Veteran Stories:
Joan M. “Barc” Barclay-Drummond

Air Force

  • Inspection of No. 3 Service Flying Training School, Currie, Alberta, by the Governor General of Canada, The Earl of Athlone, 1943. LAW Joan M. Barclay-Drummond is on the far right of the first column.

    Joan M. Barclay-Drummond
  • LAW Joan M. Barclay-Drummond (third from left) and comrades from the Royal Canadian Air Force, Women's Division (RCAF, WD) following the inspection by the Governor General of Canada of No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Currie, Alberta, 1943.

    Joan M. Barclay-Drummond
  • Avro Anson training planes from No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) in flight over the Alberta Rockies, 1943.

    Joan M. Barclay-Drummond
  • Joan M. Barclay-Drummond joined the Canadian Red Cross in 1945. She is shown here that same year in Montreal, Quebec with a newly-arrived young Dutch immigrant.

    Joan M. Barclay-Drummond
  • An article about LAW Joan M. Barclay-Drummond from a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) publication, February 1944.

    Joan M. Barclay-Drummond
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And we weren’t particularly welcome because they realized that, A, I was a mechanic, B, I was a darned good driver, if I do say so myself."

Transcript

And I wanted to do my best, I didn’t want to stay home and do nothing. My brother was in the navy and I was a flying nut and so the [Royal Canadian] Air Force was just natural for me to join. And we were being trained by what they called women’s air force [WAAF - Women's Auxiliary Air Force] personnel from England. She was a sergeant major in the true variety of sergeant major, complete with a strident English accent and buckteeth. And she, for some reason or other, I don’t know why, she took an instant dislike to me and I instantly disliked her. And she was, I think she knew that I was too young [she was 17 at the time] and I think she was trying to break me. And of course, the more she tried, the more stubborn I got and any horrible duties – the day we all had our inoculations, a lot of the girls passed out and a lot of them were very sick to their stomachs and she had me on latrine duty on purpose, to clean up. And it just went on and on and on like that for, I never got over it until 1988, they had a reunion in Calgary. And I was walking out of, we were staying at the University of Alberta, and I walked down the corridor and I spotted her. I couldn’t have missed her if a cow flew by. And she spotted me too. And we ended up, we told each other how we had disliked each other and we became quite good friends after that.

Went into the motor division and I had my training in Toronto [Ontario]. Old Havergal school. And I ended up in a room my mother told me that her sister had been in at boarding school in Old Havergal. And it was on Jarvis Street; Jarvis Street was renowned for the ladies of the evening and we weren’t very welcome on Jarvis Street, I can tell you. And we learnt to drive everything from oil tenders to ambulances to trucks to ordinary cars.

My very first posting was at No. 3 SFTS [Service Flying Training School] in Currie, Alberta. And my first words of greeting on that station is what the F--- are you doing here?! So I learnt that in a big hurry. And I discovered that I was only the fourth lady transport driver in the whole station. And we weren’t particularly welcome because they realized that, A, I was a mechanic, B, I was a darned good driver, if I do say so myself. And my sergeant realized that and he became very friendly and he gave me all the heavy stuff to do because he knew I could do it. Most of all, the activity or all the action and drama and stuff was at No. 3, usually. I was on crash ambulance duty for about four months and that was not a very pleasant experience because we did lose three or four planes during that tenure of time. And I witnessed a lot of horror, I must say.

Well, I think I was chosen to do it because I didn’t seem to be ruffled by too much and I was so busy trying to keep quiet and keep my age, sort of not get caught, let’s put it that way, that I never showed any reaction or anything. So they thought I would be pretty steady on the crash scene and not panic or do anything, which I didn’t do. So actually, it was very, it was a fascinating job if you didn’t mind the kind of horror that went with it.

Follow us