Keeper of state secrets honoured

Gertie Pratt (center) is wrapped in a starblanket as part of a starblanket ceremony to honour her work as a member of the Canadian Navy’s Wrens during the Prince Albert Grand Council’s Remembrance Day Ceremonies on Nov. 10, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

For Gertie Pratt, it was deeply personal.

Each Remembrance Day in the 1920s and 30s, she saw the anger in her father – anger that his brother, George Fraser, died from a bullet wound he sustained while fighting at Passchendaele in the First World War, during the third battle of Ypres.

“He died shortly after,” she said of her late uncle. “My uncle Tom Fraser came home deaf from the war, as well.”

“That inspired me to join the services.”

Soon to be 94 years old, Pratt is likely the oldest Indigenous female veteran in Saskatchewan.

Her work with the Canadian Navy was honoured on Friday as part of the Prince Albert Grand Council’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Pratt laid a wreath on behalf of the Silver Cross Mothers, which represents mothers whose children died while serving in the Canadian military.

The council also wrapped her in a hand-made starblanket to commemorate her work as an Indigenous veteran.

In 1941, and only 17 years old, Pratt had had enough: She enlisted in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service – also known as the Wrens – in Port Arthur, Ont.

“After training, I was assigned to Galt, Ontario as a cook, which I felt I was well-qualified for.

“Due to health issues, I was assigned many other duties.

“I was transferred to Ottawa, and my duties included handling and delivering many high-security documents within Naval and government headquarters,” she explained.

Pratt stayed there until the end of the Second World War, June in 1945.

In a book chapter about Indigenous women in the Canadian military, Pratt elaborated on the secrecy expected of her and the Wrens.

For more on this story, please see the Nov. 14 print edition or e-edition of the Daily Herald.