This is the final set of entries in an exciting blog series for the Barrie Historical Archive, made possible by archive supporter Diana Strachan. When last we heard from Diana’s mother, Peggy Newman, she was preparing for the cold and crisp winter weather that accompanied Christmas 1941 in Barrie. These final pieces of correspondence, beginning in August of the following year, detail her stay at 3 Peel St. in the summer and fall of 1942.
Here, we read of a maturing Peggy Newman earn herself a new job at the Bank of Nova Scotia, just a few blocks away at Five Points. Our readers will also notice her growing awareness of the war effort around her. Peggy begins to feel the reverberations of war on her tight-knit community, after the Dieppe Raid took the lives of many husbands, brothers and sons of Barrie residents and soldiers once based at Canadian Forces Base Borden. She yearns for home but knows that her departure from Barrie to Basingstoke, England is contingent upon successful campaigns across the Atlantic. Until then, she rations sugar, tea and coffee and carries on.
Peggy’s letters become less frequent as she pours herself into her stenographer’s job at the bank and goes on dates with Ted, who has enlisted in the army as “potential officer material”. She delights in earning her own way, buying new clothing for herself and her sister Joan and helping her aunt reduce the family’s financial strain.
A September 24 cable highlights Peggy’s parents anguish as their daughters’ travel across the ocean is denied. In 2018, a first-world nearly void of civilian travel is nearly unfathomable, but in 1942, it was the harsh reality facing families worldwide.
Along with sister Joan, Peggy Newman returned to Basingstoke on an Atlantic convoy in 1943, joining the Women’s Royal Naval Service and serving in Gosport on the UK’s south coast. She made lifelong friends in Barrie of which she would reminisce for decades to come. In turn, her children became friends with future generations of Peggy’s Barrie-based friends, and so her connection to Canada lives on.
Peggy died only last year at the age of 93.
August 19, 1942
Darling Mummy & Daddy
How is everything with you? We are still on holiday and getting kind of bored. I put my application in two banks this week and am waiting to hear the result. Joan has two more weeks to wit before school starts as it is starting late this year so that all the kids who are working on farms can help the farmers get their late crops in.
What with the lists from Dieppe and the Duke of Kent’s death and Mr Ward-Price’s death, life has been pretty hectic in Barrie. Lt Colonel Andrews who led the attack at Dieppe is reported missing and everyone is feeling very sorry for his wife and baby who live here and who are very popular, she is one of Auntie’s best friends. Also so many in the 1st Division of the tanks were very well known here, so Dieppe hit Barrie very hard.
Uncle came home yesterday for two weeks leave and we also have Robin Worthington staying with us so we have quite a house full.
It is your birthday on Sept 4, Daddy, so here’s wishing you many happy returns, better late than never. I expect by the time you get this letter John will be back at school but please send him my love and also to Bobby. There really is nothing to tell you this week so I will sign off now, I hope to have more to tell you next time.
All my love
September 13, 1942
Darling Mummy & Daddy
Well, here I am after one week of work. I am now working at The Bank of Nova Scotia and will be until I come home unless I’m kicked out. I’m the stenographer and its really quite hard work. I’m typing all day long. My hours are from 9am-12.30 & 1.30pm- 6 or 6.30, it all depends how busy we are. At the end of the month, our hours are later. However, I’m getting quite good pay & it is very interesting. I’m getting $550 a year. So from now on I will be buying my own clothes and give Auntie so much each week.
Auntie took me down to Toronto just before I started work to ge me a new winter coat. Its really perfect, its made of llama wool & is made in England. Its brown in colour and is cut in the very smartest sports style. It is lined with chamois & wool and the innermost lining is silk. It certainly is the most expensive coat I’ve ever had – $45 – but certainly worth it. I also bought myself out of the money I earned when I worked for two weeks in July, a darling yellow sweater, a very good pair of walking shoes, & a cute red hat. So at the moment I am all set until I get enough money to buy something else.
It is really a perfect day here to-day but it seems a shame that summer is practically over. I am enclosing some pictures of us girls at camp etc: there are not many of Joan but she is always photographing other people & doesn’t think to have her own photo taken.
There is no interesting news to tell you it seems. Ted came back ast week-end and everything is just wonderful. He is joining up in the Tank corps at the end of the month as a P.O.M. (Potential Officer Material) so I can hardly wait ‘til he gets his commission.
Everyone is very well here, we are now rationed for sugar, tea & coffee & by the looks of things I wouldn’t be surprised if meat is rationed. How are the boys getting on? Please send them my love. I hope everything is going on O.K at the works. Gosh! I wonder if Basingstoke has changed much.
Look after yourselves and we’ll be seeing you soon.
Tons of love
September 24, 1942
Cunard White Star Ltd.
Stewart Owler Esq.
℅ Thornycroft Limited.
Upon receipt of your cable asking that I do whatever is possible to expedite the passage accommodation of the Misses Peggy and Joan Newman, daughters of your General Manager, I communicated with our Canadian Manager, who has written me very fully on the subject, but the circumstances are such that little or nothing can be done.
I explored the possibility of bringing the children to New York, but after checking with the Consul and the Ministry of War Transport here the situation seems even worse.
Apparently a priority application was received by the Ministry in Canada on August 4th and Exit Permit was issued on July 17th. The position seems to be that as these two young ladies are to travel together they become classed as a family group (owing to the age of the younger girl) and there is no prospect in sight for parties of this nature. If the older girl travels alone a fairly early sailing might be arranged. With family groups, applications filed last January have not yet been cleared up. Should Mr. Newman decide to have the older girl travel alone it would be necessary for an escort to be available for the younger child when accommodation is found a some future date.
The Ministry seem to be fully aware of the anxiety to get these young ladies home. There is such a large demand and such a dearth of civilian passenger accommodation that the situation right now, both in Canada and the United States, is close to being hopeless.
Sorry I could not cable you more encouraging news.
Hope you keep well.
November 15, 1942
Darling Mummy & Daddy
How is everything with you? Well, here we are with winter starting again. There is quite a bit of snow on the ground now and the weather is very clear and crisp. I expect by the time you get this letter you will have seen uncle and got the latest news of us. We were awfully glad to hear that he had arrived safely, I’m afraid its going to be kind of funny not having him home for Christmas. Do you realize that this will be our third Christmas over here, it hardly seems possible does it? Joan and I are sending over a box of Laura Secord candy so I hope you get it some time around Christmas.
I am still working believe it or not and I don’t mind it at all. Last week I bought myself a darling new dress with the money I’ve saved from each payday. Its made of pure wool and is the prettiest colour of blue. I’m very thrilled with it and quite proud of it. I try to put away five dollars or more each pay day to-wards clothes and things I need. Next weekend will be Joan’s birthday and I’ve promised to buy her a new skirt so I hope she likes it. Auntie has got her a very smart tweed jacket so she will really be fixed up smartly. Its a lot of fun buying her stuff and treating her to things.
I’ve been having a wondrful time this weekend. Ted has been in the army a month now and got his first 48 this weekend, so I’m in seventh heaven. We went to a dance given by the society I belong to on Friday night and last night we stayed on at the Active Service Canteen after I finished my shift, and danced again. Tonight I guess we wll go out again, although he has to spend some time at home. He is stationed not very far away from here and is hoping to take his Officers’ course at Cmp Borden which will be just perfect. I am going out to a dance at the camp next Thursdy for a whole lot of officers which should be kind of fun.
About an hour ago I was listening to the church bells being broadcast from England, it was really wonderful to hear them again, they don’t have chimes like that here. Were the bells ringing in Basingstoke? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if I had been in the first party of C.W.A.C.S to arrive in England? I would most probably have ben with them if I had joined up in June. Our maid leaves us to-morrow to go in the C.W.A.C.S. I’m afraid we are going to miss her terribly, she’s awfully good and has been here nearly a year. When its time for her to go overseas I’ll give her our address so she won’t feel lost when she gets there.
How are John and Bobby getting on? I guess one more year and John will be in there fighting, gosh, I hope he never has to. I was terribly sorry to hear about the Bird boy being killed. I always feel so beastly when anybody I know is gone. There have been quite a few local boys killed recently and it brings everything home to you so vividly. Last week was the end of our Third Victory Loan and the response throughout the three weeks it was on was tremendous. It made a terrific lot of hard work for us at the bank, but it was worth it. I was worn out at the end of each day it was such a terrific strain, but I’m rested up again now.
I am going to have a very special photograph taken to send to you. It will be a coloured one but I don’t think you will get it ‘till New Years or after.
Will you be killing some geese for Christmas? I don’t suppose we will get any Christmas puddings this year. I guess I should wish you a very Happy Christmas now, perhaps next year we will all be to-gether again. If we win a few more successes like the Egyptian campaign it is more than likely. Send my love to the boys and tell them to write, our letters from you are very few and far between lately.
Daddy, don’t work too hard, I do hope everything is going well at the works. Mummy, if there are any small things you want badly, please let me know and I’ll send them over.
Please look after yourselves and think of us at Christmas, we’ll be thinking of you all.
All my love