Nora Oliver, March 2010.Historica Canada
Portrait of Nora Oliver after she enlisted in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in December 1943.Nora Oliver
"And the sirens went and the searchlights went up, caught a German bomber and he dropped his bomb on the very station we were standing on. So I was injured with shrapnel wounds in the leg and the right side of the back."
My home was out in India and when I left school at the age of 16, war broke out, I could not get back to my parents in India. So I had to do something because the military had taken over all the planes and ships. So I couldn’t get back to my parents out in India. So I decided to go to a secretarial college [in England] and take a training there so that I could do something until such time that I could get out there [to India]. Well of course, the war went on and I thought, I would like to go into the Wrens [WRNS – Women’s Royal Naval Service known as the Wrens]. I didn’t want to go into the Land Army or the ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service]. There had always been some kind of naval history in our family going back and so I decided to join the Wrens.
I had to first of all go for a six-weeks training because I went in as a stenographer and that’s what they needed. So I went and did a six-weeks training and then was fortunate enough to be posted to Lord Louis Mountbatten’s headquarters in London, where he was the Chief of Combined Operations. I stayed there until such time that he was moving on when he was made Supreme Allied Commander [of] Southeast Asia and we were moving out to India. And I thought this was a great opportunity, I’d be able to see my parents again.
But on the night that I was due to join my Wren comrades, because all the troop movements were done at night, we were going up to Liverpool to get on the boat, I had said goodbye to my grandmother whom I had lived with in England until this time. And the sirens went and the searchlights went up, caught a German bomber and he dropped his bomb on the very station we were standing on. So I was injured with shrapnel wounds in the leg and the right side of the back.
Three months later, I got out to India because even though I had to have another medical, I assured them that my mother and father would be responsible for me out there if something went wrong. So on those terms, I went out and joined up with other Wren workers. And we were in Delhi, the headquarters there, and no sooner got settled in when [Lord Louis] Mountbatten could see that the Japanese were planning to invade and so we moved then down to what we knew as Ceylon but Sri Lanka now.
I had met my future husband, I should call him, in 1940 when I was just a civilian girl in England. And we corresponded for five years and got married from my home out in India in 1945. He was an Accountant Officer up in Bombay [now Mumbai] and then all of a sudden, the Canadian headquarters realised he’d been overseas much longer than he should have been and to return to Canada right away. So I requested to be demobbed [demobilised] in India so I could return with him on the same ship. And then when I got to London, I had to check into Sackville House [40 Piccadilly, headquarters of the Civilian Repatriation Section of the Canadian Wives’ Bureau] then and go on the list of war brides waiting a turn. So I eventually got out to Canada in 1946.