Veteran Stories:
Doris “May” Riva

Air Force

  • Doris "May" Riva, Calgary, Alberta, Winter, 1943. "I drove everything with 4-6 wheels except a baby carriage."

    Doris May" Riva"
  • Photo of Doris "May" Riva taken at an event hosted by The Memory Project in Canmore, Alberta, in August 2010.

    Doris May" Riva"
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"I really, really, enjoyed my time. Four and a half years were the best four and a half years of my life."


Now, when I went to sign up to go into the services, I asked for either a hospital assistant or transport. And transport came up first, so that’s what I got. We were sent to Toronto for our training, 354 Jarvis Street. And on there, we drove just panel jobs, you know, like the station wagons. And of course in those days, they weren’t adjustable. I was five-foot-one, so I had lots of cushions. People would stand on the street and they wouldn’t look, I must be tall. When they looked when I got out, their mouths just dropped open. And we trained there from April until July [1942]. I think it was about the fifth when I came back west. So I got posted right back to home area, to Claresholm [Alberta]. It was a Service Flying Training School [No. 15 SFTS, British Commonwealth Air Training Plan]. We had Aussies there, we had New Zealanders there and the first snowstorm, they were out there in their shorts rolling around in the snow. I drove pretty well everything in the air force. I backed what they call a steak truck with an 18-foot trailer behind into a garage without any problems. I was quite proud of myself. And they had to fix the fire truck. They had to put blocks on it like you do with children’s trikes because I was so short I couldn’t reach the pedals. And when I came back to Claresholm, we had a few married people on the station. And so I used to work from, the shift went from four in the evening to eight in the morning but there was a lapse of time in there, because we used to have to look after the flares for the flying. Sometimes the wind was pretty bad down there and we had Tiger Moths. So when they landed, you had to be ready to jump on them to hold them down. Whoever was on duty, maybe five or six of us, as soon as it touched the ground we’d grab the wings, underneath the wings there was things that went out. So we grabbed them, just to hold them down, because the wind would just take them right up again. I had a friend who worked in the parachute section and he had to go up when they took the plane up and this pilot was taking a solo flight. And we went up and - beautiful looking at the countryside from the air. And I noticed he was circling around quite a bit but it was a busy flying school. So I just thought they were busy and finally my friend came back and he said the pilot can’t get his wheels down. I said, well, you’ve only got to die once. He brought the plane in without; very little damage. He was afraid that I might panic. It’s like I said, you’re only going to die once. I was there for 39 months before I got moved. I was posted from there to Western Air Command for a bit and reposted to Patricia Bay and that’s out at the end of Vancouver Island. And that’s where I went overseas, from there. The war was over but the men over there were getting disgruntled because they weren’t getting home. So they sent three loads of WDs [Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division members] over to clean up the mess. And we were transporting vehicles from our station to Sheffield, England. That was crazy. We went on one [convoy] and the lead driver didn’t take the right turn, so we were all around the roundabout and back. He was backwards where we were coming in. So everybody had to back all the way out again. I really, really, enjoyed my time. Four and a half years were the best four and a half years of my life. I say that all the time.
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