Wilhelmine Kate Dennis

For women in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, France symbolized not just romance, but opportunity.

In her diary, Wilhelmine Kate Dennis, an English WAAC, 13th Company [Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps], wrote of looking out across the English Channel, from her hotel in Folkestone, to the shores of France, “to which all the overseas girls strain eager eyes,” she noted.

For women in the WAAC, France symbolized not just romance, but opportunity. Never before had women been tasked so close to the frontlines, providing basic services like cooking and administration, but also ammunition handling and distribution. New responsibility meant new dangers. For Dennis, it could be immediately felt at her posting in Montreuil.

“We had two alarms, so had a rather disturbing night,” Dennis wrote from Montreuil, France, on August 6, 1918. “Next day, we heard that an officer and four men had been killed in the night by a bomb, so that shows how near it was.”

Time existed within her day to socialize, and to make trips from the barracks to town for tea and shopping. The occasional dance set up by regular officers provided its own challenges to Dennis and WAAC servicewomen. “There was dancing then, and I thought I’d like to watch,” Dennis wrote. “But there wasn’t much chance of doing anything, the men just swarmed round us like bees.”

After the war, Dennis met her husband, Ameilius, and moved to Canada.

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