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Brief inspection

Humour Hunt

Think back 58 years, exactly 58 years, to July 1958. Think of a beautiful July day, perhaps like the one you are currently enjoying. That’s how Sandra Chater (Austin then) remembers her summer of 1958 in basic training at St-Jean, Que.

She found the marching very hot during basic training, even wearing the lightweight summer dress issued to the recruits. In those days, the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (or WDs) were required to wear old-fashioned girdles with full slips and stockings underneath their light blue dresses. A cap, along with heavy black oxfords, with a spit-and-polish shine, completed the military look for the eager young women.

After normal basic training, consisting of classroom courses on whom to salute, what all those stripes mean, how to march (some did not really know which foot was their left), what to do if Canada was attacked, cleaning barracks floors and washrooms the hard way, plus more marching, of course. They also had mess call along with everything else.

The month of August rewarded the new WDs with their first weekend pass to lively Montreal with pay in hand and many shops ready to relieve them of their hard-earned cash. A small number of courageous ladies encouraged each other to purchase some of the required undergarments, but with slightly more adventurous trappings. Sandra Chater remembers hers was deep red, with lots of beautiful black lace trimmings and black garters. The weekend in town was judged a great success.

Then came inspection, bright and early Monday morning. Half a dozen footlockers displayed these beautiful creations, folded neatly in the top drawer. Drill Sergeant Edgar had, our confidante believes, about a half second of hesitation and a slight curl to her top lip. From that point she did not even blink as she inspected each locker throughout the barracks. Nary a word was spoken, but the recruits did hope that the drill sergeant had a bit of a laugh when she left the building.

Chater doubts any of the recruits ever wore their flamboyant undergarments, always displayed on the top of the pile in the footlockers. Not exactly Victoria’s Secret, but risqué for the time.

As requested, we will forward Sandra Chater’s reward for this item to the Dominion Command Poppy Fund.

Initial impression

Still back in 1958, purely by coincidence, we have a recollection shared by John Perry of Oromocto, N.B. In early January, he had recently returned to his former posting, Fredericton, from a one-year tour in the first contingent of Canadian peacekeepers with the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt, from December 1956 until November 1957.

Our soldier friend was courting a beautiful young lady employed by a reputable Fredericton department store as an office clerk. Next to her desk was that of a recently retired army officer working as a credit department official. His desk featured a 12-inch-long nameplate with a small Union Jack over his previous rank title, then his initials and name, and ending with C.D. (for Canadian Forces Decoration, awarded after 12 years of service in the Canadian Armed Forces).

John Perry’s lady friend, unfamiliar with military terminology, asked her office neighbour:

“Does C.D. stand for Credit Department?”

It would seem a reasonable question, given his employment responsibilities. He, however, seemed highly offended by her question.

Approximately 10 months later, the young lady became Mrs. John Perry. With her husband remaining in the Canadian Forces for many years, she gradually gained a better familiarity with military terminology.

Humour Hunt 2

Proof of service

When our new Canadian War Museum opened, Butch Carmichael of Ottawa took  his son and grandson for a visit. After he paid and was walking away from the counter, he heard a man ask if veterans got in free–and the answer, yes.

He returned to the cashier, identified himself as a veteran and requested the return of his admission fee.

“Can you prove you’re a veteran?”

“I’ve got a tattoo!” he suggested.

That was enough to get his money back–the best reason we have yet heard for sporting a tattoo.

> With Remembrance Day and Christmas in sight, we ask that our readers send stories from their time in uniform for the November/December issue. We want to end the year with a smile, if not a guffaw. Please send your candidate tales for inclusion directly to


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