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TENEC Travel © 2007 Maurice Rainbow

  Maurice Rainbow                      Murray Boggs

I served as an ad hoc diplomatic courier many times while working as an electronics technician for the Department of External Affairs / Foreign Affairs Canada. My first Temporary Duty (TD) assignment to Prague in 1978 was one of my most memorable trips. 

I was working at Headquarters with the TENEC installation group, when Murray Boggs and I were instructed to install a new system in Prague. The shipment was initially sent to London on one of the regular courier runs. In London, Murray and I were informed that the British Airways aircraft, which was being used for the Prague flight sector, was too small to accommodate the entire diplomatic shipment. Therefore, the shipment was split in two. Murray accompanied half of the shipment on the scheduled flight, and I left London the next day with the remainder of the shipment. 

Although, this was my first time traveling as a courier, it seemed really easy. Traveling First Class was definitely a bonus.  After a rather uneventful flight, the plane landed in Prague. As per the norm, I was allowed on the tarmac to supervise the unloading of the diplomatic bags. After they were placed on several baggage trolleys, I sat down to wait for my escort to the Canadian embassy who had not yet arrived. 

After all the passengers had disembarked and their luggage was unloaded from the aircraft, the Supervisor of the ground crew informed me that the diplomatic shipment would have to be moved into the terminal. Shortly afterwards, one of the baggage tractor drivers arrived an asked if I was Kanaski, which I took for Canadian, so I said yes. He immediately began to connect the trolleys holding the diplomatic shipment to his tractor. As he started to move off with them, I quickly jumped onto the last trolley. After all, it had been impressed upon me that I was not to leave any diplomatic bags unattended at any time. 

The driver waved to the Ground Chief, and I sat back and enjoyed a nice tour of the tarmac. Although, I had no idea where he was taking me, as we faced a language barrier, I wasn’t concerned because he seemed to know what he was doing. After awhile we passed through a gate. The guards at the gate waved to us, and the driver and I waved back to them.  After a short while, our little caravan stopped at a truck. A gentleman dismounted from the truck and identified himself as a Canada-based security guard. He informed me that the Mission Admin Officer had gone inside the terminal to gain access to the tarmac. Apparently, I was now outside the airport terminal and had somehow managed to bypass the usual red tape of going through Customs and Immigration, which is the customary procedure when entering another country.  

The Canadian Guard went into the terminal to find the Admin Officer, while I stayed with the diplomatic shipment and supervised it being packed onto the Canadian truck.  After a while, a very puzzled Admin Officer met up with me, and wanted to know if I had gone though Immigration, and wanted to know how I managed to get the shipment out of the terminal. I told him about the tractor leaving with the bags, and that I was expected to stay with the shipment at all times. 

The Admin Officer and I proceeded back into the terminal to find out if I could get an Entry Stamp for my passport. Hopefully the officials would be lenient with me and would not expel me or do something worse for not having followed proper procedures. 

I had to explain what had happened to just about every Immigration Officer in the terminal who understood a bit of English. Finally, we were ushered into the office of the Chief of Immigration for the Prague Airport. 

Once again, I explained what had happened. After what felt like an eternity (wondering if I would be hauled off to jail), the Officer started to laugh and said that he had been working in the Immigration Section at the Prague Airport for more than ten years, and while a number of people had tried to sneak out of his country, this was the first time he encountered anyone sneaking into it. Obviously, security would have to be tightened up at the airport.  On that note, that rather elusive Entry Stamp was applied to my passport..

We then proceeded to the embassy to unload the shipment, after which we enjoyed a few drinks.  

When the Prague installation was completed, I  returned to Ottawa via Zurich.  In Zurich, the plane had a problem that could not be fixed. Air Canada diverted a new 747 flying back to Montreal from London to replace it.  When the aircraft arrived in Zurich, the passengers were informed that the original crew were not checked out on the 747 and could therefore not fly it back to Montreal. Our departure would have to be delayed for a further ten hours in order to give the new crew time to rest before going onto Montreal.

As a way of appeasing the passengers, Air Canada arranged bus tour of Zurich, along with a full course dinner with wine at a very nice restaurant on the shores of Lake Zurich. Upon our return to the airport, we were informed that all passengers would be given First Class treatment, and because there weren’t many passengers, we could all have an entire row of seats to ourselves, if we desired.

This was the way to travel. I went on to enjoy many more adventures over the course of my career with the Department.

A typical TENEC installation abroad.

Maurice Rainbow

Editors Notes:

1. A colleague of Maurice, Don Cole, remembers that a full TENEC installation consisted of 30 diplomatic bags weighing a total of 900 lbs./ 400 kilograms including the large locker safe used to store the cypher equipment when embassies were closed. Shipments were sometimes split as described in this tale because of aircraft types and load restrictions.
2. A photograph and description of TENEC installed at a location within Canada is posted on Jerry Proc's web site at

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© OFARTS Canada 2007 Old Foreign Affairs Retired Technicians, Canada The opinions expressed here are those of the contributors. Accuracy of facts has not been verified in all cases.