All barrack blocks in HMCS CORNWALLIS were named after then-current and past ships of the Royal Canadian Navy – including a few ‘Stone Frigates’ (Commissioned Shore Establishments). In 1968, CFB Cornwallis’ recruit school continued this tradition in maintaining the names of the various barracks. CONESTOGA barrack, one of the service women’s quarters, was named for HMCS CONESTOGA located in Galt (Cambridge), Ontario.
HMCS CONESTOGA was the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service’s (WRCNS or colloquially ‘Wrens’) training centre and became the first female-commanded Canadian commissioned ‘ship’ in June 1943 when Lieutenant-Commander Isabel MacNeill was appointed commanding officer. HMCS CONESTOGA was decommissioned in 1946.
Women's service in the military during the Second World War challenged the tradition of an all-male armed forces. Between 1942 and 1946 close to 7000 volunteers enlisted in the WRCNS and served in 26 non-combat related occupations in Canadian naval bases at home or abroad. The WRCNS made an outstanding contribution to Allied victory, paved the way for future generations of Canadian service women and raised questions about the equality of women in the civilian world.
It was fitting that this barrack block at CORNWALLIS was named in honour of all of the women who served their country in the Royal Canadian Navy. CONESTOGA Block would continue to serve as one of the RCN’s and tri-service women’s quarters until CFB Cornwallis was closed in 1994.