Woman of the Week, Miss Frances Donahue, Evening Telegram, 1945, December 22, p.8
Miss Frances Donahue, daughter of Dr. Donahue, left Newfoundland eight years ago, to return to England, thence to France where she took up nursing.
This was by no means her only occupation, however. Like most people in England during the war years, she carried on doing part time work in her off hours.
When war broke out in September 30, Miss Donahue joined the Women’s Auxiliary Fire Service as Welfare Officer.
“I put in full time at that for nine months,” she said. “We had our offices in White Chapel, which as you know, is in the slums of London.”
“After that, I took up broadcasting for the B.B.C, still doing part time work, however, with the Fire Service. Everybody worked hard in London doing a part time as well as a full-time job.”
“We worked on the European service, which is entirely different from the home service you have been hearing. You get music and entertainment as well as news on the home service, but our work was straight news and propaganda, and in many different languages.”
It was interesting to hear her speak so casually of the things we had been hearing here at home, of how many people risked their lives to listen to the B.B.C. News.
“Many escaped refugees came in to see us, and told us how helpful the broadcasts were. In many cases it was their only source of news, and it helped their morale tremendously. In return, we got facts from then [sic] that we were very helpful to us.”
“As the tapes were received from Reuters, it was my job to read everything, sort, and distribute to the people who needed it – the English and French editors, and so forth.”
“We had no end of sources of war news in Europe, and the work was really fascinating. We watched it grow into a big thing. It was truly one of our most powerful war weapons.”
“Of course,” Miss Donahue pointed out, with a touch of quiet pride in her voice, “the B.B.C. could always be relied upon to give authentic news. It insisted on the facts. The Intelligence did much to guide the leading editors in their work.”
“Of course, we almost never saw daylight,” she continued simply. “We worked underground. As you heard, the B.B.C. was bombed twice, but we never for a minute went off the air. Although there were lives lost, I never got a scratch. Lucky, wasn’t I?”
“It got pretty cold after that,’ she continued,” because, you see we lost our windows. We plugged them up with cardboard, but we had to work in our overcoats. I think that we enjoyed most after the war ended was to be able to take off our coats indoors.”
“When I got back to Montreal, on my way home,” she smiled, “I thought the food looked positively beautiful. We always had enough to eat over there, but the fare was plain, and one tired of it. What impressed me about the lovely food I saw in Montreal, and here too, was the variety and color. It seemed strange to see so much color after the drabness of the war diet.”
“I’m going to have a good rest now,” she said definitely. “I was a rag when I left England, but I’m beginning to look better now.”
And she is isn’t she?