Veteran Stories:
Jane Bell

Army

  • Personnel of the Canadian Women's Army Corps at No. 3 CWAC (Basic) Training Centre. Unknown place and date.

    Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-145516
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"We had to get up very, very early and if you were lucky, you got a shower. Everybody wanted to get a shower. There was only four bathtubs and over 200 girls (...)"

Transcript

I was sent to [Advanced Driving and Maintenance School] Woodstock. There was a big camp there; I forget the name of it. What it consisted of was training men to be mechanics and how to drive these big machines like Universal carriers [lightly armoured tracked vehicles also known as Bren Gun carriers] and tanks, that sort of thing, and how to fix them when they broke down. It was a training school, but I was there in a secretarial way. I mean, the woman’s job was to relieve the men so the men could go to the front or some other more important job. We did have one female that took that course and she ended up fixing everybody’s car.

But, anyway, I was there the full time that I was in the army. I worked in the battalion orderly room. That’s the main orderly room for the whole camp. I also worked in the military library where I had to update military books with the new things that came along; and I had to write very, very tiny letters to go in between the printing on the page, to get that in there. The main book called Kings Regulations and Orders [for the Canadian Militia], that was the one that I worked on most. And I sure strained my eyeballs, making it so tiny. But that’s what I did.

For a while, at Woodstock, a lot of the girls seemed to be getting sick with what they called stomach trouble. They determined that the food was too heavy and too greasy for girls. So they started giving us salads; they bought toasters, one on each table. We used to make toast, stick the bread on the end of a fork and hold it over the coals of a stove that heated the place. That was better, that kind of a diet. They couldn’t give us the same thing they gave the men.

We had to get up very, very early and if you were lucky, you got a shower. Everybody wanted to get a shower. There was only four bathtubs and over 200 girls, so we had showers. And they had this foot bath in front of every shower that you had to walk through. It was lime [disinfectant] in there. That was to keep down any fungus infections that you might get. We all hated it because it was so cold, so we tried to straddle it and walk on the baseboard to get around it and get in the shower.

But I spent a lot of hours in the library, updating these various military books. And if they needed another typist in the orderly room, I was it. And then we had lunch at a regular time and supper at 5:00 in the mess hall again. And then if you’re finished everything, then you went back to your barracks. Our barracks was just outside the camp. We weren’t in where the men were. We were on the outside, a block away.

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