Veteran Stories:
Joan Thompson Voller

Navy

  • Joan Thompson in her first photo in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service uniform at HMCS Hunter in Windsor. May 1944.

  • Joan Thompson was a singer and actor with the Navy show. She is in this picture with actor Thomas Harvey, who later went on to the Wayne and Shuster Show.

  • Joan Thompson was later transferred to HMCS Cornwallis and stayed there for over a year. HMCS Cornwallis was so big that it was like a town in itself.

  • The "Kitchen Gang" at HMCS Hunter. They did whatever jobs were thrown at them. Spring 1944.

  • Joan Thompson and future husband Keith Voller (kneeling in the middle row, far left) enjoy the Christmas party at a dance hall in Digby, Nova Scotia, 1944.

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"One enjoyable event was joining the Cornwallis Navy Show as a singer."

Transcript

My name is Joan Voller, formerly Joan Thompson. I live in Ottawa. In 1941 I was working at the Bureau of Statistics, helping with the 1941 census. But after three years, I felt the need to contribute more towards the war effort. My brother Reg Thompson had joined the RCN in 1937 and was on North Atlantic convoy duty. What better incentive for joining the Wrens. My friend Esther Andrew and I both joined the Wrens in Ottawa. Within two weeks of enlisting we were off by train to Windsor, Ontario, to release men for sea duty. Wrens weren't allowed to serve on ships during World War II. We were put to work in the galley at HMCS Hunter. The cooks we worked with were a great lot of fellows. We also took a great deal of training. Marching was enjoyable for me. We went on parade in Detroit at one time. In August 1944 we were drafted to HMCS Conestoga, Galt, for four weeks of more training. We were old salts by then, we considered. Commander Isabel McNeil was our CO, the only female Commanding Officer in the RCN at that time, I believe. Adelaide Sinclair was director of the Wrens. I was next drafted to HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. The only category available was as an Officer's Steward, etc.. So we were trained for that work. I was put in charge of the cloakroom at the ward room, which I enjoyed. I met several officers who had become well known for various actions at sea. I also worked as a writer in administration. One enjoyable event was joining the Cornwallis Navy Show as a singer. Our director was Lou Silvers, who continued directing after the war. Another sailor, Tom Harvey, was with the Wayne and Schuster Show. We took the show to several bases in Nova Scotia. I met my future husband, a British submariner, in Digby. Became engaged before he was drafted to the USA, and then back to the UK. When war ended, I requested taking my demob in the UK. I sailed on the Lady Rodney in 1946. After I was discharged at HMCS Naiobi, London, I traveled to the village of Frensham, where Keith Voller and I were married on April 20th 1946. War-torn England was still recovering from the years of bombing, rationing, etc., but I enjoyed living there for nearly two years. Had a baby girl, Susan. Keith was a bobby in Yorkshire for a year before sailing for Canada on the Aquitania in October 1947. My uniform in on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, in the World War II section. It was a wonderful experience being in uniform, and doing a job for the war effort in World War II.
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