Radio CAE (1956-1970)
“At 87.8 on the FM-dial, this is Canadian Forces Radio CAE in Werl, Germany…”
This station ID could be heard by those living east of the Ruhr Valley in Germany for over 14 years. On March 21st, 1956 at 5 P.M. a very special radio station went on the air in this area: Radio Canadian Army Europe (CAE), the service for the Canadian Armed Forces in Southern Westfalia, first at 96.9 Mc, later then at 87.8 Mc...
From Fort Victoria (on a hill in ”the Haar”, near Highway B 63 between Wickede and Werl), CAE was broadcasting with a power output of 250 watts for the soldiers and their families in the brigades in and around Werl, Soest, Lippstadt, Iserlohn and Hemer. The aerial-tower measuring 325 ft. was a popular landmark, and with some skill and a good receiver Radio CAE could be tuned in as far north as Osnabruck, in the east to Paderborn, in the south nearly down to Wuppertal and as far west as Oberhausen (which basically meant in the Munsterland, in the northern parts of the Sauerland and in the whole Ruhr Valley). But due to unusual atmospheric conditions overreach reports arrived also from Southern Germany, The Netherlands and once even from Gothenburg in Sweden.
The conclusion was and still is, that Radio CAE upgraded the little old town of Werl and a vast area around in zeitgeist and music so much, that it could be compared to West-Berlin. After all, a good piece of the ”big world” and especially a big piece of Canada was compressed into this sleepy Westfalian region, and in which everyone who could speak a little english could share.
With normal equipment you could pull in three Aliied services: AFN Frankfurt on AM, on FM the British BFBS, and Radio CAE, braodcasting mainly in English, but also in French for the French Canadians. While the German WDR at that time tried to show a modern profile with ”guestworkers” from abroad (Dave Colman, Chris Howland, Mal Sondock), like AFN and BFBS, CAE smashed a ”living radio” into the air which always brought fun as soon as the radio was switched on: each hour the latest development from around the globe, news from the region and the top pop music in excellent special programs called ”shows”. Those who liked C & W tuned in to ”Redpatch Roundup”, ”Best Of The West” or ”Western Express”, for the teens there was ”Teen Time”, ”Music Box”, ”Pops On Parade” and ”Generation Gap”. There was jazz and classic and great entertainment shows, always cool and straight from the heart.
No one was too bothered when sometimes the needle skipped over the record, or a DJ left his mike open during the music by mistake, so that everyone could follow his phone call to his girl friend on the radio. On the other hand there were such highlights like the shows with the unforgotten ”Raving” Robert Black or, thanks to guest-DJ Pat Crean, the first German airing of the complete ”Desolation Row” from Bob Dylan. And that happened in those days when an announcer of German WDR tortured himself and the listeners with the phrase: ”Bob Dailon, one of the angry young men of America…”
Radio CAE started out musically in the age of rockabilly and be-bop, later covered the upcoming 60’s with The Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds or The Who, and after that the late 60’s with psychedelic bands like The Electric Prunes, Love or Grateful Dead, and first in line (of course) Canadian acts like Guess Who or Steppenwolf. From Black Sabbath to CCR and Cream, from Hendrix to Arthur Brown and Joni Mitchell – on 87.8 everything great was to be heard, and it’s not surprising that more than ten times more Germans than Canadians tuned in this pretty little station regularly. For more than a decade, CAE was also, in addition to AFN, the only authentic source for C & W, Bluegrass and Hillbilly music in Germany.
In spite of its military origins and rules, the staff always was open minded and cooperative, especially to the German audience. The atmosphere in the studios was friendly and familiar. It was possible to visit the station after inquiry and even copy some rare vinyl-records on tape for private use. This set up many friendships which are unforgotten and still exist today.
Radio CAE ended on Sunday, Oct. 18th, 1970, at midnight. That was the end of an entirely unique radio station in Europe. The entire Canadian brigade moved to Lahr / Schwarzwald in Southern Germany, while British troups took over the housing areas and training fields in and around Werl, Iserlohn and Hemer. The transmitter then was used as a relay station for BFBS for nearly a decade. Today, German WDR II radio is transmitting on 87.8 from a tower in Schwerte. The ”landmark” of Radio CAE in Werl / Germany is not visible and audible any more…
The station building of Radio CAE in Fort Victoria, Werl, Germany in March 1962. The building located two studios, the controlroom, the record library, three offices, toilets, a coffee-room and the transmitter itself (also check out stationbuilding 3-D (noch zu verlinken)). The directional antenna on the roof allowed reception of the news-broadcasts from the CBC, to be fed into the running programs.
That picture was supplied by “Texas” Heinz Gunnesson. He too was responsible for a smoothly handling of the shortwave-broadcasts from Canada, since he had to call Sackville to arrange, which power and frequency were effective concerning the atmospheric conditions in each case for the transmissions.