Veteran Stories:
Ruth Werbin

Navy

  • Ruth Werbin's Medals for Service as a WREN in the Navy. (Left to Right: Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal 1939-1945)

  • Ruth Werbin's Discharge Certificate, February 26, 1946. Ruth Werbin served as a WREN in the Navy

  • Ruth Werbin's Certificate of Entitlement to War Service Badges, February 26, 1946

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"It was emotional at the time, when we learned of one of our ships being lost, one of our Corvette."

Transcript

My name was Ruth Charleton. I served with the WRENS and I was a leading WREN writer. And I served in World War II.

At the time when I joined up, I was filled with mixed feeling of patriotism and a sense of adventure. I was 20 years old. I was looking to get away from Winnipeg and to see the big world out there.

Oh well, I signed up in... at HMCS Chippawa in... in Winnipeg in 1942. Now we had a choice at that time. Writer or cook or whatever. And when I first joined up all they... they needed cooks and stewardesses and it was not what I wanted, I chose to be a... I put down that I wanted to be a writer. I already had some knowledge of office work and stenography. In the jobs that I had as a writer, in the WRCNS [Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service], being a member of the silent service meant that anything at all that I learned while serving, I kept to myself. Insofar as the loss of ships, the names of ships, the names of bases, etcetera. That kind of thing. At one point one little task that I had... we would go out to the parade ground each day in Halifax, to burn secret messages. I can remember at the time, I took that very seriously. And whatever I saw, to this day, I don't remember. I simply blanked out anything that I read on those telegrams or whatever. It was emotional at the time, when we learned of one of our ships being lost, one of our Corvettes. And even with some of the ships in the Merchant Navy. We couldn't help but know something of that in the year 1943 because great loss of shipping at that time, in '43 and '44. But especially '43 was bad because the U-boats were over here on the Atlantic coast.

I still remember it so vivid when my name come over the... the intercom to report back to the office. And reported back there and, of course, "on the double" meant on the double. Went back to the office and there was a line-up of sailors, oh, probably only maybe twenty or so... and it was another one of our ships had gone down and when I was behind the counter checking the names off on that ship's crew, one young fellow there, he wasn't any older than I was, and he was so uptight and he said that he'd lost his parents and he had just lost his only brother who was left. He'd just lost him at sea. And I just... you know, there was a counter between us and I just felt like he needed a shoulder to cry on and I couldn't do anything about it except reach over and... and take his hand. And this is something, it's just a small incident but, you know, I've never forgotten that. And it just made us... it made me, anyway, just more aware of where I was and who I was and what I was doing there. I realized that I was part of the war effort. I was doing something towards the war... war effort and I felt that I was proud to... I was just more aware of the pride that I felt in being a WREN and... and also being able to serve my country. And I think that's when I started to feel that I was Canadian.

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