In the 2019 fourth quarter issue of Topics, the journal of BNAPS, I read the article “Classified Mail” by Bill Pekonen. In the article he lists eight different classifications that were used during WWII to indicate how secret the correspondence was. The third classification was Confidential. Having read the classifications, I remembered that I had one of those Confidential Letters.
Figure 1 shows the cover. The letter was mailed in Ottawa on Nov. 4, 1943 using an O.H.M.S. envelope with a free franking on it by A. MacNamara for surface mail. However the sender wanted it delivered in a hurry and so it was sent by air mail at the new rate of 7¢. While it has no sender’s return address, it does have a stamp saying, “If not delivered in five days return to Wartime Bureau of Technical Personnel – Ottawa.”
The letter was sent to Mr. Allister E. Cave, Little Long Lac Gold Mine, Geraldton, Ontario. Why would such a letter be sent to Mr. Cave? The answer is found in the letter that was enclosed in the cover (see Figure 2).
Note first the Red letter line at the bottom of the front page: “All matters relating to this topic are to be treated as CONFIDENTIAL.” This is the line that caught my attention when I read the article in BNAPS Topics. The second item took me to the top of the letter: “RETAIN THE ENVELOPE IN WHICH THIS LETTER WAS DELIVERED.” As I read the letter I discovered that the envelope would be used as identification and assure the bearer of admission to a meeting to be held in Geraldton on November 8th.
Thus the reason for the use of air mail: there was only four days between sending the letter and the meeting. I am not sure how long it would take if it had gone by surface mail.
Why to Geraldton? Geraldton is located about 50 miles north east of Thunder Bay in a region containing a number of gold mines. I believe that Mr. Cave, the recipient, was the Manager of the Little Long Lac Gold Mine, so he like many of the other people attending would be quite familiar with mining issues, especially the use of explosives.
Why so confidential?
On the second page of the letter (Figure 3) is the agenda for the meeting and the heading is MINES. Not gold mines but LAND MINES – both Anti-Personnel and Anti-Tank that were being used in the war.
So the meeting was about how to detect them and safely remove them.
The attendees could discuss the issue with others who may be of assistance but not to the press. The letter states that “THIS IS A SERIOUS MATTER” and attendees were not to be casual about it and were “not to circulate it heedlessly to the general public.” Thus we can see why it was treated as CONFIDENTIAL – if any information about it was released to the public, in Pekonen’s definition of confidential, “it may prejudice National Security.”
I am not able to find any information about the results of the meeting but we do know that unfortunately mines are still being used by many warring factions in the world today.
Originally published in the Victoria COVID Times, July 2020
by Ed Lewis