Monday, 2 June 2014

The Home Front

Original post date: 7 Jun 2014

Women at War and Men at Home - Not all good soldiers fight in the war!
My great uncle George John Seale was born in Kingston, Ontario.  George was a Stenographer and went to Montreal in early 1900 to work for the Royal Bank. He boarded with the Jackson family, and in 1902 he married Clara Annie Jackson. George John and Clara Annie had one daughter, Clara Eleanor in 1904, and soon after he was asked to manage their Niagara Falls branch. By 1907 George was named the manager of their Grain Exchange branch in Winnipeg.

At the onset of WW I in 1914 George, coming from a long line of military men, was eager to enlist, but he was refused by the medical examiner. He was very disappointed.  Then in 1918 the call went out across Canada for help to the armies through the Red Cross.  George was asked by his fellow citizens to give up his business and become the administrative manager of the Red Cross in Manitoba. That very day a room was secured for Red Cross administration and money started pouring in from people all across the province. Besides their relentless help to soldiers fighting overseas and their families at home, George had the insight to know that when the soldiers came home from war they were going to need special help.  Before the war even ended he set up a Hospice as temporary lodging for returning soldiers heading west.  He got help for wounded soldiers and their dependents. He also conceived of the idea of Sheltered Workshops where soon he had over forty men deemed unfit for work earning an honest living along commercial lines.

One night George was talking to his wife and daughter at the dinner table about new ideas he had. Wanting to do some chores later he went upstairs to changes out of his good clothes and dropped dead suddenly of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43.  George John Seale, The Commissioner for the Red Cross of Manitoba had died, and the whole province mourned.

During times of war the women are asked to help out by rationing food, rolling bandages and knitting socks. You know…. women’s work.  Those who could became nurses to help out at home and abroad however they could. Then came the call for real work.  Men’s work.  

My Mom worked at the Canadian Power Boat Company that made motor torpedo boats used in war. When there were no longer orders for boats coming in, the company retooled and made parts for de Havilland Mosquito bombers. My mother’s sister joined the RCAF Women’s Division.  These women worked as clerks, cooks, equipment assistants, fabric workers, hospital assistants, drivers, photographers, meteorologists and telephone operators, and overseas in Operations plotting locations of RCAF planes and enemy German aircraft. Their motto was “Women who serve so men can fly!”

Mom and her sister

What did your stay-at-home ancestors do during time of war?

Relevant Links:

Volunteering in the First World War   

WW2 service women in Canada

Women in the RCAF

RCAF Women

Canadian war women on videos

CBC Digital archive - women at war

Canada Remembers Women in the Canadian Military

MSN Women in War  photos

Forgotten Women of War

US War Jobs for Women

US Women Marines In World War I

Silver Cross Mothers

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service

British Army Nurse Records

Nurses and Serving Women Australia

8 Female fighters of WW2

Scottish Nurses in Roumania 1918


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