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Deciphering the code

November 7, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Bob and Joyce Wiltshire at their home in Hunter Creek Estates, south of Minden. Bob deciphered Japanese code during the Second World War.

By Chad Ingram

Not all Second World War veterans fought on the fields or in the skies above Europe.

As a young man, Hunter Creek Estates resident Bob Wiltshire deciphered Japanese code at a facility in Kingston.

Born in 1925, Wiltshire grew up in the village of Newtonbrook, since swallowed by the city of Toronto.

He attended Earl Haig Secondary School in Willowdale.

In the fall of 1943, at the age of 18, he joined the military.

“At 18, in those days, you had to join the service,” Wiltshire said, explaining that he and a friend walked over to the recruiting office from their workplace at the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, the car manufacturer’s financial wing. “He went air crew. I wanted air crew, but with glasses, I couldn’t.”

Wiltshire said the military sent him to the optometrist to make sure his spectacles were the real deal.

“They didn’t believe me,” he said, adding it seems that some young men tried to fake poor eyesight to get out of combat.

Within the ranks of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Wiltshire was shipped off to Winnipeg to study the repair of radio equipment.

Then, in 1944, Wiltshire was transferred back to Ontario to Kingston, one of 180 recruits who would be taught how to decipher Japanese Morse code and translate it to English code.

He said the data processing units were huge by today’s technological standards.

“It would take four rooms like this to hold one of them,” he said, seated in his living room.

For eight hours a day for a year, Wiltshire sat a typewriter wearing a pair of headphones, translating code.

“You had to take it down at 80 words per minute with 90 per cent accuracy,” Wiltshire said, when pushed by wife Joyce to reveal how demanding the requirements were. “There are 54 characters in their alphabet.”

Only about half of the members chosen passed.

Upon his graduation in spring of 1945, Wiltshire was about to be transferred to a facility in Grande Prairie, Alta., when victory in Europe was declared.

He was transferred to a base in Trenton and, at the war’s end, back to Toronto where, due to his proficient typing skills, he spent three months typing up discharge paper.

Wiltshire joked that he tried to type up his own more than once.

Following the war, he’d go back to working for GMAC where, during a 40-year career, he worked his way from mail boy to a series of corporate positions.

He would eventually become a pilot, joining the Windsor Flying Club while living in Windsor in the 1960s.

He and Joyce had three children and, along with Windsor, lived in Toronto, Hamilton and Oshawa, as Wiltshire was transferred for work.

When Wiltshire retired in 1980, the couple moved to Boshkung Lake, where the family had for years had a cottage.

They would later to move to Hunter Creek Estates, where they’ve lived for the past 22 years.

Wiltshire has been a member of the Rotary Club of Minden, was treasurer of the Staanworth Non-Profit Housing Corporation for 10 years and continues to be a member of the Minden Legion.

via Deciphering the code  | Minden Times.


One of the unsung heroes of WWII–in this case Bob Wiltshire of Hunter Creek, Ontario, Canada.  He helped decipher Japanese codes during WWII for the Royal Canadian Air Force.  His work along with others, enabled allied forces to out flank enemy forces, “read’ their military mail, and anticipate attacks.  Quite an inspiring story.

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Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

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