Ellen Blanche (Landry) Bennett

This story is submitted by Mike Landry of Head Office in Charlottetown. His aunt worked as a telephone operator in Halifax during the war and has an interesting story to tell.

"In 1942, I enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC), I was 19 years old. After basic training in Kitchener, Ontario, I was sent to Halifax, N.S., attached to #6 District Signals. My job as a telephone operator was interesting and I did enjoy the work.

One of the most vivid memories of my war service was the blackouts, which we had almost nightly. V.E. Day in Halifax was another experience which is still clear in all its terrible details.

Ellen Blanche (Landry) Bennett

The day the war in Europe ended will long be remembered by the entire world. However, for the people of Halifax, it was not the happiest time. The city was severely overcrowded with service personnel from many countries. Our Canadian service personnel were expecting a great celebration to mark this day and were completely taken by surprise when their "canteens" (service drinking establishments or "wets") were closed. Determined to celebrate with a beer or two, they decided en masse to head for the brewery. They got their beer – perhaps by questionable means – and proceeded along Barrington Street where the damage to storefronts and looting took place.

I stood on Barrington Street and watched as hordes of people came down the street, smashing store windows and looting. I saw a young sailor go into the naval supply store and come out dressed as an Admiral, right down to the gold braid and shiny, black boots. This went on all day until Rear Admiral Murray ordered all his men back to their ships or barracks. Peace was finally restored when the Army Provost Corps was brought in from Camp Borden, Ontario. At that point, all military personnel were confined to barracks. We were not allowed out for several days, our quarters were searched for stolen goods and liquor, and we were escorted to and from work.

It was some time before all of the glass, etc. was cleared from the street as a result of these riots. Things were just getting back to normal within the city when in July the Bedford Basin Magazine exploded and once again windows were blown out. At that time, I was stationed at Cathedral Barracks and we were not allowed back into our barracks until the buildings had been checked for damages, so we spent several nights sleeping outside on the Parade Square. Part of the city was evacuated for several days, food was scarce and the service mess halls were extremely busy keeping up with the demands to feed the civilian population as well. It was three days before the "all clear" was sounded and we were allowed to return to our quarters.

These days were indeed a most memorable part of my wartime service."

W46774 L/Cpl Ellen Blanche (Landry) Bennett
CWAC #6 District Signals, Fortress Command
R.A. Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia
1942-1945
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