Navy service is a dream come true

For Beth Hancock, 86, there was never a greater dream-come-true than the opportunity to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS) in 1942.

Born and raised in North Bay, Ont., Hancock, 86, was working in a local produce company office when she decided on impulse to sign up to volunteer with the WRENS.  The WRENS was officially implemented during the Second World War so that women could fill the vacancies of naval servicemen who were sent to fight.

“I was excited and absolutely thrilled by the idea of serving our country; women were always encouraged to participate during the war,” she said.

After nine months of waiting, Hancock finally got the call to officially fill out applications and go through the interview process in Toronto. After this, she was on her way to the town of Galt, Ont., for basic training. It was here that she obtained her knowledge of the navy and learned to march. This training lasted three weeks.

After that, Hancock was moved once again back to Toronto to Rosedale where the women participated in writing courses which lasted a few weeks.

Finally, late in 1942, she was posted in Ottawa, where she worked as a messenger, receiving signals and codes from the ships at sea and delivering them to the senior naval officers. Though this was a job she loved, going to sea would have been more ideal.

“Every one in the Navy wanted one thing and that was to go overseas. The day I got called in I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true,” she said.

In 1943, Hancock set sail aboard the New Amsterdam cruise ship for an eight day journey to Scotland where she stayed until the end of the war, working in a payroll office for the HMCS Nairobe.”

“These jobs may seem to be not as important to many people, especially during a war,” she said. “But we really did do an important job. Women were needed to make the whole system function better, and to send the men out to sea.”