Veteran Stories:
Norma McArthur


  • Photo taken on the second anniversary of the founding of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service on August 29, 1944. The WRCNS was the youngest of the women's forces. Norma is second from left.

  • Six WRENs in a Jeep, September 1944. This photo accompanied an article describing the need for more Women's Naval recruitment.

  • Photo taken of Naval personnel celebrating VE-Day in Winnipeg at HMCS Chippawa. May 1945.

  • Naval personnel relaxing at the Canteen in Windsor.

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"The Canada badge on our sleeves made us the most popular girls in the whole room"


I'm Norma Graham McArthur. I was Norma Graham in the Navy. I was at the University of Western Ontario in my final year when we saw some videos of the three services, and I decided that the senior service - the Navy - was the one for me. So after graduation I joined the WRENs in London. Then in Galt we had lots of parades and lots of writing to do and learning about the background of the Navy, and it was quite interesting. Then I was posted to Windsor, where I was a writer in recruiting. There were only six WRENs there and we did a little work at trying to raise money for the war effort. I was rooming with another girl from Great Britain. She had come over as an evacuee as a child and when she grew to be eighteen she decided to join the WRENs, and I met her in Windsor. We had a canteen not to far away that was kind of a nice place to meet other people. We met other army people and air force people there. Later, toward the end of the war, she went back to England to take her discharge and that was the last I had seen of her in 1945. Well then, thirty years later, I had the chance to go over to England and I renewed my acquaintance with her three different times. It was just such a wonderful experience to see her again and see where she lived. V-E Day mid-May of '45 was just crazy. I can remember downtown Winnipeg just being in a real uproar with tickertape coming down and people running everywhere. It was just a crazy, crazy day. But oh, what a wonderful day. Then I was sent from Winnipeg to Montreal, and I had quite a nice experience there. If you were in the service, you could travel free on a plane if there was room. The four of us from Montreal went to Dorval airport and got on a plane for New York, and we had a weekend in New York. We had to take the train home, of course, because we couldn't be sure of getting back in time by trying to take a plane. And one thing we noticed was when we were at the USO in New York, the Canada badge on our sleeves made us the most popular girls in the whole room. It really was wonderful. And by the way, the plane that I traveled on was a Lancaster bomber from England. We had to sit with our backs along the edge of the plane. So my discharge was from Toronto in HMCS York, and one thing that impressed me about my visit to Toronto, even though it was at the end of the war and I was being signed off, was the fact that the shore patrol met every streetcar at the end of Rosedale Crescent where the WRENs lived, and escorted them home. They took care of the girls very well in the Navy.
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