Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Guest Spot with author Jana Richards

Canadian War Brides 

My novella ‘Home Fires’ tells the story of Anne Wakefield, a young British woman who travels to Canada after World War Two to marry her fiancé. Though Anne and her story are fictional, the phenomena of War Brides is not. Some 48,000 women married Canadian servicemen during the war. The majority of war brides were British, but some came from France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. Between 1942 and 1947, these women, along with their 22,000 children, traveled to Canada to begin their new lives.

 Canadian servicemen arrived in Britain in 1939, shortly after war was declared, and remained until after the end of the war. Because they were there so long, the inevitable happened – they met and fell in love with local girls. Almost every British man of marriageable age had been called up for service, leaving a huge gap that Canadian troops gladly filled. Their funny accents and the extra cash in their pockets probably made them exceedingly attractive.

Some were married after quick, whirlwind romances. Others had the luxury of getting to know each other before they tied the knot. But for all these couples, marriage was the only answer. The customs of the day demanded that if they wanted to sleep together, they had to be married. And so they did. The times were perilous with no guarantee of a tomorrow. A sense of urgency compelled them to grab all the happiness they could while they were able.

Officially, the Canadian army discouraged the marriage of soldiers to local women. Servicemen had to obtain permission from their commanding officers before they married. The sheer number of marriages indicates that, recognizing the inevitable, this permission was given readily.

Marriages were hastily arranged. Friends and neighbors helped by donating rations for wedding clothes and food for a reception. As was custom at the time, brides carried a horseshoe made of silver paper for good luck as they walked down the aisle.

In my story, Anne is not married before she comes to Canada because a wedding couldn’t be arranged before her fiancé is shipped home. Though the majority of war brides were married in England, some were not, and married in Canada instead. These women would have had to pay for their own passage on the war bride ships.

There were so many young women wanting to go to Canada that the Canadian government eventually opened the Canadian Wives’ Bureau, whose sole job it was to assist the wives and children of Canadian servicemen to join them in Canada. The first Wives’ Bureau office was located on Regent Street in downtown London, and it was here that war brides applied to immigrate to Canada. The Wives’ Bureau also tried to help the war brides with their transition to Canada by creating a cookbook of recipes that their Canadian husbands would enjoy, and even a glossary of terms that translated British phrases into Canadianisms.

Eventually the time came to leave Britain. Leaving their families and friends was wrenching for many of the war brides. In addition, they worried about how their husband’s families would greet them. Some left as early as 1942 and 1943 when there was real danger from U-boats in the North Atlantic, with the majority leaving after the war. A few were lucky enough to travel with their husbands, but most travelled alone.

The war brides traveled on special ships, usually former luxury liners like the Queen Mary that had been converted to carrying troops during the war. Depending on the weather during the crossing, and the constitution of the war bride, she either had a wonderful adventure or a miserable, seasick trip. Some made new friends with the other war brides and enjoyed the abundance and quality of the food on the ship. Almost every account from war brides that I read talked about how thrilled they were to be able to eat foods that had been scarce in Britain since the beginning of the war. Simple things like white bread, butter, fruit and eggs were mentioned. However, those women who experienced seasickness on the voyage were unable to enjoy the plentiful food.

Once they arrived in Halifax at Pier 21, the location where all immigrants to Canada were processed between 1928 and 1971, the war brides were directed to special trains that took them to their new homes. For brides whose destination was one of the Maritime Provinces, the train ride was short. But for those who were on their way to the Prairies or the west coast, the train ride took several days. In my story, Anne is destined for Saskatchewan on the Canadian prairies, so her train ride would have been at least five days.

Finally, the war bride would reach her final destination. Her husband or her husband’s family would be there to greet her. In most cases, it was a happy reunion. But not always. I read stories of husbands who told their British wives to go home because they didn’t want them anymore. A friend of mine in her eighties told me of a war bride she knew who was rejected by her husband when she arrived. Anne experiences this problem. By the time she arrives, her fiancé has married someone else. She’s faced with the problem of finding a way to return home. The Canadian government paid a one-way passage for the war brides and their children. Anyone who wanted to return to England had to pay her own way. The Red Cross often helped pay for a return passage for girls who wanted to go home. Anne turns to the Red Cross for help.

Despite the often fast courtships and hastily arranged weddings between people from different backgrounds and different cultures, most of these marriages endured. It is a testament to the strength of these women that they suffered hardships of many kinds, but eventually called Canada home.

Jana will award a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. The tour dates can be found here: 

About the author:
Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at


  1. You've taken up brave woman! What interesting background on the war brides. It seems that during every war there are war brides. How awful it must have been for British brides to make the trek themselves and then be rejected once they got there. I could imagine that some soldiers would have changed their minds after the fact.

    I've been to Halifax. It's so lovely. I didn't know that it was the immigrant processing center for so many years. Interesting!
    Happy July 4th...
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  2. Hi Catherine,
    Nice to see you again! About the golf, well, let's just say that the ladies on the pro golf circuit have nothing to fear from me! Mostly I go because my husband is so crazy about golf and if I didn't play I'd never see him in the summer!

    I can't imagine coming all the way to Canada and then being rejected by my husband. My friend who knew a war bride whose husband rejected her said the story had a happy ending. While here in Winnipeg, she met a man who served in the free Polish army and they fell madly in love. They were hapily married for many, many years.


  3. If you're interested in earning extra entries to win the $25 Amazon gift certificate, check out my website. I'm also offering a special bonus between July 4 and 18. Purchase "Home Fires" or any of my books and receive a free PDF copy of my contemporary romantic comedy "Rescue Me". For details and to read an excerpt, please click here.

  4. Perfect post for Independence Day and Canada Day. And I've always wanted to go to Halifax...


  5. Really great post Jana.

    I never knew so many UK women went to Canada during the Second World War but it makes sense.

    I remember reading once that in the aftermath of the World Wars French women vastly outnumbered the men due to so many being killed in the war. I imagine it was the same of many countries involved in those terrible conflicts so long ago.

  6. I so want to read this book. It really touches me for some reason. I really feel for these women who came so far from their homes. This story sounds really awesome.

  7. Hi Anonymous,
    I've only been to Halifax once and I loved it. The people are incredibly warm and friendly. And all the pubs seem to have live music. Fantastic fun!

    Happy 4th of July!

  8. Thanks MomJane,
    It's always touched me too that these women came so far for love. If you're interested, I have another blog running today, with quotes from some of the war bride stories I read. Some of the stories are funny, some sad, and some will break your heart. I'm giving away a copy of "Home Fires" at Janet's Journal today, but hurry, I'll be making the draw soon.

  9. Thanks for stopping by David. I remember reading a similar quote about Britain, especially after World War One. So many young men died that many women remained lifelong spinsters (what an awful word!) I'm sure that is one reason so many young British women married Canadian and American soldiers.

    Years ago a friend of ours from Britain told us a story about his mother. She was engaged twice during WW2 and both times her fiance died. In the end she married our friend's father who was several years older than she was. It's no wonder many women felt they had to move away in order to marry.


  10. I did not know this about war brides before. Absolutely fascinating thank you. The research must have been fun. It would be for me I think.


  11. I remember reading about the war
    brides and their stories. It was
    interesting having that history
    refreshed in my mind. Those were
    very brave women.


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