Order of the Legion of Honor

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The Legion of Honour is the highest national order of the Government of France. It is awarded in recognition of personal involvement in the liberation of France during World War ll. This medal originated with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 after the French Revolution, when he created a new system of awards based on merit and not on social status, and without regard to birth or religion. Both Charlie Palmer and Donald Angus Smith were awarded the rank of Knight of the French National Order of Legion of Honour for helping to liberate France.

A lifetime contribution to their country

During the second world war, the role of Canadian women changed dramatically. Most of the men had gone to war. Those who remained needed help in the workforce, so the women on the home front stepped enthusiastically into those jobs. Women manufactured parts for ships and aircraft. They worked in factories, on the airfield and on farms. Many even worked at the Sydney Steel Plant!

During the war the number of working women in Canada doubled to 1.2 million. Many women also joined war relief clubs which were formed to improve the morale of men overseas. These clubs packaged canvas “ditty bags”containing chocolate, sewing kits and razor blades to send to the troops. However change was in the air, Canadian women wanted to play a more active role in the war. The Canadian Army Medical Department was formed in June1899 with four Nursing sisters and continued to grow over the years. By the end of WW2, 4480 nursing sisters were enlisted in every branch of the Canadian Service, but women wanted to do more...they lobbied then the government to form military organizations for women. In 1941-42 the military was forever changed as it created its own women’s forces. Women were now able for the first time to serve Canada in uniform. More than 50,000 women served in noncombat positions in the armed forces during the Second World War working as mechanics, parachute riggers, wireless operators, clerks and photographers. The Nurses were the only women on the front lines at this time.

Adola Betty Metcalfe was born in Bell Island, Newfoundland, Dec.19, 1920 and this is her story...Along with her family, Betty moved to Glace Bay when she was an infant.At 22, Betty, her sister Yvonne and her friend Kelly took a tram car to Sydney to sign up...They wanted to do something to help the war effort and by enlisting Betty knew she was able to relieve a man of his noncombat role so he could be sent on active duty overseas. It also didn’t hurt the girls liked uniforms! Betty, Yvonne and Kelly passed their medicals and were sent for training in Halifax, then to St.Anne De Bellevue, Quebec. The girls became steno clerks. Women originally served noncombat roles and were given the choice to staying Canada or go to England. Betty chose Canada because she already had 2 brothers overseas and she knew in her heart she couldn’t go.Her brother Bill returned however her older brother Jack was killed in a prison camp. Betty was stationed in Ottawa, earning 90 cents a day, as a Steno Clerk, with a twice yearly bonus to pay for hair-dos and undergarments. After her service Betty returned home to Cape Breton. She eventually married and had 1 child, a daughter, that was born visually impaired. Betty worked as a secretary in civilian life using the skills she learned in the military. At the age of 50, Betty joined the Canadian Legion as a Veteran and became a secretary here as well. Betty was awarded the Past Officers Medal from the Canadian Legion also the Voluntary Service Medal and the King George Medal from the Canadian Government. Betty is a very spry 95 year old, she lives in Westmount and is still active in the Legion. We want to thank Betty for sharing her story with us.We would like to take a moment to salute and remember those women today.