Manitoulin
Women in Uniform

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This page is dedicated to the women of Manitoulin Island who served in various branches of the Armed Forces.
At present the majority of material has been generously donated by Rick McCutcheon, publisher of the Manitoulin Expositor and taken from a current publication Women of Valour which honoured the Women Veterans of Manitoulin. This issue was released prior to the dedication of the Women's Memorial at Veterans' Memorial Gardens on Saturday, September 15, 2001.

If you find these stories interesting, why not drop Mr. McCutcheon a line and let him know you appreciate his contribution.

Anyone having stories, letters or remembrances of Manitoulin women who served their country is invited to share those memories here. Please submit to Manitoulin Women Veterans

.

EDNA MILLMAN
Flying Officer, RCAF Nursing Service

Flying officer Edna Millman, a 1932 graduate of the Hamilton General Hospital School of Nursing was working for the Department of Veteran Affairs at the old Christie Street Veterans' Hospital in Toronto when she enlisted in the RCAF Nursing Service in December 1941. She was born in Blind River and grew up in Meldrum Bay when her family moved there. After serving at No.1 Technical Training School, St. Thomas, Ontario she was posted overseas to No. 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group, Yorkshire, England. After a term at the Conversion Unit, Wombleton, she joined the Mobile Field Hospital to prepare for duty on the Continent after the invasion. While at Wombleton, a pilot who was flying bombers came to visit Millie. He name was Millman too, Ralph Millman. He wondered if they were relatives. No, they weren't but they became friends and later married in East Grinstead. After a brief honeymoon they went back to their respective units.
The term of service on the Continent was limited and Millie was sent back to England to the repatriation depot at Warrington. While there she was notified that her husband had been killed in action.
Later she went to serve at the RCAF hospital at East Grinstead. She was one of the first nursing sisters on the beaches of Normandy after the 1944 D-Day Assault. She helped many brave soldiers recuperate from their wounds, throughout France.
She was repatriated to Canada and discharged in August 1945. After attending university she worked with the Red Cross doing Public Health Nursing on Manitoulin Island.
Earlier in her career, following graduation, she had worked as a private nurse in Toronto East General Hospital as a supervisor on the surgical floor.
Following repatriation to Canada and her discharge in 1945, she attended university and then nursed for the Red Cross in many towns across Northern Ontario. She first nursed at Apsley, followed by Hawk Junction, Callender, and finally for many years in Gore Bay, where she travelled all over the Island.
After her father died in 1963, Edna returned home to Meldrum Bay, to look after her mother for her remaining years.
Edna lived alone in her family home for many years until she moved to Espanola, to an apartment connected to the nursing home and hospital, for a few years, until she moved back to the Island to reside at Manitoulin Lodge, in Gore Bay, in 1990. She lived at the Lodge until her death on June 8, 1999.
Edna was an inspiration to many of the staff at the Lodge. She is greatly missed by her many friends, caregivers and family.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

JOAN CORRIGAN (Lemons)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Joan Corrigan (Lemons) left Mindemoya in January 1944, planning to trade work in her father's hometown bakery for work in Toronto.
In May 1944 she enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps and was called up in June of that year.
She saw service at three postings: 102 Depot Company, CWAC, Trinity Barracks, Toronto; Basic Training, 'D' Company, 18 Platoon, No.5 CWAC Basic Training Centre, Kitchener; No. 12 Company, Kildare Barracks, Ottawa and attached to CPC (Canadian Postal Corps) in Ottawa at the Base Post Office where the final sortation was done on all army and air force mail going overseas.
She was discharged from active service in May 1946, but not before marrying Robert Lemons, U.S. Navy, in a military wedding on February 9, 1946.
Following the war, her husband remained in the U.S. Navy so she lived with him on postings in Florida and Illinois. Following Mr. Lemons discharge they settled in Illinois and raised a daughter Frances, son Stanley "Cork" and foster son Ed Jasefchuck.
She was widowed in 1972, retired in 1989 from a career as a Registered Medical Assistant and returned home to Canada permanently. She now resides in Bracebridge, Ontario with summers on Manitoulin.
She is active in veterans groups, including the Canadian Corps Association, CWAC Unit No. 47 and the War Pensioners of Canada.
Joan Lemons has also been an active member of the committee organizing the Manitoulin Women's Memorial.
She notes that "I've given up ice skating and dancing and swimming! I just stand in the lake with a hat on!!"
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

JOAN CORRIGAN (Lemons)
An honoured veteran recalls her service years

By Ruth Farquhar MINDEMOYA-When Joan M. Corrigan (Lemons) was a teenage girl in Mindemoya during the early years, she dreamt of enlisting in the air force. Everyday after helping her parents, A.L.S. "Cork" and Alice Corrigan in their bakery she joined the groups of women rolling bandages and knitting socks to send to the men overseas. "I tried to knit a sock a day," says Ms. Lemons.
In January of 1944, Ms. Lemons went to Toronto to work and in May of that year she enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps and although it was not the air force it didn't matter for she knew that she was meant to help her country. She was called up in mid-June and reported for medicals at the beginning of July.
"I was sworn in on July 5, 1944 and reported to the Trinity Barracks in Toronto following a enlistment leave at home." Receiving her uniform and kit from Stanley Barracks, within days of her draft she was sent to Basic Training Centre No. 3 in Kitchener, Ontario. Basic training took six weeks and on the day she graduated her great-grandmother and aunt were part of the audience to congratulate her.
To show off their skills a gas drill was scheduled and the powers-that-be were careful with the placement of the chairs for the audience. "We were snappy as we could be, the drill came and we were ready but the wind changed and it went over the whole audience. My 95-year-old great- grandmother was tear gassed. Everyone was okay though."
Then Ms. Lemons was sent to #12 Company, Kildare Barracks in Ottawa and was attached to the Canadian Postal Corps at the base post office. "This was the final sorting of all mail going to the army and air force overseas. The ail was sent to Field Post Offices for distribution to the troops wherever they were, in battle or behind the lines."
Ms. Lemons knew this work was vital, that receiving mail kept the morale of the troops up, but there was another reason Ms. Lemons asked to be attached to the postal corps. "We heard that we could get sent overseas faster; but you couldn't go until you were 21. We "girls" were always hoping to be on the next overseas draft to deliver the mail over there." It was not to be, however Ms. Lemons was on orders to go overseas when the war ended.
In Ottawa, Ms. Lemons lived in a house which used to belong to diplomat and she shared the master bedroom with 22 other women. "We created our own entertainment by putting on dances and playing charades." Ms. Lemons remembers that there was always lots of things for the service men to do but nothing for the service women. "They wouldn't let service women into the dances for the service men and at times we did feel like social outcasts."
There was definitely prejudice against women in the military, Ms. Lemons remembers incidents where officers wouldn't get into Jeeps if a woman was driving, and many people believed that a women's place was in the home not in uniform. Despite the feelings of some tht being in the armed forces was not a job for a woman, would Ms. Lemons do it all over again? Absolutely. "If I had to do it over again I would have lied about my age and gone in sooner. And I would have throttled McKenzie King and stayed in the army following the war."
According to Ms. Lemons, Prime Minister King was known for not wanting women in the military, After V.E. Day in May 1945 Ms Lemons continued at the base post office as repatriation was just in the beginning stages. "During this time we were asked to volunteer for the Pacific Forces which I did. We received the Pacific Patch containing the colours of each Canadian Division to sew onto our sleeves."
But before Ms. Lemons could participate in the training programs the war ended in August 1945 in the Pacific. As repatriation got into full swing the work load at the base post office decreased and the staff was reduced by demobization. "I was discharged the end of May in 1946 and on September 30, 1946 the last women were discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces. There was not one woman left in the Army, Navy or Air Force." Ms. Lemons currently lives between Bracebridge and Manitoulin Island. She is a member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 and the Cenotaph Committee, active in the United Church, belongs to the War Pensioners of Canada and the Canadian Corps Association Unit #47. She is also a registered Medical Assistant, a Fellow of International College of Medical Technology and a Life Member of the American Association of Medical Personnel.
Ms. Lemons is justifiably proud of her role in the military and she says it best, "Those women who served Canada in the military have become a significant part of Canada's history."
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

EDITH KRUGER (Bailey)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Edith Kruger (Bailey) wa born in St. Sjorup, Denmark but came with her parents to Gore Bay as a small child.
She enlisted at the age of 19 in the CWAC in Toronto and had postings thre and in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Se was discharged from active service in August, 1946 from her last posting in Fredericton.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

LIEUTENANT HELEN LEWIS JOHNSON (Michell)
Nursing Sister

Lieutenant Helen Lewis Johnson (Michell) graduated from Toronto General Hospital nursing program in 1940. In 1942 she was accepted as a nursing sister at the rank of Lieutenant with the Canadian Army.
She worked at Chorney Park Hospital for returning veterans and at the prisoner of war camp in Monteith in Northern Ontario.
After the war ended, she remained in active service until her discharge in June, 1946.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

COLLEEN McGREGOR (Font)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Frances "Colleen" McGregor was born on June 3, 1925 in Birch Island, Ontario. She was the fourth child of ten. She had a Grade 10 education and certificate in St. John's Ambulance as well as the Red Cross Home Nursing.
Colleen McGregor joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) on October 31, 1944. As a private, she did her basic training in Kitchener, then worked as a cook in the Officers Mess at Niagara Camp and No. 26 Admin. Unit.
She worked as a cook for two years in the private home of Justice R.L. Kellock, in Toronto.
She married Albert D.A. Font on September 16, 1946 and lived in Toronto. They had eight children but only six survived.
Colleen was accepted at the Ontario College of Art but unfortunately was not able to attend due to Army service. She instead, became a good wife, loving mother and devoted grandmother.
She passed away on March 22, 1988 and rests in Toronto with her husband.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

LUCIENNA MILLS (Yates)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

"I enlisted in the CWAC in 1943 along with my friend Edith Delaney. We were sent to Kitchener, Ontario for our basic training. From there I was sent back to Toronto to work at Army Headquarters and Edith was sent down East.
"While at Army Headquarters I met my husband and we were married later that year. In 1944 I moved to Barrie, Ontario and after the war we moved into Camp Borden married quarters.
"In 1950 my husband was posted to the Far East (Japan/Korea) as an Administrative Officer and for the time he was away I moved back to Little Current with my two children."
"When my husband returned he was posted to Army Headquarters in Kingston, then Ottawa again as an Admin. Officer. We stayed in Ottawa for 11 years where we finished our family: two boys and a girl."
"My husband returned from the Armed Services in 1963 and we moved back to Toronto."
"I was always a full-time homemaker and thoroughly enjoyed my role as such."
"In 1999 my husband passed away and the following year I moved to Kitchener to be nearer my younger daughter. I am very comfortable here and enjoy reasonably good health at the present time. Hopefully it will continue for a few more years."
"I am looking forward to being present at the ceremonies in September."
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

IDA FERGUSON
Nursing Sister (First World War)

Manitowaning produced a First World War heroine, Miss Ida Ferguson who was a graduate of the New York Postgraduate Hospital.
Miss Ferguson enlisted and went overseas with Postgraduate Unit to Base Hospital No. 8 in 1917. She showed what she was made of when, on October 8, 1918 she was on duty at Field Hospital No. 12 in Chippy, France when the hospital was shelled for an entire day. Miss Ferguson remained constantly at her post in the operating room which was repeatedly showered with fragments of bursting shells. By this bravery, risking her own life, she aided greatly in saving the lives of several wounded men. When she returned home to Manitowaning at the close of hostilities, she received, deservedly, a heroine's welcome: the town was decorated and a huge crowd turned out to meet her. In the evening, a reception was held in honour of her return.
During the Second World War she was a tireless volunteer for the Red Cross Society in Manitowaning.
Her uniform and medals are an important part of the collection of the Assigniack Museum in Manitowaning.
Her follows Miss Ferguson's own account of her wartime experiences: "In June 1917, I enlisted for war service as an army medical nurse with the New York Post Graduate Hospital Unit. We embarked July 29th on S.S. Saratoga and next day while awaiting of Tompkinville for the formation of a convoy, the vessel was rammed by the steamer Panama coming from Cuba. The pilot was German, it was found out, and the accident deliberate as we were anchored and it was broad daylight. We had a personnel over 2,000 Drs., nurses and corps men. The hospital equipment and personal baggage was destroyed by water. We had to wait until August 7 to get re-equipped.
"We sailed on the S.S. Finland and 13 days later landed at St. Nazaire, France. On Sunday, August 19the, the 12th day from New York, a message was received from British destroyers as to the whereabouts of a flotilla of German submarines. At 2:11 p.m. the San Jacinto, one of the transports in the convoy, sighted the submarine and immediately the destroyers opened fire.
After considerable movement the convoy was reassembled, passed into the Bay of Biscay, and proceeded undisturbed until Monday, August 20th. At 8:50 a.m., while within sight of land, a major submarine engagement took place in which all the transports and six torpedo destroyers participated.
The Finland fired 38 shells and if officially credited with having two torpedoes discharged at her. After an hour and forty minutes the convoy was reassembled and at 7 p.m. arrived at the dock at St. Nazaire, France. The next morning the nurses went by train and the officers and men marched to Base Hospital No. 8, Savenay, a distance of 18 kilometers.
On April 19, 1918 Miss Cornwall and I, another Canadian, left Base Hospital No. 8 on a surgical team for duty at the front. We followed the Gibsey Division in its history-making days through Amiens, Cantigny, Soissons, Chateau Thierry, St. Michel, and the Argonne, etc. For seven months we lived under unbelievable hardships and dangers. Day after day and night after night we traveled by motor truck train. Our food hard tack, bully beef and monkey meat. Our bed, any convenient building, hay stack, or often, open fields and woods. Sometimes there was no stop for sleep which meant drowsing away all night on the cold wet seat of an any army truck dashing madly through the darkness with every light doused. At the end of the trip, we slaved for long hours at the operating table and when completely exhausted, stove to snatch such sleep as the Boche shells, gas and bombs would permit.
We were at the front until after the Armistice and then back to Base 8. We sailed home March 2nd, 1919 on the S.S. Mount Vernon and arrived in New York March 11th. I arrived home to Manitowaning March 21st and was relieved from active service on May 4.
On October 8, 1918 at Chippy, France in the Argonne the hospital was shelled for an entire day. Miss Cornwall and I remained constantly at our post of duty in the operating room for 12 hours. For courage and bravery we each received a citation Certificate and a Croix de Guette Medal."
The Croix de Guerre and citation that she received are on display in the War Room of the Assiginack Museum. Also in this display are numerous items that she brought back from France.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

NAOMI AINSLIE
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Naomi Ainslie served with the Ordnance Corps for the entire period of her enlistment, which she spent at a single posting, in Ottawa.
She worked on Hollerith machines for the entire period and lived at Kildare Barracks.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

EFFIE CONLEY (Carlisle)
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Effie Conley (Carlisle) had already left her Mindemoya home and was working in Hamilton when she enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division) in 1943.
She was posted to the Uplands Air Force Base, Rockcliffe Park (Ottawa) for basic training and then sent to Toronto and finally to Lachine, Quebec.
She worked in Admin Ops (administration division) with 17 sergeants, one LAC, "and myself."
"We looked after the administrative details of airmen either being posted overseas or being posted back to Canada. They came through our office," she recalls.
She married a soldier just back from the war in 1945 which automatically gave her her discharge. "I was married in June and got out in August."
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

EVELYN CAMPBELL (Yurick)
Canadian Women's Army CorpsEvelyn Campbell (Yurick) joined the CWAC in early 1942 and wash discharged in April 1944.
She served as a messenger, a driver and a receptionist with postings in Toronto, Newmarket and Hamilton.
She married Peter Yurick in Toronto in June 1944 and moved to British Columbia in 1945.
Her family consists of four girls and one boy.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

REITA MAY BAILEY (Lemieux)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Reita My Bailey (Lemieux) was born in Kagawong.
In 1942 she enlisted in the CWAC working as a nurse.
Following her discharge from service and her marriage in 1946 to Andrew Lemieux, she continued to work in the field of nursing in the Sudbury area while at the same time raising a large family of eight children.
She passed away in 1988 at the age of 64.
Her children are very proud of their mother's wartime service.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

DOROTHY G. TURNER (Sloss)
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

"When I enlisted, Hitler heard me coming, so he threw in the towel," was Dorothy Turner (Sloss) comment on her brief stint in the RCAF(WD). She enlisted in October 1943 in London, Ontario in Clerk Ops (clerical operations) having only recently left Little Current to enroll at the University of Toronto.
The job involved she said, "standing on ladders and plotting the course of aircraft."
She said a friend of hers and herself, got the last two positions in clerk ops as the war was coming to an end and that division was being shut down. "That's whey we went to London because that's where the positions were open."
After clerk ops, she was remustered to Ottawa to the clerk general's office to type and file until war's end.
She said she had hoped to be sent overseas but the war ended before that could happen.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

RUTH BAXTER (Caldwell)
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Ruth Baxter was the daughter of Little Current hardware merchant George Baxter and Mildred Baxter.
Following graduation from high school in Little Current, she attended Toronto Teacher's College and had teaching positions in Little Current and Sheguiandah, then in the late 1930s, in Kirkland Lake.
By 1942, Ruth Baxter was working in the Ontario Government's Vital Statistics Office in Toronto.
She enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division) in the fall of 1942, and was trained as Clerk Operations - Bomber Reconnaissance.
In Halifax she was serving as a member of the Operations Room Staff, working in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Navy, plotting flights over the North Atlantic convoys.
Ruth Baxter was discharged from the service in August 1945.
In September of that year she married Bert Caldwell in Little Current. She and her husband lived in Kingston until 1949 while he attended Queen's University.
They raised two sons, Gordon and Jim in various Ontario communities where her husband taught school.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

JEAN NORQUAY (Morrison)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Jean Norquay (Morrison), a native of Manitowaning, enlisted in the CWAC in Ottawa in 1943. She had previously been working in the capital for the government for a year.
She received her basic training in Kitchener and following further instruction as a clerk and stenographer in Ottawa and Montreal, she was posted to the Royal Military College in Kingston and worked there as a stenographer.
She joined the Pacific Force in June 1945, and was stationed in Brockville, Ontario until war's end.
She was discharged at Longbranch in November 1945.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

GWENDOLYN STEELE (Whelen)
Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service

Gwendolyn Steele (Whelen) joined the Navy (WRCN) in January 1944.
She trained in Galt, Ontario and from there was posted to HMCS, Cornwallis, to Halifax, to Ottawa and to Montreal.
She was discharged from active service in June 1946.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

ZOE VIRGINIA TRUDEAU
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Zoe Virginia Trudeau left Wikwemikong in 1941 to enlist in the Canadian Women's Army Corps. Her posting was in Southern Ontario.
She was, in fact, a casualty of her experience as she contracted pneumonia while still in service and passed away in 1943.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

DOROTHY MARSHALL (Long)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Dorothy Marshall (Long) served with the Canadian Women's Army Corps from 1943 until war's end in 1945.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

DOREEN ASHLEY (Wood)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Doreen Ashley (Wood) enlisted in the CWAC in August 1943, taking her basic training in Kitchener.
The remainder of her service was in London, Ontario where her duties were primarily office work and canteen duties.
"I mostly enjoyed the routine, although it was quite hectic at times. I worked mostly in large canteens with two girls from Newfoundland."
She served with 'D' Company, No.3, BTC, CWAC.
She left the service in May, 1945.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

ELSIE WILSON (Cichelly)
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Elsie Wilson (Cichelly) left her Providence Bay home to enlist in the RCAF where she saw active service during the Second World War.
Following war's end, she attended university and worked at the Red Cross Outpost Hospital in Nakina in Northern Ontario.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

CHARLOTTE McARTHUR
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Charlotte (Lottie) McArthur was born and raised in Providence Bay.
She enlisted in the RCAF in September 1942, and was discharged from the service in October 1945.
Following her basic training, her posting was to Halifax.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

EDITH DELANEY 911 (Dillane)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Edith Delaney was born and raised in Little Current.
She enlisted in the CWAC and following basic training in Kitchener was posted to Eastern Canada.
Following the Second World War she married a veteran and lived in Sudbury, raising her family there.
She has since passed away.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

JESSIE CLARK
Nursing Sister - First World War

Miss Jessie Clark, a native of Gore Bay, arrived back in Canada, at the docks, in Halifax, Nova Scotia well after war's end.
By June 20, 1919 she was a veteran of four years nursing service overseas.
She had gone over in June 1915 with the Harvard Unit of the Medical Corps working in hospitals in England and France until February 1916 when she returned to England and joined the Canadian Corps. While with the Canadian Sisters, Miss Clark nursed the wounded in many Casualty Cleaning Stations in France.
While overseas, Miss Clark kept track of the Manitoulin boys and remembered them quite often by sending them boxes of cakes and candy which had been sent to her from Canada, and by writing letters to them, especially to those who were wounded or in hospital. She received many letters of thanks and appreciation from the soldiers and many wrote home of the good and thoughtful work Miss Clark was doing.
She was made an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Legion and was also a member of the American Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

MARGARET L. McCAIG (Noble)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Margaret L. McCaig (Noble) was born on Cockburn Island, the fifth child of 10. Her parents were Thomas and Nellie McCaig.
Margaret McCaig (Noble) joined the service in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 1942.
She achieved the rank of Corporal.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

GERALDINE ARNOLD (Andrychuk)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Geraldine Arnold (Andrychuk) was 21 when she left Sandfield to enlist in the CWAC in July, 1942.
She had two years of service in Toronto before her discharge in 1944, attaining the rank of Lance Corporal.
She received the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, 1939-1945.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

NORMA ORFORD (Martin)
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Norma Orford (Martin) was born in Mills Township, Manitoulin Island on May 31, 1924.
In 1943, she enlisted in the RCAF and following training, was designated the trade of Leading Airwoman. She performed the vital task of packing parachutes.
On October 18, 1945, she married William Alexander Martin.
By dint of hard work and dedication, she raised her seven children herself. She cooked in restaurants before returning to school and qualifying as an accountant. She worked in that capacity for Family Services in London for 14 years.
Norman Orford (Martin) is characterized by her dedication to her children and by her wonderful sense of humour.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

MARY K. BRYAN (Wager)
Canadian Women's Army Corps

Mary K. Bryan (Wager) was born in 1925 on Barrie Island and raised in Gore Bay. She enlisted in the CWAC in 1943.
Following basic training, she was posted to Camp Borden where she served as secretary to a General in the army, a position she held until her discharge from the army in 1945.
She met her husband Lloyd Wager, in Parry Sound before she enlisted and they were married after war's end, in 9145. He was also an army veteran and a war amputee.
Mary Bryan (Wager) went to live in the Oshawa area after her marriage and resides there still. She has three children.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

MARY GEORGINA BAXTER
Royal Canadian Air Force
(Women's Division)

Georgina Baxter, born in Little Current in 1924, was "the only Haweater in my family."
In 1942, she enrolled at the University of Toronto then joined the RCAF (WD) in January 1943, receiving training as a Navigator, Equipment Assistance. She was sent to No. 1 Wireless School in Montreal.
She says candidly that, "it became obvious that equipment was not my thing, and when asked what I really wanted to do, I replied, 'anything to do with aircraft."
"Thanks to that Women's Division Officer and the OC (Officer Commanding) of the Flying Squadron, it was arranged that I would start contact training as an Air Frame Mechanic at St. Hubert, Quebec.
"I learned on the job, thanks to a very considerate group of tradesmen, mostly French Canadian, who helped this unusual WD to actually attain her A group AFM (Air Frame Mechanic)-the top. That achievement has remained my most appreciated one.
"In the late summer of 1944, I was transferred to No. 8 Repair Depot in Winnipeg. In the summer of 1945, I received my discharge notice, spending a fascinating leave in New York before final discharge in August."
Georgina Baxter attended Queen's University following the war's end. Following graduation, she again headed west to the Forest Insect Laboratory in Indian Head Saskatchewan, but "deciding that research was not an overly interesting occupation, I left for Richmond, Virginia in 1952 to train as an Occupational Therapist in their graduate program." She accepted a position in Edmonton in 1954.
"When I had had 18 years as an Occupational Therapist (Edmonton and England), I retrained in Edmonton as a Library Technician, graduating in 1979 and working at Regano College in Fort McMurray until 1989. Retirement was (and is) in Edmonton.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

DOROTHY SANDERS (McKeen)
Royal Canadian Air Force

Dorothy Sanders (McKeen), a native of South Baymouth served with the RCAF (WD) as a cook.
She had many postings across Canada during her time in uniform, including Toronto, St. Thomas, St. Hubert (Quebec), Prince Rupert (B.C.) and Vancouver (B.C).
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

LIEUTENANT MARJORIE WIBER (Dutton)
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

Lieutenant Marjorie Wiber (Dutton) served in the army medical corps from 1943 until her discharge in June 1945.
She graduated from nursing school in 1940, joining the army in 1942 with two years experience.
Her experience in the army included nursing service at London, Ontario and then on a hospital ship, the Letieia.
She recalls this last posting as, "an exceptional traveling experience for me. It included Atlantic crossings to Southampton (England), Scotland and France.
"Each crossing gave me a week's furlough as the skipper always had to go to the ship yard for complete inspection and repairs. Since it was wartime, traveling was limited. However, this service, including the traveling was the highlight of my nursing career.
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

KAY CHRISTIE: First POW Nursing Sister
A Manitoulin heroine survives capture by the Japanese in 1941 Hong Kong

By Cheryl Waugh
December 7, 1941: "A day that will live in infamy," proclaimed US president Franklin D. Roosevelt as shocked Americans woke on what should have been a peaceful Sunday morning to discover that Imperial Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor.
This December, 60 years will have passed since that eventful morn, and President Roosevelt's prophecy will be proven once again; December 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor are synonymous with each other, almost forgotten in the overwhelming atmosphere of honouring the American tragedy are the other Japanese attacks in the hours after Pearl Harbor, the Phillipines, Malaya, and Hong Kong.
For Kay Christie, a nursing sister who was stationed at a British Military Hospital in Hong Kong, December 7, 1941 was a day of personal infamy as the events that would make her the first nursing sister to become a Prisoner of War began.
It's a far cry from the blue waters and peaceful, rolling hills of Manitoulin to war-torn Hong Kong in 1941, but Ms. Christie made that trip as a dedicated nursing sister, working with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant.
Born in Little Current on June 10, 1911, Ms. Christie is fondly remembered by those who knew her. (She died in February 1994 from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.) "I remember she had beautiful flaming red hair," said Betty McHarg, of Little Current. "She was a very nice young lady, very friendly. Her father worked at the old mill that was here."
Her mother died when Ms. Christie was still a child, and soon after her father moved her, along with her two brothers and sisters, to Toronto where she was raised by her aunt, a registered nurse to whom she credits her own desire to enter that profession. But Manitoulin was not left far behind as the Christies made the Island their summer home, and visited here on holidays.
Ms. McHarg remembers that her sister Peggy, who also studied nursing but at a different hospital in Toronto, became great friends with Ms. Christie, they would often return to Manitoulin together.
Ms. Christie graduated from the School of Nursing of the Toronto Western Hospital on May 25, 1933, and spent one year on the general staff of the hospital before entering private nursing. She was encouraged by the Superintendent of Nurses of the Toronto Western Hospital to enlist after the Second World War started. She did so on November 27, 1940 and was assigned to the Toronto Military and Chorley Park Military Hospitals before she was posted to a then-unknown overseas destination in October of 1941. She was enroute to Vancouver by train when she met nursing sister Anna May Waters of Winnipeg, who not only joined her on her journey to western Canada, but also to Hong Kong, and then when Hong Kong fell, to a Japanese Prisoner of War camp.
In Vancouver, the two nurses had to report to Military Headquarters each day at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eventually, they were told to go out and buy all the summer clothes they could find. In an interview with Bill McNeil of CBC Radio in 1922, Ms. Christie said it was great fun trying to find summer clothes in October. Ms. Christie managed to find one outfit. She and Ms. Waters were assigned to the troop ship AMT Awatea..destination still unknown.
On October 27, 1941, the two nurses and 1,975 Canadian servicemen sailed from Vancouver. A difficult crossing of the Pacific Ocean followed as rough weather assaulted the ship. Having to set up a 54-bed hospital, and dealing with ill crewmen (including one death) kept the two nurses busy on the ocean voyage. A brief stay was made in the Phillipines, although no one was allowed to disembark. Finally, in Honolulu, they discovered the ship was being assigned to Hong Kong for the purpose of reinforcing the British Colony in case of a Japanese attack.
Imperial Japan's attack on Hong Kong in December of 1941 was the focus of a controversial documentary called, "A Savage Christmas: The Fall of Hong Kong," developed by Terence and Brian McKenna, of Montreal. It was one part of "The Valour and The Horror" war series they created in the early 1990s. The Hong Kong assignment was a "hopeless mission," said script-writer Terence McKenna.
By December of 1941, Japan had already swept through China and was moving south towards the Chinese border with the British Colony of Hong Kong. According to the documentary, in early 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had said privately that there was not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or of relieving it if the Japanese attacked. However, his military persuaded him that it was worth at least a symbolic attempt to hold Hong Kong, but rather than risk British troops, Canada was asked to do the job.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers, who were on garrison duty in Jamaica, and The Royal Rifles of Canada, the troop Ms. Christie was assigned to in Vancouver were shipped out to Hong Kong.
"Incredibly, Canada answered England's call without making an independent assessment of the peril, accepting the mother country's assurance that the men would be in harm's way," said Mr. McKenna.
The Grenadiers were officially classified as "unfit for combat" by the Canadian defence department, as many in the unit had never thrown a grenade or even fired a rifle before they were assigned to Hong Kong. The Royal Rifles weren't much better.
"Outside our cabin they're giving them lectures, telling them what this end of the rifle is called, where to put the bullet in, honestly, it's just appalling," said Ms. Christie when she was interviewed for the documentary.
Three weeks after leaving Vancouver the AMT Awatea arrived in Hong Kong, on November 16, 1941. The two nursing sisters were posted to the British Military Hospital then staffed by Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Sisters.
As the Japanese approached the Chinese border with Hong Kong, British intelligence had estimated there were only 5,000 Japanese soldiers in position to threaten Hong Kong, in fact there were 10 times that amount as 50,000 Japanese soldiers were assembled on the border.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese high command ordered its forces to attack across Asia, first at Pearl Harbor, then the Phillipines, Malaya and Hong Kong.
The British Colony of Hong Kong was not just an island, but a chunk of mainland as well, which included the city of Kowloon. The mainland territory stretched 40 kilometers to the Chinese border. In order to get to Hong Kong Island where Ms. Christie and the hospital were stationed, the Japanese troops had to cross the 40 kilometer mainland strip, where British defence forces were set up, go through the city of Kowloon and then cross the harbour onto the island.
Air raids, though, began immediately on the area and on December 8 the British Military Hospital was bombed. There were 111 direct hits on the hospital and the other buildings on the ground. The air raid siren was hit by the first bomb so those posted there had no warning of the coming onslaught until the planes were overhead.
As the bombings continued on the island, the Japanese troops were storming British and Canadian troops on the mainland. Although British Intelligence had predicted it would take the Japanese weeks to cross that 40 kilometer stretch of mainland, it took them only five days. The Japanese easily captured Kowloon as surviving British and Canadian troops retreated by ferry to Hong Kong island.

At 10 p.m. on December 18, 1941, 7,500 Japanese soldiers crossed the harbour onto Hong Kong island. They forced the Canadian defenders back up the mountains in the center of the island. The "unfit for combat" Grenadiers, about 100 of them, were holding off two regiments of Japanese soldiers as they struggled to keep the high ground. Outnumbered 50 to 1, the Canadian troops stood their ground for five days before the Japanese troops finally broke through on December 23. The Japanese suffered 800 casualties in the standoff.
With the British Military Hospital shelled in the air raids, a Hong Kong private school was set up as a hospital for the wounded. Two doctors and 11 nurses staffed it, including Ms. Christie who had managed to survive the bombings.
In "A Savage Christmas," she told the story of a young soldier she was treating who had lost his left arm, right up to his shoulder, ".he doesn't know yet (about the loss of his arm). And, I'm thinking, 'Dear God, what am I going to tell you when you come to.?'"
The soldier then stirred and looked at his shoulder, and asked Ms. Christie, "How am I doing?"
"You're doing just fine," said Ms. Christie. "He said, 'You mean what's left of me is doing fine.' I said that's exactly it."
"Well, that's kinda the way I figured," said the soldier; who then turned over and went back to sleep.
On Christmas Eve 1941, the Japanese were on the grounds outside the hospital. At 5:30 a.m. on Christmas Day they broke through. The doctors tried to surrender the hospital and were killed. The nurses were raped; five of them were killed.
At 3 p.m. on Christmas Day, the British surrendered Hong Kong. The defending troops, wounded and nurses were now Prisoners of War. Canada lost 557 men defending Hong Kong.
"That term 'surrender', I can't tell you what it does for you," said Ms. Christie in an interview with Jean Bruce, author of "Back the Attack! Canadian Women during the Second World War.' (Macmillan, 1985)
Ms. Christie continued to work at the school/hospital for another eight months as a Prisoner of War. On August 10, 1942, she and the other surviving nurses were sent to a civilian camp, Stanley Camp, on the southside of the island. "We had to leave our patients without nursing care. We were loaded into trucks just like cattle going to market," said Ms. Christie.
Stanley Camp housed about 2400 men, women, and children. The POWs were given two meals a day, a half serving of rice in the morning and some soup, and fish at night. She shared a nine-foot by 12-foot room with two other women. It was completely bare. The windows had bullet holes, while the walls had blood stains. With no bedding, the men in the camp got them some army cushions, which they used to sleep on.
The days consisted largely of boredom. There was nothing for the POWs to do, but with two French Canadian Nuns in camp Ms. Christie went to one of them each day to learn French. She also learned how to play bridge. After awhile, the interned nursing sisters were asked to help out on night duty at the small hospital in Stanley Camp. Each were more than happy to help out.
Finally in September 1943, 21 months after being captured by the Japanese, Ms. Christie became part of a prisoner exchange between the Japanese and the Americans. The two countries had agreed to an exchange of civilian prisoners through the International Red Cross. On request from the Canadian government, the US included Canadian civilians in the exchange. British, New Zealand and Australian prisoners had to wait it out for another two years. They asked their Canadian counterparts to write down the names and address of their families so they could get word to them.
"The Japanese wouldn't let us bring out anything written, and we were worried about the consequences if we were caught," said Ms. Christie to Ms. Bruce. "I wrote the names and addresses down, and then I learned them all by heart while we waiting. When we were lined up, eventually to board the Japanese exchange ship. I very deliberately and obviously threw my notes away, scattering them in the wind, while I repeated and repeated those addresses to myself in my head. When we boarded, we were handed an unusual thing, a roll of orange-coloured toilet paper, and as soon as possible I wrote down as many of those names and addresses as I could remember.
The Japanese ship docked at the port of the neutral Portuguese colony of GAO, where the exchange took place. Her return voyage was a long one around the Cape to Rio de Janeiro, to New York City, and from there, by train to Montreal. Ms. Christie arrived home in Toronto on December 3, 1943, more than two months after boarding the Japanese exchange ship.
By February of 1944, Ms. Christie was ready to return to her nursing sister duties, and she was further posted to Chorley Park, Oakville, and Brampton Retraining Center, before being re-posted to Chorley Park.
After VE Day, Ms. Christie received a position with a prominent Toronto heart specialist as a medical nursing secretary. She was granted a discharge from the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps on October 30, 1945. After her discharge, she worked as a medical secretary for a neuropsychiatric specialist until retirement.
She was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross medal for her distinguished service, and in ensuing years she was named Honorary Patron of the National Council of Veterans, Honourary President of the Nursing Sisters Association of Canada, and in 1995, both she and Ms. Waters were honoured by a plaque erected in the Police Academy in Hong Kong in recognition of their outstanding service.
Ms. Christie was asked once if she had been scared while she was a Prisoner of War; her reply was, "There were others in the same boat - I wasn't alone."
Although she died seven years ago, the nursing sister who once lived and played on the shores of the North Channel here in Little Current is remembered for her courage and grace under fire.
"I remember how proud I was to have known her," said Ms. McHarg, "because she went through hell over there."
Manitoulin Expositor
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001

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