Flo Leslie, Margaret Reed, and Blanche Bennett in the window of their barracks in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1942.Blanche Bennett
Blanche Bennett in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1943.Blanche Bennett
Blanche Bennett at the gate to Royal Artillery Park where her husband proposed to her in 1942.Blanche Bennett
Blanche Bennett's wedding photo, 1945.Blanche Bennett
A collage Blanche Bennett made to commemorate her marriage.Blanche Bennett
"And they destroyed all the stores on Barrington Street, every store, window, looted. Went on all day."
I joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1942 in Summerside, P.E.I. [Prince Edward Island]. Was then posted to Kitchener, Ontario for basic training. We were the first group in Kitchener. The men moved out in the morning and the girls moved in in the evening. Quite an experience as we did not have central heating, we had urinals on the walls. It was very primitive, I must say. However, we got through all that. Fire picket [watch] in the middle of the night to keep the stoves burning and a lot of us didn’t know how to do this because we were not used to charcoal, we were used to coal where I came from. And these stoves had charcoal, so you had to keep a red coal fire all the time. So we were on fire picket two hours at a time. Quite an experience for a little girl from P.E.I., who didn’t know anything about this. Plus there was another five or six hundred girls with us who were also just about as ignorant as I was.
However, after six weeks, we got the gist of things and we all graduated and a great time. Must say, formed friendships that lasted for over 60 years. I still hear from some of the girls.
We were posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the switchboard with MD6, which was the military switchboard in Halifax. We had access to all the outposts that were around Halifax, where the guns were ready, aimed at the harbour and whatever, in case of an attack. There were many, many incidents there. We had blackouts every night. You know what a blackout is? All your curtains pulled, no light shining anywhere.
One of the highlights of my life there probably was the day the war ended. And you won’t remember this because there’s very few people that talk about this. The city was actually torn to pieces by the troops who came home from overseas [on May 7-8, 1945]. And had a little bit of rancour, I guess, against the people in Halifax and so they decided that they were going to get even. And they destroyed all the stores on Barrington Street, every store, window, looted. Went on all day.
Finally, brought in the provost, which was the military police from Debert, Nova Scotia and they settled things down. We went to work back and forth on an armoured truck. It wasn’t martial law [military government, involving the temporary suspension of ordinary law] but it was close to martial law being declared. The navy was blamed for a lot of it but the civilian people were also in at as much as the other people were. Then in 1945, I had been married one month, July the 6th [18-19] I think, we had a tremendous explosion, which was [on] the Bedford Basin. Where all the ammunition that was on the ships had been brought back to Halifax and stored at the depot in Bedford. Now, something happened that day and there was a huge blast. And I think one man was killed and half of the city, again, all the windows were blown out in the north end of the city. And we were in barracks then and we slept on the parade square for three nights, because of the bombs going off, there was depth charges and there was torpedoes and everything was exploding. It was like war all over again and we were right in the middle of it. That went on for three days before they got things fixed up there.