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The Immigration Story of Kathleen Udell (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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Date of Arrival: 
April 5 1946
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War Bride

I met my future husband, Gordon Udell, at Redhill, Surrey, England. He was stationed nearby. I was on a week's holiday with my friend Joan. The first words he spoke to me were "Would you like a stick of gum! " Not very romantic. Looking back I'm so glad that we met and fell in love. I was working in a factory at the time. We were producing detonators for navy shells. He went to Normandy and I waited eleven months before I saw him again.

He returned to Canada in November 1945. His ship was The Empress of Scotland. I left Southampton and couldn't wait to reach my husband, Gordon. He had been a soldier, a dispatch rider with the 39th Reconnaissance Wing. He landed in France on V6 [D 6? Ed.] Day. We had been married on March 18th, 1944. I missed him so much. He came from Breton, Alberta, Canada. I came from Harrow, Middlesex, England. That is where Winston Churchill and many other famous people went to school. I was 17 at the time of our marriage. When I arrived at Edmonton, Alberta, he was there to meet me. He was dressed in civvies, a surprise, the clothes and BIG hats were different to what I was used to. We had three wonderful days together. He bought me a hand of bananas! Wow! He also bought me new clothes. We went to a little place called Northville, west of Edmonton. We lived with my sister-in-law, Olive Johnson and her husband, Walter. How patient and kind they were to me, a shy girl who had no knowledge of keeping house or cooking. I watched everything she did and learned from her.

The ladies in that little community kindly gave me a bridal shower. I couldn't believe the kindness and generosity of those ladies. Eventually we got a little shack of our own. How happy we were! I tried to learn how to bake bread. Gordie told my story for years, how I threw the dough out and the goats wouldn't touch it. They preferred the tin cans to my bread. After thirty years I told him that was enough! I was now a good baker. I make beautiful brown bread, spice buns, potato buns, etc.

I got pregnant that first year and Olive and I were invited to have tea at a neighbours. While everyone was chatting and enjoying the tea my stomach rumbled. A lady said "What was that? " Another lady said "Oh, I think it was Mrs. Fleider's cow ". I was dreadfully embarrassed and kept quiet. For years it was a family joke, any noise was attributed to Mrs. Fleider's cow.

Almost sixty years have passed since those days. God has blessed us with seven wonderful children including two sets of twins. My sister Joan in England had a set of paternal twins the same week that I had my first set. We eventually moved to B.C. in 1954 to a lovely place called Valemount. The name describes it, a valley in the mountains. What beauty and grandeur. We were only about twenty minutes away from Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. During our time there we were quite active in the community. I was involved in church and Sunday School. Loved playing badminton walking and eventually curling. Gordie served very actively in the Legion and Lions Club. He served as alderman for seven years, then as mayor for six years. After retirement we moved to Vernon. This is another beautiful place in the Okanagan Valley with three lakes and lots of orchards. I have always taken great pleasure in nature and gardening. I still grow a small garden. We now have a place with no steps to climb, etc. with senior neighbours.

Our family has grown to number forty-three. We have had our share of sorrows, but also lots of joy. Life has been wonderful here in this marvelous country. I am thankful and grateful that I have had the opportunity to live here.

Canada, in my opinion, the greatest country and the amost generous, fine people to be found. I have been truly blessed.