Recollections on the Ottawa Monitoring Station

W. J. Wilson  -  October 28, 2004


A number of important Radio Regulation activities were carried on in the building we all called the Ottawa Monitoring Station. Of course it monitored all Canadian radio stations within its reception range to ensure that they operated in accordance with the terms of their licenses. During WW II a Direction Finding station was operated in a very small building a few hundred yards down the road from it for gathering information regarding enemy submarines. The main building housed a workshop that built and repaired equipment used by all DOT monitoring stations as well as for the ionosphere sounding stations operated by DOT staff who gathered information regarding the ionosphere for research being done by the Defence Research Board on HF propagation. The staff responsible for station monitoring really disliked sharing their building with the workshop especially when someone in the workshop was using the metal-cutting nibbler. Apparently the noise was deafening.


The building was also the centre for research being done by W.B. Smith of Broadcast Engineering on AM broadcast band propagation and signal strengths gathered from across Canada and needed to ensure that Canadian broadcast stations would be ensured of adequate night-time protection from United States AM broadcast stations when the North American Broadcasting Agreement was drafted and approved. Finally, it housed the operating centre for VAA, the DOT's station which provided radio communications between its Headquarters and all its radio District Offices (Montreal excepted) including its Hudson's Bay and Straits radio stations. I was working in the Marine Radio Service and it was in connection with VAA's operation that I first visited the Monitoring station.


By the early '50s the operators at VAA were having trouble communicating reliably with DOT stations in western Canada especially Vancouver and Winnipeg using a frequency around 12 MHz. As Marine Radio Aids was responsible for the technical aspects of VAA's radio communications and I was in that group, I was asked to try to resolve this problem. Since sunspots were nearing maximum in the sunspot cycle of that period, it was obvious that the frequency being used was too low. Alf Dawson of our International Section was able to get me the latest Central Radio Propagation Laboratory radio propagation forecast information and, based on those forecasts, we determined that VAA should be using frequencies between 15 and 20 MHz to communicate out west rather that around 12MHz. Alf consulted the ITU's Master International Frequency Register and was able to find a suitable frequency around 17 MHz which, upon monitoring, looked as if it would do for VAA's western radio communications. I undertook then to design a broad-band Yagi receiving antenna directed on Vancouver and Winnipeg which the workshop staff at the Monitoring Station built and erected.


To check it out finally, I visited the VAA operating centre which at that time was staffed by Charlie Rose, Officer-in-Charge, and Art Bambrick, his assistant. I got a good reception and was promptly told that, since the new antenna worked so well, they had connected all their receivers to it and were using it for communicating not only with Vancouver and Winnipeg but also with all our stations in the north and east! That was the end of complaints of slow communications from Headquarters, our District Offices, our Bay and Straits Stations and from Charlie and Art.


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 The Ottawa Monitoring station