'Made myself what I was’: a proud wren’s story
Published Saturday, November 11, 2017 5:02PM AST
Last Updated Saturday, November 11, 2017 5:03PM AST
Bunny McIntrye was among one of the first women to join the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service in the 1950’s.
She took a train from her small town in Manitoba to Ontario to train with 100 other young women who wanted to be part of the Wren‘s Association.
Now, she’s 96-years-old and living in Dartmouth, N.S.
“Wondered if you could make it because I only had a grade eight education,” she says. “I wasn't experienced other than working in the restaurant.”
MacIntrye stood out for her dedication and attention to detail and earned the job of looking after the commanding officer who had a dachshund named Trilby.
Part of the job meant knocking on the officer’s door every morning at 6 a.m.
“I’d have to say, ‘Ma’am would you like your bath drawn? Would you like your uniform laid out?’”
After caring for the officer, MacIntrye would make her way across the parade square to ensure the rest of the wrens were awake.
“Before I left I said, ‘hit the deck,’ before I left because everyone was supposed to be up because everything moved at six o'clock in the morning.”
At the time, Canada was short on man power and Winston Churchill challenged Canadian women to support the war effort. Top military members were reluctant and suggested they might fill in as drivers.
Joanne Cunningham of the Nova Scotia Wren Association says the women’s participation proved to be essential.
“With the extreme shortage of men to go to sea, the Canadian government relented and eventually allowed women to join 39 different trades during the war years,” says Cunningham.
MacIntrye served in Halifax and was posted in Saint John’s when the war was declared over. She says the group partied for two days straight.
“I took everyone's drafts because they wanted to go home,” says MacIntrye. “I had no home to go to, I didn't know where I was going.”
Eventually, she returned to Winnipeg and started worked in a corner store until she joined the Naval Reserve and was promoted to petty officer.
MacIntrye joined the regular navy once women were permitted to join, but lost her rank and had her pay cut.
Seven months after she married and got pregnant, MacIntrye was deemed medically unfit and honourably discharged.
Despite being treated as inferior to her male counter parts, MacIntrye says she’s a proud war veteran.
“Because I came from nothing and made myself what I was.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.