Mrs. Morin bombs Berlin!

Devoir de mémoire - Duty of memory / Illustrations par Luc Pallegoix


I burst out laughing when I came upon an old poster! It was Mrs. Morin, drawn with perfect curls, smiling, and letting a bomb drop from her small plane.

I rushed down the attic stairs snickering. «Aunt Elsie, look what I found.  What is it?» I yelled. The mood changed almost instantly, noticing the look on my aunt’s face, I felt as if a bomb had exploded in the living room.

Without knowing it, I was holding in my hands a small piece of women’s history.


My great aunt and I share the same name. I knew she was one of the first women engineers in aerodynamics in the world, but I was not aware of her nickname «Queen of the Hurricanes».  She came by it when she worked as an engineer in charge of Canadian combat airplanes during the Second World War. She told me, «The Hawaker Hurricanes were a determining force in the battle of Britain». My Aunty was a war hero!

She then recounted the role of women during the two world wars and the rights that narrowly link them together.

Aunty went on to tell me about the thousands of women nicknamed «bluebirds». Over 2 500 Canadian nurses dressed in blue robes and white veils; hence, the nickname crossed the Atlantic Ocean to serve in combat zones.

She told me that in 1917 they granted the right to vote to the «bluebirds» and to women whose spouses, brothers, and sons had served in the war. This was a great victory for Canadian women.

She went on at length about how the two world wars profoundly affected the role of women. Men left for war and women ran the country.

During the First World War, there were over 30 000 to leave their homes to work in factories, offices, and farms. During the Second World War, there were hundreds of thousands helping the country prosper. At the end of the conflict, women knew they had the skills to work in all trades.

Aunt Elsie also told me about the 50 000 women who served in the Canadian armed forces between 1941 and 1945. There were mechanics, parachute load masters and wireless operators. These women played a vital role, and without them, World War Two could not have been won by Canadians and their allies.


I also learned about «the war saving stamps» Mrs. Morin purchased when she did her groceries once a week. These stamps helped finance the Canadian war against the Nazis. From her plane, it was on a swastika that she dropped her bomb.

Standing before me, I no longer saw Aunt Elsie but Elizabeth MacGill, world renowned aeronautical engineer, a key player from the Second World War and militant for women’s rights over the last 50 years.

On that day, I finally understood the importance women played in the history of my country. Despite doubt and apprehension, women dared to defend and stand up for what they believed in.

Aunt Elsie died on November 4, the very next day she told me about her life. My mother told me she passed with that familiar twinkle in her eye.

Young Elsie, who will also one day grow up.
December 1980

piedTexte : Sylvain Dodier – illustrations : Luc Pallegoix ©2016 Traduction : Tammy Bailley


I remember

Devoir de mémoire - Duty of memory / Illustrations par Luc Pallegoix


At the beginning of the millennium I came to live in Canada from France, where I was born and raised. Today, for the first time, I am attending the November 11 ceremonies outside of Europe. It is so different. The bilingualism, the national anthem and “God save the Queen” to mention a few, each nation has its own way of remembering. What stands out as different is commemorating outside conflict zones. Here in Canada war is more of an abstract notion. For five years my grandparents lived under the constant threat of bombs on a daily basis, this was not the case in Canada. The sounds of boots on the ground, the raids

and the deafening noise of buildings and bridges crumbling to the ground after a bomb hit them, none of that happened here.

My grandmother had her first child in 1943. She shared a room with a young Jewish woman who had given birth to a little girl as well. A stirring awoke my grandmother around midnight, she noticed a nun wrapping the baby girl in a big blanket while the mother wept, the nun turned to my grandmother and signaled her to be quiet and tell no one, with that she left the room with the baby. In the early hours of that morning, the Nazis came to get the lady and she was never seen again.

Je me souviens

After the war ended my grandmother found the name of the lady who shared her room on a monument dedicated to the deported, it happened to be right in front of my great-grandfathers tomb. It became a ritual for her to stop a moment every time she visited her father’s grave and spend time remembering the young lady. Sometime in the 80’s my grandmother noticed another woman reading the names. She initiated conversation and before long the lady asked her who she was here to remember. It turned out they were there for the same person and even though this lady did not know the person well her eyes filled with tears. She was the baby the nun had wrapped and saved from the concentration camps all those years ago.
I remember.


piedTexte & illustrations : Luc Pallegoix ©2015 Traduction : Tammy Bailley


When is dad coming home?


papa3He won’t be coming. The mayor came to let us know. Mother locked herself in her room. I was so sad, I ran away.

Hidden between two bales of hay in the barn, I reread the letters from my father. I looked: the training camp, the boat, the ocean, the English country side, and ’’the Frenchified Street’’as he would say, the ruins, the trenches…. My father took great pleasure in telling us stories illustrated with small sketches

papa1For the last three years he had been telling us about the war, his war. The mail was our one and only link with him. Each day, with expectant hearts, we hoped for a letter. An envelope that would let us know, that our father was still alive in that far- away place. Without us.

Our father called out as he jumped on to train to Valcartier ‘’ the war will be over quickly, we will defeat this tyrant, and I will be home before you know it’’.  He was leaving for training before setting sail to the old country. It was Friday August 28, 1914 at 9:45, the last time I saw my father’s smile


My father never really described the war, except to say it was hell. And that hell was ugly, noisy, dirty, and smelly. He preferred to tell us about his French and English friends. He told us tales of ‘’ Sir Arthur’’ a little rat he tamed. He had named the rat in honour of Sir Arthur William Currie, a man my father held in high regards.  Dad told us that it was because of him that many Canadian soldiers had been saved. I would like to believe him, but not this time.

 papa4Dad is died. I can’t stop repeating it to myself. He died along with 10600 other men in the Vimy battle field. The mayor told us that this battle was a great victory for Canadians and their allies. For the first time, the four divisions of the Canadian army core fought together and it worked.

Thanks to my father and his friends. It would seem the odds went in our favour. My Father is a hero. Yet ‘’hell’’ just threw a grenade into my life.

Louis, avril 1917

piedTexte : Sylvain Dodier – Illustrations : Luc Pallegoix ©2016 Traduction : Tammy Bailey