On 4 January 1943 I enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corp (CWAC) at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax was M.D. 6 therefore our official number started with 6. I was sent to Kitchener, Ontario for Basic Training. We were billeted in huts that were previously occupied by members of the Army (male soldiers). The building had been condemned as unsuitable but it had been reopened to house our troop of women. A large coal burning stove in the middle of the room heated it. The coal was stored outside and we took duty turns keeping the fire on at night. The windows were always frosted and there would be snow on the window ledges after a snowstorm.
I will always remember Basic Training because of the following incident:
It was after we had been given our “shots” and most of the girls were feeling sick or miserable. Since I was feeling OK I was given the “night coal shift”. About midnight I went outside and shoveled the bucket full of coal and proceeded to carry it inside. Just as I approached the stove my toe caught the edge of the tin that was on the floor surrounding the stove. I fell forward taking the bucket of coal with me. Let me tell you when that coal hit the tin on the floor it went the full length of the hut. Sick as they were the noise awakened every one of the girls. I can also remember that no one offered to help me clean up the mess.
From Kitchener I was sent to Ottawa to take a clerk’s course. I was taught by civilians except for the Army procedure part, which was taught by an Army Major. I was then posted to No. 102 Depot “Trinity Barracks” in Toronto. My first assignment was looking after the Victory Bond Drive, and then I was assigned to work in the Quarter Masters Stores. These stores included uniforms, bedding, dishes, cutlery, etc.
Since Trinity Barracks was a Depot for CWACs, Military District No. 2, recruits were issued their uniforms from our stores. After training many of them returned to MD No. 2 for their various postings. They were trained as Drivers, Clerks and Medical Workers and were posted to various men’s camps, Camp Borden or wherever their services were required.
Many CWAC girls joined the Canadian Army Show. That was a sure way of getting to serve overseas. One member of interest in the Army Show was a daughter of the owner of Neilsen’s Chocolates. She came through No. 102 Depot for her kit renewal enroute overseas. She returned later and was discharged from the Depot. Another person of interest from our Depot was Major Madeline O’Donnell. She was the daughter of a former Prime Minister, “Uncle Louis” St. Laurent.
While working at Quarter Masters Stores I was promoted from L/Cpl to Staff Sergeant in charge of Stores. When our Depot Company Sergeant Major left for overseas, our Commanding Officer, Major Arnoldi promoted me to Company Sergeant Major (CWAC) as her replacement. That position consisted mostly of discipline which most did not appreciate very much. This was especially true of the older girls who didn’t especially care for a young Sergeant Major telling them what and how to do things.
After a year of sounding tough, I took my discharge in 1946. It was a great experience. Yes, I would do it all over again.
Following my discharge I went to Montreal and took a six-month course in hairstyling. Later I married Jarvis Stewart and we have two daughters, Wendy and Janie. My husband and I are retired and living in Truro, Nova Scotia.