Canadian Signals Intelligence veteran honoured for wartime service
News article - 30 Jun 2017
Sonja was presented with the award in honour of her wartime work at the Examination Unit (XU) in Ottawa.
Sonja had escaped from Czechoslovakia as the Nazi army approached and made her way to Canada, along with her brother. She settled in Ottawa, where she was hired to work in the French section of the XU as a codebreaker and translator.
The Japanese section of the civilian XU joined the military Discrimination Unit to form the Joint Discrimination Unit in 1946, two months later becoming the Communications Branch, National Research Council (CBNRC) in September 1946. CBNRC was renamed the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in 1975.
After the war, following a brief stint at External Affairs, Sonja became a successful journalist, author and ghost-writer.
At 96, she has fond memories of her time spent at the XU, recalling, "I never felt like an employee. It was like a family".
A representative of the British High Commission presented the Badge on behalf of Her Majesty's Government at the York Club in Toronto, with Kevin McGurgan, British Consul General to Toronto, in attendance.
Speakers also included former Governor General The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and former Premier of Ontario and former leader of the Liberal Party Bob Rae.
Bletchley Park Commemorative Badge
GCHQ inaugurated a commemorative badge in 2009 for veterans of Signals Intelligence from the Second World War. They had received no recognition at the end of the war in 1945 because of the need to maintain secrecy around the work they had done. Also few qualified for campaign medals because their work had rarely taken place overseas.
GCHQ thought that formal recognition of those still surviving was an appropriate gesture. We also commissioned a monument at Bletchley Park, unveiled by HM The Queen, and a Roll of Honour, with a bound volume at Bletchley Park and an online version.
Signals Intelligence in the Second World War was integrated between Allied nations. The award recognises all service related to Allied Signals Intelligence, not just at Bletchley Park but also at its outstations, the 'Y' stations, Special Communications Units, and Special Liaison Units.
To date we have issued 3,379 badges, including 127 to Canada. Some of these represent people who emigrated from the UK post-War, but it includes significant numbers of people who served in Canadian units.