Francis Charles (Charlie) Aitkens was born in 1904. Around 1921 he took a radio course at Sprott-Shaw and then joined the Government Wireless Service. His career postings were to Point Grey, then Bull Harbor (1924), then Pachena. In 1927-28 he was at Gonzales Hill (Victoria). Some time before 1930 he was posted to Estevan. Charlie left Estevan in about 1936-37. From then until 1939 he was leading crews to scout new radio beacon sites throughout BC. In 1939 he joined the RCAF Special Forces, doing much the same work. In 1947 he signed onto RCAF regular forces and retired in 1957. He then went overseas with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Syria, Nepal and Afghanistan. He finally retired in 1967.

   Charlie became a silent key in March 1996 but his wife, Gene, lived to be 99, and passed away in August of 2007.

   Photos are grouped in pages of 25 each

001  December 22, 1942 image of Estevan Point.  Stepped mast still in use.  Other original wireless buildings are the operator's pre-fabricated house and the operations building.

 

This photo was taken six months after the Japanese submarine shelling Estevan Point. 

002  Bamfield Cable Station.  This was the terminus of the undersea cable from Fanning Island in the south Pacific Ocean, and from there to Australia.  One continuous length of cable, 3500 miles long, was laid in 1902.  From Bamfield a landline connection went to Port Alberni and from there, onto Vancouver telegraph systems.  The landline connection was found to be unreliable and an undersea cable was laid up the Alberni Canal a few years later.  Informative cable site here.

003  Estevan Point's old wireless operations building in the fore ground.  The wooden stepped masts were built up using shipwright techniques.       Public Archives of Canada.

004  Charlie and Gene Aitkens.  Charlie was a wireless operator from about 1921 to 1937 at various stations along the British Columbia coast.  He and his family spent about half that time at Estevan.

005  Pilings were driven into Tofino's Long Beach early in World War 2.  There was a worry that the Japanese Air Force could use the beach as an aircraft landing strip.  These pilings would frustrate that plan.     Public Archives of Canada.

 

006   A small house is visible near the point.  This image was taken near Clo-oose (eas of Pachena) during a survey looking for suitable sites for military direction finding stations.   Public Archives of Canada.

 

007  A 1930's view of Pachena Point Light and Wireless Station.     Public Archives of Canada.

 

008   "Mr. McConnel with a load of planks for Phil's house."  McConnel was the station mechanic.  Phil Eldridge was an operator during the years 1929 to 1937.   He had got married in 1935 and was building his own house.

009  This is the east side of the Estevan radio operations building.  The diesel engines and generators were housed on the right hand end of the building.  The engine house also supplied power to the rest of the buildings on the Estevan station.  Phil is standing with his pile of planks.

010  Martin King by the original wireless operations building at Estevan Point.  After 1922 King was the Officer in Charge at the Pachena DF Station.  Later this building served as the bachelor quarters.

011  Alec Chisholm (b. 1891 d. 1971) up a mast at Estevan.  Alec was a rigger and did all the tower erection and repairs.  Gene Aitkens' diary mentions Chisholm visiting in May 1934.

012  1980's photo of the Estevan Point community. Old and new operations buildings view.

013  Charlie Aitkens catching a quick nap in the operations room at Estevan Point wireless.

014  Photo 1 of 3.  A note from Ken advises this is the wreck of the 'Santa Rita' on Dare Point, a short distance from Carmanah Point light station.  She grounded on February 14, 1923.  In 1923 Charlie Aitkens may have been at Carmanah Point during this time.

015  Photo 2 of the 'Santa Rosa' wreck.

016  Photo 3 of the 'Santa Rosa' wreck.

017  Charlie Aitkens on watch.  Note the transmitter tubes glowing behind the windows.  Quite likely Estevan.

018  General view of the Pachena wireless station sometime shortly after it reopened with direction finding capabilities.  Light tower in the background.  Direction finding receiver hut in the center of the photo.  Station used two loops of wire at right angles to each other.  Posts holding the ends of the loops are visible.  A vessel could call the station and in return, the operators at Pachena would tell the vessel his bearing to the station.  This was a great aid to vessel navigation in the days before other electronic navigational aids.

019  Radio mast at Carmanah Light station.  Radio telephone sets fitted to many light stations in the 1920's.  Eventually this location had a radio beacon to aid vessel navigation.

020  Carmanah Point light tower.

021  Carmanah Point radio mast.

022  Mid 1920's Bull Harbor, obviously taken from one of the radio towers.  Looking southwards showing the board walk and two operator's residences.

023  Mid 1920's view of Bull Harbor looking southwards towards a residence.

024  Estevan Point Wireless and Light Station from the light tower.  Large building is the radio operations building.  Diesel cooling tower is off to the left.  Rail tracks are noticeable heading off the upper left, most likely to the old supply landing to the north of the station.  Unknown date but would have been in Chas' time, 1930's.

025  Undated photo (1930's) of Clo-oose, a coastal village between Pachena and Carmanah Light stations.  Today the settlement is much smaller and is a stop on Pacific Rim National Park's West Coast Trail.

 

 


Chas Aitkens Photos

Rough Radio

Ship to Shore Radio on the

West Coast of Canada  1900-70