February 07, 2014

The Debert Diefenbunker, and Associates

CFS Debert was home to the Maritime Regional Emergency Government Headquarters, or as most know them, one of the "Diefenbunkers".

In 1995 the station and it's facilities were decomissioned.
To the best of my knowledge their surplus Diebenbunker is not currently open for visitors, but at least it hasn't been destroyed like so many others.  Perhaps surprisingly it isn't the Diefenbuker that I'm most interested in, it's the associated transmit and receive sites which are remotely located away from Debert.

The Regional Emergency Government HQ at Debert (45.42100, -63.45061)

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The Urban Exploration Resource forum has a wonderful post about the Debert transmitter and reciever sites, which you can read here:

I cherry-picked the most informative parts of the thread, and reposted it here for posterity.  I'd like to give a huge thanks to the authors who contributed on the original forum posts.

"...As for staffing the facility: My earlier reference page "Canadian Forces Installations Across Canada" http://www.vcds-vc...eng.asp?page=10430 only shows staffed operations across Canada (I think), and Great Village is on there. Masstown is not listed, neither are the remote stations at Newport Corner & Mill Cove (plus the one near Middleton that I don't know the name of), which are known to be unstaffed. I'm speculating that Great Village is staffed, and they control Masstown from there." -tbeckerson

"This is in response to your posts on the Infiltration web site. Where were you on Nov 22, 1963? That was the day that John Fitzgerald Kennedy the 35th president of the United States was killed in Dallas Texas. Most people who witnessed this event remember where they were. I do, I was some two hundred feet in the air at the Great Village radio relay site attaching guy wires to the C.B.C’s remote transmitting antenna the frequency in use at the time was 1050 KHZ which requires an antenna height of 223 feet for a quarter wave length match it was a bottom feed antenna which was accomplished with a 75 to 300 ohm balun coil the ground provided the other half wave of the antenna radiation pattern. The C.B.C. transmitter at Great Village was to be used as a back up to the transmitter already in use at the Radio Canada International shortwave site at Sackville New Brunswick it was to carry the CBA, CBH, network in Atlantic Canada incase the Sackville site was blown to pieces. But before I go forward, I want to take you back. I was in the Royal Canadian Signal Corps which was then a unit of the Canadian Army. I joined the Army in 1959 did my basic training , then graduated from the school of Signals in Kingston Ontario after taking a 2 year course in Radio Equipment Technician . I was posted first to Camp Gagetown New Brunswick, then on to what was known as the Nova Scotia Signals Squadron in Halifax, now it is called 726 Comm Squadron. Our base was at Windsor Park just off Bayers Road and Windsor Streets. At that time Eastern Command head quarters (Army) was on Ahern Avenue the Eastern Command teletype and comm. Center was situated in that location. The squadron operated and maintained a microwave radio system that was situated on Citadel Hill. The Citadel Hill radio system was beamed to the transmit and receive facilities at Hammonds Plains and Wallace Hill. The Hammonds Plains receiver site had a large antenna array covering some 40-50 acres, as well the Wallace Hill transmitter site up the road contained a large antenna array as well. It was dominated by a U.K. rhombic antenna which was beamed to a Royal Signals station in Boddington England, a rhombic antenna is a large four sided antenna that can be fed at each end or in the center so that it is directional it is in the shape of a diamond with each leg being several hundred feet depending upon the frequency that it is being used for this was to back up the land line communications to the Army Brigade in Germany. The main medium of transmission at the time was radio teletype, some Morse code, and some facsimile the call sign of the Wallace Hill transmitter site was C.I.H., the main transmitters were made by Federal electric which were capable of the 50kw output running a exciter, an Intermediate power amplifier as well as a final power amplifier These facilities were closed out after the Debert Provincial warning center or Deifenbunker became operational, the Hammonds Plains receive building has been converted into a house behind what looks like a sawmill operation, across the road is the Pin High mini putt golf site, it was there back in the’60 it is still there. The Wallace Hill transmitter station has been leveled there is nothing there but vacant ground, I am told that one of the Indian bands has laid claim to the land and has plans to build housing and a possible casino on that land.
My job in Debert (along with many others of course)was the setting up of the Masstown remote receive antenna array, the installation and set up of the remote transmitter site at Great Village, both fed into the Provincial Warning Center at Camp Debert. The two sites were connected by a utility tunnel or utility corridor one from Masstown to Debert, one from Great Village to Debert, they were about 4 feet high and contained interconnecting power cables so that one site could provide power to the other in case of emergency the cables were 500M.C.M. cables capable of carrying up to 600 amps of power. The tunnels also contained keying lines for the remote transmitters, patch panels for circuit testing and had access hatches at roughly 1500 yard distances.
The transmitter site in Great Village operated under the call sign of V.D.D. which was the object of many jokes as venereal disease was rampant at the time. The equipment that was installed by our group was mainly Collins Rockwell single side band radio equipment the power levels were variable from 10KW to 100KW, they were military designated with the prefix of AN/ARC. The C.B.C transmitter at the time was a amplitude modulated 1.050KHZ with an output power of 25KW, it was made by the Harris Radio Corp which was a common make back then.
When I left after the system went into operation, Debert underground was a large hub in the Canadian Forces, N.A.T.O. scheme of things. Couple that with the Folly Lake Satellite Ground Terminal, which you mistakenly point out as a radar station on your map, Masstown, Debert, and Great Village were critical in the communications schemes. Over time though just as Hammonds Plains, and Wallace Hill lost their importance to changing times so it was with the Debert Deifenbunker, however the Masstown receiver site and the Great Village transmitter site are still required to provide global diverse communications as required. Latest technology with hybrids filters and quaduplexers allow transmit antennas to double as receive antennas, and with a receive site already in place in Masstown you can achieve frequency, space, polarity, and equipment diversity, in short you have the best of all worlds already in place, already brought and paid for. All that has to be done is to upgrade your equipment and I have no doubt that has been done many times since the sixties. Today my guess is that the Great Village transmitter site is used and operated from the H.M.C.S. Trinity at Stadacona Naval base. These transmitters no doubt form part of the ALE network which is the Automatic Link Establishment system, where an operator in a remote location can tune, condition, feed, and terminate a transmitter or receiver with a few keyboard clicks select any one of 250 thousand channels available in the frequency band of 2-30 mhz. That is a far cry from the day that in order to provide a transmitter on any requested channel, you have to find the proper crystal for that frequency, tune the oscillators, run up the power amplifiers into a dummy load, check the frequency before switching it on to the antenna feeders, then walk the lineup with a fluorescent tube to be sure that you are connected to the proper antenna . It is also mentioned about secret communications being sent from Great Village, my experience with the military was that everything was secret or encoded, however the vast majority of radio traffic was logistical and administrative and it was encoded cryptically , either in five number groups or five letter groups I have no reason to believe that anything is any different today. I hope this sheds some light on the matter. I had a great time when I was in the Army, I really enjoyed the people in the surrounding area they were some of the most gracious and generous persons that I have or will ever meet, I have been back many times but as the passage of time rolls on many have moved away, or passed away. It set the stage for my latter work on the DEW line and the Pinetree line in the Arctic and the Labrador coast, these installations and the thousands of jobs that they created are all gone now, all the facilities are automated, I am glad that I got out when I did, but I still have fond memories of when technicians not key board people were needed, you cannot compare a hands on job with a software program, and feel that you are achieving anything concrete but I guess that is progress.- Cheers Radiohead." -radiohead
  Historian124 posted the following photos he took:

Great Village Transmitter Site / TX Site (45.42167, -63.55949)

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Recently Masstown has been in the news due to Canadian Forces project Polar Epsilon, it is one of two ground stations for satellite communications to RADARSAT-2. (The other site is Aldergrove, BC)  The satellite ground terminal can be seen in the below picture toward the west side of the property.

Masstown Receiver Site / RX Site (45.37798, -63.43540)

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According to some sources; the Great Village, Masstown, Mill Cove and Newport Corner sites are all operated remotely by CFB Halifax.  NRS Mill Cove and NRS Newport Corner reportedly are operated remotely by the HMCS Trinity.

NRS Mill Cove

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NRS Newport Corner

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