Lyle Bates


Joined the Department of Transport (DOT) in 1956. Retired from the Department of Communications (DOC) in 1989.

Entré au Ministère des Transports (MDT) en 1956. Retraité du Ministère des Communications (MDC) en 1989.



(Scroll down to see photo on top of Cape Smokey)

Lyle received his second-class certificate of proficiency in radio at Saint John Radio College graduating in 1956. The first person he can remember who was in charge of the East Coast Marine Radio Service was out of Halifax and that was H.H. MacLean who was Supt. of Marine Radio Services.  By early 1957 , the Marine-Aeradio were combined under regional director Charlie Williams at Moncton.


His first posting was at Moncton Aeradio for several months on the point to point CW circuits.  All the weather, aids to  air navigation ,routine government messages and requests for supplies from such places as Battle Harbour (VOH) and Twillingate (VOO) Nfld. were handled on  the morse circuits.  Using frequencies in the 4,5 and 6 Mhz range, Lyle recalls that after a few months he could copy signals through  roaring pandemonium (for the layman this translates to copying  usually weak signals through heavy static, atmospheric noises  and other station interference).  


His next posting, April 1957 was Sable Island, call sign VGF, for eleven months and once again  all communications to and from the Island were on CW.  His O.I.C. on Sable was Gerry  Smith, who was relieved by Johnny Weir in August  1957.  Lyle was transferred from VGF in the spring of 1958 after many adventures  on  that  Island of sand 180 miles south east of Halifax.


He then spent several months at VBQ, Halifax Marine Radio Telephone and CW station where a real old-timer Ray Bridger was in charge.  Bridger was the only person Lyle ever knew who saw the logs from Cape Race (VCE) where Ray had been posted for several years.  Ray  could repeat almost word for word the contents of the log  of the night  the Titanic went down in 1912.


Then after a brief tour of duty on the Sambro Light Ship, anchored 11.2 miles off  Chebucto Head at the entrance  to Halifax Harbour, he was posted to Grindstone / VCN  on the Magdalen  Islands where all were trapped by usually heavy ice every winter from December to April.  There was lots of ship traffic on  MF, 440 and 500 Khz and on Radio-telephone as well as maintaining skeds  with seven lighthouses.  Even domestic telegrams were handled at VCN when the public teletype link was down.


His O.I.C’s at VCN were Evert Kuhn, Keith Champion and Dewey Buck.  During some 4 ½ years at VCN other operators with him were Terry Mackie, Jean Paul DesSaulnier, Chester Turnbull, Doug Conrad, Ted Daley, Don Bishop. 


Leaving VCN in Dec. 1962 Lyle then transferred to VCS Halifax Marine Radio with Jack Maher in charge and especially remembers supervisors Stan Cairns, Don MacKay, Mike Mulcahey and many others.  The Commonwealth radio network had until the early 1960’s  been operated by the Canadian Navy out of CFH (Albro Lake - Dartmouth) using both civilian and military radio operators, handling a huge amount of commercial and military morse traffic.  In 1963, VCS took over the Commonwealth radio network, handling all commercial traffic.  In addition to  medium frequencies 484 and 500 kHz, VCS was able to communicate with ships all over the world on high frequencies in the 4,6,8 and 12 Mhz ranges.  Lyle can recall going on watch, handling so much commercial morse traffic and distress communications that he ate his lunch on the way home after his 8 hour shift.


Inspection of radio installations on top of Cape Smokey, Cape Breton Island in 1971

Lyle Bates on the left and Hugh Little, Marconi technician on the right

(Source: Jean Charles Lévesque, retired technician, Marconi and CBC)

During the period 1957 - 1965 Lyle also served intermittent periods as  Radio Officer on the Canadian Hydrographic ships Baffin, CGCL and Kapuskasing CGCK.  Later in 1965 he applied for and was accepted into the rank of radio inspectors.  He served many years as a radio inspector first at Sydney N.S. from 1965 to 1974 and then Halifax from 1974 to retirement in 1989.  During those years  he served  for a time as manager of the Sydney office and then later as senior inspector of the Halifax office.


Today he is happily retired with his wife Carole living at Middle Musquodoboit N.S. and acts as net manager for a morse code  social and traffic net  on the  Amateur Radio 80, meter band where he can be often heard  on 3654 kHz at 8 p.m. local time. To him morse code is a language he can never forget.


Links   -   Liens

1967 - Sydney, Nova Scotia - Lyle Bates Receives Award

1973 - My First Day as a Radio Inspector - Donald Courcy

1982 - Long-service awards presented in Atlantic Region

1985 - Atlantic Region employee wins Suggestion Award