Born in Erdington, Warwickshire, England in 1922 José was 17 years old when the Second World War was declared. At age 20, in December of 1942, José enlisted to serve with the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Stationed in Beaumanor, Leicestershire with the Royal Corps of Signals, José trained as a driver.
“I drove ambulances, 15-cwt troop carriers, staff cars and various other military vehicles. It was also my job to do the maintenance on them.”
Her job was to drive intercepted Nazi messages from the ‘Y’ Station to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, for de-coding. Bletchley Park played a vital role in the war effort by breaking the Enigma code and providing the Allies with crucial intelligence, which ultimately contributing to their victory over Nazi Germany. José transported this intelligence along 70 miles of very slow back roads with no signposts. “I always had a Redcap Military Policeman sitting beside me carrying a Sten gun for protection.”
Her memory of her time during the war is sharp. She recalled an encounter with a downed German pilot on UK soil. “We saw this man on the side of the road and he hailed us. We stopped but couldn’t understand him.” Not able to communicate they continued on and shortly after came to a roadblock where they had been looking for the German soldier. She was quick to point them in his direction. Her actions lead to his arrest.
Another memory carried much more weight for José. “One night we heard the air raid sirens and ran for shelter. It had been raining hard and all the roadside ditches, where we normally sheltered during raids, were full of water. I first heard the buzzing of the Nazi ‘Doodlebug’ bomb, then saw it coming towards me.”
The Doodlebug was a bomb with wings that Germans started using in June of 1944 over England. Described as a small unmanned airplane that functioned as a cruise missile, José remembers the distinct sound you could hear as it flew overhead, “I just prayed for the engine to keep going and not cut out over us. Then the engine stopped, hit the ground and exploded in the next field a few minutes later. Red-hot shrapnel landed by my feet. It was very frightening.”
José recalls there had been many soldier casualties from that bomb which sent shrapnel to her feet. “It was a terrifying time”.
Following the war, José married her husband Michael, whom she knew growing up; he was ‘the boy next door’. “We kept in touch and when Michael came home from the war, he asked me to marry him. We had 66 wonderful years together before he passed. It was a wonderful marriage that gave us two children: my son David and Johanna, my daughter, who is right beside me now.”
After Michael’s passing, José moved closer to Johanna, making the move to Vancouver Island in 2016. Needing more support in her day-to-day care, José moved to Veterans Memorial Lodge in the spring of this year. “It has been a difficult four months coming to terms with long term care,” remarked José’s daughter Johanna, “but now we both realize and accept that Broadmead Care is offering her the best of care that is needed and appreciated.”
Like all Canadian and Allied veterans, José gave up so much so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today. It is our honour to serve José while she lives at Veterans Memorial Lodge, a Broadmead Care Home.
You can help veterans like José enjoy the comforts of home and simple pleasures by making a donation today.