Pearle Hayes (née Booth) in Torbay, Newfoundland, 1943.Pearle Hayes
Pearl Hayes (née Booth) on the train to Summerside, PEI, 1942.Pearle Hayes
Pearl Hayes (née Booth), a driver at #95 ITS in Summerside, PEI, 1942.Pearle Hayes
Pearle and Robert Hayes' wedding day, July 3, 1943. He was Typhoon pilot with the RCAF. They met in Torbay, Newfoundland and were married in Sherbrooke, Quebec.Pearle Hayes
Bob Hayes, Pearle's husband was a Typhoon pilot. This photo was taken in July 1943 by the Ministère of Defence.Canada. Department of National Defence
"I flew every opportunity I could and when he offered to take me up, I was really thrilled"
We were in the first group of women to enlist, so everything was a little bit experimental. We were posted to a service flying training station right on the aerodrome [airfield] where the young pilots were learning to fly before being sent overseas. So that was interesting as well. In spite of the fact, I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk, I was appointed to be the dispatcher. So I was sitting behind a desk anyway.
One of the problems was I was also on ambulance relief and hadn’t been at the station too long when they got a call, and I had to drive the ambulance to the crash. And that wasn’t very pleasant. The student, his shoes had caught on the wing. I drove up and I glanced out; and he was, his body was in the parachute tangled, he’d caught on the wing. So I found that very hard to take and when I got back to the office, the sergeant major told me to take the afternoon off. It brought me very close to the war there, knowing what these young chaps were going to be doing and going through because they were all so young. They were only 18, 19, 20, you know, my age and younger.
I was re-mustered from there to a new course that was coming up, code and cipher. And then we went by boat to Newfoundland and it was just after the ferry had been sunk, going to Newfoundland, so we were very nervous on the water because that’s where the troop ships were leaving from Halifax and other merchant ships were leaving. So then there was a lot of submarine concentration. But it was a beautiful sight coming into the harbour at St. John’s because there were all the troop ships and the planes were flying; and we were unloaded onto a truck and went by truck to what they called [RCAF Station] Torbay, just out of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
We went into town; we had to go with groups of two or three. We had to have at least two male escorts because the Germans were walking in the streets. They sank a sub and found two of the chaps that they… had tickets to the theatre in St. John’s in their pockets, so we knew they were walking around. So it was fairly dangerous over there.
I remember a lot the snow. They had so much snow there that they couldn’t do a lot of flying. And one of the things most vivid in my mind is that’s where I met the love of my life. The first night in sergeants’ mess, I was the only sergeant in there at the time, and he had come back from leave in Toronto visiting his father who was, actually, he was dying, but he didn’t know it at the time. After he came back, he did pass away. And he, Bob his name was, couldn’t go home because he already had compassionate leave. And there was so much going on with the shipping lane being so close to where we were, there was so much going on that even I couldn’t get ground crew leave.
And we went together for about six months and then he was posted overseas with. He was a fighter pilot. Bob wanted me to get leave and come out and get married; and then he wanted me not to be in the air force anymore, but I did stay in active. Well, you couldn’t just leave. You had to have a good reason. Well, I did have a reason eventually because when I got back to Newfoundland, I was posted to Ottawa and I was to get my commission, and go overseas. And when I had my medical, they discovered I was two weeks pregnant, so that was the end that idea.
I was devastated at first, but then when I was working in Ottawa, the [Hawker] Typhoon [fighter-bomber] plane was not too well known. When I was working in Ottawa, I was decoding the casualty list and the Typhoons were doing a lot of crashing when they started to fly. And then I found out that, I got a Toronto Star one morning and Bob’s picture was in it as a group of young pilots who were going to be active in D-Day, and said that he was flying Typhoon fighter bombers. So I was very fearful that he would never come back. I knew I was going to have a baby, in my thoughts, at least I have some part of him. I don’t know, I was only 21, going on 22, but… The most vivid memory I have of my time is Bob took me for a flight in a [North American] Harvard [training aircraft] and I loved to fly in Summerside Bay [Prince Edward Island], tested the planes every night; and I would go down and they would be there standing with a flight suit for me to go for a flight. But they finally changed that, they were afraid of an accident or something, so I couldn’t go anymore. I flew every opportunity I could and when he offered to take me up, I was really thrilled. And you sit in the back seat and you talk over, like I had a headset on, and he was saying something to me, but I couldn’t hear what he said. So I shook my head and then the next thing he asked me something else and then I nodded, but what he first said was, have you ever blacked out, and I shook my head, which meant no; and then he said, would you like to try it and I nodded, still not knowing what he was saying. So he assumed I meant yes, so he did all kinds of aerobatics and I did black out. And when we landed, I said, you know, that was the thrill of a lifetime. It really was. But he said, would you like to go for supper now and I said, not really, I don’t really feel like eating. So I went back to my barracks and I was okay, I just didn’t want to be sick to my stomach or anything because I never had been in an aircraft; and I was just a little bit queasy. But I was all right after a while.
But I’ve never forgotten that and you know, he used to tell people about that and he was so proud that I came through it. I was so proud that he mentioned it to other people that it meant something to him too.