Community & Current Events

Remembrance Day: The Story of Mary Buchan Jarvis, Canadian Women's Army Corps

The Story of Mary Buchan Jarvis

Mary Buchan Jarvis sits on her jeep. Author: Grace Toby

Community & Current Events

Remembrance Day: The Story of Mary Buchan Jarvis, Canadian Women's Army Corps

In 1942, when Mary Jarvis was a 17-year-old teenager, she dreamed of adventure and travel. This desire for life experiences was the catalyst that prompted her to join the army reserve in Toronto. It wasn't until the following year, when she turned 18, that she was able to officially enlist in the army and help support the British efforts. Jarvis, the eldest of four children and was the first to join the armed forces. Several years later, her younger brother joined the Korean War. 

During her three years of service with the Canadian Armed Forces, Jarvis' main role was to help with transportation. She learned how to drive every type of vehicle from a jeep to a blitz buggy (an outfitted vehicle with two stretchers used as an ambulance) to a bus, and often it was in the dark of night with no headlights. 

Jarvis did manage to see some of the world through her work. She was based in Ottawa and Montreal, and reposted in London, England. However, during her WW II experience, she also witnessed the dark and gruesome reality of war. She was often stationed at the ports, picking up wounded soldiers arriving from France to transport them to the hospital.

Jarvis would rather not dwell on the bad bits; instead she wants to focus on the contribution she made, and the camaraderie she had with her fellow colleagues—both men and women. Jarvis' badge number (2,691) is a sign that the female effort was quite significant during WW II, showing that there were thousands of women who served before her, and thousands after. 

Jarvis' advice for today's youth is to get an education first, and then do the traveling. She believes travel is a great way to see how people live and do things, and how many survive on a lot less than in Canada. And, her recommendation for world leaders: talk. Instead of jumping to conclusions, have a conversation. She believes significant decisions can be made when people sit down together and have a civil onversation. She does worry about the challenges Canada and the world face, but remains hopeful. 

Today, the 92-year-old doesn't have the opportunity to travel but finds comfort in the home she has at Sunnybrook Centre, surrounded by her large family that includes four kids, twelve grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. And, she happily reminisces about her cross-Canada tour in a motor home. 

Operation Raise The Flag
Since 1948, Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto has housed and cared for our nation's war veterans. It is the largest veteran-care facility in Canada with 475 residents.  

Since 2010, on the eve of Rememberance Day, a team of volunteers plants 30,000 Canadian flags on the grounds of Sunnybrook. When veterans wake up on the morning of November 11, they are greeted with this sea of red and white. 

To contribute to Operation Raise The Flag campaign, you can donate $25 online at www.raiseaflag.ca or call the Sunnybrook Foundation at 1-866-696-2008. Proceeds from this fundraiser help provide veterans with special opportunities, such as an outing with their family. 

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Remembrance Day: The Story of Mary Buchan Jarvis, Canadian Women's Army Corps

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