Veteran Stories:
Nano McConnell

Air Force

  • Nano Pennefather-McConnell shortly before leaving for England in 1942.

  • "The Marlborough Avenue Gang", London - Duke Abelson, Nano Pennefather and Reub Zumar.

  • First anniversary overseas of the First Contingent.

  • The Churchill Club was a venue for American and Dominion soldiers stationed in London to learn about British heritage.

  • Birthday wishes from Paddy Pennefather to his sister Nano.

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"So there was a lot of sadness, of course, and in some ways we didn't always have a chance to mourn- we didn't know if sometimes the report was just that they were missing"

Transcript

My name is Nano Pennefather-McConnell and I served in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division during World War II. The Women's Division of the Air Force began in 1941. Up to that time there hadn't been any formal women's services, and the Air Force was the first to begin. I enlisted in April of 1942. I'd been working as a clerk-stenographer in the government. And that was my training, so that's what I enlisted as. And I was first sent to Jarvis which was a bombing and gunnery school, a part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools. Young men were trained from all over the British Commonwealth for aircrew who served in England. I was at Jarvis for a couple of months and then was given a chance to go overseas. When we arrived in England, we were posted to Air Force Headquarters in London, and there we all were given jobs in the different departments. The idea was that we would replace men who could be eligible for aircrew. In those days, the women were not to be in combat; we were support staff. It certainly was a very, very interesting experience, but also very sad. We met young men who would be going out on bombing missions and... during the week, and they'd come into London on leave and we used to go dancing, go to plays. And then we might hear the next week that they'd been killed or they were missing. So there was a lot of sadness, of course, and in some ways we didn't always have a chance to mourn - we didn't know if sometimes the report was just that they were missing. I certainly have no illusions about what war can do. I really am with all these people that are protesting against war at this time because it's not a solution. I don't think that our leaders can demonize the enemy the way they used to, somehow. So I think having had the experience of war, you know what's going on in a way. I certainly think the positive side of the experience was the comradeship and the caring. I just hope we don't have a war. It's the way I was feeling about it all and here was a great cause, of defeating Hitler and Fascism. But now it's not the same thing because it's just not clear who's the bad guys and who's the good guys, like we thought it was in those days.
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