Years of service in Second World War

At the young age of fifteen Alex Wallner she could not wait to join the army

Alex Wallner

Alex Wallner

When I visited World War II veteran Alex Wallner this past week she had just returned from volunteering at the Legion, getting poppies ready to be distributed to various locations around Clinton for the 2012 Poppy Campaign.

We talked about Alex’s early years as a young lady in England during World War II. She was born in London before the outbreak of World War II.

At the young age of fifteen she could not wait to join the army. Alex tried at first to enlist with the Airforce, then the Navy and was turned down by both. She was then determined to enlist in the Army.

She lied about her age and went with a friend to the interview. Leaving the interview she was advised that a parent had to sign the forms to approve of her joining. Her teenage friend signed her Mother’s name for her. On March 20, 1940 Alex received her regimental number and took her place in Britain’s army. When she was given her travelling papers, she taped them to her stomach so her parents would not find them. Her sister suspected she was up to something, but before she could say anything to her parents she was sent away to camp and the rest is history.

In the 1940s in Britain, the women that enlisted or were conscripted had to help with something towards the war efforts but didn’t have to be on the guns. Alex, enthusiastic to be involved,  volunteered to operate the guns and then trained as a mobile search light operator. When she signed up to be on the lights she didn’t realize just how dangerous it would be.

She says they didn’t realize that when they shone the search lights on the German planes for the British army the enemy would use the light to locate and bomb them. Alex was situated on a platform about six feet off the ground and on one occasion was hit by shrapnel and suffered serious injuries.

After Alex healed she re mustered and was attached to the American 8th Airforce, where she did commentary for Airforce planes. She received an award from the American Legion for her service with them.

She told me that she had the highlight of meeting James Stewart, the famous American film and stage actor during this time.

One of Alex’s favourite memories of her time in the army was when she got to meet the King and Queen (Queen Mother), when they came to visit the barracks and shook hands with everyone.

Alex says that the old adage is, “If you shake hands with royalty you get ten extra years in life” so she claims she is living on her ten extra years. She says she didn’t want to wash her hand afterwards, and tells me that the Royals later sent the girls a nice mirror to hang in their barracks.

Alex was in the British army for five years. She left the army in 1945 when she found that she was expecting.  She left Britain for Canada with her husband when her son was 4 months old. She has many stories to tell about her army days, and the early days in Canada raising her children. She also joined the Canadian Army after moving to British Columbia.

I do suggest that if you have the opportunity, take the time out to speak to a war veteran and it just might help you to see things in a different light.

Whether it be a community member or Family member, many of us just can not comprehend what our veterans experienced when they went to war for their country, their stories should be shared so that we can pass them on to the next generation and appreciate those who fought for freedom.