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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Hilda (Lonsdale) Beaulne
Date Posted: August 26/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1920's to 2000's
Hilda Lonsdale was born on December 16, 1922 in Leeds,Yorkshire, England. Her father, James was injured in WWI and died when Hilda and her brother, Herbert were young children. Hilda's mother, Lily Lonsdale, worked in a factory sewing buttons on clothing.
Hilda graduated from school hoping to study fashion design at college, but because of limited finances and with the onset of WWII, she was not able pursue her schooling. She joined the ARP (Air Raid Precaution) unit whose responsibility included monitoring air assaults and warning the populace of incoming bombing raids. Her workplace was in the basement of a building where there was little ventilation and she was often ill.
She wanted to enlist in the Air Force, but her mother refused so she entered the land army, joining the many women working for the war effort on trains, farms, and factories. Hilda moved to Knaresborough, England and lived in a hostel with other British army women.
Eighteen-year old leading airman, Roger Beaulne from Hull, Quebec was stationed at Allerton Park outside of Knaresborough. One night in 1943, he was socializing with a few friends in a local pub when two women walked in and asked if any of the men played the piano. The young men said, "No, we don't, but we dance," and Hilda Beaulne, one of the young women replied, "OK, then come down to the hostel. The more the merrier."
According to Roger, "That conversation in the pub was how we started." Hilda and Roger worked at their respective jobs during the day and spent their free evenings together returning home in time to meet their ten o'clock curfew. Hilda's home was a two hours bus ride from Knaresborough and Roger met Hilda's mother, Lily in 1944.
Then on February 17, 1945 Hilda married Roger in the Registrar's Office in Leeds. Hilda's brother and mother were at the wedding, and Roger had buddies from the base in attendance. Hilda did not have enough coupons to get a proper wedding gown and was married in a short dress. Many of the items for the wedding meal Roger received from the cook at the base, and the wedding reception was held in Lily's house. There was no honeymoon; the couple had only two days before returning to work. The newlyweds would go as often as possible to Leeds and spend the weekend together and on April 3, 1945, Hilda gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Yvonne.
Hilda stopped work when she was pregnant and returned home to her mother's house. Roger traveled down from Knaresborough as often as possible to visit.
Roger left England in December 1945 and arrived back in Canada on New Year's Day, 1946. He was discharged from the air force and found work at a windmill outside of Hull, Quebec. The Red Cross was required to check Roger's living quarters and insure that there was a home for his new war bride. He had to show that he was established and could provide for Hilda and Yvonne before his wife and daughter were allowed to travel to Canada to meet him. These precautions were necessary because by 1945, there was some concern over the numbers of war brides that had arrived in Canada only to be deserted by their husbands.
Hilda and Yvonne sailed into Halifax onboard the "Mauritania" in August 1946. Mother and daughter disembarked and then traveled by train to Ottawa, Ontario where Roger met them to take them on to Hull, Quebec.
Hilda asked her husband, when they met, why he was in uniform, to which Roger replied, "There aren't any jobs, so this is my job now." Many of the returning Canadian soldiers found the postwar employment situation in Canada limited and like countless other veterans, Roger received a letter stating that the Canadian military would accept their reenlistment if they so wished.
After arriving in Canada, Hilda changed faith to become Roman Catholic and the couple decided to get their marriage blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. Their second daughter Susan was born on June 1, 1947 and eighteen months later, son Robert was born. Sadly he passed away at three months of age from pneumonia. The Beaulne's fourth child, Denise was born on October 21, 1949. Roger and his family lived in Hull, Quebec until 1951. Hilda enjoyed her husband's large family (Roger had five brothers) and she met many people and made friends easily.
An officer friend of Roger's mentioned to him one day, "I hear your wife is from England. When Roger nodded, the officer asked, "Do you think she'd like to go back?"
So in 1951, Roger, Hilda and their four children moved first to England and then on to Belgium so Roger could work as a safety supervisor for the Canadian Air Force in Marlboro, France. The Beaulnes returned to Canada in 1955 and lived on the military base in Rockcliffe, Ontario until 1962.
On March 6, 1960, their youngest son Steven was born. During their stay in Rockcliffe, Hilda performed in a couple of plays and worked in the base dining room. The family was transferred to Camp Borden where they lived until Roger's retirement from the airforce in 1966. He soon began work for the National Research Council Engineering Plant, in Ottawa. By this time,
Denise and Susan had both married RCMP officers and had moved west with their husbands. Roger and Hilda were living in Ottawa in 1973 and traveled to Alberta for a visit. They enjoyed their short stay in Wetaskiwin and decided to move to Alberta in 1973. Roger joined the RCMP office in Wetaskiwin, working there until 1978, at which time he began employment with Peavey Mart, a job he held until his retirement in 1984. Hilda worked for the Betty Shop on Main Street for two years and then worked for Carlton Cards in the Wetaskiwin Mall.
Tragically, Steven was killed in a motor vehicle accident on March 11, 1982 and only ten months later, the family suffered another loss when daughter Yvonne died from illness. The asthma that had plagued Hilda for some time worsened, and soon she began experiencing other health problems. She entered long term care in August 2001 and on April 23, 2003, she passed away at the age of eighty years. Roger presently lives in Wetaskiwin.
Transcribed from audiotaped interviews with Roger Beaulne August 2003.
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