War brides: A fading piece of Canadian history

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Sask. group involving young descendents to keep memory alive

Stephanie Kelly
Brunswickan (University of New Brunswick)

FREDERICTON (CUP) — As the ship approached the lights of the Halifax coast, Doris Lloyd knew she had never seen anything so beautiful.

It was November 1944 when the 22-year-old began her journey from England to Plaster Rock, N.B.
During the Second World War, some women found love amid war-torn Europe. They became known as war brides: The women who left their homes and traveled across the ocean, following the Canadian soldiers who stole their hearts.

Doris was one of these women.

Most Canadian war brides are now in their late ’80s and a week doesn’t pass without word of one passing away. Although they made fade away, one group is keeping their stories alive.

Canadian War Brides and Families is a new group based out of Saskatoon. It hopes to become a national association that brings together war brides and their family members.

The group was created after the Saskatchewan War Brides Association was dissolved last May. Formed in 1976, it was the first group of its kind in Canada. At their last reunion, president Jean Fells proposed the idea of a national, family-based group.

Melynda Jarratt is a historian and creator of the Canadian War Brides website.

“It’s sad to see the end of that organization, but the spirit still lives on. The women are still there,” she said.

By the end of the Second World War, Canada became home to more than 43,000 war brides and 21,000 children.

The majority was from England, including Doris.

She was born on June 7, 1922 in Yorkshire, England and joined the British Air Force at 17.

“I was always one that wanted to be on the go,” she said. “So when the war started, a friend and I decided, ‘Well, let’s join up.’ So we did.”
Doris was stationed in Kenley, a town south of London. She worked mostly in offices for the first few months and saw little combat.

“Everything was quiet for quite a while,” she said. “Now and again you’d see a plane up in the air, chasing another one — a German plane — but no bombs much falling.”

It was in September of 1940 that the war truly started for Doris.

“All of a sudden, the siren went, which meant head for the dugouts,” she said. “When we stepped outside, you couldn’t see the sky from black planes dropping bombs on us.”

She paused before continuing: “It was a terrible, terrible Sunday afternoon.”

Doris recalls waking up one morning to find the base full of Canadian soldiers.

“It was thrilling,” she said with a laugh. “I mean, we were only young.”

Doris was 19 when she met Ralph Lloyd, a tall, dark-haired soldier from New Brunswick.

He asked her to the movies and she agreed. The two were married that December.

By 1944, the Canadian government noticed the sudden increase in marriages among Canadian soldiers.

“There would be so many [war brides] wanting to come back straight away, as soon as the war ended,” she said. “So they were trying it out with a few war brides at the same time to see how they could manage things.”

In November 1944, Doris came to Canada with her 16-month-old daughter, Anne. Her husband was fighting in Italy at the time.

After spending 12 days on a ship, she arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax.

“When we did see Halifax, it was the best sight I’ve ever seen I think,” she said. “They had lights on and we hadn’t had a light on for years and years. Everything was in black at night, because we weren’t allowed lights of any kind.”

Anne Withrow, Doris’ daughter, says she would like to be involved in Canadian War Brides and Families and thinks it is important for war brides and their children to work together to preserve history.

“I just think it’s a piece of history that’s worth keeping alive for their children and grandchildren and I think it’s nice to have that connection,” she said.

Jarratt has high hopes for the organization and thinks it is time for the younger generation to get involved.

“The fact that the children in this Canadian War Brides and Families association that’s starting up want to pick up the torch, I think it’s fantastic,” she said.

She feels the younger generation has a lot to offer the organization.

“We’re young … we’re connected,” she said. “We can phone the media, do the Facebook thing, do YouTube videos and make it popular.”

For Jarratt, the association is a way to keep the spirit of Canada’s war brides alive.

“The war brides are an integral part of who we are as Canadians,” she said. “They are cultural icons, Canada’s sweethearts and they will live on forever.”

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