Veteran Stories:
Wilma Cooke


  • Nursing Sister of No. 4 Hospital, March 25, 1945.

    Wilma Cooke
  • Wilma Cooke in Toronto, Ontario, March 18, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"We didn’t know it, but D-Day was coming up."


I’m Mary Wilma Cooke and I was born in Haileybury, Ontario on the 7 July 1922. The [RMS] Empress of Scotland, which had been the [RMS] Empress of Japan, and it was a lovely vessel. And it was crammed, crammed [laughs] with medical people. We didn’t know it, but D-Day was coming up, you see, and they had to have lots of medical people. And it was unbelievable how crowded it was. We had two meals a day because they didn’t have time to have three; and they started breakfast at 6:00 and 6:30 and 7:00 and it went on and on. And then the next meal; and we could take anything, lots of things from the table at breakfast to have for lunch. And there were stations around where you could make tea and coffee, hot chocolate, and we were told to bring tea and hot chocolate with us. And that’s how we had our third meal because they didn’t have, there were too many people to serve three meals to. Isn’t that amazing? The lovely rooms in the ship didn’t have chairs or anything, people were on the floor. The airmen, there was every kind of army person and I ran into two or three people I knew, men, one from my home town, can you believe that? So it was quite a trip. And then we had a cabin, I think it was meant for two people. And I think, I’m not sure, but I think we had at least eight in there, maybe more. I’m sure there were eight anyway, in this little cabin. Well, I remember one, he was very young and he lost a leg. And he didn’t look any more than 18. I don’t know how old he was, but he seemed very young. And he was very depressed with this, losing his leg. He thought life was over. But, I mean, people talked to him and tried to talk to him, but he came upon a magazine or something and it was telling about someone with an amputation, and how he went and took up skiing. Life changed. He changed from that day. He cheered up. He began to think of what he might be able to do. And if somebody could go skiing, he could. And if he could go skiing ̶ changed life for him. Well, after D-Day, and things got settled down, then we had a week of leave, every three months. And one time I went with a friend up to Scotland, on the train, and we had our leave there. And one time we went to Ireland with two others. And that was interesting because we had to cross the Channel, or whatever. And two or three of us went one time to the sea. Oh, it’s a well known place on the west side. Very nice place to have a holiday. Yeah, it was very, we were well looked after, to have a week every three months. And then we also, we could go to London. It wasn’t too far and we could leave after work and we’d get a taxi and a train and get to London. And then we’d scoot to the, I think it was, Ontario House where we could have supper. And then we could go to the theatre. Because the theatre started early and ended early. And they maybe started at 6:30 or something. And then we’d get the train back. And then there’s, this taxi would be there and everybody would pile in. And I would say, well, it’s crowded, but it’s reasonable because they charged very little for the taxi. And it was very good. We had a dance every Saturday night in our mess and among the workers there. They had the orchestra and on Sunday, we often went up to London to somewhere where they were accepting military men and, and then sometimes people who were disabled would like us to go with them to hold them up and we were very happy to go with these handsome guys. And they might try to dance on one foot. [laughs] But we’d have a meal and maybe a drink. And then we’d get the train back. But they were allowed to go if they had escorts to help them, so yeah. [laughs]
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