January 9, 2018

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January 9, 2018

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Women's Roles in War to be acknowledged

February 17, 2017

 

Barbara A. Martindale- For What It's Worth May 7, 2013

Women were very much part of the WWII effort. In fact, a Women's Memorial, dedicated to all women who served, is on the Patterson Walkway, just east of the bridge.  Those women who came home from the war and made a difference in the community along with men who served will be acknowledged at this year's Decoration Service, being held Sunday, May 26 at the Caledonia Cemetery Cenotaph.

 

Vera McMorran was one of those women. She passed away February 12, 2012 in her 88th year and is buried in the Caledonia Cemetery.

 

Vera was a member of the RCAF as a wireless operator. Vera Edmondson wasn't the only member of her family to serve. Her sister, Mary Edmondson, was one of 300 nursing sisters who went to South Africa for two years and her brother, Ed, was overseas from 1939 until 1945. Her father was a musketry instructor in the First World War and her mother's sister was a nursing sister during the First World War.

 

Vera told her story in 1995 to this columnist. She was the youngest of the family to enlist and the last. It was the fall of 1943 when she entered the air force office in Hamilton. Following a brief questionnaire about Morse Code, they accepted her.

 

"I was in whether or not I knew anything about the Morse Code, which I certainly did not," said Vera in the 1995 interview.

 

They were given two air force blue uniforms; one for work days and a new style with an A-line skirt for other occasions. Then it was off to Montreal for a six-month training course.

 

Vera arrived in Halifax on D-Day June 6, 1944 to begin her duties as one of eight wireless operators working with aircraft in Halifax. She guided the lost at sea, issued weather information and other such information for aircraft.

 

Vera remembered three Halifax episodes that did damage to the city at the time. The first was at night on VE Day, May 8, 1945 when a streetcar was burned in the streets of Halifax. That started rioting. The following day the horrendous damage was seen as she rode the bus to work- broken store windows on Barrington Street, looting of grocery stores and much more. Happiness that the war was over was just part of the reason for rioting.

 

The second occurred in July while Vera was sitting at her station. There was a great boom and the tile from the ceiling landed on her desk. An ammunition dump nearby was detonated with a lighter. "That was just the beginning of it, you could hear the ammunition setting off all night, things were falling off tables and the barracks building was shaking."  They went outside and slept on the golf course.

 

The third was a hurricane in the fall that came up the coast and did much more damage to Halifax.

Vera wasn't discharged until October 1945. There was still the war with Japan, which didn't end until August, and she and others were kept on.

 

Vera met her husband, Gordon, at Grace United Church during a function when service men and women were given accolades following the war. Gordon had been overseas with the air force.

 

They were married two years later and often joked about their roles in the war- Vera was an operator, Gordon a navigator. Navigators were always getting lost and operators were always bringing them home.

Vera said she took pride in her service with the air force in WWII and considered it a step forward for women. Women in the army were Army Auxiliary and in the navy, they were Navy Auxiliary, but she said we were RCAF (WD)) Royal Canadian Airforce, Women’s Division.  Surviving Gordon, who died some years before Vera, are three children- Sharon, Larry and Bryan.

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