Portrait take on December 21, 1943. Joyce Paynter's husband Arthur, a Canadian soldier, carried this photo with him for the more than two years they were apart.Joyce Paynter
This portrait was taken shortly after Joyce Paynter enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps in London, England, 1944.Joyce Paynter
Wedding picture of Joyce and Arthur Paynter, on July 31, 1943 in Sutton, Surrey.Joyce Paynter
Snapshot of Joyce Paynter, Sergeant Huntley (right) and Margaret Ewings (left) in London, England, during a bombs course.Joyce Paynter
The Isle de France, the ship that brought Joyce Paynter to Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 13, 1945. There were 9,000 people aboard the ship.Joyce Paynter
"and all these Canadian soldiers were stationed in my hometown in Sutton and I didn’t want anything to do with them. They were a rowdy bunch."
I think the Battle of Britain was the worst; that would be in 1940 when Hitler thought that he was going to take over England. We were sort of bombed every night, every night, every night, night after night and I think it was almost maybe six months every night we would have to spend in the air raid shelter. Yeah, it just never let up.
I got the offer for a job with a doctor and his wife to take care of their children. They had one little girl who was two and then there was another one on the way, so I went to work for them. And I used to take the bus or my bicycle because it wasn’t too far away from my own home. It was in another area. So this evening, I was on my way home from work and I was on the bus; and all these Canadian soldiers were stationed in my hometown in Sutton and I didn’t want anything to do with them. [laughs] They were a rowdy bunch. [laughs]
So, anyway, on the bus, there was two or three of these soldiers and then there was a bad air raid started. So we were all told to get off the bus and go to an air raid shelter. And, of course, everything was blacked out, so I couldn’t really see who this man was, so we went to an air raid shelter; and then after the all clear sounded, he asked me if he could walk me home. So he walked me home and then that was about it. And then I used to see this fellow around the town at different times and he would say hi; and my brother was in the British army and he was always bringing these Canadians home for a meal or something or other, so I just thought it was probably somebody that my brother knew or something, or other.
Anyway, he asked me one time if I would like to go to a show with him, so. And I was only 16 at the time, so. We started going together and then we became engaged; and then he wanted to be married and so, because he knew there was a possibility of him going to Italy, and my mother didn’t want me to get married because I was only 17. Well, 17 and a half when I was married, so.
I guess maybe the reason was, she was married to a Canadian during the First World War; and he was fighting in France and he come over from France and they were married, and he went back to France and he was killed. So she never talked too much about it, but maybe that was the reason. Yeah.
We were married in 31 July 31, 1943 and I guess it would probably be maybe late August or September that they shipped out for Italy, yeah, to fight in the Italian campaign. And then in October, when I was 18, 1943, there was conscription in England, you know, where they could call you at age 18. So my brother joined when he was 18, so he joined the British army, so I thought, well, I’ll go volunteer too. So I did. But then the British army, they told me I was now a Canadian, that I should join the Canadian army and I said, well, how can I do that? And so they gave me some information and I applied, and was accepted. Yeah.
It was great, even the war was still on, you know, and there was a lot of bombing, particularly in London because we were stationed not too far from Buckingham Palace. But I was with Canadian military headquarters, serving in London, after I took my, I think it was six weeks, six or eight weeks basic training course. As I said, I was trained for battle. I was taught all about bombs and booby traps and, of course, we all had gas masks and then we had to go through a gas chamber and take the gas mask off for so many seconds. I guess probably that they were sort of scared that, like during the First World War, that they might use gas, you know, in the Second [World] War, so we were trained for all of that.
And then I can remember that they had this old building and they filled it full of smoke and we had to crawl in there and carry somebody out. Yeah, we were trained like the men. I think it was mostly an English sergeant major that I can remember. He was very strict and you know. I was even taught how to drive a tank. Well, you know, shown how to, if you might be, because at that time, as I said, they thought that Hitler was going to invade England. That was in 1944, at the beginning of 1944.
When the war was over, in 1945, VE [Victory in Europe] Day, my husband, he was on his way home on what would be leave because he’d been over there since 1940, he’d been over in England and then, I think it went on a point system, if you were married, you know. And so he was on his way. I think he was crossing the English Channel on VE Day. So I got to see him for two or three days and then he left for Canada; and he left in June. So the officer said to me, you know, they said, we’ll try and get you away as soon as we can. But, of course, I was sent to camp in Aldershot, but they were trying to get them in home, I guess, and so he arrived home in June and I said, I went to what they called a holding camp in Aldershot in England and waited there.
On a Sunday evening, we were pulling into Halifax Harbour on Friday, the thirteenth of July. All we could see was all these lights and that was one thing that amazed me, you know, all the lights after almost six years of blackout. That was one thing that surprised me more than anything.