A Senior Moment
'Love and Duty'
by Rev. Bob Johnston
February 19, 2017
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Over 40,000 British women married Canadian servicemen during the Second World war and emigrated to their new home at war’s end. A number of these “war brides” eventually settled in Bruce County. Among them was Corporal Yvonne “Chip” Carpenter. The story of her own wartime service and romance with a young Canadian soldier, Lieutenant Robert “Inky” Inkster, was shared with readers last week and continues today with my slightly-edited excerpts from their separately-written memoirs.
CHIP: I was a very unhappy WAAF at the Yatesbury Royal Air Force Station despite being given my Corporal stripes. My students were GIs—American soldiers—a very cheery, know-it-all bunch with lots of money---food galore in their mess hall, but we were allowed in only by invitation. I did get invited once and accepted---but---they had one mess tin each and put soup, main meal and dessert in it all at once, topping the whole thing, most of the time, with ice cream. They claimed it was all going to end up in the same place inside, so why not ?
Two weeks after arriving in Yatesbury I was given a weekend pass and scooted back to Hastings. Not one Dragoon Guard soldier was to be found and no one could tell me where they had gone. No Inky again! A few days later---wonder of wonders---I got a letter from Inky apologizing for having to leave Hastings secretly with his regiment.
INKY: In June, 1943, we arranged our leaves together and I was invited to Chip’s home near London. I arrived early and made friends with her mother.
CHIP: But why at my home? Our family were Catholics and he was Church of England. Was my family to be checked out? I wrote to my parents warning them. I hoped to arrive home first. But when I arrived I found Inky in the kitchen, in his uniform and wearing an apron, holding a chicken with his left hand and his right hand inside the bird. In those days we had to clean out our own poultry and my mother, who never let me anywhere near her kitchen, had asked him to do the job for her. Who was checking out whom?
INKY: I later asked Chip to meet me back in Hastings (where they had first met) during this five day leave.
CHIP: I arrived at the Yelton Hotel at 11 o’clock the next day. We had a beautiful afternoon wandering around our old haunts. After a fine dinner and chatting with other guests, we went to bed in separate rooms. Before long, there was a gentle tapping on the door. He said he needed to talk with me very seriously, so we sat together in the chairs by the window, lights out, watching the moonlight shining on the ocean. Very romantic, but chilly. He rambled on about what he would do, should do, back home in Canada if he survived wherever it was he would be going. We finally ended up asleep. At breakfast I was pretty bleary eyed, in fact, both of us looked as though we had a romping good night, but in our innocence, didn’t realize how we must have looked to others.
'Inky' and 'Chip'
INKY: Returning to London on the train, I proposed and she accepted. What about a ring? Could she buy one herself? On reaching London and standing on the station platform, I made out a blank cheque and told her she could spend up to sixty pounds on her engagement ring. As I was writing the cheque, a couple of elderly women walked by and we heard them say “Huh, another one being paid off for the weekend.” We’ve had many a chuckle over that one.
CHIP: I went to a wholesale diamond merchant “friend” in London and a monstrous yellow diamond solitaire was placed on my finger---on approval-- for thirty days. The cost? Exactly sixty pounds. Back home for the rest of my leave, I found myself looking continuously at my left hand. I decided the ring was not right for me. The gold was making my finger green. Back to London and more shopping until I found a lovely ring with a blue green stone and diamond chips. How much? Wonder of wonders—fifteen pounds! Now to let Inky see it.
I found I didn’t have enough money for a ticket from London to Edinburgh where Inky was waiting on his day pass. Instead, I bought a platform ticket for two pence which meant one could stand on the platform, supposedly to see someone off then leave the platform when the train departed. Instead, I got on the train and spent the journey hiding among sailors, airmen and soldiers, as well as in the washroom whenever the ticket collector came by.
There was Inky waiting at the end of the platform in Edinburgh where he’d remained all morning hoping to find me. He paid for my return ticket---and loved the ring and the fact it saved him 45 pounds.
He had to return to camp that afternoon but hoped he would be back in the evening. We didn’t really say goodbye. I didn’t see him again for 21 months!
After seeing combat in Sicily, Italy and Holland, Inky was given leave to return to England. On March 27, 1945, at Guildford, Surrey, Chip and Inky were married. At war’s end he remained in England as long as he could, stretching out his demobilization leave. Finally, he had to return to Canada in January, 1946. Chip joined her husband in April. Inky died in 2009 and Chip passed away last year on November 26, just a few hours after sharing her story with me.
INKY: Now some sixty years later I’m still in love with the same WAAF. When she looks at me and smiles I don’t see the colour of her eyes. I see the happy, laughing eighteen year old, wearing Air Force blue---with whom I fell in love.
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