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Camp X was the unofficial name of a Second World War paramilitary and commando training installation, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontariomarker between Whitbymarker and Oshawamarker in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. The area is known today as Intrepid Park, after the code name for Sir William Stephenson of the British Security Coordination.

Overview

Camp X was established December 6, 1941 by the chief of British Security Coordination (BSC), Sir William Stephenson, a Canadian from Winnipegmarker, Manitobamarker, and a close confidante of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The camp was originally designed to link Britain and the United States at a time when the US was forbidden by the Neutrality Act to be directly involved in World War II.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entrance into the war, Camp X opened for the purpose of training Allied agents from the Special Operations Executive, Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker, and American Office of Strategic Services to be dropped behind enemy lines as saboteurs and spies. However, even before the United States entered the war on December 7, 1941, agents from America's intelligence services expressed an interest in sending personnel for training at the soon to be opened Camp X. Agents from the FBI and the Office of Strategic Services (fore-runner of the CIA) secretly attended Camp X. Most notable was Colonel William "Wild Bill" Donovan, war-time head of the OSS, who credited Sir William Stephenson with teaching Americans about foreign intelligence gathering. The CIA even named their recruit training facility "The Farm", a nod to the original farm that existed at the Camp X site.

Camp X was jointly operated by the BSC and the Government of Canada. The official names of the camp were many: S 25-1-1 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker (RCMP), Project-J by the Canadian military, and Special Training School 103 by the Special Operations Executive, a branch of the British intelligence service MI6marker.

However, very few people knew the true purpose of Camp X. The Minister of National Defence Colonel James Ralston, and RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood, were let in on the secret, as was the head of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, since the public were told that the radio antennas dotting the property were CBC broadcast antennas. However, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was left out of the loop since BSC feared he would shut down the camp as a violation of Canada's sovereignty by Great Britain, so not even the Prime Minister of Canada knew about Camp X.

Camp X trained over five hundred Allied units of which 273 of these graduated and moved on to London for further training. Many secret agents were trained here. The Camp X pupils were schooled in a wide variety of special techniques including silent killing, sabotage, partisan support and recruitment methods for resistance movements, demolition, map reading, use of various weapons, and Morse code.

Hydra

One of the unique features of Camp X was Hydra, a highly sophisticated telecommunications centre. Given the name by the Camp X operators, Hydra was invaluable for both coding and decoding information in relative safety from the prying ears of German radio observers. The camp was an excellent location for the safe transfer of code due to the topography of the land; Lake Ontario made it an excellent site for picking up radio signals from the UK. Hydra also had direct access via land lines to Ottawamarker, New Yorkmarker and Washington, D.C.marker for telegraph and telephone communications. The transmitter was previously used as that of U.S AM station WCAUmarker's shortwave sibling W3XAU, and upon severance from WCAU having a shortwave sibling in 1941, the transmitter was refurbished and became the transmitter for Hydra. The transmitter was later scrapped in 1969.

Postwar

Monument at the Site of Camp X in Whitby, Ontario
Legend has it that the trainees included Ian Fleming, later famous for his James Bond books, though there is evidence against this claim. The character of James Bond was supposedly based on Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him. Roald Dahl also trained at the camp.

In the fall of 1945 Camp X was used by the RCMP as a secure location for interviewing Sovietmarker embassy cypher-clerk Igor Gouzenko who defected to Canada on September 5 and revealed an extensive Soviet espionage operation in the country.

Post-war, the camp was re-named the Oshawa Wireless Station and turned over to the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals as a wireless intercept station, military talk for a spy listening station. The Oshawa Wireless Station continued operations until 1969 when it too was closed. All remaining buildings were demolished or relocated elsewhere and the property abandoned. Records pertaining to Camp X were either locked away under the Official Secrets Act or destroyed after World War II.

Nothing significant remains of Camp X today, as all the buildings on the camp were bulldozed into Lake Ontariomarker in 1969 when the camp was decommissioned, although several craters from explosives training are still visible. The site, located on Boundary Road in Whitby, Ontariomarker, is now a passive park, appropriately named "Intrepid Park". A monument was erected in 1984 to honour the men and women of Camp X, a camp that many in the intelligence world consider to be the finest espionage training camp of the Second World War. The monument is surrounded by four flags: the Canadian Red Ensign (the national flag until 1965), the American Stars and Stripes, the British Union Jack, and the Canadian Maple Leaf flag (the national flag since 1965). Today is it the site of annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. The Camp X Historical Society also works to preserve the memory of Camp X. Author, Lynn Philip Hodgson supports a 'Teachers' & Students' resource page with many pictures of Camp X taken during WWII.See: http://webhome.idirect.com/~lhodgson/camp-xphotos.html

References

  • Hodgson, Lynn Philip, (foreword by Secret Agent Andy Durovecz), Inside Camp-X (2003) - ISBN 0-9687062-0-7
  • Hodgson, Lynn Philip, (foreword by C.E. Sikut), "Dispatches from Camp-X" (2009) - ISBN 978-0-9735523-5-5
  • Bruce Forsyth's Canadian Military History Page


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