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Canadian women serving overseas in 1943

The Story

For many Canadian women the Second World War is their first opportunity to see the world. By 1943 thousands of young Canadian women are scattered across the globe, supporting the men of the Allied forces and caring for civilians caught in the crossfire. As Marietta McPherson, managing editor of Chatelaine Magazine, points out in this CBC Radio clip, Canadian women "can take the rigours and discomforts of field conditions" as well as any man can. 

Medium: Radio
Program: War Dispatches
Broadcast Date: Dec. 20, 1943
Reporter: Marietta McPherson
Duration: 4:23
Photo: Department of National Defence

Did You know?

• About 45,000 women enlisted during the war (21,000 CWACs; 17,000 WDs; 7,000 Wrens.) Approximately one in nine served overseas.
• Most CWACs served in Canada, though four companies were posted in England. Starting in 1944 some CWACs served at Allied headquarters in Rome, Alost (Belgium) and Brussels.

• Members of the Canadian Women's Army Corps had to be at least 21 years old, in good health and of "exemplary character...suitable temperament...appearance and general smartness." (memo #8081, Dec. 5, 1942, Canadian Military Headquarters, London.)
• CWACs underwent three months of basic training before entering active service. They were paid two-thirds of a man's basic pay.

• By the end of the war some 3,000 CWACs were overseas, representing 1.5 per cent of all Canadian Army personnel in war zones.
• Several WDs were killed while on active service -- usually during air raids. The Navy lost one woman, a nurse, in 1942. She was one of 136 people killed when the passenger ferry SS Caribou, travelling from Sydney, N.S. to Newfoundland, was sunk by a German U-boat.
• At least two nurses became prisoners of war after the fall of Hong Kong.

• Memorial statues dedicated to Canada's servicewomen can be found across the country. They include a CWAC memorial statue called "Stepping Out" located in Kitchener, Ont.; a memorial to the RCAF WD in St. John's, Nfld.; the Nursing Sisters Memorial in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa; and a bronze sculpture of four servicewomen, located in Brantford, Ont.


On Every Front: Canadian Women in the Second World War more