Elsie (nee Lepine) Bevan served in the Canadian Army for almost five years during the Cold War. (Family photo)

Cloverdale dairy maid enlists in the Canadian Army

Elsie Bevan has lived in Langley for many years and served her country in the army.

With a tear rolling down his cheek, Elise Lepine’s father bid her farewell with “Be good” as she headed off from their Cloverdale dairy farm to join the Canadian Army.

“I joined on Oct. 1, 1952,” Elsie Bevan explained.

It was during her time in the military that she met her husband and together they were stationed around Canada (Comox, Vancouver, Kamloops, north of Montreal, and Ontario) as well as Tacoma, Wash., and Duluth, Minn.

Bevan is one of the women of Canada who heeded the call when their country needed them.

She served as a Royal Canadian Air Force corporal during the Cold War, working in classified environments at a time when international tensions were running high.

“The first thing we were taught was ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ So you kept your mouth shut absolutely,” Bevan said.

She is a resident of Chartwell Renaissance Retirement Residence in Willoughby and is one of the Chartwell residents the seniors facility company is honouring for Remembrance Day.

“Remembrance Day allows us to recognize all of the men and women who have sacrificed so much in the name of justice and liberty. Without them, we would not have the country we have today; the peaceful, welcoming place we are so proud to call home,” said Brent Binions, president and CEO. “I know I speak for everyone at Chartwell in expressing gratitude and appreciation for their courage and devotion.”

Serving on home soil, the threat felt no less real. Bevan would awake from terrifying dreams of being at work facing an imminent Russian invasion.

“One time, there was some secret information that had to be passed on, and I had a briefcase that was chained to my arm with a key to take it where it was sent off,” she said.

The Cold War was a period of political hostility that existed between the Soviet bloc countries and the US-led Western powers from 1945 to 1990.

But her service, from 1952 to May 1957 (curtailed with the birth of her first of four children) was one of the best times of her life.

“Absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was a privilege to serve.”

Bevan didn’t start out wanting to join the military. She was fascinated with the massive window displays at the Woodwards and applied to work there after finishing school at Lord Tweedsmuir High School.

“They said ‘We hired women during the [Second World] war, but now we only hire men’,” Bevan explained.

Elsie was working on the large family dairy farm on Halls Prairie Road three miles north of Cloverdale.

“I was the most muscled girl in Cloverdale,” she joked. “We shipped six to 800 pounds [of milk] per day.”

Bevan took the advice of her sister.

“My sister said ‘Why don’t you join the military and see the world?’” Bevan explained.

She asked her mom about joining the navy and was shot down. She asked about joining the army and her mom reluctantly conceded.

Starting with their involvement in the First World War, Canadian women changed the face of the national military forever. Women took on non-traditional roles and excelled, side by side with military men.

“We have a desire to serve,” the 87-year-old Bevan said. “Women pour themselves out.”

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

Just Posted

White Rock cadets nab medals at Vernon competition

Thirteen members of 907 Squadron compete at regional meet

Girls, women try their hand at marine rescue in Surrey

Achieve Anything Foundation, RCMSAR Crescent Beach host ‘Operation: This IS You! Saving Lives at Sea’

Surrey boy living with congenital heart disease to speak at local Tedx event

Mason Vander Ploeg will be speaking on saving the oceans

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Winds up to 70 km/hr expected across Metro Vancouver

Winds are expected to subside overnight

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Fraser Health warns some schools of possible COVID-19 exposure

A sixth COVID-19 patient is a woman in her 30s in the Fraser Health region who recently returned from Iran

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

VIDEO: Giants winning streak ends at 11 after a 2-1 setback Saturday in Everett

Run of wins matched their longest ever regular season winning streak

Most Read