Memories of wartime

Remembrance Day important to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, says veteran

Connie Mooney looks at some of her old photos from her time serving during World War II to commemorate Remembrance Day.
Connie Mooney looks at some of her old photos from her time serving during World War II to commemorate Remembrance Day. Charlie Senack photo

Story and photos By Charlie Senack

Remembrance Day is a time to pause and honour those who fought for our freedom in a time of conflict. It is also a time to remember our fallen veterans and celebrate those who are still living. 

Even today, more than  100 years since the end of World War I and 75 years  since World War II, Remembrance Day is more than just another day on the calendar. It is a day to commemorate those who served, and those who are still serving.

In 1941, longtime Westboro resident Connie Mooney walked into a recruitment centre in her hometown of Guelph, Ontario. The then 20-year-old was ecstatic to join what was a growing movement. Her father, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Bill Noyes, was in London, England, as part of the Royal Canadian Regiment, and many of Mooney’s friends were already enlisted.

She became part of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division and spent the next three years serving in many parts of Canada before getting the call to go overseas.

“We went off to basic training in Toronto, and when I finished that I was posted to Guelph where I stayed for two years,” said Mooney. “After that I decided I wanted to do something else so I went to Trenton for three months of physical training. I was then posted to Winnipeg and was there for two months, and then came the big notice that I was to be posted overseas.”

Mooney still has many artifacts from the war, things she likes to bring out at this time of year and put on display. She has books full of newspaper clippings, German propaganda, medals and posters full of memories from her time overseas.

The 98-year-old is not slowing down and still lives in her four-bedroom Westboro home, one which she has occupied for more than 50 years by herself. It has 27 stairs but she says that is what keeps her going. Two months ago Mooney joined the Westboro Legion — something she has wanted to do for a long time — and plans to have an active role.

Time in England

In 1944, Mooney, who was a motor mechanic, hopped aboard a big ship for Yorkshire, England, where she was stationed in the sixth group, Canadian Bomber Command.

Once there, it was a culture shock to see the war efforts in action. One of the first things Mooney noticed was that all street signs were painted over so the Germans wouldn’t know where people were in case of an attack. It made her job as a driver challenging, and also meant she had to drive her routes by memory.

It was the middle of winter, and Mooney was the corporal in charge of her nissen hut, a prefabricated steel structure where she and 16 others lived. It was located on Lord Mulberry’s Castle Grounds, where the Bomber Command was situated. Each person had a locker and a bed. A small coal-burning stove was situated in the middle of the room.

“You were rationed coal, of course, but you had to steal more because there just was not enough,” recalls Mooney. “I remember washing pyjamas one day — I slept in the corner and had a clothesline across — and waking up in the morning and they were frozen stiff. It really was not warm in there, but we were only there for one winter so it wasn’t so bad.”

Mooney also recalls the time she ran out of gas and went to a closed gas station to look for a phone. The man inside gave her the use of his phone but showed her a secret.

“He asked me if I wanted to see something, and there was just nothing around,” says Mooney. “He opened up some doors and inside the garage itself were at least 100 women making parts for a ship. England was full of these things. They were all sitting there with all of these machines and you would have never known they were there. It is absolutely amazing the things England did.”

Memories like these make Remembrance Day so important, says Mooney, and serves as evidence to the bloodshed which took place. It also serves as a reminder to make sure another world war never happens.

“I hope we never have another world war, that is for sure,” she says. “The Second World War was horrible but the First World War was worse. A Third World War would be a completely different ballgame.”

Like every year, the Westboro Legion will hold a Remembrance Day Ceremony at the cenotaph in Byron Linear Park, starting at 2 p.m. on November 11. A parade will make its way to the cenotaph starting near Winston Square at 1:45 p.m.

Another ceremony will also be taking place at the north entrance of Carlingwood Mall starting at 11 a.m. the same day.

The public is invited to attend both of these ceremonies.

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