The clouds parted Friday morning and the sun was shining as a large crowd gathered at the Remembrance Day service in Parksville.
November 11 was a day full of reminders that freedom and democracy come at a terrible cost. Those who came to the cenotaph in Parksville were among the thousands across the country who gathered to give thanks to all soldiers, past and present.
Proudly displaying her military medals on her chest was 94-year-old Stella Shanks.
The Second World War veteran served our country in London, England where she was dispatched with the first contingent of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) in 1942.
She said there was no fan fare when she and the other females who enlisted left Canada because of the fact they were women.
“It was hush hush when we went overseas on the Q.E.,” she admitted.
Since women were not allowed to enter combat of any kind, the CWACs worked as secretaries, clerks, canteen workers, vehicle drivers and many other non-combat military jobs.
“We were trained as firefighters when we went overseas but we never had to put out any real fires,” she stated.
Shanks said she performed mainly clerical work during her three years in London and eventually she went on to become a social worker in the Canadian Army back in Canada.
Shanks was in her early 20s when she signed up for the military in Vancouver and while she was posted in London she used the opportunity to further her education by taking courses at various universities in England.
She said there were many German raids that occurred during her posting and there was one incident that was particularly frightening.
During the German air raids in London, many people went into underground stations for shelter. Shanks, who lived near Trafalgar Square, said on one evening she was late getting home from night school and because of an air raid she couldn’t get into the tube.
“The Jerries bombed all around us.”
Shanks said ‘Jerry’ was a nickname given to the Germans by the British during the Second World War.
Shanks also recalled some of the lighter moments. She said she and some other army corps women formed a choir and she sang in a quartet. She was a sprinter on an army relay running team where she won a first place ribbon and she played on a baseball team.
“We were the first ones over there. I did so many things,” she recalled.
Shanks was born in Kerrisdale in 1917 and said her mother was one of the first women reporters to write for a Vancouver newspaper.
She admitted that she inherited a lot of her mother’s pioneering spirit and she has lived an exciting and full life.