Elsie was born July 18, 1921 in Hawkesbury, Ontario to Kitty and Howard Crooks. She had 3 siblings: Nora, who joined the Canadian Military, Willis, RCN who served overseas and Fred, who stayed at home to work the farm. She enlisted in the C.W.A.C, (Canadian Woman's Army Corps), January 2, 1942, and took basic training at St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec. Following basic training, Elsie was posted to Canadian Military HQ situated in the Sun Life Building in Montreal.
She was then posted overseas to London, England arriving late in December 1942. Her route was from Montreal to Halifax by train, then by boat, which she thinks was the Queen Mary to Liverpool, England, then via train to London. In London she served for 2 years at the Canadian Military HQ located on Trafalgar Square, directly across from the Canadian Beaver Club. She was in the Records Department, keeping track of Canadian troop movements in Europe. She was living in a private home with a beautiful marble staircase, converted into barracks, on South Street London, just off Berkeley Square. The Montreal Star newspaper, dated January 30, 1943 had the full front cover showing Elsie in Trafalgar Square. The caption underneath reads; : "Girls now doing office work which releases fit men for combat duties".
Elsie was then posted to France after the invasion. She crossed the English Channel by boat and arrived on the other side, landing at one of the portable harbor docks that had been floated over from England. In France she continued her work at this new Canadian Military HQ set up in a school building. Her group was living in tents located in an apple orchard. She remembers one incident during this time when there was an unidentified aircraft flying around one night and a lot of guns going off so they all ran into trenches that turned out to have a lot of water in them. It turned out the aircraft was friendly so they just ended up getting soaking wet. Elsie also remembers that the tents were continuously leaking and being wet all the time. They were housed 8 to 10 to a tent, sleeping on army cots.
From France they were transferred by Canadian army trucks to Antwerp, Belgium. This transfer took only one day on paved roads. In Antwerp they had offices located on the lower floors of the same building while they were living on the upper floors. They stayed there until the Germans found the range with their rockets and one rocket landed in the building across the street. It blew all the windows out of their buildingIt was the closest Elsie ever came to being under live fire.
From Antwerp they were transferred to Alost, Flanders in Belgium. Their barracks were located in a school building with their office being downtown.
From Belgium, Elsie was transferred back to the UK where she was posted in Aldershott and then to a further posting back at Canadian Army HQ in London.
Back to Canada
From London it was back to Canada by ship via Halifax and train to Montreal. On arrival in Montreal her parents had come in to meet her.
Elsie kept working at Canadian Army HQ in Montreal until being discharged on September 26, 1945. She had served 3 years and 9 months for her country.
Following her Military discharge Elsie met and married Rodney Preece. They have one daughter and three sons.
- 1939 - 1945 Star
- France Germany Star
- Defense Medal
- CVSM Medal
- 1939 B 1945 War Medal