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Memories of Wallis House

When first assigned to HMCS Bytown, the WRENs who arrived were likely surprised to find out that they were to be stationed on a landlocked former seminary! The unique aspects of this circumstance, and the building itself were fondly remembered by many WRENs years later.

In its initial occupation, following the Seminary years, the transformation was quite a job!

Miss Eleanor McCallum recalled making curtains for the windows from leftover dress material, and the necessity of clearing away some of the building’s lovely vines. Spiders had been hiding in them and biting personnel! She also recalls that each WREN was allowed one stuffed animal that could sit on her bed, showing the homier side of things.

Mrs. Ruth Scott was stationed at Wallis House from 1994-1945 and remembered the following:

“There was a rear verandah, known as the ‘quarterdeck,’ requiring the usual salute from all navy personnel. The back yard was an ugly grassless area which served as parade ground, where drills and Sunday parades were held. The ‘quarterdeck’ after dark saw many kissing couples, WRENs returning from dates. I had good-nights ’till the ‘watch’ sternly intervened.”

While the formalities of life with the navy could sometimes get in the way of a kiss after dark, the WRENs were proud to be a part of the navy, and advertised as much:

A brochure from the era emphasized the importance of freeing men up for the fleet.

Another propaganda piece showed the pride with which WRENs carried themselves as part of the Navy.

Some of those dates must have been successful though because there was a wedding that took place in March 1943, when Ms. Gelinas (a WREN) married PO Plummer, and PO Cook was the matron of honour.

The happy couple surrounded by friends and family, at Wallis House.

They also endeavoured to give back to the community they were part of. On December 17th, 1944, they hosted a Christmas Party for children from the St. Patrick’s Orphans Home and Children’s Aid Society.

Children join the Wallis House WRENs for a Christmas Dinner.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree and Santa Claus!

Overall, the WRENs who lived and worked at HMCS Bytown had an unforgettable experience, and filled the place with a new spirit.