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The heroic P.E.I. women who served in WW II — and where you can meet some of them

·2 min read
Katherine Dewar gathered information for her book from interviews, diaries, letters, community histories and archival research. (Island Studies Press - image credit)
Katherine Dewar gathered information for her book from interviews, diaries, letters, community histories and archival research. (Island Studies Press - image credit)

Ida MacKay of Mount Stewart was working as a nurse in Montreal in the 1930s when she decided she needed a break, maybe reconnect with some ancestors in Scotland.

So off to Europe she went.

Island Studies Press
Island Studies Press

It wasn't the vacation she expected. The Second World War broke out in 1939. She had booked her trip home on the Athenia, but cancelled and decided instead to join the British Nursing Corps. The Athenia was sunk on its way back to Canada, killing 117 civilian passengers and crew.

MacKay stayed another six years in the thick of the war, surviving a torpedo attack on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, before safely returning home.

MacKay is one at least 715 women from P.E.I. who served in the Second World War. Hers is among the stories featured in a new book by Katherine Dewar titled We'll Meet Again.

"The stories came alive," Dewar said in an interview with Mainstreet P.E.I. host Matt Rainnie.

"It's one thing to read something in the book when you're researching, but to hear them tell of being in London — when bombs were coming down and being in buildings when the back of the building was blown off — they're really remarkable stories."

MacKay died in 2006, but 19 of the veterans were still alive when Dewar began researching the book four year ago. Seven remain today, ranging in age from 97 to 101. Six are expected to be in attendance during a book launch Saturday at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Church in Charlottetown.

We seem to know about men's stories. But the women's stories ... have not been told. — Katherine Dewar

A second launch, with a different format, will be held Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Eptek Centre in Summerside.

Dewar gathered her information from interviews, diaries, letters, community histories and archival research. She was surprised to find more than 700 women who served.

"I was thinking in the beginning, if I found 200 that would seem like a reasonable amount, and it just kept growing and growing and growing."

Five of the women's uniforms are featured in a new exhibit in the Confederation Court Mall in Charlottetown. Dewar hopes her book will add to their legacy and provide a more complete history.

"We seem to know about men's stories. But the women's stories ... have not been told, and they're every bit as heroic and wonderful and diverse, and they're just great stories."

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