Irene Pidgeon on the day she was discharged from the military on August 26th, 1946.Irene Pidgeon
Irene Pidgeon attending the Memory Project event at the Perley Rideau Veteran Health Centre in Ottawa on June 9th, 2011.Historica Canada
Irene Pidgeon (2nd from right) with friends in Rockliffe Park, Ontario in 1946.Irene Pidgeon
Irene Pidgeon home on leave in Quebec in 1943.Irene Pidgeon
Irene Pidgeon's service medals, including the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the War Medal 1939-1945.Historica Canada
"When the troops went in on June the 6th of 1944, many of them were wounded and had to be sent back to England and then came to St. Thomas for further surgery and that kind of repair work. They were very bitter because they were young. The war was over for them and they would never be quite the same again."
I was born on the front road near Shawville, Quebec on the family farm that my family have owned for more than 100 years. I left there when I was 17, I came to work in the government in Ottawa but I met a lot of Air Force girls. And so I determined I was going to join the Air Force. It was the spring, it was late May of 1944. And there was another girl from Ottawa, Ethel Combs, and she and I went to Rockcliffe [a training based located in Rockcliffe Park, Ontario] together then and we met with another girl from British Columbia. The three of us keep in touch still to this day.
After basic training at Rockcliffe, I was sent to St. Thomas, Ontario. At St. Thomas, there was a big hospital. It had been built under Mitch Hepburn, a liberal premier, on his property, as a mental hospital. And in 1939 in September, the government took it over as a technical training school. There were bars on all the windows, there were no doorknobs, it was a very interesting place to live and work. And I was there for 11 months and I worked as a nursing assistant.
When the troops went in on June the 6th of 1944, many of them were wounded and had to be sent back to England and then came to St. Thomas for further surgery and that kind of repair work. They were very bitter because they were young. The war was over for them and they would never be quite the same again.
It was an awful war. We hoped there wouldn’t be another conflict as such. The war in Europe ended on the 8th of May, 1945. I got my discharge from Lachine [Quebec] and I got $226 was my payout. Wasn’t I rich? My husband to be surprised me right there with a diamond ring. So I went from being in the Air Force, a few months later, to being an air force wife. I think it was wonderful to meet the different people from all over the country and we all had something in common. And I don’t regret ever having joined the Air Force.
It was enlarged my life because I had never been further afield from Shawville than Ottawa. I got out into the world and saw there were good people and there were bad people of all sorts.