Diana Lynn Tibert
Date received Nov16, 2009
Last year, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This year, we are recognizing and celebrating the 50,000 women who crossed the Atlantic to be with their Canadian husbands who had served overseas during the war.
The women left behind their families and everything familiar to make a new life. For many, it has been a wonderful fulfilling experience. For others, it has been a life of hardship and divorce.
One place to learn more about the war brides in the family is the Canadian War Brides’ website (http://www.canadianwarbrides.com/index.asp). The stories, the stats, the books, the searchable database - each section pulled me in a different direction.
My first stop was the stats page. Between April 1, 1942 and March 31, 1943, a total of 188 brides and their children arrived in Canada. As the war continued, the numbers grew. However, they didn’t peak until 1946 and 1947. During those twelve months, 39,092 brides and their dependants arrived.
In total, 64,446 brides and dependents made the journey.
After visiting several pages, I found myself drawn to the searchable database. The original War Bride passenger lists are available for viewing in England. Even if you can visit England, it can be an intense search. Debbie Beavis, Researcher and owner of the British Passenger List Research website (http://www.passengerlists.co.uk/), saw the need to index the old and often delicate records and make them accessible to the general public regardless of where they lived. Her focus was on war brides who left the UK after December 29, 1945.
Included on the Canadian War Brides’ website is the fascinating and fact-filled thesis, The War Brides of New Brunswick, Masters Thesis in History written by Melynda Jarratt. Although focussed on New Brunswick war brides, the experiences were similar to all war brides settling in Canada.
The first stop in Canada for all war brides was Pier 21, Halifax, NS. Several of the personal stories on the Pier 21 website, War Bride section (http://www.pier21.ca/War_Brides.2793.0.html) speak of the friendly and helpful people who greeted them as they disembarked.
The personal war bride “stories range from the hilarious adventures of London girls in the prairies to heartbreaking tales of abandonment and betrayal.”
Also, on the website is information on the upcoming VIA Rail’s 2006 War Bride Train. Similar to the 2005 Veteran Train, the festivities include oral history, displays and music from the war era. The train leaves Montreal on November 6 and arrives the next day at Halifax.
During the war years, the island of Newfoundland was considered overseas. Newfoundland women leaving the province for the mainland to be with their military husbands were often considered war brides, too.
Whether a war bride or a person entering Canada from Newfoundland, they all entered through Pier 21.