Veteran Stories:
E Colleen Duncan nee Bartlett


  • Mrs. Duncan's marriage certificate from 1945.

    E Coleen Duncan
  • Thomas Faulkner Duncan and Coleen Duncan's engagement photo taken in 1944.

    E Coleen Duncan
  • Mrs. Duncan in uniform in Montreal, Quebec, in 1942.

    E Coleen Duncan
  • A prayer which was read at Mrs. Duncan's wedding ceremony in 1945.

    E Coleen Duncan
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"The hostess asked him who he’d like to do dishes with and he picked me. Dishes for 19 people. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun. But we ended up getting married and it lasted for 60 years."


I was 18 in the Canadian army. [The Canadian army] took women at 18. The Americans didn’t; and my father was overseas, so a friend and I joined up in our senior year at high school. We took the train from Portland to Montreal. Those old horsehair seats, hard as nails. We met the customs officer partway. They changed trains for the customs and immigration officers. And we had no trouble because of people crossing the border all the time. It was a daily occurrence. But I remember going to the recruiting office with my friend and taking the intelligence test. If you could put four legs in four round holes, you were in. It was sent to St. Sulpice barracks in Montreal. I believe it used to be a nun’s home. It was not a nice place to stay because of the bed bugs and cockroaches. Yeah. We were sworn in and given our uniforms, and sent to basic training. We were there in St. Sulpice barracks about three or four days. Well, it certainly wasn’t very nice, but you soon learned that it’s one of those things you have no say about. Like the meals. The first one with a cockroach running around the middle of the bowl. I spoke to the sergeant about it; and she said, well, are you going to eat it or are you going to get rid of it? So you soon learned pretty quick to accept these conditions. I was posted to [CFB] Ottawa. There was a large group of us that were sent to mail out the servicemen’s bonds. It was right after a victory draft, batches of bonds. Two of us were asked to stay on and tackle the correspondence of the soldiers overseas that didn’t know where they’d sent their bonds or if they were lost. They might have sent them to the mother and they wanted them to go to the girlfriend, or the other way around. So we did that for quite some time. And while we were there, we were on parade for two hours for [H. R. H.] Queen Juliana’s [of the Netherlands] visit to Ottawa. Which was quite an event then. I spent my weekends in Manotick. There was a lodge there that was a bus stop and a place that boarded the men that were working to put the telephone lines through. And it was also a prisoner of war camp in Kitchener at that time. And I stayed there until, working weekends there in bonds until I was given my sergeant stripes and sent back to Kitchener for a disciplinary course. Two days before I finished the course, I got married in Kitchener. I think I was, that was the only marriage ceremony ever held on the base. He was with a group of airmen that were invited out for Christmas dinner. And he was very shy. He wouldn’t give a toast to the ladies. He said he’d rather do dishes. So the hostess asked him who he’d like to do dishes with and he picked me. Dishes for 19 people. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun. But we ended up getting married and it lasted for 60 years. But as he was an RAF pilot, when he returned to Britain, he was posted overseas. Just before I was discharged, I had a physical along with some of the ladies because we were going to be shipped to Japan. And one of the doctors noticed my ring and said, okay, I’m taking you off the list for Japan. So that was that. And having just got married, the war was soon over, you know, married women were discharged. I enjoyed being in the army. It was no hardship after that first meal. No hardship at all.
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