Veteran Stories:
Ruth Gwendolyn Phyllis Aitken (née Windus)

Air Force

  • Ruth Aitken on the day she met Doug Aitken, her future husband, in London, Ontario, May 1943.

    Ruth Aitken
  • Ruth Aitken (née Windus) with Doug Aitken's bicycle, London, Ontario, 1943.

    Ruth Aitken
  • Ruth Aitken's (née Windus) ID card from training camp, January 18, 1943.

    Ruth Aitken
  • Delia Barret, left, and Ruth Aitken (née Windus), right, on a farm in Trenton, Ontario, 1945.

    Ruth Aitken
  • Nora White and Ruth Aitken (née Windus) writing letters in front of the barracks, Trenton, Ontario, 1945.

    Ruth Aiken
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"Some of the student pilots were killed...some of them didn’t seem much older than I was; and some of them were a long ways from home, no relatives or anything at the funeral even."

Transcript

I didn’t have any idea ahead of time what it would be. I just figured you would get into the service [Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division] and you would do what you were told to do. I didn’t know whether I was going to end up being a server in the officers’ mess or in the kitchen or something because I did have my business course, but I didn’t know that that’s where they’d use me.

Well, I did do office work and I did move around a little bit. I worked on DROs [Daily Routine Orders] for a short period of time, and on engine and airframe mechanics, on the log books. These are the log books for the planes; and you had to record everything that was done to each plane that you had to make sure you got everything into the right category, like the airframe or the air engine.

When I was working on the log books, the tarmac was right outside the hangar and the planes would be coming in with the [British Commonwealth Air Training Plan] student pilots, coming in and taking off; and you sort of held your breath every time, wondering if everything would sort of go all right. If any of the students forgot to put the wheels down when they landed, they would have to push a wheel everywhere they went for so many days, like I think it was about three days, every time they went to the mess hall to eat or to work, or to the barracks, or anything. So they never forgot to put their wheels down again. I mean, they always did it.

Some of the student pilots were killed, were crashed. They didn’t, like they were at the controls and things didn’t work right, they didn’t, I guess they just made a mistake or didn’t learn fast enough, or something. Some of them didn’t seem much older than I was; and some of them were a long ways from home, no relatives or anything at the funeral even.

There was one red headed chap, but I think he was a Canadian, but he was a minister’s son and he was an only child. And another girl and I felt quite badly. We wrote to his mother. The mother never wrote back, but I could understand. Nice chap. Very nice, redhead.

In a couple of cases, I remember we had a funeral parade and you have to march very slowly. However, I think that the funeral parade held up traffic on the road and that, after two or three times, that was stopped also because it interfered with the traffic of the community, if the parade was on the road and the cemetery was quite a ways from the station.

I was in the service exactly three years and the government gave you three years of education after you got out. So I took my nurse’s training and I used that nurse’s training for 42 years. I did take nine years out when I had my family, but otherwise, I nursed for 42.

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