“What a wonderful surprise when I heard that I was invited to attend the 75th anniversary of D-Day. What an honour.”
This year, at the age of 96, Eugénie “Frankie” Turner will be at Juno Beach on June 6, 2019 along with fellow D-Day and the Battle of Normandy Veterans.
“When I heard about the war, I just felt I wanted to help”
Eugénie was born in Saint-Polycarpe, Quebec on November 30, 1922. When the Second World War broke out, the Canadian Armed Forces did not actively recruit women for military service. For Eugénie, who badly wanted to contribute to the war effort, it was a difficult time. “When I heard about the war, I just felt I wanted to help”. So, when the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) started enrolling women in 1942, she decided “that was for me; I had to do that”.
Eugénie joined the RCAF Women’s Division on October 8, 1942. She was only 19 years old at the time. She did her basic training at the RCAF Station in Rockcliffe, Ontario before joining No. 6 Group of Bomber Command. She was first assigned to Gander Bay, Newfoundland where she worked as a teletype operator. She recalls “it was very interesting because at the time, all the bombers and aircrafts going overseas had to stop in Gander Bay to refuel and get ready to move overseas, so I got to see all the bombers, all the new planes coming in; got to fly in a few of them as a matter of fact”.
“It was quite an experience! We hit a terrible storm on the way… After four days of terrible storm, we noticed we were all alone; we’d lost the convoy and we were all alone…”
In December 1943, Eugénie was sent overseas. She vividly remembers the journey across the Atlantic. “It was quite an experience,” she recalls, “we hit a terrible storm on the way. It was December in the Atlantic. After four days of terrible storm, we noticed we were all alone; we’d lost the convoy and we were all alone. But it took us eight days to get to England”. Upon her arrival, she was posted to the Royal Air Force station at Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire. There, she spent almost two years performing key roles such as telecommunication on teletype, deciphering messages and preparing information for air crew operational briefings.
She was principally responsible for two squadrons (408 and 426), each squadron having 15 bombers. During D-Day, she worked 24 hours straight to keep the squadrons’ operations up-to-the-minute on developing events. Eugénie and her base were officially congratulated for their D-Day communications work. She served until July 14, 1945 and was discharged from the forces with the rank of Leading Aircraftwoman.
For her service, Eugénie received the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939-1945. She also received the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with the Bomber Command Bar and a silver clasp for her overseas service.
She married her late husband Harold Turner on March 24, 1945 in York, England. A year after returning to Canada, they moved to Lachine, Quebec to start their family. They raised five children (one girl and four boys). In 1962, the family moved to California. Her husband got a job with General Electric Company, while Eugénie used her experience as a bilingual secretary to work as an instructor in a business college. After her husband passed away, she decided to come back to Canada and now lives in Kelowna, B.C.
Today, Eugénie is 96. She has an incredible legacy and family, counting 15 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and a four-month-old great-great-grandson. She often volunteers with the Royal Canadian Legion in Kelowna, the 883 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association and the Okanagan Military Museum.
In honour of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, Eugénie Turner is one of our Faces of Freedom. She will be participating in commemorative events leading up to June 6.