Mary Cole-Minett will turn 100 next month. (Connor Trembley - Capital News)

Mary Cole-Minett will turn 100 next month. (Connor Trembley - Capital News)

99-year-old Kelowna resident shares Second World War story

Mary Cole-Minett joined the Women’s Auxillary Air Force in 1939

Mary Cole-Minett was 19 years old when she tried joining the army in 1939 to serve in the Second World War.

She was turned away because she had to be 21.

Two days later — with an angry father by her side still mad over her first attempt to try and serve in the war — Cole-Minett made a pledge with her best friend Flo Ellis to apply for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). They both got in.

According to Forces War Records, the WAAF was formed on June 28, 1939, to help women aid in the war effort and to help change the social status and attitudes of women at the time.

By 1943, the organization employed more than 180,000 women.

Remembrance Day ceremonies planned throughout Central Okanagan

Born in 1919 in Liverpool, England, Cole-Minett still remembers the Air Force decision that would set a precedent for the rest of her life.

“I was mad at all of the people fighting. I didn’t have any idea at the time of what was going to happen,” Cole-Minett recalled.

“Me and Flo made the decision to help fight what we thought were these terrible people at the time, and that was that.”

Cole-Minett was the eldest of seven siblings in her family. She and her brother were the only two family siblings that served in the war.

During her four years with the WAAF, Cole-Minett helped to assemble, package and fix broken parachutes for pilots in the war.

She still remembers her day-to-day tasks while serving.

“I would go to the local airport to meet the guys coming back from their trips and fighting. I’d get all of the broken parachutes and take them back to the maintenance facility to fix them all up again.”

Photos of Cole-Minett and her friend Flo Ellis (Connor Trembley file)

Cole-Minett still recalls some of the sadder moments from the war, such as pilots not making it back home.

“Sometimes, the men wouldn’t come back after being on duty. You knew all the pilots and everybody. I guess it was kind of sad. Some of them you liked more than others when they came back.

“After the pilots returned, people would sometimes ask, ‘where’s Joe today?’ I guess he didn’t make it.’”

Even 70 years later, Cole-Minett remembers all of the familiar faces she’s kept in contact with over the years.

“I’ve managed to keep in with friends with pretty much everyone in that era. I think of different friends at different times, especially Flo Ellis. I remember her so well.”

Cole-Minett later joked that she’s pretty much outlived all her friends, including all her siblings.

After Remembrance Day, Cole-Minett said she will carry on plans she has already started to mark her 100th birthday next month.

“I’m going to have big piles of tea. The neighbours are all talking about giving me a party.”

“We have the nicest neighbours that you could meet anywhere in the world. All of the places I’ve lived, Kelowna’s the nicest.”

Cole-Minett is also expecting a birthday card from Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of the celebrations.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon-Monashee NDP MLA Harwinder Sandhu. (Contributed)
Vernon MLA marks International Women’s Day with first in-person legislature appearance

Harwinder Sandhu to speak in local panel hosted by CFUW later tonight

Community Foundation North Okanagan is now accepting applications for its annual Smart and Caring Community Grants program. (CFNO photo)
Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

Community Foundation North Okanagan seeks applicants for its annual Smart and Caring Grants program

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

YouTube.
LETTER: Stop torture of horses

Summerland woman calls for the end of shipping of live horses to Japan

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A group of men pose for a photo at the Griffin Lake internment camp. (Submitted)
Volunteers wanted to help commemorate internment camps in Shuswap

There were six camps along the Highway 1 cooridor between Sicamous and Revelstoke.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Carson Meikle prepares a hot beverage while his mother, Jenna Meikle, is busy in the background at The Night Cafe, located at 146 Lakeshore Drive. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Artistic Shuswap entrepreneurs branch into culinary arts with The Night Café

Adam and Jenna Meikle grateful for ongoing community support

Most Read