For most, the Ladies in Uniform of Bruce County, were a mystery until, that is, local historian G. William Streeter (Bill) began his research. What he found were the captivating stories of 19 local ‘Ladies in Uniform’ who had served in a wide variety of wartime fields, from nursing to radar technician to ambulance driver, cook and more.
His findings were captured on an interpretive plaque and, in 2021, it was unveiled at the Town Administration Offices entrance at the PLEX.
On Wednesday, September 6th, special guests along with members of the Southampton Legion and Port Elgin Legion took part in a special viewing of the plaque.
One of the guests, Vivian Winnifred Wotton (nee Sees), was not only there in person, she is also on the plaque. At 100 this month, she and her nephew, Chris, made the trip from London where Vivian now lives.
Bill Streeter introduced Legion members to veteran Vivian Wotton
For larger view, Click on Image
Both Vivian and her older sister Kathleen Thelma enlisted in 1942 and 1943 respectively. Thelma born in Port Elgin in 1921, enlisted in the RCAF in 1942 and was not discharged until 1946. Following the death of her husband, she returned to Port Elgin where she died in 1988.
Vivian Winnifred (Sees) was born on September 23, 1923, enlisted on April 23, 1943, in London at age 19. Following training, she was assigned to the Radar Central Control Command Centre in Victoria, one of 11 radar coastal stations that monitored all air traffic on the western shore. It was there that they would plot and follow aircraft movement on a large tabletop map. This work was of a highly secretive nature and was under the Official Secrets Act that was not cancelled until 1991, and Vivian is still reticent to talk about it.
The second special guests also made a very special trip from British Columbia to view the plaque where Doreen Olive (nee Sampson)Dibnah is one of the Ladies in Uniform. Larry Dibnah, his wife Ray and grandson Andrew, made the trip to see first-hand the plaque with his mother on it. “This is such an honour to be here,” said Larry. “I also want to see the hospital where I was born in Southampton.” Larry Dibnah was the only son born to a family of five girls.
Doreen Olive Sampson was born in England in 1923. The family moved to Southampton in 1943 and, soon after, she enlisted in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Airforce). Doreen was stationed at Rockcliffe Ontario where she worked in Supply Depot Administration at the rank of Leading Aircraftwoman.
While there, she met Cyril Dibnah and at the end of the war, they married. They lived in Southampton until they decided to move to British Columbia where Cyril joined the Navy. There, they raised six children, five girls and a boy, Larry. Doreen passed away in 2010 at age 87 but is immortalized on the plaque.
“This was very serendipitous,” said Streeter. “For both guests, September 6th was the only date when both could attend.”