Veteran Stories:
Marie Duchesnay

Navy

  • 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
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"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"

Transcript

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.

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