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 »

U.K. files for EU divorce, triggering 2 years to Brexit video
Britain has formally triggered the process of leaving the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May says, ending the country's 44-year relationship with the bloc.
Fear on the farm: In Vermont, migrant dairy workers and their bosses worry about Trump
Vermont's dairy industry depends on migrant labour to keep the milk flowing. Now, fears of a crackdown by the Trump administration on illegal immigrants has many farm workers living in fear, and farmers are worried they could lose a major part of their workforce.
Special Report A country without cash: Zimbabwe is so desperate it's selling off its elephants
After nearly 40 years of Robert Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe is broke — so broke that it’s selling its elephants. CBC News explores the dying days of a dictatorship that continues to punish its people.
more »

Canada »

GO PUBLIC 'I feel duped': Why bank employees with impressive but misleading titles could cost you big time
Mike Black says he feels "completely betrayed" after investing almost $1 million with the help of an RBC Dominion Securities “vice-president” who he later learned is only licensed as a salesperson.
Updated 'Take a step back': Wristbands supporting charged officer shouldn't be worn on duty, leaders say
Ottawa's police chief and the head of the Ottawa Police Services Board are urging caution about wristbands being worn by police in support of an officer charged with manslaughter in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi.
Canadian found guilty of insulting Turkey's president released as lawyer appeals case
Canadian Ece Heper has been released from jail despite being found guilty of insulting the Turkish president on Facebook.
more »

Politics »

Updated Top general says no systemic problems at Royal Military College after report on suicide, sexual misconduct
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said there are no systemic problems at Royal Military College of Canada as the military released a report today on suspected suicides and sexual misconduct at the college in Kingston, Ont.
Senator Murray Sinclair responds to Lynn Beyak's defence of residential schools video
Senator Murray Sinclair says preserving the record of the wrongdoing committed under the Indian residential school system is the best way to fight back against those who deny its negative impact on Indigenous people.
A 'hard Brexit' creates uncertainty for Canada on what's next for trade
As the United Kingdom triggers its divorce negotiations with the European Union, Canadian businesses are watching closely to see if this split can be amicable. If it's adversarial, and the Brexit terms are harsh, trading partners may need to bail quickly or risk getting burned.
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»

Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast reunites for 20th birthday
Buffy Summers and her old pals from Sunnydale High are reuniting to celebrate the 20th birthday of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
'It was a shock': Residential school survivor sees her painting more than 50 years later
Residential school survivor Gina Laing was recently reunited with a painting she created more than 50 years ago in an extracurricular residential school art class. Staff at the University of Victoria tracked down former students after a collection of art was donated by the family of art teacher Robert Aller.
CBC BOOKS Canada Reads 2017 replay: day three livestream
Canada Reads has whittled this year's contenders to the final two, with CBC's annual battle of the books approaching its finale. Check out which book came off the shelf on day three.
more »

Technology & Science »

Samsung tries to win back customers with Galaxy S8 smartphone
​​Samsung Electronics unveiled its Galaxy S8 smartphone Wednesday as it battles to regain the market leadership it lost to Apple after the embarrassing withdrawal of the fire-prone Note 7s.
Opinion The argument for robot 'personhood'
It’s less about the damage we might do to robots, but the damage we might do with them — and where responsibility lies when things go wrong
Q&A Netherlands town installs traffic lights for pedestrians walking and texting
It's dubbed "wexting" — walking while texting. So-called distracted walking can certainly be annoying, and some argue it's a public safety hazard. Now, a small town in the Netherlands is testing a novel approach to address those safety concerns.
more »

Money »

Ford recalls 440,000 vehicles for fire risk, door latch trouble
Ford is recalling more than 440,000 vehicles in North America including more than 20,000 in Canada to fix problems that can cause engine fires and doors to open unexpectedly.
Canopy Growth to launch online marijuana store in April
Canopy Growth Corp., Canada's biggest publicly traded marijuana company, is getting ready to launch a new online store. The move hints at how legal marijuana sales might look in the near future.
GO PUBLIC 'I feel duped': Why bank employees with impressive but misleading titles could cost you big time
Mike Black says he feels "completely betrayed" after investing almost $1 million with the help of an RBC Dominion Securities “vice-president” who he later learned is only licensed as a salesperson.
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 ISU World Figure Skating Championships video
Watch live action from the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland, continuing with the pairs' short program where Canada's Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovith, as well as Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau will be in action.
Live Blog World Figure Skating Championships
Follow the action in real time with live dispatches from CBC Sports' Pj Kwong, Scott Russell and Brenda Irving in Helsinki, Finland.
Meagan Duhamel: Sometimes you can't put a finger on what's wrong
Despite being a two-time defending world pairs champion with partner Eric Radford, Meagan Duhamel has endured a frustrating season. In her first-person account to CBC Sports, Duhamel delves into the real issues behind her roller-coaster year.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »