Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

Canada's war brides

Love and war overseas

Last Updated November 3, 2006

Dutch war brides on the Lady Rodney in November 1946 in Halifax. (Canadian Press)

Most of Canada's war brides arrived at Halifax's Pier 21, first by the hundreds in 1942, then by the thousands in the next six years.

They were young, mostly British. They represent love found in a foreign place in the midst of war, the ultimate romance story. They fell for a Canadian in uniform, married, left their homes, boarded ships with their children at British ports.

They ended up in Canada, where they spread across this country in trains, heading to every province. While they were arriving, they represented a sizable portion of the immigration to Canada.

As the years went by, and their families flourished, the 44,000 war brides and their 21,000 children who made the ocean trip touched every part of Canada.

"The war brides have had an incredible impact on Canadian society and culture as we know it today," Melynda Jarratt, a war bride historian based in Fredericton, N.B., told CBC.ca.

She estimates that one in every 30 Canadians is from a war bride family. They can track their family heritage to places like Holland, Italy and France. But most of them have roots in England.

A quick courtship

After the Second World War began, almost half a million Canadian servicemen eventually landed in Britain, either to be based in the country or to move on to other places.

The first marriage between a Canadian serviceman and a British woman happened just 43 days after the soldiers arrived. It was January 1940.

"The soldiers were like immigrants in a way arriving in England, all making their way though Aldershot, which was called 'Little Canada.' " Jarratt said. "Naturally they are going to meet women at the dances, at the theatre and on the street getting an ice cream. Or dodging bombs."

Recognizing that weddings were starting to take place, the Canadian army set wedding rules on the fly. Before allowing a solider to marry, the army required that he ask an officer for permission and prove he was debt-free.

War brides by country
Britain 44,886
Holland 1,886
Belgium 649
France 100
Italy 26
Denmark 7

Source: Canadianwarbrides.com. While the total represents all women who married Canadian soldiers, some of the brides did not come to Canada.

The woman, the rules said, should be of "good moral character." The rules were changed later to require the solider to help pay for his wife's journey to Canada.

Soon, clubs of British war bides were sprouting up. These new Canadians-to-be were schooled on life in Canada with books like Canadian Cook Book for British Wives. The government also set up a Canadian Wives' Bureau to help co-ordinate the move to Canada.

'Operation Daddy'

The responsibility for getting war brides to Canada was shifted from the immigration branch of the Department of Mines and Resources to the Department of National Defence in late 1944.

The Canadian government offered citizenship and passage to Canada for war brides and their children. They were all granted citizenship.

So from the British cities of Liverpool and Southampton, the brides made their way to Canada. About 58 ships made the journey that often took up to two weeks.

Included was the ocean liner the Queen Mary, which could carry about 1,000 people, and RMS Mauretania.

During these trips, many women remember, the food that was absent from wartime Britain, such as butter, white bread and bananas, was abundant.

The biggest wave of immigration came in fiscal 1946, when 39,000 war brides and children arrived.

Two years earlier, during the war, about 6,500 made the journey. So many war brides were coming that in 1946 that they represented about 55 per cent of the total immigration.

Canadian news media widely reported on the arrival of the new immigrants. Some called it "Operation Daddy," while others called the train service that carried the war brides across Canada the "Diaper Special."

The war brides spread out across the country. New Brunswick may have received as many as 2,000 war brides with 1,000 children. Ontario received as many as 7,000 while Quebec had about 5,000.

Planting roots, problems with identity

"They were a huge influence on Canadian society. They came here and raised large families," Jarratt said. "They became very much a part of the Canadian cultural mosaic and their children identify with that historical experience. They are very proud of their mothers and their fathers."

For some, the question of citizenship has come back to haunt them.

Many war brides, and particularly some children who never left the country, took their citizenship for granted.

One example is a man named Joe Taylor, a son of a Canadian soldier and a war bride who was denied attempts to gain his Canadian citizenship. He was born out of wedlock, and his parents eventually separated.

He brought his fight for citizenship to Federal Court in British Columbia and won in September 2006, yet the federal government said it is appealing the decision.

Politicians have come to his defence, including Senator Romeo Dallaire, whose mother was a Dutch war bride.

In the early 1970s, Dallaire was told that he couldn't get his passport renewed because he wasn't a Canadian citizen.

Some war brides, homesick, went back to England, but most of them stayed, and to this day, perhaps a million Canadians can trace their heritage to war brides.

"In the post-war world, Canada was eager to have this stock of mainly British women arriving here with rosy cheek little children," Jarratt said.

War bride and children immigration to Canada
Year Brides/Dependents % of total immigration for year
1942-43 188 2.4%
1943-44 1,255 14.8%
1944-45 6,442 50.3%
1945-46 16,133 71%
1946-47 39,092 54.5%
1947-48 1,336 2%
Total 64,446 34.3%

Source: Canadianwarbrides.com

Go to the Top

Menu

Main page
The war bride train trip
Interactive
Love in war
by Brian DuBreuil
My mother, the war bride
by Mary Sheppard
The war bride train:
A diary
Your stories:
Margaret Mitchell Button

Photo galleries

The war brides train

Your View

Share your stories, photos

RELATED

CBC stories

Canadian War Brides
CBC Archives

External Links

Canadian War Brides
Pier 21 in Halifax

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window)

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Analysis How history could make strange bedfellows of Obama and Trump: Keith Boag
Don't expect that in his inaugural speech today Donald Trump will bother with a hat tip to Barack Obama for the outgoing president’s contribution to his success, although maybe he should. There might also come a day when Obama will be grateful it was Trump and not a purebred Republican who became the custodian of his legacy, Keith Boag writes.
Updated Rescuers in Italy find at least 8 more survivors in hotel rubble after deadly avalanche
Eight more people have been found alive in the rubble of an Italian hotel Friday where at least 30 people were trapped after a deadly avalanche tore through the ski resort, which would bring the total number of survivors to 10.
Donald Trump's inauguration: Everything you need to know, and when to watch
President-elect Donald Trump has promised his inauguration Friday will be an elegant spectacle. CBC News is covering the historic proceedings from start to finish. The events begin Thursday with a series of ceremonies.
more »

Canada »

Analysis French a major advantage for Conservative leadership contenders
Kevin O'Leary joins the Conservative leadership race as one of several candidates who lack proficiency in French. The electoral math suggests this puts O'Leary and others at a distinct disadvantage in their quests to become party leader and prime minister.
Analysis 'Embrace change': Canada cautioned to keep cool for Trump: Rosemary Barton video
There are many questions for the Canada-U.S. relationship on the eve of Donald Trump's presidency, and most answers aren't yet clear. What seems certain, though, writes Power and Politics host Rosie Barton, is that Ottawa will have to do more than just point to shared borders, history and trade to get some of the country's needs met.
Prior leaks of navy info were on RCMP's radar before vice-admiral's removal video
RCMP officers looked into a pair of information leaks related to navy projects prior to this week's suspension of a top admiral, CBC News has learned. News of the separate investigations comes as the Liberal government reassures allies the controversy involving Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has not compromised their security.
more »

Politics »

Prior leaks of navy info were on RCMP's radar before vice-admiral's removal video
RCMP officers looked into a pair of information leaks related to navy projects prior to this week's suspension of a top admiral, CBC News has learned. News of the separate investigations comes as the Liberal government reassures allies the controversy involving Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has not compromised their security.
Analysis 'Embrace change': Canada cautioned to keep cool for Trump: Rosemary Barton video
There are many questions for the Canada-U.S. relationship on the eve of Donald Trump's presidency, and most answers aren't yet clear. What seems certain, though, writes Power and Politics host Rosie Barton, is that Ottawa will have to do more than just point to shared borders, history and trade to get some of the country's needs met.
Canada cuts $48M in tariffs to boost food manufacturing
As the incoming Trump administration talks about piling on new tariffs to discourage imports and protect American jobs, the Canadian government is quietly moving in the opposite direction. About 200 tariffs have been eliminated to make Canadian food manufacturers more competitive.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Updated Dimming star power: Do celebrities' anti-Trump voices matter? video
As stars pour out in protests around the inauguration, research suggests celebrities rarely have the power to substantially change people's political opinions
Arcade Fire deliver new song 'I Give You Power' on eve of U.S. inauguration
Arcade Fire is back with a new song that appears directly aimed at Donald Trump on the eve of his inauguration.
Actor Miguel Ferrer dead at 61, cousin George Clooney pays tribute
Miguel Ferrer, who brought stern authority to his featured role on CBS' hit NCIS: Los Angeles and, years earlier, to NBC crime drama Crossing Jordan, has died.
more »

Technology & Science »

Beware friends, family, secretly snooping on your Facebook account
A new study on "social insider attacks" — where attackers personally know their victims — estimates that 24 per cent of survey participants had accessed someone's Facebook account without them knowing.
Like humans, capuchin monkeys can determine probability, study finds
A study from the University of Toronto has found that capuchin monkeys are capable of statistical reasoning, which could suggest the ability evolved much earlier than once believed.
Watch Mexico's 'fire' volcano blast its top again video
Dramatic video showed Colima spewing ash, smoke and incandescent material early Wednesday morning. The volcano is one of the country's most active.
more »

Money »

U.S. airlines offer low-cost fares banning carry-on bags. Will Canada follow?
Both American and United Airlines will soon be offering a bare bones "basic economy" fare that excludes access to the overhead bin for carry-on. The same deal will soon be offered by major Canadian airlines, predicts one expert.
Royal LePage sees surge of interest in Canadian real estate from Americans
One of Canada's biggest sellers of real estate says it is witnessing a surge of interest from Americans who are considering moving north as a result the U.S. presidential election.
Genworth matches CMHC's move to hike mortgage insurance premiums
Genworth, the largest private mortgage insurer in Canada, has matched the CMHC's move earlier this week to hike the premiums it charges homeowners to insure their mortgages.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Live Snowboarding World Cup: Slopestyle from Laax video
Watch live as World Cup snowboarders go for gold in the slopestyle and halfpipe competitions from Laax, Switzerland.
New Quebec's love affair with freestyle skiing
Scott Russell reflects on Quebec's consistent love affair with freestyle skiing, even when directly competing with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and the MLB's Montreal Expos.
Live World Cup skeleton from St. Moritz video
The bobsleigh and skeleton World Cup seasons continue this weekend in historic St. Moritz, Switzerland, and you can watch all the action with CBC Sports beginning with men's and women's skeleton on Friday.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »