Elsie Prill

Remembrance: Munitions factory leads to air force

NANAIMO - Elsie Prill given pin to commemorate service to Allied forces in Second World War.

Elsie Prill worked in a munitions plant and an aircraft factory before she joined the Royal Air Force.

Prill was just 17 when the Second World War broke out and when the London blitz started she was evacuated to Lancashire to live with her aunt and uncle away from the German bombing raids.

Lancashire was one of the manufacturing centres for Britain’s war effort.

“I worked in a munitions factory for about year and they scared me out of there and I went into a factory where they were making aircraft,” Prill said.

It was also in Lancashire where she met her husband Garner Prill, a radar technician from Canada.

“I stayed there a few months and then I joined the air force,” Prill said.

She became a stores clerk in supply depots, helping to distribute uniforms, food and other goods. Prill, now 95, admits the details about her five years in the military are getting a bit fuzzy.

“I can’t remember that far back, really. I was 17. Now I’m 95 – going on,” Prill said. “In fact, my papers say I was good at accounting, so I must have done some accounting somewhere.”

Prill said she had four or five postings throughout the war, that included radar stations near London, which allowed to spend time in her home city.

“When I used to go home they used to get me out of bed because of the buzz bombs going over, but I wouldn’t get out of bed,” Prill said. “Across the road was the shelter, so why? One was as good as the other.”

None of the buzz bombs ever impacted near her home.

“We were lucky. Even though I lived in London, there. We were lucky,” Prill said.

But her husband lost two brothers, Maurice and Berle, both were air gunners, just weeks apart in combat operations over Europe.

“1943, Christmas, and 1944 January,” Prill said. “One’s buried in England and one’s buried in Berlin.”

Her husband discharged after the war, but Prill rejoined the Canadian military after she came to Canada and stayed on as a radar technician for another 32 years.

Prill recently received a tribute lapel pin and certificate from the government commemorating the 75th anniversary of Canada’s engagement in the Second World War. Living Second World War veterans who served at least one day with Canadian forces or any allied force are eligible for the tribute. Veterans Affairs Canada will continue the tribute program until end of 2020.

“I asked for four, of course, because I thought I’d get one for my husband and his two brothers. I thought it would be nice for them, but they said they didn’t give them to the ones that were dead,” Prill said. “They’re just for the survivors, to which I nearly said, ‘How many did you make, 11?’ I don’t know how many survivors there are. There can’t be too many. … I’ve got a good sense of humour. I used to be shy until I came over to Canada.”

Elsie Prill worked in a munitions plant and an aircraft factory before she joined the Royal Air Force.

Prill was just 17 when the Second World War broke out and when the London blitz started she was evacuated to Lancashire to live with her aunt and uncle away from the German bombing raids.

Lancashire was one of the manufacturing centres for Britain’s war effort.

“I worked in a munitions factory for about year and they scared me out of there and I went into a factory where they were making aircraft,” Prill said.

It was also in Lancashire where she met her husband Garner Prill, a radar technician from Canada.

“I stayed there a few months and then I joined the air force,” Prill said.

She became a stores clerk in supply depots, helping to distribute uniforms, food and other goods. Prill, now 95, admits the details about her five years in the military are getting a bit fuzzy.

“I can’t remember that far back, really. I was 17. Now I’m 95 – going on,” Prill said. “In fact, my papers say I was good at accounting, so I must have done some accounting somewhere.”

Prill said she had four or five postings throughout the war, that included radar stations near London, which allowed to spend time in her home city.

“When I used to go home they used to get me out of bed because of the buzz bombs going over, but I wouldn’t get out of bed,” Prill said. “Across the road was the shelter, so why? One was as good as the other.”

None of the buzz bombs ever impacted near her home.

“We were lucky. Even though I lived in London, there. We were lucky,” Prill said.

But her husband lost two brothers, Maurice and Berle, both were air gunners, just weeks apart in combat operations over Europe.

“1943, Christmas, and 1944 January,” Prill said. “One’s buried in England and one’s buried in Berlin.”

Her husband discharged after the war, but Prill rejoined the Canadian military after she came to Canada and stayed on as a radar technician for another 32 years.

Prill recently received a tribute lapel pin and certificate from the government commemorating the 75th anniversary of Canada’s engagement in the Second World War. Living Second World War veterans who served at least one day with Canadian forces or any allied force are eligible for the tribute. Veterans Affairs Canada will continue the tribute program until end of 2020.

“I asked for four, of course, because I thought I’d get one for my husband and his two brothers. I thought it would be nice for them, but they said they didn’t give them to the ones that were dead,” Prill said. “They’re just for the survivors, to which I nearly said, ‘How many did you make, 11?’ I don’t know how many survivors there are. There can’t be too many. … I’ve got a good sense of humour. I used to be shy until I came over to Canada.”

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