Veteran Stories:
Jessica Clayton

Army

  • Canadian servicewomen working for the United States government.

    Jessica Clayton
  • Canadian Women's Army Corps. Member in uniform.

    Jessica Clayton
  • Canadian Women's Army Corps at pipe practice.

    Jessica Clayton
  • A parade of the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) Pipe Band.

    Jessica Clayton
  • Pipe major calling the Canadian Women's Army Corps in parade in a German field.

    Jessica Clayton
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"The girls that you served with, you were closer to than sisters."

Transcript

My name is Jessica A. Clayton. I was known as W1678, Anderson, J.A., Drummer, CWAC Pipe Band. I first joined the army and was a clerk in the Automotive Mechanic School and there was a small pipe band there with an older fellow who taught Eleanor Irene Mary Hogan and I to play the tenor drum. So that we could parade with their small band. Well, somewhere along the way, the Pipe Major of the CWAC Pipe Band heard about us. And we were taken to Kitchener for an audition. And I was frightened to death and so was Hogey. But they accepted us and we were transferred to the pipe band. Hogey had to give up corporal stripes. I just transferred a desk for a drum. We had a nine-month tour across Canada. The brass band was going overseas and we were going to United States to work for the United States government. Of course, there was a lot of wailing. We all wanted to go overseas. But we went to the United States. And we worked with the "dollar-a-year men." And we went on bond tours and recruiting drives. And it was quite an experience. And I guess the best thing of all was they gave us five dollars a day expenses and the army paid us 90 cents a day plus 25 cents a day trades pay. The other big disappointment was they had decided that we could wear kilts, as a pipe band. And they had them all made to measure and they were beautiful. And some idiot in Ottawa decided that the women in the army shouldn't bare their knees. So we never got to wear the kilts. It was a sad time in history because to this day we're the only all female military pipe band in the service. We had ten drummers and fourteen pipers. Very talented, fine pipers. We were tenor drummers. We're the ones that swing the sticks. There was a base and four tenors and six side drummers. I guess it was for public relations and morale building. We would be sent to different camps for graduation parades, large inspections. These were orders, to mingle with the men and speak to them, because some of them were not too happy at the length of the service. You know, it was a long time. Basically it was public relations and to initiate the desire for people to join the military. We went overseas then. We repeated the same exercises that we did in the United States and Canada. Hogan and I shared a little room that was almost like a closet. But it had a sink in it. The plumbing wasn't the best. The food was lousy. But we had a lot of fun. They took us to Paris and we marched down the Champs Elysees and played for General de Gaulle in Tuileries Gardens. And General de Gaulle gave a speech and he told our pipe major there was better than 500,000 people watching us that day. Hard work. Not the best meals. No hot water. We used to go to the public baths for a shower and to wash those horrid raincoats they gave us, until the manager found out what we were doing and he banned us from the bathhouse. We had the worst pea green lisle stockings that anyone every allowed a woman to put on her legs. We were a little miffed when we got to the United States and we were with the girl WACs: the Navy girls and Coast Guard girls. They had lovely silk stockings and black Cuban heeled pumps and there we were with those damned old Oxfords and pea green stockings. But, it was still fun. The girls that you served with, you were closer to than sisters.
Follow us