In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


Bernice Doreen (Bunny) McIntyre (née Neill)


Leading Wren, Steward, WRCNS




Born: 08 Aug 1921, Dauphin, Manitoba


Died: 16 Mar 2021


McINTYRE, Bernice Doreen (Bunny) (née Neill) - Bunny’s Last Hop - 99 years of age was born on August 8th 1921 on a small grain farm in Dauphin Manitoba, the daughter of the late Edward James and Maggie Edith (Hassard) Neill.


Bunny left school after grade 8 when her school Principal told her education was a waste of time for a woman and she would do well to marry a farmer. Instead, she attended Business College. Then joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942, following the service of an Uncle who served in “the great war”, to as she used to say “to win the war and see the world”. After Basic Training in Galt, Ontario, she was selected to be a Wardroom Assistant and personal Steward to the Commanding Officer. She was promoted to Leading Wren in a month. She served in Halifax and St John’s Newfoundland where she spent VE day celebrating for two days. The trip to St John’s was harrowing as they were hunted by a Nazi U-boat. She detailed standing on the deck of the troop carrier in a life jacket in preparation to abandon ship if necessary while the escorting Corvettes dropped depth charges to protect them.


After the war, she worked in an office for a company that sold farm equipment in Winnipeg. Always looking for adventure, she traveled from Winnipeg to Las Vegas by bus and pulled a few slots. She also took a road trip with her good friend Audrey from Winnipeg to Toronto and back to Winnipeg, over 4500 kms, in her 1939 Model A Ford Roadster much to the amazement of those they met along the way. The lure of the Navy was too strong and she rejoined in 1951. Selected in 1953, she was the only Wren on continuous naval duty sent by the Navy to attend Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in London and march 10 miles in the parade, one of only four Canadian Wrens to do so. She served in Halifax and Coverdale, NB where she met and married Arthur McIntyre a CPO of the RCN. In 1957 finding she had become pregnant she informed her CO who told her she could remain in the Navy until she could no longer button her uniform as the Navy considered her “medically unfit” to serve, something she never really got over. She loved to jokingly chide her eldest son that he was the reason she had to end her naval career.


Arthur and Bunny built a home on the Waverly Road where they raised three children. She remained in her home she built in 1961 until March 16th 2021 due the care and love of her dear friends Laura Campbell and Joyce Griffin.


Bunny did many things over the course of her life. In 1968, she purchased and ran a small grocery store on the Waverly Road for years; later, Head Cashier at Woolco at Penhorn Mall, and Commissionaire at the Grace Maternity Hospital and Dartmouth General Hospital. She volunteered with a special needs bowling league. She was a member of the Somme Branch # 31 Legion and was an enthusiastic supporter of the annual poppy campaign pinning poppies on people until the age of 97, thanks to the help and friendship of Paul O’Boyle. In 2012, Governor General David Johnson requested her presence at Rideau Hall for a reception to honour her for service to Canada. At the time of her death, she was the oldest member of the Nova Scotia Wrens Association, oldest member of the National Wrens Association and oldest member of the Canadian Veterans Association. She toured Europe at the age of 93 on a river boat and recounted exciting rides while being wheeled through the streets of the various cities. One particular thrill-seeking downhill ride earning her the nickname” Runaway Granny” for the remainder of the trip.


Bunny was proud to wear her two wartime medals as well as the Coronation Medal, Queens Diamond Anniversary Medal and the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Medal to Remembrance Day and other ceremonies. She was also a recipient of the Memorial Cross.


She was predeceased by her husband Arthur and brother Ted Neill; sister in-law Jean Neill and nephew Jimmy Neill. She is survived her son Ian (Michelle), son Barry (Mara) and daughter Noreen Nause (Paul); grandchildren Jillian (Justin), Kevin (Teresa), Logan (Jaden) and Cameron (Lana); her nieces and nephew who were so dear to her. Special friends Laura, Joyce and Howard, Vera her oldest friend, Florence, Bell and Dave.


Special thanks to JoAnn Cunningham for her friendship and documenting Bunny’s life, Peter Stoffer for his friendship and support over the years, Dr. Samad who worked for years helping her maintain her sight, Dr. Moriarity for keeping Bunny running all these years, Stephan Shryver for his kindness and many visits and Robby for keeping her steps and walkway free of snow.


Bunny’s funeral is guided by the Atlantic Funeral Home. A graveside service will take place at 1100 hours on Monday March 22nd for close family and friends in Dartmouth Memorial Gardens Cemetery, 767 Main Street, Dartmouth. For those who wish to view this Live-Streamed service, please use the link on this online memorial page.


A memorial service will be held at a later date. If inclined, donations can be made to The Mission to Seafarers in Halifax.


Bunny is remembered as a loving mother, grandmother and friend but she would most like you to remember her as a Sailor who served her country with honour and great pride.


No more a Watch to stand, Old Sailor
You are outward bound on an ebbing tide.
Eight Bells has rung, and last Watch done.
Now a new berth waits you on the other side.


Your Ship is anchored in God's Harbor.
And your Shipmates, sailors of the Lord.
Are Mustered on the deck to greet you.
And pipe you as you come aboard.


Her boilers with full head of steam.
Cargo stowed and Galley stored.
Just waiting to get underway.
When the last Hand comes aboard.


Look sharp, that Hand is you, Old Sailor.
And you'll be sailing out on Heavenly Seas.
May the wind be ever at your back.
Fair weather, and God speed!

-Richard John Scarr





Bernice McIntyre: From wartime Wren to the regular navy

Navy News / February 10, 2021

By Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (retired) JoAnn Cunningham
Nova Scotia Wren Association


Bernice (Bunny) McIntyre, 99, has a unique record of naval service with three different service numbers representing three distinct phases of her career.


The first was issued when she joined the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS), or Wrens, during the Second World War; the second when women were first allowed to join the Naval Reserve in 1952; and the third when she transferred to the regular Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1955.


Bernice Neill was born August 8, 1921 in Dauphin, Man. Her mother died when Bernice was 17 years old and her father sold the farm a year later. He married his widowed sister-in-law and took over the care of her four children.


When she was older, Bernice started Business College in Dauphin. It cost $10 per month to take the course so she worked for the owner of a hairdressing salon, taking care of the owner’s elderly mother and doing the laundry for the business to earn the money she needed.


Dauphin had an Air Force base nearby with a flight school and gunnery school. Bernice and a friend planned to join the Air Force. She was finding it difficult to afford the tuition for college, and when she asked her father if he would give her $5 per month to help her out, her stepmother refused.


She had to quit college and started working in a tea room. One day a friend came to tell her that the Navy was recruiting women. Bernice, who was a head waitress at the time, asked her boss for an hour off and went to apply. She was concerned about her chance of being accepted because she had not finished her business course and only had a grade eight education.


Once she got back to work, the night shift waitress asked her where she had been. Bernice told her about going to apply to the Navy, and this waitress asked Bernice to cover for her while she went down to submit her application too. Both Bernice and Bessie McLaren signed on the dotted line on October 14, 1942, and were told they would receive further instructions by mail.


A letter soon arrived telling them to report to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Conestoga in Galt, Ont., on December 18, 1942. The letter gave a list of what to take with them, and as Bernice recalls, “It wasn’t much.”


Bessie and Bernice met up with 20 other girls in Winnipeg for the four-day train ride to Galt, where they joined a class of 100 women.


Bessie said, “Don’t worry, we’ll look after each other.”


When lining up for their vaccination shots, Bessie was ahead of Bernice in the line. Bernice recalls that there was some commotion ahead of her and found out that Bessie had fainted after the shot. “So much for having someone to take care of me!”


The basic training course was three weeks long and was a highly regimented program. At the end of their time as Probationary Wrens, Bernice was told that she was selected to be a wardroom assistant, and one of her jobs was to be the personal steward of Lieutenant-Commander Isabel Macneill, the commanding officer.


“My job also included supervising the main galley,” Bernice says. “I had to ensure all the girls were awake by shouting ‘Hit the deck!’ by 6 a.m. every morning. Then I had to run to the officers’ quarters to knock on their doors. When I returned to the main galley, I had to make sure the four tables which ran the length of the building were set properly for the Wrens. I also ensured the Wrens lining up for their meals were well turned out and were not wearing any lipstick.”


She was promoted to Leading Wren one month after she arrived in Galt.


“I could have been promoted to Petty Officer, but I liked the comradeship of the lower decks. By the time I had finished my posting at HMCS Conestoga 19 months later, 5,000 Wrens had passed through basic training courses at Galt.”


Her next posting was to HMCS Jellico, located close to Galt, where Wrens who had completed their basic training were awaiting their first draft. She was then posted to HMCS Kings in Halifax.


“I was a wardroom assistant for the ‘90-day wonder boys’ undergoing basic officer training. These trainees were distinguished by their white cap covers. They would often try to pretend to be qualified by removing their cap covers when going ashore. We were not allowed to date these trainees, but we had fun playing tricks on them, such as short-sheeting their beds.”


Eventually she was posted to HMCS Avalon in St. John’s, Nfld., where her duties included serving as the wine steward in the wardroom.


“Newfoundland was considered an overseas posting at that time,” she recalls. “We made the dangerous crossing from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland on board the Lady Rodney, fortunately without incident. It was only a month after HMCS CLAYOQUOT had been sunk by a German U-boat (December 24, 1944) just outside of Halifax Harbour. At one point in the crossing, we were woken up and told to put on our lifejackets because it was suspected that there were U-boats nearby. Fortunately, there was no attack and eventually the convoy broke off and we continued unescorted to St. John’s. This was how I came to be in St. John’s when VE Day was declared.”


As the war wound down, she was posted back to Halifax, where she worked at Admiralty House.


“I was offered a job after the war by an officer whose family owned the Cunard Steamship Lines. I said I wanted to go back to Winnipeg on leave first and never did return to take that job.”


Once back in Winnipeg, she worked in a hardware store for a while, but she was not yet finished with the Navy.


“I joined the Naval Reserve at HMCS Chippawa in February 1951 after one of their officers asked me why I had not joined as soon as women were able to be recruited. I replied that I thought they would not take me if I only had grade eight education. The officer said I would be recruited as long as I could pass the entrance test.”


In February 1952, Bernice accepted continuous naval duty, completed a two-week supply assistant course in British Columbia and proceeded to HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. She also served on board HMCS Coverdale in Moncton, N.B., from July 1952 until July 1955.


Bernice was one of only four Canadian Wrens chosen to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation parade in London on June 2, 1953.


It was in Moncton that she picked up the nickname “Bunny” because there was another girl in the accommodations block named Bernice. When the only Wren officer left Coverdale in 1954, Bernice was promoted to the rank of petty officer and was put in charge of the Wren block.


When the RCN started accepting women into the regular navy in 1955, Bernice was encouraged to join.


She was posted back to Cornwallis, where she supervised issuing uniforms to Wren recruits. However, she was at the bottom of the roster for promotion and her chances of getting promoted were slim since she did not have the sea time that her male peers possessed.


She did not really like the petty officer in charge of the stores section in Cornwallis, but she eventually married him. His name was Arthur McIntyre, from Saint John, N.B.


Bernice was four days short of her 35th birthday when she got married on August 4, 1956. She says she got married in part because she had not had a real home since she was 18 years old and she was tired of living in barracks, continually surrounded by women.


Bernice was eventually posted to the supply section in the Halifax dockyard. She was seven months pregnant with her first child when she was honourably discharged for being “medically unfit” – the regulation for any married Wren who was pregnant.


In 1959, Bernice used $500 of the $800 that she received as a pension for her war service to purchase a plot of land along the Waverley Road in Dartmouth, N.S. She and her husband started to build their home in 1961 and raised three children there.


Bernice purchased a corner store not far from her home in 1969 and worked from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. while raising her family. She eventually sold the store and continued to work part-time. She had successful full-time careers in Woolco from 1976 to 1986 and with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, working part-time from 1980 to 1986 and then full-time from 1986 to 1996.


As she nears her 100th birthday, Bernice still lives in her original Dartmouth home, carrying with her a lifetime of memories about her time serving with the Wrens, the Naval Reserve and the regular navy.



Wrens Crossed the Bar Index