I'm known as Til. My full name is Matilde.
Because of the political situation in Quebec, we couldn't have conscription in Canada. It wasn't because we were a nation of free spirits, or any such thing, just simply a question of politics. The French Canadians wouldn't stand for conscription. What happened was there weren't enough men, and they needed manpower, so they had to get womanpower. It wasn't because Canada suddenly had the insight that women should be freed from their past rigorous roles as little housemates and good girls. It was a sheer result of necessity. That's how the women's services were tolerated by the military. Canadian women like myself, young at the time – I guess I was about twenty-two, which is younger than my grandchildren are now – were invited to join the three services. The Women's Army Corps was the first service to be established, as I remember it.
I joined myself simply because I felt it was probably the biggest experience of my generation – the war itself – and you either had to work in a factory, in which I would have been totally useless, or you had to do something like join the army or one of the services. I don't know why I joined the Army as opposed to the others, except that it was at hand.
After basic training I worked as a dental assistant in one of the men's training camps. It was a very interesting experience because I had never been in a private girls' school or anything. I had never been in an organization with women of all backgrounds and education. And it was fascinating to find the spirit that women had when they were out from under the tutelage of the paternal society we lived in. They were extremely interesting women. Capable, funny – lots of hilarious goings on – and we managed to do the job there weren't enough men to do.
Eventually I was sent for officer's training, and became the Adjutant of a company, No. 18 Company, in Toronto. Our troops were largely not based in the barracks. We had a very small barracks, but we had mostly drivers, mechanics, and girls who worked in the Service Corps as well, many of whom were living off barracks. They were given a daily allowance and lived wherever they were, because the drivers were rarely in Toronto as such. But they were a remarkable group of people. It was an interesting experience.