Veteran Stories:
Cavell Bessie Ruth Tyrrell (née Butt)

Army

  • Personnel of the Canadian Women's Army Corps at No. 3 CWAC (Basic) Training Centre, Kitchener, Ontario, April 6, 1944.
    Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-145516.

    Library and Archives Canada
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"The general feeling of the public was really hopeful and looking forward to the future where there wasn’t war anymore and people could get on with their lives and resume normal life, whatever that was."

Transcript

V-E Day [Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945], which was May 7th or 8th, or something like that, I was in Montreal [Quebec], and I wasn’t in the services yet. People just couldn’t believe it. Everybody was talking about it, even to strangers. When V-J Day [Victory in Japan, August 15, 1945] came in the middle of August, I was in London [Ontario] in uniform [with the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC)]and my feeling was of great relief, too – it was over. Everybody who had served wore their discharge button in their lapel. Proudly. And, during the war, any male who looked able-bodied who wasn’t in uniform, they were looked down on. In fact, many men were approached by people who would say, “Why aren’t you in the Forces? What are you doing?” Even if they weren’t able-bodied, but looked it. So there was a lot of feeling about that. So all the men who got their discharge certainly wore their discharge button - and I did proudly, too. I looked very young for my age and I remember one man on the streetcar one time saying to me, “You know, you shouldn’t be wearing that!” I guess he thought I wasn’t old enough to be a veteran, and I wasn’t really. Well, I was, but… After the war, when the veterans started returning, by that time I was a telephone operator at Bell Telephone. A lot of the women I knew who had worked there for the war years, because there were no men, whenever their husbands came home, they had to leave their jobs. One thing, they had leave of absence. It was so-called leave of absence to be with them and to get used to living together again when they'd led such very different lives for those years. Apart from the Bell, which was pretty well a woman’s job anyhow, the women were going back home, to being housewives, some of whom liked the idea, I guess, starting families and all that, but many felt it was really unfair that they had to give up their jobs to the returning male veterans. And women who remained at work, they were looked down on: “Why are you taking a man’s job from him?” There was a great dearth of clothing and besides you couldn’t afford it right after the war when people were being discharged. I should have said that the benefits for veterans while they were in school also included 60 dollars a month and many veterans with a child lived on that. If you were living at home and you got 60 dollars a month, you were well off. But many people had their uniforms remade. And I had a summer uniform remade, changed the buttons, had it dyed, and it looked quite snazzy. That was my only suit when I was going to work. And rationing had curtailed the available goods. You couldn’t buy a fridge or a car, I suppose some other things, but at 18 I wasn’t that concerned about that. But I know that people went on waiting lists for cars and you had a wait of a couple of years for a new car. And it put up the price of old cars that were still running well and if you were selling an old car you got more for it or if you bought an old car you paid more for it than you would have a new one because of the scarcity. The general feeling of the public was really hopeful and looking forward to the future where there wasn’t war anymore and people could get on with their lives and resume normal life, whatever that was.
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