"At that time, anybody that knows what we went through as a group of women, my mother had the same idea and she said, you’ll be nothing but a comfort for the troops. And I wasn’t."
Now, I must tell you how I got to enlist in the army. It wasn’t what I had planned. I had gone to London to be interviewed to go in for a nurse. And I wasn’t old enough. And Mrs. Stewart told me to go home for one year and come back and they’d do all the paperwork. Well, I had about a four-hour wait for the bus because it only goes up to that area once a day. And there was a trailer there and they were recruiting and so forth. And the sign said, The Army Needs You. Well, I had nothing to do and I went in to see what it was all about.
Now, I honestly felt when I was signing a paper that they were going to send me more information. But that wasn’t what happened. The end of June, I got a registered letter in the mail that my brother couldn’t sign for, I had to go up myself. So therefore, my mother wondered, what’s that letter for. I didn’t know how to explain it to her but it was a registered letter letting me know that I had to report to Stanley Barracks [Toronto] on the 6th of July, at 10:00 in the morning. And that was how I landed in the army. And of course at that time, anybody that knows what we went through as a group of women, my mother had the same idea and she said, you’ll be nothing but a comfort for the troops. And I wasn’t.
And we had six weeks [of] intensive training at Northwestern University in bookkeeping and secretarial work. And from there, I was sent to Woodstock [Ontario] where I was the best part of three quarters of a year. And they were closing down our area of the Driving and Maintenance School and the man I worked for, [Major] K.B. Smith, he didn’t want me working for anybody else there, so he just nonchalantly one day said, how would you like to go overseas. I said, you know I’m not old enough. Well, that wasn’t the point. I said, sure I would. Well, six weeks later, I was on my way overseas and we went over on, as a troop convoy and our troopship was named the [Andes]. And we had a terribly rough crossing. And about four nights out, the captain came over the loudspeaker asking, was there any of the Canadian girls still on their feet, could they come down to the Orderly Room and type daily orders.
Well, there was about four of us, so down we went. And we’d had mutton and roast potatoes that night for dinner and the captain was so pleased with us that he sent up, they were about the size of a drinking glass of, it looked like orange juice but it was laced with gin and I’m not a drinker. And it, and that mutton and roast potato didn’t stay too well and I realized I was going to lose it. And this tall, six-foot good looking young man was on guard at the door and that’s how I met this young man that was going to be my future husband. I was stationed in Aldershot [England] just until you were posted to wherever you were going to be posted. And because we hadn’t spent any money on the ship going over, we were allowed a weekend in London because we had over five pounds in our pockets. So away we went.
And when we come, while we were there, this, his name was Kel Detheridge, he was from Brantford. And he went to the orderly room and found out that this was where the last draft of CWACs [members of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps] were and he wanted to know, was there a short, fat blonde CWAC among the group. Now, this is how he found out my name. And we often kid one another about this because I am five-foot-three-and-a-half and I weigh about 170 pounds. But that didn’t matter, it was meant to be, as I said, I do feel that the Lord orders your steps.
When the war ended, I was shipped over to Holland, Apeldoorn, Holland. And that’s where I spent the, the rest of the time. And we had, we had put in for, to get married when I was in 42 Company and it just didn’t work. And when all the fighting finished, I was slated for the army of occupation in Germany and Kel was slated for home. The Essex Scottish [Regiment] were finished, they were of 2nd [Canadian Infantry] Division and they were slated for home. Well, my future husband went to see the padre, Captain Rider of the Essex Scottish, and it was through him, he cut through red tape and because we were foreigners in Holland, Queen Wilhelmina’s laws at that time wouldn’t allow us to be married there. But him and his driver took us over to Antwerp, Belgium, we were given an interpreter because you had to go down to the City Hall. They only married on Tuesdays and, or Wednesdays and Saturdays.
And when we’re going up the steps, a gentleman there handed the interpreter a card. And I said, what’s that for? And it had number 48 in it, on it. And she said, oh, you’re 48th in the queue this morning, to get married. And we were ushered into this big room, about the size of a parade square, and they were lined up, a bride and a groom, their attendants, plus all the relatives, then the next bride and groom and their attendants and all the relatives. And this went all around the room and we were 48th in that queue. It took about two hours to get through that and when our turn came, we were ushered into a room with about two other couples and their attendants and the burgomaster, who was, this is the civil ceremony and the burgomaster married us. And at that time, the sun was coming through the window and he said, oh, happy is the bride that the sun shines on. And he married us in English. We had the church service back in Apeldoorn in Holland and they just announced on the parade square that we were getting married that day and the Essex and the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, each joined together and it was like a guard of honour as we came out of the church. And the bagpiper from the Essex Scottish, he was a big tall fellow with a red beard and he piped us into the church and he piped us out of the church and the colonel of the regiment gave me away and my husband’s brother stood up with us.
Now, this I must tell you because you worked things different over there than you do over here. For the flowers and that, you see, money wasn’t much good over there but cigarettes were a wonderful way of barter. And you see, I didn’t smoke but we were allowed to buy 900 a month. And we had rations every week, like a little can that held 50 cigarettes. And this is what we used for barter. Well, all our flowers for the church were bartered with chocolate and cigarettes. And even on our honeymoon, we took Dutch hospitality up in Amsterdam and we used food to pay the place where we were staying. After I was married, I was now classed as a war bride and I was slated for home. And I came home a month sooner than my husband …