CALL OF DUTY
Doing her part for the war effort
I was born in St. Catharines, Ont., on July 5, 1925. My dad was a World War 1 veteran but didn’t speak much about the war except when attending reunions.
I remember the day that the Second World War was declared. I had been at the local swimming pool, and on the way home, the newspaper boy around the corner was hollering, “Extra! Extra!“—the war was on.
I decided to join the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) and remember well the
first day of training and receiving my uniform: blue dress, navy blue sweater and cap.
I also remember marching in the parade square—i was behind a girl who didn’t know her left from her right and at times marched with both arms out! But we all did our best to keep in marching formation.
As a member of the WRCNS, I was trained as a switchboard operator, taking external calls and directing them to the proper naval offices.
I served at several Navy Reserve Divisions. I first went to HMCS Star in Hamilton and then to HMCS Conestoga near Galt, Ont. (now part of Cambridge), for training. I was then sent to HMCS Peregrine in Halifax and after that to HMCS Discovery in Vancouver for a six- month stay. After that, I was granted leave, but soon enough was on the move again, this time to Montreal for a five-month deployment. I was then sent to Shelburne, N. S., and finally to HMCS Stadacona in Halifax.
Even though we were literally helping to keep the lines of communication open, we didn’t hear much about what was actually happening overseas because, as they said, “Loose lips sink ships.“
We were all so glad when the war ended. I was sent back to HMCS Peregrine and from there was discharged in 1946.
I think what we did was pretty important—all the services performed important jobs in the war effort.
Helen Betsy Mitchinson.