LISTOWEL – Just days before Remembrance Day and a few weeks shy of her 96th birthday, Listowel resident Nora Doig received a special visit from Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, who presented her with a commemorative lapel pin to honour her achievement and sacrifice during the Second World War.
The design of the lapel pin is based on the original Victory Nickel, a coin that was circulated from 1943 to 1945 and re-issued in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-E Day. The coin featured a flaming torch and large ‘V’ which stood for both victory and the coin’s value in Roman numerals.
The Second World War tribute, which was introduced in September 2014 to mark the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, honours the sacrifices and achievements of Canada’s Second World War Veterans who served with the Canadian Forces, the Canadian or British Merchant Navy or any Allied force.
By the time an army recruitment officer visited Palmerston High School in 1943, Doig was 18 and ready for an adventure.
“They didn’t want us at 17,” she said.
Born Nora Fern Mitchell on Dec. 1, 1924, Doig was the second oldest of five children to parents Harmon and Lena Mitchell. She was enrolled in a ‘commercial course’ at the time, learning typing, shorthand, spelling and general office administration duties but she had no intentions of doing office work when she enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in London in June of 1943 and underwent basic training in Kitchener.
“I just wanted to just get in there and then they would possibly allow me to take a truck-driving course,” she said.
The army recruiter said they were in dire need of office workers because it would allow them to free up a man.
With the Second World War already raging in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific for the past four years, female volunteers were desperately needed by the Canadian military to handle the big administrative workload at home required to operate an army abroad.
Her parents weren’t too happy with it, but they came to accept her career choice.
“I think they would have rather I went through for a teacher or a nurse, or something like that,” said Doig. “Which was par for the course in those days.”
Doig was first stationed in Ottawa and assigned to Argyle Barracks on Elgin Street.
After primarily performing administrative ‘adjustments’ within her first stationing, Doig was ready for a change. She described her regular army pay with a chuckle, calling it “peanuts”.
“After being in that office for about a year, I thought there must be something with a bit more life to it than this,” she said. “I didn’t feel that I was getting what I should have been getting out of it, as far as the work was concerned. So, I put in for a transfer.”
Doig was transferred to the Director of Movements’ office, which oversaw logistics for ships, trains and personnel travelling domestically and abroad for the army corps. The new position allowed her to travel in-country to locations in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Rising to the rank of sergeant, Doig stayed on with the army until August 1946, helping to oversee the return of personnel and equipment from Europe. She married fellow army veteran Lorne Doig – who grew up a few miles out of Drayton near the Mitchell farm – the following year. Lorne enlisted in 1942, joining the Allied invasion of Europe through Sicily. He would later be wounded in Italy before continuing to campaigns in Central Europe. Doig retired a corporal, refusing a promotion to sergeant earlier in the war.
Nora and Lorne raised six children back in rural Ontario, including twins to round out the family.
Lorne passed away in 1990, and Nora moved to Listowel in 1996. She now has over 20 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren.
Her second partner, Hillis ‘Red’ Leslie, passed away on Sept 25. They were together 25 years, sharing a love of travel and adventure, although she said when they first met Leslie’s idea of travel was a trip to Florida each year. Doig expanded his horizons and the two travelled to many destinations around the world.
2021 will mark 70 years Doig has been a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and Ladies’ Auxiliary.
After Nater presented the pin he noticed Doig’s piano in the corner of her living room. She said she had learned by reading notes but that was not as easy as it used to be.
She started to reminisce. Music was an important part of both her time in the army and her family life. Playing the piano is a talent which she has passed down through the generations.
“In the army, in Ottawa, the girls when they went on leave, there were two girls from the States and they always brought back pieces of music so I acquired quite a bit,” said Doig. “It worked well.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner