Two Wrens Receive Mail from Home, n.d.
National Archives of Canada (PA-061946).

Two Wrens Receive Mail from Home, n.d.

The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens) was established in 1942.

Over 45,000 women enlisted in the Canadian military during the Second World War, and just over 10 per cent of them served overseas. In order to be eligible for service in the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC), women had to be at least 21 years of age, in good health, and of good moral character. Once accepted into the Corps, women were provided three months of basic training in camps in Quebec, Ontario, or Alberta. Initially, the Canadian Military Headquarters in London suggested that female soldiers be brought overseas to act as laundresses, but their role quickly expanded. They took on jobs as drivers, cooks, clerks, messengers, and canteen helpers. By 1944, the CWAC was assigned to clerical duties in combat zones among other things. By 1945, 3,000 women were serving in war zones. They were, however, paid only about two thirds of a man's salary.




Veronica Foster Operates a Lathe on the Bren Gun Production Line, Toronto, Ontario, 10 May 1941.
National Archives of Canada (PA-051587).

Veronica Foster Operates a Lathe on the Bren Gun Production Line, Toronto, Ontario, 10 May 1941.

Foster, an employee of John Inglis Company Ltd., became known as "The Bren Gun Girl."
Operation at No. 8 General Hospital, Bayeux, France, 25 August 1944.
National Archives of Canada (PA-051587).

Operation at No. 8 General Hospital, Bayeux, France, 25 August 1944.

Nurses assist a surgeon who is performing an operation on a wounded soldier. Canadian nurses provided extraordinary service, usually under difficult conditions.

The Women's Division of the RCAF was created in 1941 and attracted 17,000 women by the end of the war. The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (or Wrens) was established a year later and drew 6,718 recruits. While eight of every nine women stayed in Canada, those who served overseas, predominantly the nursing sisters, performed their duties with tremendous distinction. By the end of the war, 46 nurses had lost their lives. In May 1942, Canadian nurses became the first in any Allied country to have officer status.

Women in the Canadian armed forces did not take part in combat during the Second World War. They generally worked at what were then considered typically female occupations. Despite the limitations that women encountered in the male-dominated military, they performed their responsibilities with tremendous dedication and pride, contributing vitally to the Allied victory.

 

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