Thursday, 21 July 2016

British WWII Brides

The stories of War Brides are so inspiring. It was very brave of British and European women to leave their families and journey thousands of miles to live with a man that they barely knew.

S.S. Letitia
Library and Archives Canada Image
According to the history books, and some first hand accounts, soldiers may have embellished their family's status, when in fact, they were from very humble areas. The literature also states that some women refused to disembark in Canada and returned home to Britain without even setting foot in Canada. If this was the case, what happened to their husbands? What happened to the status of their marriage? When I attend family history events in the UK, I am often asked how the children of these unions could find their Canadian fathers, knowing that their mothers chose not to emigrate or made the journey to Canada only to return soon afterwards.


Debbie Beavis states in a 2003 article that there is little documentation to support where to find the original records on WWII Brides at the National Archives (London). She states that most of the passenger records for these women are found in the Archives in the BT27 (Board of Trade Outbound Passenger Lists) collection; box references from 1579 to 1612. Another source is the Southampton passenger lists found in BT27, box references 1593 to 1601 for 1946. However, with the advent of the internet and the massive commercial databases, searching for this information has become much easier.

These passenger lists are now available on Find My Past. This FMP blog article explains the content of BT27 and how to gain access.  Many WWII Brides from Europe travelled by train to the coast to board ferries to Britain. The Lady Rodney and the Lady Nelson were put into service from Le Havre to Southampton. From Southampton to Canada, the ships were the Aquitania, Mauretania, Ile de France and the Argentina went to the U.S.A. The Canadian Wives' Bureau offices in London was the office where soldiers' wives applied to go to Canada. This bureau also provided courses and information about living in Canada, as well as providing a support network. This organization worked with the War Brides until 1947 when the responsibility for Armed Forces' families was transferred to another department.

Some of the library and archives that I searched provide podcasts, pictures or an online personal account telling the stories of some of these women and their experiences.

The Library and Archives Canada webpage gives some information about the vessels that left Liverpool, the S.S.Letitia and the Mauretania. The Queen Mary was also converted into a War Bride ship. LAC also mentions a little known fact that Canadian servicewomen married British men who were known as 'Male War Brides'.
Mrs. Perry and daughter Sheila on board S.S. Letitia
Library and Archives Canada Image
Library and Archives Canada has posted stories provided by 3 War Brides: Joyce (GAWN) CRANE, Evelyn GOODERHAM, Elizabeth Gladys WILSON.

70 Year Reunion - this news article mentions Joan REICHARDT, president of the Canadian War Brides and Families Association who moved to Saskatoon when she arrived in Canada, and at the time of the interview, (May 2016) now lives in B.C. posted an interview on YouTube with Canadian War Bride Isobel BOONE from Scotland.

The online Canada's History Magazine highlights interviews and podcasts of these War Brides:

On Canada's Historic Places website, there is a mention of War Bride Rose Marie POTTER who married a Canadian armed forces engineer named Alexander IRONSIDE.

Lots more stories posted on 

Melynda Jarratt's website is noted in many places as a primary source for War Brides information:  - includes information on Japanese War Brides - This website is dedicated to those children of WWII marriages who are fighting for the right to their Canadian Citizenship, because they were born in the UK when their mothers came to Canada after the war.

Government of Canada Veteran's Affairs provides some very good background information.

Liz's very cute blog post is chock full of photos, esp. wedding photos. Vintage Images of 1940s Canadian War Brides   Some of the names on her blog: BOULAY; BROWN; COCHRANE; COYLE; ELLIOT; ELLINOR; ESWYN; LYSTER.

U.S. US War Brides (last updated 2013) Trace American Soldier Fathers

More books here:

Blackouts to Bright Lights: Canadian War Bride Stories, edited by Barbara Ladouceur and Phyllis Spence, Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, 1995.

Brass Buttons & Silver Horseshoes by Linda Granfield, McClelland Stewart Ltd., 2002.

From Romance to Realty by Peggy O'Hara, Highway Book Shop, Cobalt, Ontario, 1985.

If Kisses were Roses : A 50th Anniversary Tribute to War Brides by Helen Hall Shewchuk, Journal Printers, Sudbury, Ontario, 1995.

Love & War - Stories of War Brides from the Great War to Vietnam by Carol Fallows, Bantam Books, 2002.

Promise You'll Take Care of my Daughter by Ben Wicks, Stoddart Pubs, Toronto, 1992.

Rich Relations: the American Occupation of Britain 1942-1945 by David Reynolds, Harper Collins, 1995.

The War Brides by Joyce Hibbert, Signet, 1980.

War Brides of World War II by Elfreda Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, Novato, Calif. 1988.

War Brides : The Stories of the Women Who Left Everything Behind to Follow the Men They Loved by Melynda Jarratt. Dundurn Press. 2009 The link provides a limited view on Google Books.
However, each page of the index is available and has lists of names, names of ships and places.

Please check your local library catalogue for these titles. 
Some also may be available on Google Books.

Article: War brides of World War II : how to find their records by Debbie Beavis published in Family Tree Magazine October 2003 p.32-34.

This is my first post where I highlighted an interview with Dorothy CARLETON, a WW2 War Bride.

There is such a lot of information about war brides on the WWW, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs and even Google Images!

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