Veteran Stories:
Ruth Shirley Johnson (née Lavers)

Army

  • A page taken from Shirley Johnson's Officer's Record of Service, showing her courses attended, units, and appointments for the period 1944-1946.

    Ruth Shirley Johnson
  • Ruth Shirley Johnson with her husband, Robert Johnson, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, April 28, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I knew that it was going to be difficult to feed the patients because they just wanted meat and potatoes. I was prepared fairly well for that."

Transcript

And this is in Halifax in the medical corps of the army, in June of 1944. I went to Debert [Nova Scotia] for a short period of time and then to Camp Borden [Ontario] for initial training. Then I went to the Montreal Military Hospital in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue as a dietitian and then to Queen Mary Road Hospital, which was army at that time. And then to Windsor [Nova Scotia], as I thought on my way overseas. And I served in Windsor for probably several months and in April, I think it was, of 1945, the war ended.

Okay, that hospital closed, I was sent to Aldershot Hospital in Kentville, Nova Scotia, until it closed and then to Debert. And I was at Debert when Bob [Robert Johnson, now her husband] came back from overseas, and I applied for my discharge and I was rejected because they had discharged other dietitians from that district and I had to stay there until Debert Military Hospital closed. At which time I went to Winnipeg and we were married.

So I was working at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto when I enlisted. I’d had part of my training, early training, post-graduate training at the Hospital for Sick Children. And the first, the first position I had after finishing that initial training was in Truro, Nova Scotia. And at that time, you didn’t need to apply. There were so few dietitians, I had a call at my home, my home was in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, had a call from the Truro Hospital asking if I would go there to work as a dietitian. Didn’t have to send an application.

Some of my friends, a couple of my friends, with whom I had done the initial training back in 1942, finished in 1942, had already enlisted. And so I thought of it and I went down to [No.1] Manning Depot in Toronto with the thought of enlisting in the air force. Went to see my, the dean of, I had gone to Acadia [University] and I went to see the dean of home-economics at Acadia who had retired and I told her that I was going to enlist in the air force and she said, “Air force, you’re not going to enlist in the air force, I know the matron in Ottawa, I know Matron Snelly, you’re going to enlist in the army.” And I enlisted in the army. Back then, we did what we were told. It’s because I had been able to talk with some of the people who were already serving.

So I knew that, for instance in the Maritimes, it was going to be difficult to feed the patients because they just wanted meat and potatoes. I was prepared fairly well for that. Organizing diets, organizing just the purchasing of food and overseeing the preparation and doing menus and in hospitals of course, special menus. I knew the sort of work that some of my friends were doing overseas. However, that was a long time ago.

Well, I went through university during the war. And the first in my class, well, he would have been in my graduating class, was shot down very early in the war, in Holland. And you just were very proud to help in any way that we could.

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