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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N459, December 10, 2017

German Radio Station in Canada During World War II

During the era of World War II in the middle of last century, the German armed forces in Europe were at a disadvantage regarding weather patterns coming across the Atlantic into the continent. The Allied forces had an advantage in that they could readily obtain current weather information from Canada and the United States, as well as from Greenland and Iceland, thus enabling reliable weather forecasting in England.

In an attempt to obtain reliable weather information from across the Atlantic, the German authorities developed a plan whereby they also could have access to this needed information. Under the concept of the project Wetter-Funkgerat Land, Weather Radio for Land, WFL, they would plant small radio transmitters at suitable locations in North America and upon suitable islands in the North Atlantic.

A total of 20 or 30 of these weather reporting portable automatic radio stations were constructed and assembled by the German company Siemens radio manufactory, based upon a design developed by Dr. Ernst Ploetze and Edwin Stoebe. Each weather radio station contained weather measuring instruments, a telemetry system, and a 150 watt FK type transmitter manufactured by the Lorenz radio company. All of the equipment for each station was stowed into 10 metal cylinders for easy transportation to desired locations.

The clandestine weather radio station destined for installation in Canada was identified as WFL26 which would operate on 3940 kHz and it was estimated that its almost one ton of batteries would provide power for 6 months of operation. This automatic radio station was configured to broadcast weather information in telemetry codes for 2 minutes, every 3 hours.

On September 18, 1943, German submarine U537, commanded by Captain Peter Schrewe, left Kiel in Germany on its first combat patrol. On board was this weather radio station WFL26, the 6th of 21 that were manufactured. Also on board were two German meteorologists/radiotricians from the Siemens company, Dr. Kurt Sommermeyer, and his assistant Walter Hildebrandt.

On the voyage across the Atlantic, submarine U537 was damaged when it struck an iceberg during a mid-autumn storm. Because of the damage, the submarine was no longer able to submerge, and it had lost its antiaircraft gun. Nevertheless, the submarine continued on its dangerous and lonely journey.

On October 22 (1943), the submarine arrived at the coast of Northern Labrador, which at the time was part of the separate British territory of Newfoundland, though these days it forms part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland-Labrador. Two days later, the submarine arrived at Martin Bay, right on the northern tip of Labrador, as far away as possible from roving bands of local Inuit hunters.

The radio station was assembled and set up on the top of a 170 ft. high hill, some 400 yards inland, and at the same time the damaged submarine was repaired. Much of this work was performed during the hours of darkness in this northerly location.

Weather Radio Station WFL26 was identified with the station logo and the name of a non-existent organization, the Canadian Meteor Service. As a camouflage cover up, a few empty American cigarette packs and matchbooks were thrown around.

In just 28 hours, the project was completed, the radio station was actively functioning, the submarine was repaired, and they began their departure from the North American shores of Labrador. The submarine lay underwater in the Labrador Sea for a while, and they monitored the initial transmissions from weather radio station WFL26.

To begin with, the station was noted on air with a good signal, though the first broadcast was observed to be 3 minutes late. However, on successive days, the signal began to deteriorate, until the station went completely silent just 3 weeks later.

Another monitoring report states that there were jamming transmissions on the same shortwave channel, 3940 kHz. However, it is suggested that this was not deliberate jamming because the station was still unknown to the Allies. It is probable that the channel was in use at times by other legitimate users who knew nothing about this new clandestine weather station on the north coast of Labrador.

On three separate occasions as submarine U537 was departing the western areas of the Atlantic, they successfully repelled and escaped from attacks by single planes from the Royal Canadian Air Force. The submarine successfully reached the shores of occupied France at Lorient on December 8 (1943), at the end of 70 days at sea.

The silent weather radio station lay abandoned and exposed near the edge of Martin Bay for many years, and there is no record of any human sightings of this station until the year 1977. It was then that geologist Peter Johnson, with an exploratory team, happened to come across the derelict radio station, but, thinking that it was an abandoned Canadian station, they simply left it as it was.

Then it was that a retired Siemens engineer in Germany named Franz Selinger began research for the writing of a history of his radio company. He came across a reference to weather radio station WFL26. He contacted Canadian Department of Defence historian Mr. W. A. E. Douglas, who then organized a team to visit the area in northern Labrador in 1981.

This exploration party travelled to Martin Bay on board a Canadian Coastguard ship, and the Siemens historian Franz Selinger was also with them. They found the station that was still there 38 years after it was first installed, though some of the canisters had been broken open and the internal components had been strewn around.

The remaining equipment was salvaged and retrieved, and it is now on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.