Ruth BergstromRuth Bergstrom
Personnel of the Canadian Women's Army Corps at No. 3 CWAC (Basic) Training CentreCredit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-145516 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"My work was classified. I was more or less attached to the cipher office."
I was working, the summertime, in the packing plant, as a clerk and both my parents, at that time, had died, my father when I was 17 and my mother when I was 20, It was – war was on again, people were, men were going to give services. So, I went away and worked in the coast of Vancouver [British Columbia] for the winter and from there we came back home. We were going to work in the packinghouse again in the summer and we heard talk about the women’s services, so my sister and I decided we would join. We both joined and from then on we waited about two weeks, got our call and went to Vernon [British Columbia] for our medical check-up and were accepted and waited a little while longer, about two to three weeks, and we were called in to have our basic training which took us to Vancouver for another wait and then from there to Vermillion, Alberta for our basic training.
I think they treated us pretty much like men, you know. They were polite, they were nice but they had loud – the regimental sergeant-major had a real voice on him. I remember him telling me – I was out one day having drill and we were having precision and I was the marker, you know where you swing around? He told me I swung like a rusty gate. That hurt me, really.
So I didn’t go through the message – my sister didn’t either – through the month’s training. I don’t know how long they had the clerical training, I know Helen Rapp* did. From there, I went right to an office and it was the Signals, RC Signals Headquarters at National Defence Headquarters and I did clerical work. But it was different than ordinary office work because it was messages of all different types were coming in and I was in what was called the Acceptance and Delivery Section. We accepted messages and then had the, looked after the delivery and the filing of copies and that sort of thing. Quite a – it was quite a number of things that we had to do and I was at that. I became a sergeant. I [first] became a corporal soon after, about six months after I was in there.
What we did, we were taking over from the civil servants, as they were called then, and they had a choice about either join the CWAC or they would be transferred somewhere else. So some of them did join and some, of course, moved on. They didn’t want to join. So that’s – and that way I got my stripes early because I took over from the person that was in charge as a civil servant.
And I found it so interesting too. And, we also, with the messages we took phone messages from different parts of Canada and the north and typed, listened in with earphones and typed out messages that way too. So, from then on I became in charge of the whole section and became a sergeant. I was a sergeant for several years and later on I got another promotion and became a staff sergeant and I was, I had a different job then. I became – my work was classified. I was more or less attached to the cipher office part of it.
*Fellow CWAC Helen Rapp
Interview with Staff Sergeant Ruth Bergstrom FCWM Oral History Project
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum