Veteran Stories:
Bessie Aileen “Red” Heaslip (née Strathdee)

Air Force

  • Bessie Heaslip in uniform, Christmas 1941.

    Bessie Heaslip
  • Charles and Bessie Heaslip`s wedding day, 1943. Their wedding was the first one done in uniform on the base.

    Bessie Heaslip
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"Monday afternoon, we got married right on the station and we were first ones to get married in uniform."


I was assistant cook at Collingwood, [Ontario] at [Blue Mountain] Crippled Children’s Camp. And the girls, they were all joining the [Royal Canadian] Air Force. And so we went into Collingwood and we all joined up. One of the girls there ended up by being an officer and we met her a couple of times during our time in uniform. And my dad was not very happy but I just got home, not any more than a week or so and they phoned me to go to London, [Ontario] to join up, to have a physical. So we went to London and it wasn’t too long but I don’t remember the day we went to Toronto, [Ontario]. We were called down to Toronto and all we did was march and take needles. And every time they saw me coming, well, they put me on a bed because I passed out every time I saw blood. They wanted to get us to Guelph, [Ontario] to take cooking lessons. So as soon as we were partly trained I guess, they sent us to Guelph. And that was a real deal as far as I was concerned because I was part raised on a farm and I was a little bit naïve, so we really got our lessons when we went to Guelph because there was a bunch of men there training, they were nearly all Australian. So we trained there to be cooks and we went out, our gang went to Brantford, [Ontario]. It was in January. So we were there over Christmas season, so we went [SFTS] [Service Flying Training School] No. 5 in Brantford. And that was the first bunch of girls there. And so we had to make ourselves acquainted with, the men being not used to having women on the station. I should say that. So it was quite an experience there, but I was only there about nine months and I was posted to Trenton, [Ontario]. I ended up cooking in the Officers’ Mess. At Brantford, I’d been in the Sergeants’ Mess and so I was cooking in the Officers’ Mess in Trenton at [No.] 6 RD [Repair Depot] and some of these officers were flyers and they’d come to the door in the morning and say, we’re flying tonight, what did they call it, night flying or something like that. So we had an opportunity to go up with some of the ones that were training and we saw Ontario from the air. I met Charlie, and he was in Saskatchewan and he was on harvest leave. The boys that were regulars down there, they got harvest leave to go home and help father. So he was on harvest leave when I got moved to Trenton. And of course, we were living over on the main base. And I met him there and we started going out together and then I don’t know, things got a little serious, so we were talking about getting married but at that time, you see, you couldn’t get married and stay in the same station. And he was at [No.] 6 RD, so. Then he got posted to Newfoundland, so he said, we’re getting married. Monday morning, we got up and it was pouring rain, we went downtown, had our uniforms cleaned, went and bought a license, went and bought a wedding ring, because I had got the diamond six months ahead of that or something. And then the Monday afternoon, we got married right on the station and we were first ones to get married in uniform. That was quite a day. And we were together for 57 years. So I really, dad said, it won’t last a year but we did.
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