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The Immigration Story of Joan Blair (English War Bride)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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Most stories of War Brides are of girls that made the trip across the ocean from England to Canada after the war ended.
I was in the Women’s Land Army during the war working on the farms doing work for the men who were away fighting on the war front.
Our uniforms consisted of a working dress of a cream shirt and tan overalls and our walking out dress was the cream shirt, green sweater and corduroy riding breeches, long woollen socks, brown shoes, and a heavy greatcoat. I met my husband when he was stationed with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in Sussex, England while I was stationed in Sussex in July 1943. We were married in 1944. My husband went over to France soon after I discovered I was pregnant.
London at that time was not the best place to be as the V1 and V2 rockets were falling so I decided to go to Canada.
All the preparations had to be made secretly for fear of news leaking to the enemy of the time and the date of the ship’s sailing and the ship could be sunk.
Before my husband left for France we decided on a code so that I could tell him secretly when I would be leaving. I would tell him that Uncle Harry would be leaving on such and such a date.
I sailed on the Louis Pasteur on December 11th, 1944 from Liverpool. The ship was all blacked out and no one was allowed on the deck after dark. The ship was not in convoy and once was chased by a submarine which meant we had to go further off course to avoid it. It was not until after the war ended that I could write home and tell my parents about the trip and the name of the ship.
We arrived in Halifax December 19, 1944 and as long as I live I will never forget how wonderful it looked with the snow falling, Christmas lights and the Salvation Army band on the dock playing Christmas carols. The lights were the first I had seen since the start of the war.
We were among the first War Brides to come to Canada. On our ship there were several wounded servicemen coming home.
The girls going further west than Nova Scotia boarded trains, some with tiny babies, some like me expecting a child. It was quite a train trip, none of us knowing what or who we were going to see. Some of the girls got terrible shocks as they would get off the train in some desolate place in the middle of winter snowstorms, sometimes in the middle of the night. One girl with a small baby went to a place 90 miles from the nearest large town, her husband had been killed on the beaches on DDay and there was no family left in England.
It was Christmas Day 1944 when the train pulled into the station in Vancouver. There was my mother-in-law and sister-in-law at the station and I am glad to say I was made welcome right away. You must remember they too were sceptical about meeting me as my husband has been overseas for 5 years and they did not know what I would be like either.
We went home in a car and there were all the relatives waiting to see me and being Christmas Day, there was a tree decorated and, of course, lots of food. Although I was tired it was breathtaking.
My brother-in-law said to me, “What is the first thing you want to do?” and I told him I wanted to go downtown to see the lights.
A few days later the friends gave me a wedding show and baby shower combined.
My husband returned home May 1944. In fact he was on the train when the war ended. Our first little girl, now 5 weeks old, met her daddy at the station. He stayed in the Army, making it his career until his retirement in 1975. We have lived from coast to coast and retired in BC. So we have seen most of this beautiful country.
I have made the trip back to England several times, including when we posted to Germany in 1954.
Only once did I feel homesick for England. That was the day the war ended. I wanted to be in my hometown of London where my family suffered through the bombing. It seemed to mean so much more to them there at that time and so much more to celebrate.
We came from “War to Peace” (considering Canada, in comparison to Europe, to be ‘at peace”) although still wartime. The changes were from black to white, with further uncertainty of our husbands ever surviving the war. We were only allowed to tell our families the day we would leave their homes. No sailing date, name of ship, port of departure or landing----just gone. The ship itself in wartime was a hazardous gamble, then the unknown future. It was quite an adventure.
I was only 19 years old when I left England, so have lived most of my life in Canada and I am now a Canadian citizen.