Calgary

WW II code-breaker part of Lougheed House exhibit on women vets

A 92-year-old veteran who worked as a codebreaker in Calgary during the Second World War says she’s proud of the legacy left by women who served in the army.

Rose Wilkinson, 92, helped decode Allied messages on troop movements and ship sinkings

Vermilion, Alta., was home to a training centre for women. A class from 1943 is seen here. (Glenbow Archives NA-4784-4)

A 92-year-old veteran who worked as a codebreaker in Calgary during the Second World War says she's proud of the legacy left by women who served in the army.

Rose Wilkinson, 92, says she joined the army to keep tabs on her two brothers who were stationed overseas. (CBC)

"We were typing in [Allied] coded messages and it came out in English," said Rose Wilkinson, who was transferred to Lougheed House in 1945 to work as a cipher decoder.

"The machine did most of it," she told CBC News.

The coded messages were coming from the British army, British government and Canadian troops overseas.

"All the messages came in in code. Anybody could have interrupted ordinary messages like troop movements and ship sinkings and things like that," said Wilkinson.

Wilkinson's is one of many women's stories being highlighted in a new exhibit at Lougheed House, called Proudly They Served: Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC).

The exhibit marks the 70th anniversary of end of the Second World War.

It showcases the lives of Alberta vets through artifacts, oral histories and photographs — with a special emphasis on the contribution made by women.

But according to Wilkinson, the women's work in the army, air force and navy paved the way for women in the workplace.

"The women did such varied jobs … Not only that, but the women that were left home in Canada when the men went overseas… they ran the farms, they did everything. That's what changed everything."

Lougheed Centre is hosting a Tea and Talk on Nov. 9 for those interested in hearing more about these remarkable women. 

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