Lydia Daikens and her husband met at HMCS Kings in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1943.Lydia Daikens
Lydia Daikens at HMCS Kings in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1943.Lydia Daikens
Lydia Daikens (first row on right), marches to work with the first draft of WRENs in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1943.Lydia Daikens
Lydia Daikens stands for inspection with her unit in the 3rd row on the far left in 1943.Lydia Daikens
Lydia Daikens' certificate of service.Lydia Daikens
"For quite some time after he was killed in France, I had the feeling he’s not gone, he’s just missing in action, I feel sure he’ll come back."
At the time I was working in a small arms plant in Lakeview, working on the Lee-Enfield [British repeat action] rifle and word came out that there was going to be a formation of the Wrens [Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service], of the navy; and I was very interested in that. So I immediately went down to Toronto; and I was accepted and within days, actually on 2 December 1942, I signed on. I went on active service the next day. I was given orders to proceed to Galt to HMCS Conestoga to train and I had a probationary period of three months, which was normal.
But after two weeks only of training, I was informed I would be sent to Halifax in the first ever draft of women to a naval base; and it was HMCS Kings, which is Kings College, part of Dalhousie University, but it was taken over by the navy for an officers’ training establishment. But they sent me home on leave for Christmas which was pretty good, I thought. But I was sworn to secrecy and was quite impressed with that. I wasn’t to speak about anything that I saw.
Well, I went home for Christmas and it was a good time because my brother, Bill, was in the First Special Service Force; and I saw him, and I was never to see him again because he died in France. That Christmas it was very wonderful because I hadn’t seen my brother for a while and he’d come up from leave from Mount Helena, Montana [Fort Harrison]. It was just so wonderful to see him; and he was glad to see me and happy to see that I was in the navy. He wanted to be in the navy, but he had this opportunity to join First Special Service and because they were paratroopers, that appealed to him.
Well, it was a short Christmas and we parted; and it was very sad that I didn’t see him anymore. For quite some time after he was killed in France, I had the feeling he’s not gone, he’s just missing in action, I feel sure he’ll come back. I was in denial, I guess. I couldn’t accept it. However, I did come to terms with it.
To go on, anyway, I was told I was to be a ward room attendant in this officers’ training establishment, which was not my first choice, but I was subject to the needs of the navy and so I accepted. I had really hoped to become part of the signals at [HMC Signal School] Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. Now, in late December, under Commander Isabel McNeil, along with 50 possibly or more, we were sent by train to Halifax and very rough accommodations, I remember. We arrived in Halifax under cover of darkness; it was about 3:30 in the morning. We were assembled in front of the Nova Scotia Hotel; and we were driven in trucks up to the barracks located near Kings.
However, in the meantime, I met a young sailor serving on a minesweeper and he used to go to sea on corvette [patrol and convoy escort vessel] duty. So later, we became engaged; and in February 1944, I went back home to Oakville, Ontario, and we were married. I was in the Wren’s barracks doing what Wrens do and I happened to go in to the hallway, the main entranceway, and there was a group of young sailors talking to the Wren who was in charge. She had been asked by them if they could meet some Wrens; [laughs] and she obliged. So that’s how I met him: not out downtown or anything, right there in the barracks. And that was the beginning of that. We went out once or twice and I was not terribly impressed with him at first. He was tall and he was blond; and I look back at Prince Philip’s pictures when he was the same age, and I was thinking, that’s what he looked like. [laughs] So I finally took to him and we began to go together.