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LORAN STATION BACCARO

43 27 33.38 N 65 28 10.95 W

Fact Sheet:

Site Survey: Summer 1942
 
Construction Date Late Summer 1942
 
Constructed by: MIT/Contractors
 
Established: 1 OCT 1942
 
Disestablished: JAN 1982
 
Operated by: Royal Canadian Navy
 
Chain: North Atlantic, Canadian East Coast
 
Station Letter designation: “B”
 
Station code name: BAKER
 
Station Unit Number: 3
 
Station nickname:
 
On-air testing date:
 
Operational date: 1 OCT 1942
 
Operations Ceased: 312400Z DEC 1981
 
Station Operation:  
  
Station pair: 1L1 – MONTAUK POINT – SEP 1942-011800ZJUL1943
1L1/1H3 – NANTUCKET – 012200ZJUL1943 – DEC 1981
1L2/1H2 – DEMING – OCT 1942 – DEC 1981
 
Loran Rate: 1L1, 1L2, 1H2, 1H3
 
On-Air: 1L1, SEP 1942
1L2, OCT 1942
1H2, 1 FEB 1950
1H3, 1 FEB 1950
 
Off-Air 1L1, FEB 1950
1L2, FEB 1950
1H2, 31 DEC 1981
1H3, 31 DEC 1980
 
Monitor Rate:  
  
Equipment: 1966 – T-137 Transmitter installed
1975 - Colac timer installed
 
Antenna Type:
 
Personnel Allowance:
 
Miscellaneous: Ground broken Jun 19, 1942 – turned over to the Canadian Royal Navy this date.
 
Commanding Officers /
Officers in Charge
OIC: LT Mary Orell Armstrong WRCNS WWII
 

Citations:

Baccaro Station, Nova Scotia

As rate 1L1 (slave) from September 1942 to October 1942
As rate 1L2 (slave) from October 1942 to 1945.

OBE MBE

Citation:

ARMSTRONG, Mary Orell, Lieutenant - Member - Order of the British Empire (MBE) - WRCNS / OIC W/T Station Baccaro, N.S. - Awarded as per Canada Gazette of 15 June 1946 and London Gazette of 13 June 1946. Home: Fort William, Ontario. S/Lt, WRCNS on 16 September 1944.

"For exemplary devotion to duty under difficult conditions. As Officer-in-Charge of the isolated W/T Station at Bacarro, Nova Scotia, Lieutenant Armstrong was responsible for the operation and maintenance of highly technical equipment and the administration of a station where the maintenance of morale was of great importance. Her constant cheerfulness throughout her appointment at Baccaro won the admiration of those serving with her."

The following article was submitted by Jerry Proc who was able to develop a story about the WRENS who manned the Baccaro (Nova Scotia)  Loran-A station towards the end of WWII.    http://jproc.ca/hyperbolic/loran_a.html

Samplings of activities at the East Baccaro LORAN station are extracted from an undated pamphlet found among papers from the estate of the late Mary Gamble (nee Black), former WRCNS. These reminiscences are the work  of all the women who served as members of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) at the East  Baccaro Naval Station, Nova Scotia, 1944-1946.

“In September 1944, some 20 WRENS had travelled from the training facility at St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, through Halifax, down the south shore to overnight at HMCS Shelburne (NS). The remainder of the journey was in the back of a truck headed south on the highway to Barrington and Barrington Passage, then down the barren  peninsula jutting out into the cold Atlantic, past Baccaro, and one more mile to East Baccaro. There, on the windswept peninsula tip, with spray blowing in from the sea, the WRENS found a new place of work - a Quonset  hut, and a frame building that was to be their home until March 1946.

The arrival of the WRENS meant that 28 RCNVR male ratings could be redeployed to other postings.  When this very young, group of women arrived to relieve them, the sailors were jubilant -  hardly believing their good fortune. The WRENS were soon to understand why this posting was not up to anyone's expectations.

Soon dubbed "the sailors who never hit port", the WRENS were organized into four watches. Initially, a watch consisted of three people but a later addition made it four to a watch.  They worked in shifts  from midnight to 4,  4 to 8, 8 to 12, 12 to 4, the two dog watches 4 to 6, 6 to 8, and then again 8 until midnight. Off shift, the  WRENS performed necessary chores such as cleaning up the galley, meal preparation, scrubbing out the focs'le and the heads. Every nine days they get three days off. Where to go? Barrington, the base at Shelburne, or perhaps Yarmouth, but they never saw the grand time had by sailors coming back into harbour.

The reason for the deployment of WRENS to Baccaro was simple. The main task was  to ensure that the slave Loran 'A' station at Baccaro and the two master stations (one at Demming Island NS and the other at Sugar Nantucket in the US) were always in synchronization. When the signals synchronized precisely, LORAN  receivers on ships and planes could follow the lattice charts and navigate to any predetermined destination. During wartime, Loran A was top secret so personnel were instructed not to talk about it outside their work environment.

The Baccaro Loran chain first gave provided operational service for the North Atlantic in 1943. LORAN receiver-indicators were hurriedly installed on key escort craft doing convoy duty, on Canadian corvettes, and on  troopships that travelled without escort. The job of the WREN operators at Baccaro was to keep signals synchronized twenty four hours a day. Never for an instant could the signals to get out-of-sync otherwise a  ship or aircraft could not obtain a fix from this Loran chain.

Some of the WRENS deployed to Baccaro, had worked out of a signal station connected with Naval

Headquarters near Ottawa. They recorded readings from two sets of transmitting stations on the Atlantic coast. These readings were used to form logbooks that were to accompany the receiving sets aboard ships. Ships could then maintain accurate navigation yet maintaining radio silence.  From this original group, some went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) for further training, while others were sent to HMCS St.  Hyacinthe to be introduced to transmitting with the purpose of joining the first group going to East Baccaro and  Demming Island. It was highly responsible job for young women in their late teens and it required total accuracy since the lives of many people were in their hands. LORAN was a vital link in winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

Life at East Baccaro

What were the difficulties at Baccaro ? To name a few: Night work, shifts, isolation; a highly responsible job with minimum supervision and training. Initially, three very different individuals were thrown together. They bunked together, ate together, worked together, were on shift together, went on the bus together, and somehow they  managed to get along. There were no stewards to carry out maintenance work. In spite of highly different backgrounds, they did get along and even managed to have fun.

The person who held it all together at East Baccaro was the Officer-in­Charge, Lieutenant Mary Armstrong. She was  a highly responsible individual who had a warm and human side along with a strong personality. Mary could quickly decide how to proceed then make it happen. She was an anchor that all the WRENS could relate to. When one of the WRENS planned to go to Halifax to get married, Mary just said "no way" so the wedding was held in the focs'le. Mary planned it all. Some of the local people came bearing gifts and one gave a salute with his  muzzle loading gun - not to be forgotten. Another WREN planning a wedding, found Mary with needle and thread  helping with some of the civilian clothing. One of the women had a terrible cold, so Mary brought a very large rum and butter tot to her bunk. She said the tot knocked her out cold, but it cured her.

The Snowstorm

A terrible snowstorm  occured on 8 February, 1945. Twelve WRENS were returning from Barrington in a van.

They became  snowed-in on the road and had to take refuge on the cold floor of a fisherman's home. It was Mary  who was very worried about the LORAN station but when she couldn't get action from Shelburne, she got Danny from Baccaro and some of the local folk to pick up the group in a truck. She didn't forget to thank and bestow  gifts to the folks who assisted the WRENS on that bitter night. As a result of the delay in getting back to East  Baccaro , one shift had had to man those oscilloscopes for some eighteen hours - an very difficult task.

One night became known as the "Night of the Incident at East Baccaro". There were German U-boats prowling  offshore. Mary was unflappable and kept up the group's spirits despite the real risks. On VE Day, when she found two WRENS playing catch with the dinner plates around the galley, she simply said: Get out of those bell bottoms, and into your dress uniforms and meet me at the van. Then, off they went to the base at Shelburne and watched a U-boat rise from the ocean. As the hatches opened, German submariners came out on deck. They were all teenagers and very thinly built.

After viewing this, one WREN waved her hand and smiled. The submariners looked startled, but they waved back. Of those personnel who witnessed this, it made them think about the foolishness and the waste of war. Wonder what those frightened sailors thought when they saw the WRENS wave?

Besides the monitoring the Loran-A equipment,  a few WRENS had other duties. One was a motor technician who was in charge of the engines for the auxiliary power supply (motor alternator sets). There was a talented cook who produced incredible meals, organized the galley and had personnel assist with food preparation and clean up. A Sick Berth Attendant was present in case of serious illness. Two or three Radio Artificers were responsible for the technical maintenance of the Loran equipment.

Local Folks

There were so many acts of kindness from the local community and the fisherfolk who may have initially looked  askance at these girls in bell bottoms. Every Friday night, a sixteen mm. movie arrived from Shelburne and folks from quite a distance crowded into the station's focs'le to watch the movie. Sometimes, at the front gate, WRENS would find sacks of small lobsters that hadn't made it to market that morning. They learned to empty the sacks,  get the lobsters into boiling water, and enjoyed many a lobster feast. Fisherfolk took some of them fishing, while others in Barrington introduced the WRENS to hunting. At the store in Baccaro,  the local shopkeeper kept an eye out for the WRENS and often acted like a big brother. It was he who organized a truck of locals to come and get the WRENS back to the station, when they had been snowbound on the road.

Despite the constant and grueling work shifts, the lack of rest, mighty little chance for recreation beyond games of  cribbage, walks up the road through the grazing sheep to get mail, playing badminton and volleyball, one well  organized scavenger hunt with all the clues written in verse, and trying to find some sun in that fog and dampness to sun themselves, the WRENS had held it all together and they had fun. They had lived through an experience that no one would ever forget.

In March 1946, the station was taken over by civilian employees and the WRENS were released from duty. . By that time, Loran-A was providing day and night navigational service to the North Atlantic shipping lanes.

Mary Adamson Owen organized a reunion of the WRENS who served at East Baccaro. It was held  on May 3, 2003 in Thornhill Ontario. Of the original group of 24, only 13 were able to attend.  With lots of faded photographs to look at, they were able to relive the better times as well as the tougher times.

Names in alphabetical order:
Barb Bowland Belanger, Joan Boyer Devlin, Nancy Hall Field, Marion Cornett Frank, Marg Hovey Frizzell, Doris Cookman Gustafson, Dory Smelts Hocking, Norma Crossman Johnson,  Loretta Armstrong Lalonde, Betty & Wally Lockwood, Cec Lyle, Audrey Jamieson McCaskill, Marion Manning McKnight, Muriel Quinn Newton, Mary Adamson Owen, Eva Parolin, Barb Long Scott, Betty and Jim Shipperbottom, Betty Dicker & Hal Short, Bill Stewart and Jean Tilley.

Remembered:
Mary Armstrong, Elizabeth Cole, Tailey Deason, Francis Kelley, Carmen Lafrance, Peg Lynam, Bob McCaskill and Jack Pope.

Unable to locate:
Katie Hare, E. Jeffereys and Marion Watson. "

 

Pictures:

 

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