MST tuner with MSA amplifier and the Canadian Marconi 4VSW-6.

On one of the Equipment Requisitions drafted in 1928 by F.W. Healey. was an RCA Model 2-60 Victorola Gramophone along with 50 records.  The grammaphone cost $37.16 in 1928. This would serve as an  entertainment means for the crew. Other requests were for dry batteries, In 1928, that request consisted of:

* Qty. 8 Eveready "Layerbuilt" heavy duty,  45 volt  'B' batteries
* Qty. 2 Eveready "Light Duty" 22.5 volt 'B' batteries.

Fred. W Sealey, was the radio operator aboard St. Roch in 1928.  born in England, Mr. Sealey discovered his calling in 1918 while his family was en route to a new home in Victoria. "While on the boat from Vancouver, I happened to be outside the `wireless' cabin when the operator started up the old spark transmitter and the crash of the spark could be heard all around the deck," re­called Mr. Sealey. "I decided right there and then that the `wireless' was for me.".  With a daytime job and classes at night, he quickly obtained his certificate and went to sea with the Canadian Marconi Company.

Research indicates that the St. Roch stayed in touch with a network of stations in the Arctic and all around Canada.  Radio operator Cst. Edward (Dean) Hadley, was the radio operator aboard St. Roch in 1929. Hadley transmitted regular reports to Coppermine, NWT twice a week.  Other research material indicates that one of the duties of the St. Roch crew h was to provide daily weather reports to Ottawa.  It was also mentioned that the crew routinely listened to the radio when they were off duty.

The vessel obtained a broadcast license so that they, on occasion, could broadcast news and music to the northern natives. Dean recalls that it was around 667 KHz. where they aired their broadcasts. As one would expect, the AM signal would have a limited range. There was no regular schedule, just the occasional news and music, with most of the potential listeners being forewarned via short wave radio that there would be a broadcast.

It is also believed that Land Stations in the North were notified about St. Roch's broadcast schedule and, perhaps word spread to the native people that had access to battery operated receivers. There were long periods of time when  the ship was frozen in ice so she was used as an RCMP  "Detachment" . Perhaps there were more broadcasts during this period.

Complaints from the radio operator indicated that the radio room was too small, too dark and too noisy. This was corrected in  1930 by having the deckhouse enlarged.

1930-34: The longest voyage in the history of the ship. St. Roch provided service to the Coronation Gulf area of the western Arctic. Returned to Vancouver after spending four winters in the Arctic.

1936 - In the Spring of 1936, the St. Roch wireless office was supplied with a General Radio  model 358 wavemeter

1938 - An order was placed for the acquisition of an HRO Standard receiver to cover the frequency range of 1700 KHz to 30 MHz. This also included an unspecified transmitter (similar to the Marconi 200PT) to operate on 6310 and 12320 KHz. It was also noted that the wireless office was only 6 foot 5 inches high, so the transmitter had to be shorther than that dimension. 

1944: This was St. Roch's "lucky" 86-day voyage on the more northerly route of the Northwest Passage from east to west, sailing from Halifax to Vancouver. It is believed that the radio room was upgraded during the refit. In March 19344, it was suggested that the existing  Marconi 100W4 transmitter be replaced with the MArconi LTT-4. THis was susequently done. The Bill Morrison report, used in this research, confirms that the St. Roch carried the following radio equipment just before the 1944 voyaage..

* Marconi LTT-4 transmitter. This was the same transmitter that was aboard when the St. Roch was turned over to the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
* Marconi 200PT transmitter. This was the main transmitter.
* National HRO receiver  - this was the  main receiver. A new "Vibrapack" power supply was replaced just prior to the voyage.
* Marconi 3V SW-5 receiver. This was the emergency receiver. Marconi receivers in the model range of 3V SW-x (Three Valve, Short-Wave) covered 100 kHz to 21 MHz.
* Battery operated Aldis lamp.
* Conspicuous by its absence, is the model designator for  the enterrtainment/broadcast receiver.

1946 - Operation Muskox was an 81-day military exercise organized by the Canadian Army in 1946. It involved the 48 members of the Army driving 11 4½-ton Canadian designed snowmobiles (a.k.a."Penguins"). They were joined by three American observers in a smaller American-made snowmobile called a "Weasel" as well as an observer from the Royal Canadian Navy and a number of scientists. The Royal Canadian Air Force provided airdrops of supplies.  During this period, the St. Roch was used as a radio beacon for Operation Muskox in 1946. No other details are available at this time.

1947-48: St. Roch's last Arctic voyage, this time to supply the RCMP detachments in the western Arctic. The ship wintered at Herschel Island, but most of the crew were flown out for Christmas. On her return to Vancouver, the St. Roch was laid up. In 1947, the Marconi 200PT transmitter was replaced with the Collins 32RA-8 transmitter. This then, became the main transmitter.  Modes: CW and Phone. 1.5 to 15 Mhz; Power - 75 watts on CW, 50 watts on Phone. 

1950: St. Roch sailed from Vancouver to Halifax by way of the Panama Canal, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate North America.

1951  - The St. Roch received a radar fit.  It was the Canadian Marconi LN-16 which was removed from another ship, namely, the RCMP  FRENCH. A tripod mast was installed for the antenna atop the deckhouse. Also installed, was a Canadian Marconi CM11 transmitter which replaced the Collins transmitter installed in 1947. The CM11, recycled from the  RCMP vessel FRENCH was the last transmitter to be installed and was removed in 1954. A  Bendix DR-5B Depth Sounder was also fitted to the ship during this year.

1954: With Henry Larsen in command, St. Roch returned to Vancouver by way of the Panama Canal for preservation as a museum vessel. En route a problem had developed with the LN-16 radar.  The radar mast had become  loose on account of rotted wooed in the bridge deck. It was subsequently repaired in Bermuda..
 

EARLY PHOTOS OF THE ST. ROCH RADIO EQUIPMENT
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Radio room 1928-1929 era
/st_roch_radio_room_1930_1933 x300.jpg
Radio room  1930-1933 era. The equipment depicted in this photo and the one above it are the MST2 tuner and MSA5 amplifier made by Canadian Marconi . 
/st_roch_radio_room_emergency_xmitter_x_300.jpg
Emergency transmitter. This is likely a home made unit. 
 (Photos courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum)
In the Spring of 1936, St. Roch was supplied with a General Radio  model 358 wavemeter and additional coils to measure transmitter frequencies all the way down to 630 meters. The usual range for the wavemeter was  14 to 220 meters. Originally designed in 1926, this wavemeter could store six coils in the carrying case. (Photo courtesy PicClick.uk)
st_roch_358_usage.jpg
This photo illustrates the use of the  358 absorption wavemeter. A coil for the frequency of interest is selected and attached to the wavemeter. The wavemeter is then positioned near the output stage of the transmitter.  A light bulb will illuminate when the resonant frequency of the wavemeter is reached. The reading  on the logging scale is then cross referenced on a  logging scale to frequency chart.    (Photo via Radiomuseum.org)
In the Spring of 1935, the following documentation was provided for the radio room

* International list of Coast stations
* International list of Call Signs
* International list of Special services
* International Radio Convention
* The Radio Act
* PMC Handbook  The acronym means Postmaster General’s Handbook. It was an essential text for commercial radio operators in the Commonwealth.
 

No photo available Records indicate that in June 1935, a new communications receiver was installed. It is the Model 707 Mod 1. built by the Canadian Government Radio Service. It is puzzling as to why the model 707 was chosen when there were other receivers that could do the job. 
No photo available Records indicate that sometime between 1930 and 1935, a Mercury Model 1930 broadcast receiver was installed . Made in Toronto, the design enployed ten Northern Electric R215-A "Peanut" tubes. Kipp was originally a motorcycle dealer which became involved with building radios. Their best known design was the Mercury Super Ten.

 
 
 
/st_roch_100w4_with _receiver_s..jpg This diagram shows all the interconnections for the Canadian Marconi 100W4 transmitter with a pairing to  a MST-2 tuner and MSA-5 amplifier. It is presumed that this same configuration was used aboard St. Roch but it still requires confirmation. Click on thumbnail to enlarge. (Image courtesy  Denis Couillard)

 
st_roch_radio_room_today01.jpg
This was the operating position in the St. Roch radio room. Above the gramophone is the National HRO receiver, and above and to the right is the storage rack for the HRO plugin coils. The receiver that is seen today is not the same one as when the ship was in service but rather a very similar model to the original. 

Below the coil sets, is the  external HRO "doghouse" power supply..Out of sight are the 200PT and LTT-4 transmitters and the bed for the radio operator.  It is assumed for now, that the St. Roch paid off with this basic configuration . The gentlemen in the photo is radio op Dean Hadley. Here he is inspecting the radio room in October of 2018. It was in this room where Dean spent three summers and two long winters when the St. Roch was stuck frozen in the ice of the Northwest Passage. Eugene Dean Hadley died peacefully in his sleep on July 13/19. He was 98. (Photo by  Jason Payne, PNG)

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This is the HRO Senior receiver avoard the St. Roch. However, it not the one that was actually fitted  when the shiip oaid off.  Roch. /(Photo by John Gilbert) 
/st_roch_hro_coil_set.jpg
HRO receivers did not utilize a band changing switch.  Insead, the operator needed to remove the existing coil set and plug in a coil set for the desired frequency.  National Radio included HRO coil storage boxes with the radios in three-coil and five-coil standard versions. (Photo courtesy Radio Boulevard web site) 
/st_roche_hro_coilset.jpg
This is the coil set that belongs with the St. Roch HRO receiver. (Photo by John Gilbert
Antennas Used Aboard the St. Roch

 
/st_roch_hro_power_supply1.jpg /st_roch_power_supply2.jpg
This is the HRO power supply ( #5897) in black livery.. It provided the required B+ voltage. IT came in three versions which supported 2.5, 6.3 and 12.6 volt filament strings.(Photo  courtesy Radioboulevard web page) This is the power sup[ply used wiith the HRO receiver which is currently on display in the St. Roch radio room. The nsmeplste says"National Velvet - AB Type NC 5897 AB". (Photo by John Gilbert) 

 
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It is not known if this was the exact key arrangement when St. Roch was in service. It would be in the realm of possibility that various operators would have preferred to use their own "bugs". (Photo by John Gilbert) 
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This is the speaker for the HRO receiver with the National Companty logo in the middle (Photo by John Gilbert)
Radio collector Tom Brent, provides some details on the HRO receiver depicted in the above photo. "This radios the original HRO introduced by National in 1934/35. Later, a reduced cost version was introduced (no S meter or crystal filter) which was named the “HRO Junior”. By default, the original version became the “HRO Senior” and was marketed as such. During WW II it was upgraded to become the HRO-M and subsequently, HRO-5.

In the HRO photo,  there is no ID tag in the upper-right corner of the front panel which means the set was produced prior to mid 1938. Secondly, there is a pilot light on the front panel -, something that did not show up until production run F in 1935. Knowing the S meter details is  something that would enable us to pin down the production date a little closer".

Vancouver Maritime Museum curator Duncan MacLeod said the St. Roch represents a significant piece of Canadian history.It was built in the former Burrard Dry Dock in Vancouver, and was launched in 1928 with the purpose of sending food and supplies to RCMP detachments along the Arctic Coast MacLeod said the reason the vessel became the first to cross west to east through the Northwest Passage was that it was supporting a secret government mission during the Second World War.

"There was a government plan to send troops to Greenland to occupy a Cryolite mine which was used in the production of aluminum and was going to be necessary for providing the troops with aluminum overseas. Greenland also offered a strategic location for submarines." MacLeod said the Canadian occupation of Greenland never materialized, but the St. Roch continued with its mission and became the first ship to cross west-east through the Northwest passage.

It's important for the St. Roch to be preserved digitally for research purposes and to allow those who can't visit the museum in Vancouver to discover this historic ship, he added.

"I hope they are able to get an idea of what life was like on this ship," he said. "At times through its life 19 people were living on this ship and spent a year living in the Arctic, or more. They were crammed quarters, limited access to food and outside contact."

st_roch_ltt4_02.jpg
At the left is the Canadian Marconi 200PT transmitter with the LTT-4 transmitter at the right. . In  this view, part of the radio operator's bunk is visible. This is also where the radio op stored his personal belongings. The cabinet finish on the transmitters is not original.  After refinishing, none of the silk screen markings above the controls were reapplied.    (Image courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum)

 
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Generally speaking, this is a birds eye view of the radio room. as it would have appeared in 1944 and the way it is seen today. (A temporary sketch drawn by Tom Brent from memory ) 
Dean Hadley was the wireless operator on the 1942 voyage  (West to East ). In his book "What a Life !" ,   he describes St. Roch's transmitter as the Canadian  Marconi 100W4, , a CW only transmitter.  It is believed that the 100WM4 was removed during the 1944 retrofit and replaced with the Canadian Marconi LTT-4 transmitter   When the radio room was re-modelled in Halifax in 1944 , it was moved to a narrower room adjacent to the galley.  Hadley’s quarters were inside the radio room.  To learn more about Dean Hadley, please select this link.
 
 
/st_roch_nc46_01b.jpg On March 9, 1949, the  Superintendent of HMC Dockyard , Esquimalt BC, wrote a letter to RCN  Naval Headquarters requesting the procurement of one National NC-46 receiver at a cost of $202.26. It is unknown if this procurement was successful however it is part of the St. Roch radio story nonetheless.  This was a 10 tube, single conversion  superheterodyne receiver  covering the range of 550  KHz to  30 MHz. Here, it is pictured without the matching speaker. 

Its anticipated use was that of an entertainment/morale receiver. There are two main reasons which support this theory. Firstly,  it was an economy priced receiver with no RF amplifier stage. It certainly wasn't a communications receiver like the HRO. Also, it did not cover the low frequency marine band or the 500 KHz calling and distress frequency, something that would be essential in the radio shack on the St. Roch. (Photo courtesy DXing.com web site)

 
SUMMARY OF TRANSMITTING EQUIPMENT

1928 to  1944 – The Main transmitter was the Cdn Marconi model  100W4 transmitter transmitting in the MF band. . Replaced with a Marconi LTT-4 during a refit in 1944.

A 50 watt  HF transmitter was also installed in 1928.  Model is not known but it just might be the Canadian Marconi 100W3, a CW only unit.  Suspect it was replaced by the model 200PT transmitter for which there are no specs at this time.

ORIGINAL MACHINERY ABOARD THE ST. ROCH

On the 2nd of February, 1945,  Captain T.H. Evans, Engineer Superintendent Ship Repairs, West Coast writes to HMC Dockyard , Esquimalt to report on the machinery aboard the St. Roch. This was the configuration at that time.

MAIN ENGINE

Type: Union Diesel,
Model 56 - Serial #41528
Horsepower - 150
RP M - 350
Bore - 11"
Stroke - 15"
Upgraded to a 300 HP engine in 1944

EQUIPMENT DRIVEN BY MAIN ENGINE

* Anchor windlass
* Main generator - 5 Kilowatt, Electric Tamper & Equipment Co.
   Output is 120 volts at 42 amps. Serial #lD6545. Driven by 3 V-belts
   off the intermediate shaft.
* Fresh water pump

AUXILIARY ENGINE (Added in 1940)

One Russel Newbury Diesel Engine, Type D2.   18 HP at 1000 rpm.
Serial #3520

EQUIPMENT DRIVEN BY AUXILIARY ENGINE

* Generator - 3.4 kw (not 5 kw)  Pratt & Whitefield. Serial 9120
   RPM . - 1000. 110 volts at 31 amps Used for battery charging,
* One Reavell &. Co. Ltd., two stage single acting  water cooled air compressor.

GENERATOR LOADS

* One set of Hart Batteries - 56 Cells in series . - 110 VDC.
* One model 30I ammeter used to monitor battery charging current.
* One Mk XVIII gyrocompass  which draws 9 amps.
* One Fairbanks-Morse electric bilge pump. Serial #61173 drawing 24 amps.
* 2 inch centrifugal fuel pump.
* One DC to AC converter  Jenette Man. Co. Type CA 18. Serial #2240
   Input:  110 VDC at 2.5 amps.
   Output : 110 VAC  at 1.7 amps
* One electric galley stove.
 

A listing of the St. Roch holdings can be found here.
Of interest to to radio collectors would be these two boxes:

Series 5 Box 8.17  Marconi 200PT-ID             Plate Modulator Equipment, East End 200PT
Series 5 Box 20.3                                              Marconi Company Equipment Manuals  1942

The following equipment manuals are held by the Vancouver Marine Museum

200PT-1A Transmitter  (confirmed as installed).
200PT-1D Plate Modulator (confirmed as installed)

LFR-2 Receiver  with PPR-1 Power Unit.
LPR-2B Receiver
LFR-2SB Receiver
STT-4 (type 96450) Transmitter.

At this time, it is not known if some of these manuals are simply contributions or whether they apply to the radio gear installed aboard St. Roch. In RCMP Quarterly Magazine, specifically, 1974, Vol. 39 No.2,  has a story titled " Refurbishing The Old St. . Roch". It details the changes made during the 1944 refit. .


Contributors:

1) Dick Pulsifer RCMPVA  Nova Scotia Division  <rpulsifer(at)bellaliant.net>
2) Retired RCMP S/Sgt. Dan Lemieux Special Events Docent, Vancouver Maritime Museum <deebeel(at)telus.net>
3) Spud Roscoe <spudroscoe(at)eastlink.ca>
4) Vancouver Maritime Museum
5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Muskox
6) The Annual Reports of the Radio Division,  Department of Transport 1936-1942
7) John Gilbert <johngilber(at)gmail.com>
8) Dept. of National Defence  Letter reference EE 41-1 10 regarding the machinery
9) Correspondence from F.W. Sealey, Senior Constable, Wireless Operator
10) F.W. Sealey  http://www.radioalumni.ca/x_SealeyFW.htm
11) Laval Desbiens     < desbienslaval(at)gmail.com>
12) Denis Couillard  Ultra Electronics  <Denis.Couillard(at)ultra-TCS.com>
13) The Early Development of Radio in Canada 1901-1930 , page 34. By Robert Murray
14) HRO photo    https://www.radioblvd.com/National%20HRO.htm
15) NC-46 procurement -   Naval file NS 8360-293/1 Vol 1 (TS)
16 NC46 photo https://www.dxing.com/rx/hro060.html
17) Tom Brent <navyradiocom(at)gmail.com>
18) HRO power supply  https://www.radioblvd.com/National_HRO_Part2.htm
19) http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/rcmp-the-north
20)  Dr. Bill Morrison 1968, 1974 and 1978 reports on the St.Roch
21) 32RA-8 image:  http://collinsradio.org/archives/manuals/32RA-Model-8.pdf

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Oct 17/19