Veteran Stories:
Elisabeth Wallis

Navy

  • Elisabeth Wallis, 1942.

    Elisabeth Wallis
  • Elisabeth Wallis (center) with her friends in 1943.

    Elisabeth Wallis
  • Elisabeth Wallis (2nd from the left) celebrate the end of the war in 1945.

    Elisabeth Wallis
  • While stationed at HMS Daedalus (pictured here), Elisabeth saw a Luftwaffe pilot on a reconnaissance flight pass by with a wave.

    Elisabeth Wallis
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"This plane came up and it was very low and we could see the pilot and we were all waving to him and he was waving back and then we realized there were swastikas on it."

Transcript

There was a sort of excitement. I don’t know if they knew in Canada that girls were conscripted at 20. And boys were conscripted at 18. So if you waited until you were 20, you had to go where they sent you. It could be a munitions factory or anywhere. So some friends and I decided we’d send in our papers and then they chickened out. Under 21, you had to have permission. And my mother signed for me and off I went and that was it. We went to Portsmouth and we had a month’s training. And then I was sent to Lee-on-Solent [England] and I was there for three years. It was a very big station and there were a 1000 Wrens [name for members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service] there and I was doing an office job, and so it was more or less just like being in an office anywhere because you worked 9:00 until 5:00, it wasn’t a very interesting job, but it was one of the things that had to be done in those days of course. But British Wrens, I don’t know, I think different to Canadian Wrens, you weren’t actually part of the navy, you weren’t in the navy because the British Admiralty would not have women in the navy. And so we were kind of like a service within a service. And because of that, we were allowed to wear civilian clothes when we were off duty. It was very different I think to the Canadian Wrens, for that aspect of it. So we, it was just like working in any office and then we had weekends off and the evenings off. As you know, in the navy, everybody has a port and starboard watch and so you had a boyfriend on the starboard watch and a boyfriend on the port watch and so you had a different one every... But then you’d go to the dances every Saturday night. There was an old pier right out into the ocean, into the settlement rather, and every Saturday night we’d go dancing. And mostly that’s what we did. And they did have, I guess, yeah, there was a movie theatre there too. But that was most of it. I do look back at D-Day of course and then there was a big naval hospital near Lee-on-Solent, down at Gosport, I think it was. And they asked for girls to go and help them because the nurses were so busy with all the wounded coming back. So a bunch of us went down there and some of the girls were given overalls and went on the wards just to give fellows drinks and talk to them. But I wouldn’t do that, I went to the kitchen and spent the whole day washing dishes. There was no such thing as dishwashers in those days. So I spent the whole day washing dishes. We had one or two sort of funny things happen. We were billeted in hotels and things, right on the front, overlooking the water, I was. And we were looking out the window one day and this plane came up and it was very low and we could see the pilot and we were all waving to him and he was waving back and then we realized there were swastikas on it. And the anti-aircraft gun started. He was taking pictures, he was too low for the anti-aircraft guns. He just went on up to Solent as he was taking pictures. We were waving to this pilot and he was waving back and then we saw, oh well, it’s a German.
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