Veteran Stories:
Jean Brown (née Corbett)

Army

  • Jean Brown (nee Corbett) in her Canadian Women's Army Corps uniform, 1943.

    Celia May Brown
  • The Corbett family in 1943. Jean Brown's father and brother both served in the armed forces, her brother, McKee Corbett, with the 1st Hussars and her father, Erle Corbett, in both world wars.

    Celia May Brown
  • Jean's father, Erle Corbett, in portrait from the two world wars. He enlisted in the army in WWI (left) as a private and returned home having been promoted to the rank of major. He served his country again in WWII (right).

    Celia May Brown
  • Jean Brown's certification card. This tradesman's card issued June 11, 1946, showed that Jean was certified as a clerk with the Canadian Women's Army Corps.

    Celia May Brown
  • Jean and her father, Erle Corbett.

    Celia May Brown
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"My father was the officer in charge of the Wingham Armouries, and he was what they call a ‘Saturday Night Soldier’."

Transcript

My father was in the First World War and he won his commission at Vimy Ridge in the 58th Battalion. My father was the officer in charge of the Wingham Armouries, and he was what they call a 'Saturday Night Soldier'. He and the group that he had at the Wingham Armouries, they went to Camp Borden for boot drill and all that stuff, and when the war broke out, he and this group walked right straight in to the recruiting office. They didn't even have to go to boot camp. I was brought up with army all my life and that's all I ever knew, and I thought that was the best thing I could do to please my dad. So I wasn't quite sixteen when I decided that I was going to go and join the army. They asked for my birth certificate and I said I wrote away for it but I hadn't got it back – but it was in my purse. I was doing fine – I started off in Dental Corps. I took a driver's course and I learned how to drive a motorcycle, drive a jeep, and all those things which I never used very much because motorcycles used the least gas. Really, it was a wonderful experience for a young girl to go in there at that age. I don't think anybody grew up as fast as I did, because I didn't do too much around home except go to school. I thought I would please my father, but he came bustling home saying, "You can't get in the Army! You're not old enough!" I said, "I'll go join the Navy or the Air Force then." He said, "Stay in the Army. You're in the best place." So I stayed in the Army, and after they found out how old I was they sent me to Windsor to put in some time in the orderly room down there until a course opened at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate. When the course was over I came back from Windsor and I went to Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and I took a course in Army Administration, and after that I came back to London. I was attached to MD1 Headquarters. I was a little building on the corner of Queens and Richmond. I worked in central registry there until the war was over. I had applied for my discharge and figured I was getting it, and then we were forced to stay and work on the letters that were sent to the families, that their family was coming home. I was working on this and there came my brother's name up on the sheet, and we hadn't heard from him in three months and didn't know what had happened to him. I said, "I have to phone my mother!" The Sergeant Major said, "You sit down! You don't make that phone call until the boat's in the harbour and all those boys are on a train home." At that time was very strict. Security... you didn't talk about anything. You couldn't even mention where you worked when you were out with a crowd.
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