Veteran Stories:
Joyce Mullen

Air Force

  • Joyce Mullen joined the legion in 1945, and became President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 106 in Didsbury, Alberta. This group picture was taken the day of her investiture in the mid-1960's.

    Joyce Mullen
  • Joyce Mullen pictured here at home on leave.

    Joyce Mullen
  • Joyce Mullen (on right) and a friend in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1945.

    Joyce Mullen
  • Joyce Mullen (on right) with a friend in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1945.

    Joyce Mullen
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And he turned around to me and he said, Morgan, he said, nobody’s going to mess with you if you can shoot like that. Well, I never told him it wasn’t my target."

Transcript

In January 1943, I had decided to leave my job, which was with my father in the post office in Didsbury when I’d been there since I was 15 years old. And I wanted a change. And so I decided to go to secretarial school in Calgary; and I went down to get myself a boarding house because in those days, they had boarding houses, nobody had apartments to speak of. And I was walking down Ninth Avenue in Calgary and just west of the Palliser Hotel, there was a whole lot of billboards up. And the one that caught my eye was the one that said, We Serve So Men May Fly: Join the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division. And I was only within about three blocks of the recruiting depot and I thought, I’ll go down and see what’s what. So I went in; and I said to the girl at the desk, I’d like to join up. And she said, I think you’re over our weight limit. I said, what’s your weight limit? And she said, such and such; and I said, I’m over that. And she said, well, I’m sorry, she said, then you can’t join up. And I said to her, look, if I can pass your medical, what right have you to tell me I can’t serve my country? So I took my medical, passed it A1; and within a week, I was on my way to [CFB] Rockcliffe in Ottawa for Manning Depot. And I went up to Joint Service Headquarters, Western Air Command, which was army, navy and air force, brass hats all over the place. And in my section, there was a sergeant, the man in charge, with a corporal, a lady, who was unpaid corporal, there was no establishment for us at that time, but she did have the authority, and one other air woman who had been in longer than I was. And we got along just fine and then about, I would say, by the end of June, I had all my trade tests done, the corporal was posted out to [RCAF Station] Sea Island where there was a paid position and within two weeks after she left, a paid position did come in from Ottawa for a corporal. And I got the corporal’s “hooks” [stripes]. And the women were sent down to repair depot to learn to take a Sten gun [submachine gun] apart and put it together again and to shoot it, rapid fire and single fire. Well, it looked like a collection of pipes because it was something that was … it was very serviceable and it was quite easy to take apart and to put together. But even myself, who was tall and could handle a rifle (I was used to shooting a .22 [Long Rifle]), I had no problem with the target single shot but, boy, oh man, I could not hold that thing down for love nor money. And the flight sergeant in charge of us said, you know, he said, there’s nothing to it, I’ll show you. And he fired from the blessed hip and he took the centre of that target out. So I said to him, Flight, can I have your target? He said, what do you want it for? And I said, well, I’m going to go back to Western Air and show them what a good target looks like and you know, tell them who shot it. And before we decided to go back to our offices, we thought we’d go to the canteen and get a cup of coffee before we went. And as I was going past this one table, laden with men, one of them grabbed the target out of my hand and said, here Morgan, let’s see what you could do. And he held it up to everybody and he said, holy cow, look at this. And he turned around to me and he said, Morgan, he said, nobody’s going to mess with you if you can shoot like that. Well, I never told him it wasn’t my target. And a posting came in for me to go to [RCAF Station] Comox and that’s where I served for the rest of my time. I was sent up there as a junior NCO [non-commissioned officer] to help to run the financial section because it was run just like a regular post office on a city street. And I’d had all this work behind me, so that’s where I ended up. And the first thing that I got into when I got there was the fact that the men didn’t like having a lady in charge; and I ran into trouble with some of the things that were piled on me by the sergeant because it didn’t take him more than half a week to discover that I could run that place with one hand tied behind my back. And I got all the jobs he didn’t want. He got a second key cut. [laughs] I had to open up in the morning and get the mail out ready to go out in the morning and see that everybody had everything sorted out that was brought in on the night mail. One of the funny things that was, I had red hair. Not an auburn or a dark one, I was quite light, but I was still called Red until I got my corporal’s hooks. And the first day that I worked the financial section, in came a warrant officer 1st class and he took one look at me and he said, well, hello Corporal Carrots. And oh, I hated that name and I couldn’t [laughs] say anything to him because he was higher than I was in rank and every day, that’s what I was called.
Follow us