Reid, Brenda

Brenda Reid (nee Cruikshank) was born August 24, 1924 in Beirut, Lebanon.  Her father was a doctor at the American University in Beirut, and Brenda attended the community school there; the family – including her mother and two younger sisters –  lived there in relative peace until the war.  In 1940 France came under the control of the Nazis and was divided into two zones – occupied and Vichy.  As Lebanon was a mandate of the French, it came under the control of Nazi Germany too, putting Brenda’s family at risk.  French officers who were friends of her father came to warn him, and he left quickly, as Barbara’s mother prepared to escape with her three young daughters.  They ended up taking a cab to Damascus, and from there they took the famous Nairn Transport to Baghdad, all the while not knowing where Brenda’s father was.  It turned out that he had escaped to Palestine, but he was able to reconnect with the family in Baghdad, and the next goal was to get back to Canada.  In Basra they found their way on to a Dutch cargo ship, and their long journey began, with stops in India, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and Hawaii to name a few.  Eventually they landed in Portland, Oregon, where they took a train to Canada – only to be denied entry at the border!  Fortunately Brenda’s father had gone to school with PM Mackenzie King, so a quick phone call sorted things out, and a cross country trip by rail saw them arrive in Toronto.  Brenda attended Branksome Hall, and when she graduated she enlisted in the RCN, where she became a WREN.  Now in the navy and going through basic training, Brenda opted to volunteer for a position that involved top secret work.  She was sent to the US Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, where she was trained in LORAN, a new long range sensing technology that had been developed.  With her new skills she was sent to Deming Island, Nova Scotia, where she took up her position maintaining the sensitive machinery.  Brenda spent close to two years in the navy and at Whitehead, and it happens that she met her future husband there, who was in the RCAF and stationed at a nearby radar base.  They finished the war and returned to Toronto, where they married and found their way in the rhythms of postwar Toronto.  Brenda Reid was interviewed by Scott Masters and an in person delegation of Crestwood students in June 2022.