Wrens parading on Barrington Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1952.Dorothy Butler
New Wrens at HMCS Conestoga. Galt, Ontario,1952.Dorothy Butler
Dorothy Butler while she was stationed at HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia.Dorothy Butler
Wrens on the deck of the Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent. 1952.Dorothy Butler
"I looked up from sitting in the office and here was this kid standing there with blood from his hairline right down to his waistline, bleeding. "
My name is Dorothy Butler. My maiden name was Owen. I was on continuous naval duty with the Wrens during the Korean combat. And I was stationed in [HMCS] Cornwallis [Nova Scotia] and I was stationed in [HMCS] Stadacona in Halifax and I was at [HMCS] Naden [British Columbia] on training and I was in [HMCS] Shearwater [Nova Scotia] where I finished my time. While I was on inquiry desk at Stadacona Hospital, was when they had a steam pipe burst in the dockyard, and two men were hit with the pressure of the steam. One man died at the time. The other man survived and was taken to Stadacona Hospital. And, while I was – they took me up to see him, which was horrendous, but I also had to take his wife to the padre, and on the way over she said to me, “Will he be able to see?” He lived for eight hours that way and finally passed away. But I said to her, I didn’t know what to say to her, you know – no one said anything to her, none of the nurses had mentioned anything. And I thought she should be prepared for the worst, so this was handled there.
At Shearwater, I was the only Wren in the hospital there, and it was my duty to go out on – if a Wren was out on a job somewhere out in the boondocks and took sick, they would fly me out in a Bell helicopter to pick her up and bring her back. I also delivered a baby for someone, one of the servicemen – the officers’ wives, which shocked me, and made me decide I didn’t want to have any children, but, I changed my mind. At Naden, we were trained to take the place of a doctor, the same as the men were trained, because when they’re on ships, there wasn’t a doctor available – they had to be able to read the symptoms and act on them and even perform minor operations, if necessary. So we were trained to take their place when they left for sea. That was our main object.
One night while I was at Shearwater, I was on nights and, there were two of us on duty, and the other petty officer was having his stand down time, he was asleep, and I heard the backdoor open and I thought it was the ambulance driver, and I looked up from sitting in the office and here was this kid standing there with blood from his hairline right down to his waistline, bleeding. He ended up going through the windshield and he walked all the way from the Eastern Passage Road up into the hospital. I had to get my CO [commanding officer] up out of bed and we ended up stitching him, I don’t know, I can’t remember how many stitches we put in his face. But thank God, he was left with hardly any scarring. But these were things that you did, you went ahead and did them, and you didn’t think twice.