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Petty Officer (Ret’d) Lois (Edwards) Reynolds

When the Second World War broke out, Lois (Edwards) Reynolds watched as her two younger brothers enlisted in the Army and Air Force. When the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service was established in 1942, she seized her chance and enlisted. She has zero regrets.

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Petty Officer (Ret’d) Lois (Edwards) Reynolds

Reynolds was 18 years old and working as a switch board operator for a telephone company in her native town of Didsbury, Alberta when the Second World War broke out. “I’ve never seen the telephone board light up like that… I knew something had happened.” Like many young men across the country, her two younger brothers promptly enlisted. She too was interested in doing her part and experience the adventure, but she wasn’t sure where to begin.

The answer came three years later with the establishment of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (whose members were familiarly known as the "Wrens" after the nickname of their British Royal Navy counterparts) on 31 July 1942.

The last Canadian military branch to recruit women, the Wrens grew to approximately 7,000 members by the war’s end. They initially performed clerical and administrative tasks so more men could be made available for duty at sea.

My mother would also make fresh bread, so the smell reminded me of home.

Reynolds had met Chief Petty Officer Nadoo Reynolds at the base recreational hall. On 20 June 1945, the two wed on base in Sydney.

Upon joining the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, Reynolds was sent to Sydney, Nova Scotia, to assist with efforts at a large supply depot. “Soldiers and comrades from all sorts of Allied nations would come into our offices off the ships, and provide their shopping lists.”

Reynolds’ role during the Second World War was consistent and stationary, but “rewarding in every way,” she explains. Reynolds and her colleagues were responsible for ensuring the items were compiled in an efficient and timely manner. She fondly remembers the smell of fresh bread from the bakery at the depot. “My mother would also make fresh bread, so the smell reminded me of home.”

Looking back at her time on base in Sydney, Reynolds has many fond memories. She got to know the city quite well, and was a regular curler at the Sydney Curling Club. “We sang Scottish songs as we curled – I didn’t know what they were singing about, but I was happy to sing along.” She also recalls learning to march – and how nervous she initially was. “We would go on route marches every day, and we had to make sure to stay in line, and make sure you used the right foot. It was one of my first experiences on base, and was great exercise.”

But there’s one memory from her time with the Forces that stands out the most – her wedding. Reynolds had met Chief Petty Officer Nadoo Reynolds at the base recreational hall. Once a week, the women were able to wear civilian clothes to go to the dance. “We’d dance from 8 to midnight, it was fantastic.” It’s at one of these dances where she realized that Nadoo Reynolds would be her future husband.

On 20 June 1945, the two wed on base in Sydney. “Everyone was there to celebrate. It was a nice break from the news of war. We knew the War in the Pacific was still on, but tried not to focus on how difficult of a time it was.”

My service was rewarding in every way. I have no regrets.

Following the Second World War, Reynolds and her husband released from the forces and settled in Edmonton. She secured another position as a telephone operator, this time for the Alberta Government, and later took on a role as an auditor who detected fraud cases. The Reynolds had two children.

When asked to provide words of advice to a younger generation of Canadians, Reynolds declares: “Be grateful for the country we live in. It’s the best country in the world. Appreciate where you live, and enjoy it.”

She credits her years of service to building a strong base of morals. “You know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong – and you do what’s right. My service was rewarding in every way. I have no regrets.”

Lois Reynolds is featured as one of our Faces of Freedom. Discover more stories.

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