"I thought three stripes meant maybe a couple of bucks more but overseas, the experience would be priceless."
In 1942, on the March break or Easter break I think it was then, my mum and I went to Montreal to visit her sister. My cousin [had] come home in her Air Force uniform, looking real sweet, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do. And I thought, there, that is what I would like to do. So I visited the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] recruiting station, and they asked me for documents, birth certificate, etcetera, which I didn’t have with me. So that was a no. So then I went the next day to the Army recruiting station and they asked me a lot of questions and they told me they would give me a call, and which they did in a few days. So I went to my aunt’s home and next day, I got a call to report and then I joined the [Canadian Women’s] Army [Corps]. And I knew from then what I was going to do.
When they called me and asked me, told me first that I was promoted to sergeant - which the notes were made in my pay book and records - and then they said, we have a vacancy in London, London headquarters, but it was for a private, would you be interested. And I said, yes, I would give up my three stripes for a posting overseas.
Well, because I thought three stripes meant maybe a couple of bucks more but overseas, the experience would be priceless. So that is why I chose to go overseas rather than be a sergeant instructor. The thought of going overseas, it was exciting until we went to Kitchener for our basic training. And when they woke us up at two o’clock in the morning and told us to, we were leaving Kitchener for the training to go to Halifax, to get onboard ship. We thought, wow, that’s strange, you know, what are we doing, my friend and I. And as we were lined up to get on the boat, all the names were called and I was the last one called and my name was L-A-W-T-O-N. And they had a name not accounted for and one person, it was the name of Lawton, and it was Lawson and so I was the last one onboard the ship. But I was pretty nervous right there; that I had gone to Halifax, and the only one on that draft from Montreal.
And, but anyway, we got out, my friend and I were onboard ship, looking around and she looked at me and I looked at her and we started to cry. And I said, we thought we were pretty smart, don’t we? But then we decided we were homesick already. But after we got going, we were entertained all the time.
We landed at Aldershot [England] and we were posted someplace right there for quite a while until we got acclimatized I guess you’d call it. And then we all got posted in different places. Some of the girls went to Germany. Where I was a typist, I was sent to [Canadian Military] Headquarters [in London] to work on records and the boys returning their documents.
We wouldn’t know if there were bombs or whether there were air raids or what. But we went through the drill, blackouts, hide under your bed and all that drill. But we would never, we were never told whether it was the real thing or not. But we had to use it as such.
It had been bombed out but all the debris, it was noticeable. All the building torn down, they were all moved out, just, you’d never know. It was, how would you say, the skeletons of the buildings were there but all the bricks and everything were cleaned out by the time we got there.