Kathleen in her nursing sister uniform before leaving for England.Photo courtesy of Carol Wyatt.
Kathleen's husband, William Wyatt. in Alberta before embarking.Photo courtesy of Carol Wyatt.
Kathleen and her brother Charles Swan at the beginning of the Second World War. He did not have a new uniform assigned to him yet when he went to Europe with the First Division from Edmonton.Photo courtesy of Carol Wyatt.
Kathleen with her husband Bill Wyatt in Cornwall on their honeymoon in May 1945. They were married in England on May 1st 1945.Photo courtesy of Carol Wyatt.
"There were just so many being killed, and they were so young. I mean, I was 24, and most of those boys were younger than I was. "
There’s a thing you have to understand. Most of them on the invasion of Normandy, they were either killed or wounded, or they lived. We got the wounded ones, and they hadn’t seen very much action until later on in the summer, in June and July, and they were very young. Well, I thought there’d never be another war. I thought it was terrible. We were a complete unit. We formed up in Nova Scotia, a complete hospital unit, before we went over, and we went on a ship, the New Amsterdam, and we landed in Gourock, Scotland. And then we - as a complete unit, everything from x-rays to pharmacy to operating rooms. All the nurses were all - it was a complete hospital.
And then, as another hospital moved out of Southern England into Belgium, they got a hospital, you know, the field hospitals going, we moved into their hospital and took over. We were half way between London and Brighton, and when we got there, we had missed the blitz of England and London, but they were starting the pilotless rockets. They called them V-1s, and then the V-2s. You could see the V-1s going over. You could hear them, and you could hear them when they exploded, and we were just lucky enough not to get hit. And later on, with the V-2s, you couldn’t hear them go over because they were in high arch, and they landed, and you’d just hear the explosion. But with the V-1s, you could watch them. They were these pilotless bombs going over, and you could hear them and see them, and at night, you could see the fire coming out the back, you know, the exhaust. And when the engine cut out, you could count to 18, until you heard an explosion. You weren’t quite sure what direction it was, but you knew it was headed for London, and some of them fell short. Yes, we had a blackout every night, a complete blackout.
We made good friends in our group because there were 70. So you just don’t get close to all of them. You get close to a few. I got very close. And then, my sister was transferred from Italy in the Fall of ’44, after that big battle in Italy, Ortona. A lot of Canadians were sent back to England, and she was one. She came from number 15, and she came, and they sent her, they placed her at our hospital because I was there. So we got to - I hadn’t seen her for several years. So that was good.
I didn’t think there’d ever be another war. I can remember writing to my mother. She kept the letter saying, there’ll never be another war. There couldn’t be because this is just a killing war, you know? There were just so many being killed, and they were so young. I mean, I was 24, and most of those boys were younger than I was. And I thought there would never be another war, and they kept going and kept going and kept going, and finally, by the next spring, in April and May, it slowed down and quit first of May.
I actually got married when I was over there. I married a soldier from Alberta, and I came home, but he didn’t come home yet. I came home, and I came on the Île de France, was the troopship at that time. It was a beautiful ship, and I came home, and there were a lot of war brides on that shipment. And we arrived in Halifax. It was - I forget the day. It was the next year wasn’t it? It was a year later. It was the first part of July, I think. I forget the day. And we arrived in Halifax, and the fire boats were out with their sprays, and there was a greeting for the ship when it came in to Halifax. And then we got on a troop train, and it was crowded. And another nurse and I shared a bottom berth because it was so crowded. We got to Calgary, and the train stopped by Mewata Stadium - Mewata Armoury, I mean, and we got off I had a short spell of working for the Americans after I graduated, and they were building the Alaska Highway, and they were hiring Canadian nurses for outpatient departments. And I went north with them for six months at an outpatient department at White Horse. That was interesting, working for the Americans, but then I found out that if I was working - See, they - the American army was in charge of building that highway, and our hospital had military doctors, the one that had the outpatients. And so, I worked there for six months, and then I decided I didn’t want to work for them anymore. My first job they gave me was at the prisoner of war camp at Lethbridge. That’s where I started. I was in my military career, and I was only there for a month, when they decided they were going to - they needed number 24, then they needed another hospital. And so that’s how come I got in on 24 General Hospital.
Well I remember the first night that we were in Southern England, and we were in bed, and the blackout was up. The nurse, I didn’t know her, and it was a two-bed room in our quarters, and she was getting ready to go over to Belgium, but it was dark and it was night, and suddenly, the window blew open and a blackout curtain hit the ceiling, and the bed jumped. And I thought, oh my Lord, what’s happened? You know? She said, that was a rocket hit barrage balloon, so an explosion, and I thought, oh, how in the world have these people in this country lived through a blitz? It made me shake. That’s the only time I ever shook with fright in my life. And then I got used to it.