The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

Jeanita Coulthard Camm
of Maryport, England
It's a wonderful life

The trip (via Atlantic on an old WWI converted German Ship) was long – 12 to 13 days in all – from leaving Maryport and family members. We stayed at an embarkation camp, Tidworth near Southampton, for several days being inducted to immigration requirements.

Ocean voyage was rough; in very high seas (20’ was at times); “brides” were quite ill and stayed in bed, bunks or cabins much of the time. The “hardy” ones walked deck when they could. Saw abundance of food (after several years of shortages in England) served at meals – especially FRUIT !! AND MEATS. Were served by German P.O.W. at Tidworth Camp.

New York – met by husband at docks. I got up early to see Statue of Liberty. Sister-in-law attended grad school at Columbia Univ. so stayed with her in her apartment in Greenwich Village. So much to write home about in the city of New York. Drove up to Brown Univ., R.I., where husband’s aunt and uncle were. Another vivid exprienence of American life, the drive as 12-15 hours, to Lynchburg, Virginia across highways, rivers, ferries; around cities and places which up to that moment had been only names in geography books.

Lynchburg – a prosperous community – conservative – with older Virginian families or leader. [I] Was invited to several functions for war brides, Red Cross; Jr. League; Gas Co., Electric Co., so many organizations acknowledged and honoured the 26 foreign brides. (Many of them returned to England or their home, others scattered here and there.)

Life at husband’s family home, his mother recently deceased so just family cook, father, and we two. John worked on a family “farm” (beef cattle, etc.) for his father, driving daily to and fro, till he returned to Virginia Polytechnic Technical Institute in 1946 to complete his college years (interrupted by W.W.2)

Amazing, wonderful, happy for years on college campus living in a trailer, having a baby son, helping husband with his study- load; partying and playing with all our friends in the trailer comps., living on G.I. Bill, making memories that we still have.

From 1950-1954 we lived in Gloucester, Virginia by the river. He selected Gloucester, Virginia because it was “olde English” in tradition, and by the river, because I missed the sea of Maryport. (I was still homesick at times for the English traditions. Four year later we inherited farmland and moved to the Lynchburg area – we had three young boys then, later a girl. We began a beef cattle farm, partnered with retired Army office/uncle.

In the ensuing year we built a home on this ‘old’ acreage (it goes back to 1790), which 30 years later was destroyed by fire and all our possessions – English, American, heirlooms and not heirlooms – were destroyed. We built again on 3-acre site – by that time friends and neighbours came to our aid and helped us rebuild a ‘lovely’ place.

During those years also, my husband (who had taught Biology at high school level) was honoured by organizer for his outstanding teaching. He acquired quite a reputation (and degrees) for his unique talents.

I was involved in mitigating many projects a this county and rural community: setting up a unit of American Cancer Society (served in many capacities as well as state board), joined Red Cross as staff-aide, worked a Bloodmobiles, chairman of Health and Welfare and finally worked with a group to bring a PUBLIC library to this community (1st in this area!) Got a job then which developed my own interest, went to college in the evenings and summer time. Got a BA and later a Master degree, transferred to public schools so could be home with and when my children came home. Worked on the farm when husband needed it, raised vegetables, beef, chicken and “English raspberries” for freezer, still worked on community projects. Boys all leaders in football, track and [---]. Girl was outstanding in horse and pony projects. So busy, busy, busy and happy. Had death and grief and heartbreaks also when we lost a son, he was precious to us. Just celebrated 55th wedding anviversary and still here, happy and well.

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