Bentz, Phyllis

(1916-2013)

Phyllis Leona (Hussey) Bentz was born on November 4, 1916 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. She grew up in the Saskatchewan Landing School District where she completed elementary and junior high school grades. After graduating from high school in the nearby town of Stewart Valley, she attended Moose Jaw Normal School, obtaining her teacher’s certificate in 1936.

Phyllis Hussey taught school for six years before joining the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. This particular corps had been formed to train women in non-combative work so that they could replace physically fit soldiers. The men, thus released, would be able to serve in units overseas. Phyllis joined the CWAC in Military District No. 12, Regina, on July 11, 1942, to become known on rosters and orders as W-12496 Private Hussey, P.L.

Private Hussey worked in the Quartermaster Stores of MD No.12 until April 1943, when she and two other CWACs were chosen to be trained as instrument mechanics. With CWACs from the other Military Districts across Canada, they began their training at Central Technical School in Toronto, Ontario.

At Central Tech. they were taught how to operate the steel and watchmaker lathes. To pass the practical work on the steel lathe, one test required the learner to turn down stock to make a screwdriver, then knurl its’ handle and temper its’ blade. Tests for skill on the watchmaker lathe included the shaping of stock to make a screw head polisher, and the making of small screws, bolts and nuts. The latter test required learning how to use taps and dies.

From Toronto, the CWACs went to Barriefield Camp near Kingston, Ontario, to learn the mechanics of optical instruments such as dial sights, rangefinders, telescopes, binoculars, etc. At the end of the practical work, they were required to pass a written test. Out of the class of twenty CWACs, nine graduated as tradesmen from the First Instrument Mechanic’s Course (CWAC.) In February of 1944 those nine personnel were posted to Coastal Defense work.

Private Phyllis Hussey and two other instrument mechanics were sent to Esquimalt, BC to work in the depot of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers on Signal Hill. They inspected and repaired optical instruments that were brought into the workshop. Sometimes they were sent to inspect rangefinders and other optical instruments in the gun emplacements on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Phyllis and her co-workers started as “C” tradesmen. By the end of the war they had been promoted, first to “B”, then to “A” tradesmen. To qualify as an “A” tradesman, each one had to make a functional balance wheel mechanism.

After VE day on May 8, 1945, Phyllis and other CWACs volunteered to go to the Pacific Theatre of War. However, in August of 1945, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War Two.

While in the service, Phyllis and other CWACs, after duty and on weekends, sometimes volunteered to help civilians. In October 1943, Phyllis helped to harvest apples in an orchard near Toronto. In May 1945, she helped to put up shelves in a supply ship anchored in Esquimalt Harbor.

On January 28, 1946, Private Hussey, P.L. was discharged from the Canadian Women’s Army Corps to return to civilian life, and to receive (as did all CWACs) the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

On January 4, 1947, Phyllis married Daniel Bentz who had served overseas with the Saskatoon Light Infantry throughout Sicily, Italy, and the European Theatre of the War. Civilians again, they began post-war life together. But that is another story.

Category: Sundre