Photo of Marie Duchesnay in her WRCNS uniform, wearing the Tricorne headgear. This photo was taken in Halifax in the spring of 1944.Marie Duchesnay
Identity card from the Naval Service Headquarters, Ottawa. This card authorized Marie Duchesnay to enter all buildings at Naval Service Headquarters.Marie Duchesnay
Photo of the first class of Coders in the Commonwealth at HMCS St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. 9 July 1943. Marie is sitting on the far left of the first row.Marie Duchesnay
Etats de Service dans les Forces Armées du Canada of Marie Duchesnay detailing her service record from her enlistment in 1943 to demobilization in 1945.Marie Duchesnay
Photo of Marie's brother, Flight Lieutenant André J. Duchesnay. André was the recipient of the DFC & Bar and served with Bomber Command of the RCAF from 1939-1945. He was shot down over Duneldorf, Germany, April 1944.Marie Duchesnay
"Then I was called by National Defence - the naval control in Québec City - and I started to work there, thinking I'd be a stenographer, but no, they immediately taught me to code and de-code messages"
My name is Mary Duchesnay. I was born in Québec City in 1920.
In 1939 I passed the civil servants examination for bilingual shorthand and typing, and stayed home to help my mother. Then I was called by National Defence - the naval control in Québec City - and I started to work there, thinking I'd be a stenographer, but no, they immediately taught me to code and de-code messages. After a few months there, we were called - all civil personnel - to join the Wrens if we wanted to and have a chance to continue that work, which pleased me very much. It was so unusual.
I joined the Wrens in June 1943, and went to Gault - which is called Cambridge now - in Ontario, and after a month's training I was sent to HMCS St. Hyacinthe to the first school in coding and de-coding in the commonwealth. We were twenty-three girls, and we all passed.
I did that work for the duration of the war and even afterwards. But if I joined, it was not only because we felt there was a terrible thing going on. And my brother, who was not even seventeen, had enlisted in 1939, so he was already in. And I'm the daughter of a man... my dad, who joined the Canadian Army - the Princess Patricia's - in 1914, and so we are kind of involved when we think people are in danger.
I learned to better my English writing and speaking in the navy and also made wonderful friends. It was a great experience.