HMCS Coverdale Naval Radio Station (NRS)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) HMCS Coverdale (NRS)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3201525)

Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service member operating direction-finding equipment at HMCS Coverdale, Riverview, New Brunswick. She is posing for a promotional photo in front of a CNF-4 console at Coverdale in August, 1945. The loudspeaker at her right wrist was part of an intercom which provided communications with the operations room a mile or so away. The speaker above the CRT was for the receiver. The DF operator only had  seconds to zero in on U-boat transmissions since the Germans had been taught to keep their messages to less than 30 seconds.

HMCS Coverdale was established as a Special Wireless Station (High Frequency/Direction Finder (HF/DF) station) on 23 November 1942. It was situated across the Petitcodiac River, slightly south of Moncton, New Brunswick. Because this site was located over a tremendous bog, it was selected for HF/DF operations because it provided a very good ground plane for radio frequency signals and the abundance of water provided a good source of domestic water. Construction was completed in the January-February 1944 period and the station was quickly staffed by personnel from the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS). During the Second World War, the major activity at the station was taking D/F bearings on German submarines and assisting with search and rescue operations for aircraft in distress. On 30 April 1945, an HMCS Coverdale operator intercepted a message sent by German Admiral Karl Doenitz telling all his forces that Hitler was dead. She was the first allied person to hear the news of his death.

(DND Photo)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) HMCS Coverdale (NRS) aerial view, c1940s.

Badge of HMCS Coverdale.

Between December 1949 and July 1956, the station was renamed Her Majesty’s Canadian Naval Radio Station (HMC NRS) Coverdale. By 1950, HMCS Coverdale was part of the Canada-United States Atlantic High Frequency Direction Finding Network. The Royal Canadian Navy and the United States Navy formally agreed to coordinate and standardize HF/DF activities ashore. This initiative resulted in the integration of all Canadian and United States stations into 2 networks, which would provide mutual support for the common objective of maritime warfare. The other major activity at HMCS Coverdale was general spectrum monitoring and SIGINT (SIGnals INTelligence), which is intelligence gathering by interception of radio and/or electronic signals. It also continued to provide support for search and rescue.

From 1 July 1956, to 19 July 1966, the station was known as Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Coverdale. After the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, the station became Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Coverdale. The combination of high costs and advancements in technology lead to the closure of CFS Coverdale on 15 June 1971.

Between 1944 and 1945, the Commanding Officer at Coverdale was Lt. (T) Margaret (Margo) Stinson who eventually went on to become an  Anglican minister posted to London, Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Vin Crane)

Coverdale as it appeared in 1944. The two buildings are the Operations Room (right) and the WRCNS living quarters (left).  The only other building was a smaller one behind the barracks which had the garages and work sheds with living quarters above for the male personnel on base. The three D/F  shacks were accessible by walking across the fields. In the middle of a very heavy and cold winter, the WRCNS had to make their way through high drifts and whiteouts to get to the D/F shacks so it was anything but pleasant. (Photo courtesy of Vin Crane)

View of the WRCNS living quarters in 1943 taken from the roof of the Ops Building  It was a two story structure had living quarters on the upper level. Administration, a recreation room, a galley and Quarterdeck were on the lower level. Wrens entered the building on the side opposite the Maintenance quarters (garage), that small building at the extreme right. The Clerk of Works Office was on the second floor of the garage and the base telephone system was there too. At the very right and mounted on cross strakes are insulated water pipes for the hot water feed which provided heat to the Ops building. (Photo courtesy of Doris Hope)

Ann Connolly was a post-war WREN who served in Coverdale in the early 1950s. Ann and her generation of WRCNS now listened to dispatches from a new enemy, namely, the Soviet Union. She spent most of her time  intercepting Morse code signals from Russian subs and ships. Occasionally Soviet signals were intercepted from within Canada's borders said Ann. "We picked up messages that there were spies in Canada. When the messages were  were cross-referenced they found the spies". Ann really enjoyed her work at Coverdale however, marriage ended her time there  in the mid 1950s. Women were expected to leave if they were starting a family.  In full view is the Mackay model 3100A receiver which could tune  from 15 KHz to 635 KHz. Behind her is a Hammarlund SP-600 receiver. (Photo courtesy of the Ann Connolly family)

For a much more detailed description of HMCS Coverdale and its activities look here:

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