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Date: 1942

Wednesday, January 14

Our made-to-measure uniforms arrived to-day each in its own big, suit box. I couldn’t wait to try mine on. It was made to measure, but not for me—the cuffs came down to my knuckles, the skirt hung at half-staff to my ankles. When I pointed this out to our Quarter Master, she said, interpreting regulations literally: “No alterations are allowed.” I arrived home in tears. Mummy took one look at sad sack me, phoned the Army tailor, Dad drove me there and by the next morning my uniform looked as though it had indeed been made-to-measure…..for me.

Thursday, January 15

First day in uniform. Typing test 75 w.p.m. In the evening Dad, Mummy and I went down to the City Hall to see John receive his Humane Medal from the Mayor. The summer before he had become the neighbourhood hero when a young girl, Dawn Hemeon, accustomed to swimming in the buoyant ocean dove into the not-so-buoyant water of Chocolate Lake and didn’t come up. Johnnie pulled her out.

Monday, January 26

Happy Birthday to me, Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday dear Pat, Happy 24th birthday to me. And a memorable one it was. Marooned in a truck for two hours in the morning, promoted to Corporal in the afternoon, only to have the two stripes taken away before the day ended. However, a lovely birthday supper with Mummy, Dad and John, gifts, phone calls and letters.

Tuesday, January 27

Heard via the grapevine that my gentle Colonel had angry words with Powers because she is posting me to Headquarters without a by-your-leave.

Thursday, January 29

Blizzard and I almost became the first CWAC casualty when I attempted to walk across an open field at the Depot. The snow drifts were deep and as I floundered through them, I slowed down to a crawl. At one point I didn’t think I could go any further and was getting very drowsy, but if I had stopped, I would surely have frozen to death as no one would know where to look for me. I finally reached the Depot, staggered into the office and collapsed onto a chair. Colonel Guildford took one look at me, brought a cup of hot tea well laced with sugar and proceeded to give me the lecture of my life. After lunch, he hiked home with me as the roads were too blocked with snow for cars. He is a very kind and gentle man.

Mummy took over and put me to bed with her sovereign remedy: hot, cream of onion soup. I slept and slept.

Friday, January 30

My first day at Head Quarters and I ran afoul of Junior Commander Power, the CWAC Staff Officer. Our interview started off pleasantly enough until she criticized the length of my hair, then said: “You wear too much make up. Makes you look like a street walker.” I was outraged and in retaliation said: “I would rather look like a street walker than a lamppost!” Big mistake, especially with a witness. Mrs. Power was not amused and told me to report Monday morning for disciplinary action. When will I learn to hold my tongue.

Tuesday, February 2

Apprehensively, walked in the door to find the DOC’s Aide waiting. He asked me to follow him as the Brigadier wanted to see me. Collywobbles. Brigadier Foster, a quiet spoken, weary man, was standing behind his desk. He asked me to sit down and said quietly, “Carter, I think you should apologize to Mrs. Power.” I sat for a moment, swallowing my pride, then said “Yes, Sir.” And that was that. Gather someone had appraised him of the incident.

I was not charged, but reprimanded and warned. I apologized, ’tho the words almost choked me.

At noon, I had “Bernard” restyle my hair, well off the collar. I still intend to wear lipstick. So there.

District Headquarters M. D. No. 6

Headquarters is housed in an enormous, wooden building—two storeys plus an attic and basement. A rabbit warren of offices and a real fire trap.

I had expected the civil servant gals to be resentful, but it was a pleasant surprise to find them friendly and helpful. I’ve been posted as clerk to Captain T.B.J. Mahar, D.S.O., M.C., who is G.S.O. III (Intelligence). A relic of both the Boer War and W.W.I, he is a bit long in the teeth but I gather his expertise is invaluable.

Headquarters is close to downtown Halifax which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, I can once again meet Renee and Eldrid for lunch at the Green (Lantern) and catch up on all the gossip.

A disadvantage, I can no longer walk to work and now must rattle to and fro on “The Toonerville Trolley”, part of Halifax’s antiquated streetcar system. Time wasted travelling to and fro.

Working 6 days a week, often until 8:00 p.m., drilling evenings at the Armouries, and, with Mrs. Clarke, still attending the First Aid Course at St. James Church, there is little time left for social life. Mummy is one of the instructors of the First Aid Course and what with knitting for “Bundles for Britain”, working at the I.O.D.E. Ship’s Library, sending off parcels to Granny and Gramps at Stokes-Marsh-Farm, and looking after Dad, Johnnie and me, she, too, is a busy lady.

Monday, February 11

Subaltern Gloria Queen-Hughes arrived to-day to organize a new company of the Corps.

Her husband was with the Winnipeg Grenadiers in Hong Kong and is a Japanese prisoner-of-war in Hong Kong.

Saturday, February 14

Can’t believe the entry to-day as I am not exactly my mother’s right hand! but it was my day off and I made the beds, did the dishes, set the table and peeled the potatoes. Wonder what sparked this spate of helpfulness? A valentine for Mummy?

Friday, February 21

The scent of magnolias from the past. Toby, brother of my High School pen pal, Morris, from the Deep South, phoned yesterday and came, bearing chocolates, for dinner. He is an Ensign in the American Navy, good looking with a charming Southern drawl. His ship is in port for a few days en route, who knows where? One doesn’t ask. Toby was obviously pleased to have a home to visit while in port and Mummy always makes the “boys” so welcome (her good home cooking is much appreciated too!)


CWAC now stands for Canadian Women’s Army Corps, no longer “Auxiliary”, with the change our officers have the same ranks and badges as the men, and the “rank” volunteer (one step lower than a private) no longer exists.

MacDonald College

MacDonald College women’s residence was taken over by the CWAC to be used as a training centre. The women students were now billeted in the Men’s Residence as there were few male students, as most men of that age were serving in the Armed Forces.

Thursday, March 26

To-day, 13 of us trained to Montreal, then on to MacDonald College, to attend an Administration Course for the officers and N.C.O.s, Basic Training for the others.

Friday, March 27

 Before I left, Dad had gathered all the military pamphlets he could find, packed them in a kit bag and when we arrived at the Ste. Anne de Bellevue station with it, I discovered we had to march to the college. Since I could hardly lift my kit bag, the other girls took pity on me and lent a hand.

Allotted to our rooms shared with three others, Corporals Baker, Begin and Haig. Collected bedding, respirators and tin hats. Also, stripes!!! Am now, Corporal Carter.

Was standing by the entrance, our Course Commandant, Captain Mary Dover nearbywhen the door opened and a most attractive, dark-haired officer staggered in laden down with baggage. Captain Dover greeted her with a “Welcome, Madelaine.”, then said: “Don’t’ just stand there, help her with her bags.” I looked around to see whom she was ordering and discovered it must be me. With poor grace, grabbed a couple of suitcases and followed Madelaine around the corner. Here she apologized profusely, and tried to take her cases back, but since she was obviously such a good head I didn’t mind. Her name was Madelaine St. Laurent (In 1943, Madelaine was my staff officer in Regina and we became good friends. Her father, a charming gentleman I never met but once had a long conversation on the phone, was Prime Minister of Canada after the death of MacKenzie King.).

Monday, March 30

Gradually settling into routine. Reveille 6:30 a.m. Bedding rolled just so, rooms tidied for inspection at 8:30 a…m. Classes 9 to 12, again after lunch. Bed at l0:15 p.m.

Thursday, April 2

To-day, I am Orderly Corporal Up at 5:30 a.m. (I’ve gone to bed at 5:30 a.m. before now, but never got up that early!), woke the Orderly Officer, woke the third floor at 6:30 a.m., Sick Parade 7:00 a.m., classes, more Sick Parade, more classes and on desk at front door until midnight. Yowse. Not to mention my aching feet, result of yesterday’s route march.


[Editor’s note: Memoir transcription provided by donor.]