and I remember driving a stook team in harvest at thirteen years of age. Every part of the country was affected by the war. Rationing was in place and sugar in short supply. Young women lost their sweethearts, and many more were replaced by a British lass - one of my good friends is a British war bride.
I was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba prior to enlisting, and many of the boys from home would call on me on their way to embarkation in Halifax. I think this gave me the added incentive to take an active part. Sometimes I was the last "face from home" before they went into action. My mother was a bit upset, but my Dad was proud.
My adventure in the Air Force began with my enlistment in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on July 20, 1943, the day after my 18th birthday. Being away from home wasn't new, as I had been working in Winnipeg, Manitoba as a stenographer following training at the Saskatoon Technical School. I completed high school at 15. We boarded a train and headed for our basic training depot at Rockcliffe, Ontario, outside of Ottawa. Some of the girls were right out of school and pretty homesick.
We were fitted with uniforms and our kit, and soon learned to keep everything neat as we didn't know when we'd have inspection. Getting an upper bunk was smart, as it didn't get messed up with friends sitting on your bunk. We had route marches around the area and endured many blisters. Our Sargent (Stinky Stinson we nicknamed him), was a good scout, and would let us break off and rest in the lovely warm sunshine. Our three months of basic training soon passed, but in the meantime, we had seen the sights of Ottawa.
A few of us who wanted to be Wireless Operators were sent to Number One Wireless School in Montreal. Our barracks were in the wealthy Westmount area on Cote de Neige, across from the Cathedral. Our training was intense: up early; classes up and down the five storey building, and after parades, etc. we were ready for bed. They told us it was a two year course compressed into six months. One of our teachers had been employed by Canadian Press and could take messages reply, and carry on a conversation at the same time he was operating. This was Morse code. He was my inspiration.
Our stay in Montreal was not all work and no play. New Year's Eve, a friend and I went to a dance and the pianist in the orchestra was Oscar Peterson. He was about eighteen, I think, and even then, the dancers stopped to listen to him play. Strange what sticks in the memory. I remember the smell of garlic on the buses. The French cuisine, I guess, used garlic which I wasn't used to in my family. Montreal was a most interesting city. We had a weekend leave and my friend, Kay, and myself decided to visit New York and see what the Big Apple was like. We took the train and I can still visualize all those tracks leading into Grand Central Station. We stayed at the Lady Roosevelt Hotel which was a "ladies only" hotel. They had all kinds of free tickets to the sights, and we took in as many as possible.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 045 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
A World War II Memory - Eileen Kingsley WD
Life in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division
KINGSLEY, EILEEN MARY MARGUERITE
The following service history was received at the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Archives on March 2, 2001. The CATP Museum does not have a picture of Ms. Kinglsley. The photos in this vignette are also from the Archives.
The first group of young men left our small village of Codette, Saskatchewan in 1939, and as each came of age, many more joined up. War was not a stranger to me as my Dad, Cecil Kingsley, was wounded at Vimy Ridge at the age of sixteen, and suffered from his wounds during his short life. He lied about his age, and by the time the authorities discovered it, he was in France and wounded. The loss of so many of our young men in the Second World War resulted in a shortage of help on the arm,
Service women from Canada and the U.S.A. army, navy and air force, mingled together. We danced at the Stage Door Canteen, watched skating in Times Square, visited the Empire State Building and St. Patrick's Cathedral. We took in a show at the Radio City Music Hall where the famous Rockettes were dancing. I'm sorry to say I slept through most of the performance! It
was a wonderful weekend, but we were soon on our way back to Montreal to our training. Kay and I still keep in touch.
Graduation brought more change. I was second in my class and was rewarded with an "Automatic B" which meant I didn't have to wait a certain period to gain experience and I had an increase in pay. I don't remember what we were paid. It was also supposed to give a choice of postings. My request was a western move, but instead I was sent to Number 8 Transport Squadron at Moncton, New Brunswick, via Halifax, Nova Scotia. The three weeks I spent in Halifax were cloaked in fog, so it was years later before I could explore that interesting city with my husband.
My work at Number 8 was monitoring the transport Dakotas as they flew to Gander Newfound-land, and various bases. We each were taken on an orientation flight; my first flight ended with a return to base because of smoke in the cockpit. If it happened now, I would show a lot more concern. I was on shift when we learned of the D-Day landing. It was a great worry as so many of my friends were involved.
We had a softball team and took in some tournaments in Halifax. Several times we flew to Summerside, Prince Edward Island to play the Navy team. There were dances with some of the big name bands from the U.S.A. entertaining. The Royal Air Force embarkation base was close by, and the English airmen invited us to their dances. We thought it odd that the men often danced together. I expect it was for lack of females. We danced the Hokey Pokey and a lot of mixer dances that we hadn't experienced before.
My corporal stripes came with a posting to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia where my role was as a shift supervisor. This included supervision of the men and the older operators. They accepted me as one of them. We were a listening station and weather collector from various weather stations in the area. Our orders were not to break silence except in an emergency. One day, an operator on my watch received an S.O.S. "Mayday" from an airplane in trouble. He was afraid to reply, so I took over his post, got their position, and contacted Halifax by teletype. The plane crash landed on Sable Island but a rescue crew was sent out. Thankfully, no one was killed.
Yarmouth was a well run station and a training area for the British Fleet Air Arm which used the flimsy looking Tiger Moth. Years later we read of a scandal about service personnel selling food from the kitchen. The meals were much better than at Moncton, even if they sold some of the food.
We had a good time and the W.D.s were always in demand at dances. I always regretted that I didn't learn how to jive - felt too self-conscious. Years later, my husband and I visited Yarmouth and felt very nostalgic when we went down to the spot where the bus used to turn around - nothing had really changed. We were treated with great respect by the wonderful Blue Nosers.
When V E Day finally arrived, we were joyous. I recall one of the officers walking down the street with a gallon of "pink lady" under his arm. Everyone was celebrating. It was a privilege to know so many great people. One of my favourite people was Flt./Lt. Richard, our chaplain. He brought peace to many a troubled heart and I wish I had kept in touch.
My ambition had always been to become a nurse, and when we were given an opportunity to take early discharge, I applied so I could join the September training class. I was discharged in Winnipeg, Manitoba at Number 5 Release Centre on June 22, 1945. My classmates were envious of the $60 a month I received for the two years spent in the service. I saved enough in those two years to pay for my third year at St. Boniface Hospital, Manitoba. We clebrated our 50th anniversary of graduation in 1998.
Strangely, when I started nursing I was homesick - not for my parental home, but for the companionship and closeness the service provided. It was a great experience, but one we hope not to have to be repeated.
My life has been a most interesting experience, and now I enter a new phase as my beloved husband, Lawrence Pierce, died at Christmas. He was my life partner for fifty years.
Eileen Pierce, nee Kingsley
Eileen Pierce died on July 7, 2016 in Brandon Manitoba at the age of 90 years.