It took nerve - and more than a bit of luck - to sneak over the border into neutral Ireland during World War II. On leave from her posting with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) in London, Doris Gregory and her friend, Jeanne, made it past burly military police and an overzealous station agent before zipping down the road on their bicycles. That was just the start of their adventure, one that included sleeping in fields and looking down the gun barrel of an angry German sentry in Dublin.
“It was such a wonderful time,” says Doris. “We were free spirits; when you’re young like that, you can accept what comes.”
It was, in part, her youthful sense of “come what may” that led Doris to join the CWAC in 1942. Of the 22,000 women who joined, only about 3,000 went overseas - a much-coveted placement. Among them was 21-year-old Doris, who was stationed in London and Farnborough. Although the work was mundane, Doris made the best of it, spending her free time cycling on traffic-free roads through the British countryside, socializing in cozy pubs with people from around the world, and going to military dances.
“When you plunk one hundred girls down in the middle of a huge military camp, you meet a lot of men!” she laughs.
Having spent such a memorable time in England, it’s not surprising that Doris is a big fan of the British dramas on Knowledge. A recent favourite was Foyle’s War, set in the south of England during WWII. Doris has been a Knowledge Partner for many years because, quite simply, she loves the programming. “The people in those series become my friends. I don’t miss an episode if I can possibly help it!”
Doris, who turned 93 this year, recently launched her first book, a memoir called How I Won the War for the Allies: One Sassy Canadian Soldier’s Story, published by BC’s Ronsdale Press.
“At first I was writing for family and friends,” she says. “But then I discovered hardly anyone knew about the CWAC. I loved writing the book - it was hard work, but I have a tremendous amount of satisfaction now that it’s out there.”
It’s plain to see that, for this spunky nonagenarian, life is one big adventure. “I’m lucky, I guess, to still be here,” she says, “and to be having so much fun!”