What started out as a Second World War story turned into happily ever after for May Batch.
She first enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 at the age of 20, with the intention of helping Canada and its allies in the fight against Germany and its leader Adolf Hitler.
What she didn’t expect to find was love and marriage, meeting her husband Charlie while stationed as a clerk general at an elementary air training base in Davidson, Sask. in 1942.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but something akin to air sickness, Batch recalled.
“I don’t know what he said to me, but at first I thought he was a smart ass,” she said with a laugh about Charlie, an aero engine mechanic. “But he eventually won me over with his Prairie charm.”
As war raged in Europe miles away, May and Charlie were eventually caught up in a wartime romance — like thousands of others — that ended in marriage, an allied victory and armistice.
Now 89 years old and Charlie having passed on, Batch still resides in the community she moved to with her family in 1963 to raise three children — and six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild — and continues to call home.
And it was at home where Batch’s war was fought. Neither she nor Charlie served overseas — she spent her three years of service all in Canada, while Charlie was on his way overseas when peace was declared in 1944.
Consequently, her experience in the war was vastly different from those who were bloodied in the trenches of Europe. But it was no less tragic and emotional.
As a corporal working in the airplane hangars, Batch said she saw young men sent to the training bases that had never driven a car in their life, yet they were learning to fly an air force fighter airplane.
“You figure that one,” she said.
As a result, some men crashed and some were killed. She once saw an airplane crash through the men’s barracks so hard that, although no one was killed, the airplane was planted almost two feet deep into the ground due to the impact of the crash.
“When you see an airplane crashing and see bodies lying about on the ground it gives you a sense of what was at stake,” she said.
There were no radios, no televisions and few newspapers where Batch was stationed so she was not inundated with propaganda or the horror of the war, nor did she see bullets fly or bombs burst near her.
But her horror came close to home when she lost her eldest brother in Europe where he served in the Army. Her two younger brothers made it out of the war — in the Navy and Army — but she lost several cousins and uncles in the battles.
When Batch was discharged in 1942 she moved to Yorkton, Sask. where Charlie was re-stationed as an aero engine mechanic.
When he left the Air Force after five years of service the family settled in Regina, moving to Trail in 1963 where Charlie worked as an automobile mechanic at Firestone until his death from cancer in 1989.
That was one year before both Charlie and May were recognized as veterans of the Second World War.
It was in 1990 that the federal government first began to acknowledge and give benefits to those men and women who served in the armed forces for Canada, but never were sent overseas.
“Yet where did they train the pilots? In Canada,” she said.
Despite the government’s oversight, Batch never regretted her decision to enlist in 1942 in her hometown of Regina, Sask., and remains proud of what Canadians accomplished in those years, how they stood strong as a country.
It was a good time, said Batch, because there was a cause, and there was Charlie.
They were young and in love.
“And he was a good guy. We weren’t rich but we had everything else. When he died we didn’t owe a penny to anybody,” she said.