Thursday, June 09, 2005

This date in history: XU began operations

On this date in history, 9 June 1941, Canada's first cryptanalytic agency, the Examination Unit, began operations. Housed in rooms 202 and 203 of the National Research Council Annex on Montreal Road in Ottawa, the XU had an initial staff of nine: Herbert O. Yardley, his assistant Edna Ramsaier, mathematician Dr. Gilbert de Beauregard Robinson (no relation), RCMP Constable Robert McLaren, Dr. Douglas Cameron, Richard Rudey (or Ruddy?) from the NRC, Vern Gavel from the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, and two typists.

Gilbert deB Robinson Yardley and Ramsaier were gone within six months' time. Robinson (shown at right) later ended up running the XU but returned to his position in the mathematics department at the University of Toronto at the end of the war. Some of the other members of the original staff ended up making a career in signals intelligence. Robert McLaren stayed on to become one of CBNRC's initial employees and later served as CBNRC's first liaison officer at AFSA, forerunner to NSA. Vern Gavel also stayed on with CBNRC after the war, eventually retiring in 1972.

Previous posts about the XU here and here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are probably aware of the reason that H.O.Yardley spent such a short period in charge of the XU.He was p.n.g. in the USA after the publication of his book-"The American Black Chamber" and when the U.S Authorities discovered he was heading the XU(as Herbert Orwell) they refused to exchange or provide sigint materiasl to the Canadaian effort.Robert Mclaren (a member of CBNRC from Masy 1950 to Feb 1962,and also CANSLO in Washington D.C 1956-59-no relation to my predecessor in that job)

June 04, 2008 2:24 pm  
Blogger Bill Robinson said...

Robert -

Thank you for your very interesting comments. It's clear that "Herbert Osborn" didn't have many friends in the US SIGINT community by the early 1940s.

Re CANSLO: Wow. I had thought that Art Browness was CANSLO during the 1956-1959 period, but I can see that that was a mistake. He was definitely posted abroad somewhere though. Do you know what his actual role was?

The late 1950s must have been a very interesting time to be CANSLO. Can you shed any light on NSA's attitude toward the disestablishment of O4?

My e-mail address, by the way, is

- Bill

June 04, 2008 5:20 pm  

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