"But then you could see the bombs coming down and people running, some of them were being hit and that. That was a very scary time for me at the bombing."
My name is Eugenie Turner. I was born on November the 30th, 1922. So I’m 87 years old. I joined up when I was 19 years old. I grew up in Lachine, just outside of Montreal. When the war broke out, I was still in the convent; I was in Catholic school as a lay student. But most of my friends were English and the boys were joining up and so. And I felt very bad because I was a girl and I couldn’t join up. And then when the air force started enrolling women, then I decided that was for me; I had to do that. So I joined up in 1942 and did my basic training in [Royal Canadian Air Force Station] Rockcliffe (Ottawa). I was a teletype operator and my first posting was Gander Bay, Newfoundland. Even though I had asked for Vancouver but I ended up the other side of the world really.
I was there for 11 months and that was very interesting because at the time, all the bombers and aircrafts going overseas had to stop in Gander Bay to refuel and get ready to move overseas, so I got to see all the bombers, all the new planes coming in; got to fly in a few of them as a matter of fact. So I left for overseas in December of 1943. That was quite an experience because we all go to Halifax of course, as transients waiting for ships to go overseas. Then we leave as a convoy.
But we hit a terrible storm on the way. It was December in the Atlantic. After four days of terrible storm, we noticed we were all alone; we’d lost the convoy and we were all alone. But it took us eight days to get to England. There, I was posted with No. 6 Group, Bomber Command in Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire. And I spent almost two years there as telecommunication on teletype and deciphering messages and so on and getting all the informations for the air crew for their briefing, for their next operations. And one of the duties that I had was sending a list of all the bombers that were leaving with all the crews. And we had two squadrons; we had 426 and 408 squadron. And we had 15 bombers for each squadron at the time. So this meant seven air crew in each of the bomber leaving. And I had to send a name and the serial number and position aboard the bombers and their rank and their age, which was never older than 25.
And I had to send that list to headquarters. And then when they came back, I had to send a list of the casualties, which I really never got used to. I spent a month in London on an advanced course in teletype and there, we were bombed very single night while I was there. I was very lucky because apparently, shortly after I came back to the base, the hotel where we were billeted was bombed and several of the girls that I was with at that time had been killed. So I was very lucky.
London of course, you know, was bombed almost every day. I remember once I was on leave when a girlfriend of mine, Joan Reese her name was as a matter of fact, she was from Vancouver, and we were coming out of the theatre that night and we were being bombed. The wardens, you know, ushered you into the shelters and I never went into a shelter because my fright was to be buried alive. We were near Piccadilly Circus so we headed for the escalators to go in the Underground [railway] but somebody fell at the bottom of the escalator and people were piling up on top, so we went out again. We didn’t stay there; we hid in a doorway somewhere until it was over. But then you could see the bombs coming down and people running, some of them were being hit and that. That was a very scary time for me at the bombing.
The girls that I met in the service were from all different parts of Canada. We had a good relationship between us. We were very close quarters of course. I’ve made some very good friends in the air force, and they had different positions of course and work they were doing. Some of them were even mechanics in the hangars with the bombers and so on. Others were in equipment, dishing out all the uniforms and everything. Of course, a lot of people in the mess hall feeding all these people. There were cooks and the girls in operations and there was girls in the signals also, on the wireless. There was a lot of opportunities, a lot of interesting jobs.
Well, you know, at first the fellows felt a little funny about having women there. Well, especially in Gander; we were 250 girls and there was the American air force, the Canadian air force, the RAF and the Pictou Highlanders in the army. And the air force base were the only ones where we had women. So there were 250 of us, so whenever one of the group would give like a dance or something, they would come and pick us girls up at our base. So we were treated like royalty really. And you know, there was so much respect, I was surprised, there was so much respect and the fellows were really good with us. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. As a matter of fact, if I’d been a man, I would have stayed in the forces. Yeah, I enjoyed the military very much.
I think it’s wonderful. You know, they have so many more opportunities. Now they can be pilots, they can do anything they want to, where we couldn’t in our time. So oh, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m amazed that not too many of the girls are taking advantage of it.