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Commemorate Camp X

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Camp X was started by Manitoba-born Sir William Stephenson in 1941, to strengthen allied war effort through the use of secret warfare. The chosen location, Whitby, Ontario, on the Northern shore of Lake Ontario, would facilitate the then covert and later overt assistance coming from the United States.


Many men became secret agents and dedicated their lives to their chosen field of activity. Guy d’Artois was a clear example. After graduating from Camp X, along with 25 other French-Canadian graduates, he was sent to France to wreak havoc during D-day. They were successful in blowing up railway lines, assassinating soldiers, and leading French maquis—small bands of French resistance. Another example was Helias Doundoulakis, a Greek-American who, after hearing news about a planned Nazi gathering, sent a telegram requesting support from planes. The air force responded, and as a result 2000 Germans were killed.


Camp X relied heavily on secret communication and code breaking. This was carried out through a project called Hydra. The Hydra telecommunications station intercepted many enemy messages (usually from German subs), and was once the most popular telecommunications station in North America, sending 30,000 and receiving 9,000 signals per day. Hydra also left behind revolutionary technologies, such as the Rockex machine invented by Benjamin (Pat) Bayly. This machine converted code into words and words into code at the remarkable rate of a million words per day and cut long-distance communication times from hours to seconds.


Even though Camp X closed in 1944, its effects were still prominent during the Cold War. Many graduates, including Richard Helms, William Colby, Lyman Kirkpatrick, and John Singlaub, went on to lead world-famous intelligence institutions, such as the CIA. Singlaub operated in Manchuria during the Chinese Communist Revolution, directed secret operations in the Hồ Chí Minh trail in the Vietnam War, and worked with Afghan resistance during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


Many combat techniques used at Camp X are still valued today. “Instinctive shooting”, a method of shooting devised by William E. Fairbairn, a Camp X instructor, is one example. The hand-to-hand combat used in training today’s police officers is also based on techniques utilized at Camp X.


In spite of its apparent impacts, Camp X is still relatively unknown. None of my classmates, nor my teacher, knew about it before I did this project, and I strongly feel that more should be done to publicize and commemorate Camp X. The people who so valiantly served our countries during this time should never be forgotten.


Secret agents were not protected by the Geneva Convention as prisoners of war, and were often mercilessly tortured and killed. Survivors were often left with mental disorders, and unlike veteran soldiers, they were never given any individual recognition for their efforts. Almost all information regarding Camp X has been either burned down or locked away by order of the Official Secrets Act. This should not have been the case. The sites and information of two other secret operations: Bletchley Park, a code breaking site in England, and the Manhattan Project, the American project that built the Atomic Bomb, have been relatively well preserved. Camp X, and the people involved with it, have been forgotten by Canada. Without proper recognition, a far-reaching element of World War II will disappear into history.

Some ways to increase public knowledge about Camp X would be to track down surviving agents and publish their stories. Some would be glad to share their experiences, and it would be a great honour for those individuals to finally be recognized. Mention of this part of Canada’s history should be included in Remembrance Day Services. Last but not least, the original Camp’s buildings could easily be sourced from aerial photographs and the buildings can be reconstructed in Intrepid Park. It would make a huge impression on the public and serve as an educational site for students.

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