Veteran Stories:
Dorothy Constance “Chappy” Garen (née Chapman)

Air Force

  • Dorothy Garen (née Chapman) and Don Garen`s wedding photo, 1947. They met in 1946 through the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Campaign.

    Dorothy Garen
  • Dorothy Garen (née Chapman) just after her enlistment in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Women's Division, Toronto, Ontario, 1942.

    Dorothy Garen
  • Dorothy Garen (née Chapman) at an event hosted by The Memory Project, Canmore, Alberta, June 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I was attached to Directorate of Intelligence, intelligence maps."

Transcript

My name is Dorothy Garen. I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1922. First time I was under air member for training [AMT] and I kept all of the books on establishments for every station in Canada, whether it’s RAF [Royal Air Force] or … It was like bookkeeping, that part of it. And then later, they sort of took us from clerk general as you go in to clerk admin and so after I got sergeant, I was sent from AMT. I went do this little stint at a barracks; and I ran the barracks sort of to keep the women in line, see that they came in on time, and so on. So I assisted an officer and we looked after this big house in Toronto. And I know, this is great, I can get out and go to dances and whatever. [laughs] I loved dancing. So anyhow, I wasn’t there, I don’t think I was even there a whole year and the officer called me in; and she said, Chapman, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ve got a name posting. I said, where ̶ back to [Royal Canadian Air Force Headquarters] Ottawa? So I went back to Ottawa; and this time I was in air member for air staff, AMAS. We had to use all these terms. At that time, Billy Bishop was just leaving and he was the big ace, you know, from our first war. Anyway, things were God darn funny. And what was I going to do about that one? Oh yeah. So I was attached to Directorate of Intelligence, intelligence maps. A lot of it, they kept a lot on Japan and all this sort of thing. But mine wasn’t as that severe, or whatever. I was looking after putting out a publication for pilots; and it was called navigation and something or other. Anyway, every airfield or landing spot, whether here or in the northern U.S., we had books put out so that the pilots flying in that airspace could be guided down, if they had to land or something. The only thing I can remember in Ottawa is you can’t damage yourself ̶ like if you hurt your arm or something doing sports or something, and it wasn’t an authorized by the service, whatever it was, you were blamed for the accident. But if you were on something that was organized in any way through the service and anything happened, they look after it. So what happened was, in Ottawa, we were going out on a bike hike; and it had been an organized bike hike. It’s if you had a bike, which I put in for so I could get one during the war. Then we went over to Hull; and I thought, oh no, it was a Sunday, of course, so it was just a jaunt to go because we’re just across the way from it. I got arrested for wearing service shorts, which were blue and they were fairly short; and for wearing shorts, commonly called, you know, like pants commonly called shorts, and [for] cycling in Hull on a Sunday. And girls were going by us. Young girls with short skirts flying in the air, you could see their underwear. They don’t bother them because they were properly dressed in a skirt, you see. And I’ll never forget that. I said, are you kidding? [laughs] Anyway, so a week later, I got a summons to go to Hull and face this summons. So I thought, to heck, I’m in the air force headquarters; I’ll go down to the legal department. I went down there and I said, now, what am I going to do about this? They said, was it an organized sport? I said, yes, I can name the officer if you want, and that. We’ll look after it, forget it. So they looked after it. So that was just something that remained in my memory. Our prisoners of war from Germany and most of them were pilots or crew of some kind, because they would get shot down or crashed, or just taken. Basically, I saw some other pilots that had served in the Mediterranean, when I went out on the train, and they were just washed out. Their eyes were vacant. They were just, ugh, done for. Without having a true mental problem, they were just washed right out. Well, the thing was, I think, you just treated them like, you know, they were just as ordinary as when they went in sort of thing; and you says, have you been in touch with your family, and would you like us to call them or not? I did have one come; and he said, I would like to get in touch, I had a brother who was in northern Germany, he said, and I was a prisoner of war in southern Germany so if he comes through, please, contact me and we’ll get together. So I did that and they got in touch with their families. One had married, some of these shoe people, it was an important Canadian manufacturer of shoes; and the one had married the daughter, the president of the company, sort of thing. I said, oh yeah, well, I think I can trace that back for you. So I did. So one day I got a call. He said, Sergeant Chapman? I said, yes? He said, we’d like to have you come and meet the family. [laughs] So I did.
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