Printer Friendly

Keeping her memories alive: Evelyn Davis (nee Jamieson) Canadian Women's Army Corps Second world war.

DURING THE SECOND World War, for the first time, Canadian women were mobilized for service in the Canadian Armed Forces. This led to the creation of the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) in 1941. Evelyn Davis was recruited to the CWAC, and subsequently posted to the secretive Camp X in Oshawa due to her invaluable training in Morse code. As a teletypist, she sent and received intelligence messages from abroad. It wasn't until many years later that she realized she was communicating with Bletchley Park in England. Many Canadians have heard Mrs. Davis' story through The Memory Project archive and by hosting Memory Project speakers like her in their community. Her audio interview is available on The Memory Project website (thememoryproject.comj.

MY NAME WAS Evelyn Jamieson. I was born on a farm north of Cobourg, Ontario, and attended high school in Port Hope. I was working at Goodyear Tire, New Toronto, in the advertising department when I decided to join the CWAC. My family doesn't have a military background, but I did have a brother. I thought he might not enlist and stay on the farm, but that didn't happen, and he joined the air force. Luckily, he survived the war.

Very likely, my main reason for joining was posters asking women to join the forces to relieve soldiers for active duty. I was 20 years old when I enlisted in Toronto on March 14, 1943, as W21244. Trinity Barracks, also known as "cockroach palace," was the staging area. The recruits had the normal medical checkups, IQ tests, etc.

Basic training was in Kitchener, Ontario. Nothing unusual about that, but it was a little difficult getting used to 70 girls in a barracks, one big room in April in a building with just two stoves, one at each end of the room. The girls had to look after the stoves and most of them were from towns and cities and didn't know how to stoke a fire. We coped, made friends and graduated.

After graduation, we returned to Trinity Barracks to be posted. While waiting, there was a Victory Bond drive being held in Canada. For several days in the early evening, we were taken by streetcar to different parts of Toronto for a parade. All three services were there with bands for navy, army and air force. It was in May and I remember the girls singing wartime songs as we rode along on the streetcar with windows wide open. That duty was much more fun than washing dishes at the barracks.

Early in June, I think about the first, about 15 or 20 CWAC were posted to Orillia and travelled by train. I became a stenographer at Headquarters Company at [No.] 26 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre. And there were four companies, so there would have been approximately 600 soldiers and staff. Later in the year, I went over to work at C Company. A very vivid memory I have is working as a draft marched out of camp, including the men we replaced. I know some of them did not return home.

It was a wonderful posting, and two of us, Dot Newton and I, went into the town and played softball for a local team, Bryson's Bread, and also went down to the exhibition grounds in Toronto to run at a field day. When I joined, I had requested taking a wireless radio course and in March 1944, I was sent to Barriefield, Kingston. Many of the girls taking the course wanted to go overseas, but I didn't. Many had relatives overseas and wanted adventure.

I knew quite a lot about Morse code and radio before joining, and being young and foolish, wanted to return to Orillia and requested a transfer. It was granted and I returned to Trinity Barracks in Toronto, expecting to return to Orillia and, evidently, they were also expecting me. About that time, the training of agents at Camp X, a spy training school and communications centre, ceased operation at the end of April or early May and became entirely communications. I was sent down to an office at Yonge and King Street and interviewed by a Major Justin. A few days later, June the first, 1944, three CWAC were picked up by an army vehicle and driven out of Toronto to Camp X. Our first view was a group of buildings surrounded by a fence, and guards on the gates.

I can't remember whether we were told in Toronto that we would be under the Official Secrets Act or when we arrived in camp. Civilian men and women and army men and women worked together. There were several CWAC at camp before we arrived, a driver and kitchen staff. But we were the first CWAC to work on communications.

My first job was on a teleprinter as a teletypist. Later, I worked on a Kleinschmidt machine, rather like a clunky typewriter with tape. I spent most of my time working on the Boehme tape puller or undulator. We were sending and receiving traffic to England and to New York and Washington. It was many years after the war that we learned we were sending to Bletchley Park. All traffic was in five letter groups and plain English was never used. My knowledge of Morse code was Important.

We worked 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and there were several shifts, 8 to 4, 4 to 12, 12 to 8 and a couple of swing shifts. I worked happily beside civilians, doing the same work. Our pay was different but I can't remember that being a problem. I have heard since that there was some dissatisfaction. We had bus and train service from Oshawa. The secrecy was kept. My family did not know where I was or what I was doing until after the war. We had a phone number of a Bell telephone supervisor in Oshawa, which we could call and they would contact the camp. I used It once for some reason, likely a minor mix-up in times when I should have been picked up.

At the end of the war I went, I think, to Long Branch for discharge. I was discharged on October 24, 1945 as a sergeant with 'B' trades pay. As a civilian I returned to Camp, and carried on with work as before. I did so until my marriage in July 1946.

Caption: Although they did not come from a military family, both Evelyn and her brother Allan Jamieson enlisted during the Second World War--she in the Canadian Women's Army Corps and he in the RCAF. This photograph was taken at a relative's home in Mimico, Ontario, in 1943.

Caption: OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: Evelyn Jamieson in uniform. In March 1943, at 20 years of age, already having some knowledge of Morse code and radio before joining the Canadian Women 's Army Corps (CWAC), Evelyn soon found herself recruited for Camp X, a training school for covert agents and a radio communications centre.

RIGHT: Letter of thanks to Evelyn and signed by W.S. Stephenson, the director of the British Security Coordination, dated February 25, 1946.

----------

Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
COPYRIGHT 2016 S.R. Taylor Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:HISTORICA CANADA
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2016
Words:1204
Previous Article:Who's who and what's what in the defence sector.
Next Article:Wings for life: the Summer Advanced Training Course is gruelling but invaluable: article written in collaboration with Army Cadets Para Course...
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters