Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bio: Geoffrey H. Evans

From 1942 until 1949, Canada benefited from the assistance of three British experts lent by the UK's Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS)/Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to help set up and run the fledgling Canadian signals intelligence effort.

The first was Oliver Strachey, who came to Canada in January 1942 to replace the fired Herbert O. Yardley and get the Canada's original cryptanalytic organization, the Examination Unit, up and running (more here and here). Strachey was a veteran cryptanalyst, one of the "original key men" recruited into GC&CS at its inception in 1919. The second was A. F. (Tony) Kendrick, "a younger and more energetic cryptanalyst", who replaced Strachey as Director of the XU in July 1942. Kendrick remained at the XU until April 1945, when, "badly needed at G.C. & C.S.", he returned to the UK.

The third expert, whose work the Canadian government has not yet publicly acknowledged, was Geoffrey H. Evans.

Geoffrey Evans; photo courtesy of Adrian EvansEvans served as "Assistant Technical Director" at Canada's post-war SIGINT organization, the Communications Branch, National Research Council (CBNRC), from its inception in September 1946 until his departure in March 1949. Originally a German scholar, Evans had spent the Second World War working at Bletchley Park, probably in Hut 3, the location of German Army and Air Force translation and processing work. He and his young family arrived in Canada in May or June of 1946, having crossed the Atlantic with returning Canadian troops on the RMS Aquitania.

As Assistant Technical Director at CBNRC, Evans was second in rank only to CBNRC Director Edward M. Drake. As the History of CBNRC explains,
When CBNRC officially opened for business at the beginning of September 1946, it was in effect run by a triumvirate of officers with previous experience in the Joint Discrimination Unit (JDU) and the Examination Unit (XU). Ed Drake as Director concentrated on Administration and Security, leaving Operations and Plans to [Geoffrey Evans] as “Assistant Technical Director”; the third member of the triumvirate, Mrs. Mary Oliver, was principally concerned with Personnel matters, though her official title was “Administrative Assistant”. [N.K. O’Neill, History of CBNRC, Communications Security Establishment, August 1987, paragraph 27.2. A heavily censored version of this document was publicly released following a request under the Access to Information Act. Mr. Evans' name was among the deletions made in the document; however, one instance of his name survived.]
Evans ran the Plans and Operations end of the organization, served as Acting Director when Drake was absent [para 27.3], and attended (with Drake) meetings of the Communications Research Committee [para 2.4], the interdepartmental body established to "control all SIGINT activities, including policy control of CBNRC and Canadian intercept stations." [para 2.2]. During his first year at CBNRC he was even paid more than Drake, earning an annual salary of $6,000 a year compared to Drake's $5,400 [Public Accounts, 1946-47].

The organization grew from an initial establishment of 179 (with 62 people actually on staff) to an establishment of 227 with about 120 people on staff during Evans' time at CBNRC. In addition to overseeing the set up and initial operations of Canada's SIGINT organization, he may also have played a role in negotiating Canada's post-war SIGINT relationship with its US partner the Armed Forces Security Agency (later the National Security Agency). The Canada-US CANUSA agreement was negotiated during Evans' tenure and was finalized shortly after his March 1949 departure.

Evans continued working at GCHQ for twenty years after his return to the UK, retiring in 1969. He died in the mid-1980s.

Back in the days when the SIGINT agencies were pretending they didn't exist it probably made some sense not to talk about Mr. G.H. Evans. But those days are long past. With the 60th anniversary of CSE's birth coming up in September, maybe it's time that the Canadian government publicly acknowledged the contribution that Geoffrey Evans made to CSE's development during the early years of the organization.

(Photo of Geoffrey Evans courtesy of Adrian Evans)

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