Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 146 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Carolyn Mowery - RCAF WD

The following email was received at the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in November 2017. The subject of the email is Carolyn Mowery, a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division in World War II.

From: Betlock, Erin (MDVA)
Subject: RCAF WWII female veteran in Minnesota

Hi Stephen (Hayter, Executive Director CATPM),

I get the emails from the Manitoba board of tourism and notice the link to your museum in it.  I am the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We have a volunteer who comes and volunteers every Wednesday morning here, she’s been doing so for over a decade.  She is also a WWII veteran who   
served in the RCAF as part of the Plan.  She is 97 years old.  I just spoke to her this morning and asked if she was familiar with your museum, she is originally from Winnipeg but hasn’t lived there in many year, and she had not but was interested. 
I assume you might be interested in her and her story.  I have pasted a short newsclip from last spring that was aired on the local ABC affiliate here with her in it and then also a short write up that I put together to put in one of the volunteer newsletters, so you’ll have a little back ground on her.  I know she is planning on going to Winnipeg to visit in April or May, although I know Brandon is quite a bit farther north.

Carolyn Mowery turned 96 last August, but that hasn't slowed her down in the slightest. She still volunteers every Wednesday in the chaplaincy program at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis and has residents she meets and visits with on a regular basis. She also hosts an annual "Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring" party for all 341 Residents there. This year's party was held Wednesday. Mowery served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, becoming the 158th woman from Manitoba to join. She traveled to London for six months in 1945. As Canadian prisoners of war were released from POW camps, she helped process them from hospitals in London to go to medical facilities back home in Ottawa. Her husband served as well, and she said she won't stop giving back until she's reunited with him.

Canada entered World War II in September of 1939.  By late 1941 England had suffered great aircrew losses in their Royal Air Force, thus England came to Canada to recruit replacements.  Subsequently, the Royal Canadian Air Force was faced with needing replacements of their own and turned to recruiting women.  The RCAF came to the University of Manitoba, where I was a student and I joined the RCAFWD or the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division. The WD was later dropped.  I was the 158th girl that joined the Royal Canadian Air Force from the province.

I began my active service in January 1941 and was discharged in November 1945.  I first served as an Airwoman 2nd Class and was stationed at an Elementary Flying Training School where the students were pilot-trainees. Among other duties, I served on Medical Emergency Teams.  My chief duty was hand-holding, bandaging, and cleaning up crash sites.  As this was a training school the pilots were novices and in addition to skirmishes there were also crashes every day. I graduated to visiting in hospital the pilots who were injured.  I had no previous experience. During my years of active service I was stationed at about 15 different posts all around Canada.

As the years progressed, with constant education, training, and promotions in the field, my assignment had a very special interest- planning for our Prisoners of War returning from Europe (mostly from Germany).  I travelled to London for a 6 month period in 1945.  As Canadian soldiers were released from POW camps, I helped process them from hospitals in London to go to medical facilities in Ottawa, Canada for whatever follow up was needed. 

Most of the young ladies in the RCAF were just out of school and most of the pilots were older and more mature, I remember fondly how they looked after the young female recruits as if they were there younger sisters and wanted to make sure they were protected and didn’t get into any trouble.

I was discharged in November 1945.  After my discharge, I returned to the University of Manitoba but remained in the Active Reserve Units during my studies.  I graduated with a degree in biochemistry and eventually studied Psychology.  For my graduate work, I moved to the University of Chicago, where I met my husband, John, a licensed clinical psychologist.  He had served in the USAF, Pacific Theater, as a pilot throughout WWII.

After I graduated, John and I were married, lived and worked for several years in Indianapolis, Toronto, and finally Minneapolis.  After many happy years together, John suffered a fatal heart attack on April 12, 2005.  And then the Minnesota Veterans Home- Minneapolis came into the picture!  Chaplain Neil Hering invited me to join the Chaplaincy Unit as a volunteer and I did in July 2005. 

Again, thought she would be of interest to you, let me know if you have questions!

Erin Betlock
Volunteer Services Coordinator
Minnesota Veterans Home- Minneapolis
5101 Minnehaha Avenue S.
Minneapolis, MN  55417

Another great story from one of the one million Canadians who joined the armed forces in World War II. It is gratifying to know that even after 72 years when hostilities stopped in the war, people are still interested in the stories of those who were involved. We must continue into the future to assure that they are never forgotten.