Jeanne Walters in uniform of Canadian Women's Army Corps. 1944.Jeanne Walters
Jeanne Walters in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, October 2012.Historica Canada
"We wrote a lot of letters, sometimes we would write one every week ... I think it numbered in about the 300s by the time my husband came home from Holland. "
I had wanted to join [CWAC] for a long time but my husband had gone over in 1941 and he'd been stationed in four or five countries. He just thought it wasn't a place for me to—he didn't want me to join in any case. So that's how come I didn't join up ‘til the year before the war ended.
We wrote a lot of letters, sometimes we would write one every week and we didn't keep track of them and then over the years, we realized that you would get a letter that was a month earlier—well, no, it would be later. The earlier ones would be later. You'd get three or four in a package or something. So we decided we would start and number our letters so when we received them, we would know you read number 1, 2, 4 or whatever. I think it numbered in about the 300s by the time my husband came home from Holland. I guess he was in Holland at the end. Yes, I think so, in Holland. He was in Holland on VE Day [8 May 1945] anyways. I remember that.
Of course I was here and I was involved with women’s organizations that were looking after soldiers. Dances for them in their big boots. And I remember them stepping on my feet and having soldiers for supper on Sundays, taking them around. They were actually—there was an air force training plant* here in Saskatoon for all of Canada. There were about 5,000 airmen coming from all over the world for this air training to become pilots. So there was a lot of activity during the war here because of all these air force men. And of course a lot of the girls wound up becoming their girlfriends or wives or whatever. So we actually had a lot of—well, particularly British air force people married here in the city.
There was a lot of activity because everybody was trying to help with the war effort. Women knitted socks and mittens and helped make bandages for hospitals. Did the parcels for prisoners of war, a lot of things. And all the empty lots in our city were made into Victory Gardens. Anybody that didn't have a yard was a garden.
I wrote him and I said, “I've joined,” and he said, “Well, I've written Mum and Dad and I have told them how disappointed.” He said, “I thought you really were doing a job on her, not for her to join.” But it isn't because they weren't patriotic but it just—I guess my husband had been around in so many places, he just thought it wasn't maybe the place.
I enlisted in Regina and I went for training in Kitchener, Ontario. I remember fainting on the parade ground one day, it was so hot. Wasn't raining, it was hot. And of course they have to leave you there because you can't interrupt anything while a service is on. I made a lot of friends. I used to keep in touch with a dozen or two. And then, you know, the war goes along and people move away and one thing or another. But I still have two friends that I served with that I see and keep in touch with.
I didn't go overseas. They had asked me if I wanted to go overseas, they would take me because of my clerical experience. But I was an only child, my mother had been a widow since I was very young and they just felt maybe it was better that I stay here in Canada. So they said, “Do you have a preference?” I said, “It doesn't matter to me at all.” So I wound up in Regina which is only three hours’ drive from here. So I was home a lot of weekends and I would bring my CWAC friends along back with me. It was an outing for them to see Saskatoon and get away from the camp, of course.
We had a Brigadier Trudeau that was in charge of Depot Manning No. 12, I remember that. I handled files, the secret files that we had. I never did know what was in them but I knew that that's what it was and of course there were things that I did hear and things I shouldn't have heard maybe. But it was an interesting job.
In Saskatoon, where my husband’s family were in the bicycle business, there used to be—during the wartime there were a lot of bicycle carriers that carried telegrams and things that were sent when someone had been killed. So when you saw them going to somebody’s house, you thought, “Oh dear, must have bad news.” And, of course, it usually was.
*RCAF Station Saskatoon, British Commonwealth Air Training Plan