Veteran Stories:
Eileen Cole

Navy

  • Eileen Cole on July 12, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I was kind of bored. And when I had the opportunity, an offer to go to HMCS Cornwallis in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, and it would give me an eight weeks cooking course, I took it."

Transcript

When I was seventeen, one of my brothers enlisted in the Army and I missed him, because we had been, he and I had gone to Gaspé [Quebec] when I was five and he was seven. My grandparents brought us up. And when he left, I was lost. So I went to enlist at seventeen; the Army said, come back next year when you have your birth certificate. So I didn’t try anymore but before I turned eighteen, my oldest brother, David, was in the Navy and he was on the HMCS St. Croix. His ship was torpedoed outside of Newfoundland. The Germans came in with subs and the St. Croix that he was on, 140 some men, only one survived. His name was Fisher but that’s beside the point. And in respect for my brother, I enlisted then when I turned eighteen in the ‘Wrens’ [Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service]. I enlisted in Montreal at HMCS Donnacona, October 1943. That was when I turned eighteen. And I was sent to Galt, Ontario for one month’s basic training. And from there, they sent me to Preston, Ontario, a little town near Galt, an old hotel. But at Galt, it was called HMCS Conestoga. At that old hotel in Preston, I had very little education. I had completed Grade Seven; that was it. To go any further my grandparents were- they would have had to buy books and all that. So I didn’t have very much education. So I had a choice of being stewardess or going in as cook. Well, I could cook a little bit so I decided to go as cook’s helper. And for eleven months, I stayed there in Preston; I was kind of bored. And when I had the opportunity, an offer to go to HMCS Cornwallis in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, and it would give me an eight weeks cooking course, I took it. So I went to Cornwallis and after being eleven months, well then, this was now 1944, and I took the course and I passed my course and after eight weeks I stayed at Cornwallis until the war ended, which was in 1945. As a cook, every third day, I was up at five o’clock in the morning; we’d cook breakfast that morning. And we were cooking, the kitchen that I was in, the Wrens kitchen, we were serving Wrens and sailors - it was no civilians there, well, not that I know of, because even the ones that worked in the kitchen were all from the base hall, you know. And we cooked breakfast and we cooked dinner, well, we call it lunch today but it was dinner. And then at one o’clock, we were finished, our day was finished. There was another shift came in at 11:00, of cooks, and they did the cleanup after dinner. The ones that cooked breakfast had to do the cleanup after breakfast. But this one that came in at 11:00, did the cleanup after lunch we’ll say and they cooked supper. Then the third day, that one came in just for extra cleanups, you know; so that was the, giving you roughly three days what a cook did. During the time I was in Cornwallis, we used to go, I had friends and other Wrens, we’d go to Halifax one long weekend a month. And during VE-Day [Victory in Europe, May 8 1945], the big riot, I didn’t go that weekend. And the following week I went and I had friends in Halifax, we used to go to the service clubs, you know, like for men and women, YWCA and YMCA, where the YM was the men and the YW was the women. And these friends of mine took pictures on VE-Day. They tried to put the sailors and soldiers, airmen - they had all the three forces - put them in jail for all the looting of the stores. Well, I had pictures from my friends showing the civilians coming out of the stores, from the jewelry stores, from the food stores, the clothing. All that the sailors and soldiers and Air Force did was break in the beer store. And you know why they had to riot? From Montreal to Vancouver, all the way across Canada, on VE-Day, free drinks for anyone in a uniform, man or woman. They were celebrating; the big war was over. Halifax closed everything down. The clubs, the bars, even the liquor commission and where they sold beer, so the three services joined together, soldiers, sailors, airmen and broke into where they sold beer and they carried case-fulls up on Citadel Hill. And hurrah me boys, they had a party.
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