The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

1941, Oct. 24 Abilene Reporter News (Abilene, TX)



By Paul Manning
NEA Service staff Correspondent

LONDON, Oct. 23 (1941) – (By Cable.)

No outfit in England today has made as many conquests as have Canada’s bachelor regiments. Their conquests have not been the battlefield kind. They’re the romantic kind.

Not that the Canadians haven’t shown their stuff in a military way, too. They have. During recent invasion-defense maneuvers, one of the crack bachelor regiments from Canada hung up a record of “getting there fastest with the mostest” that will stand for some time to come.

But even more impressive than that was the reception this unit received on their return to their village billet center. Women and girls thronged the streets, and as the long lines of trucks and guns rumbled into the sleepy hamlet, the ovation lacked only girls strewing flowers in the streets to make it complete.

The Canadians in England are popular with the women, and if they ever receive orders to invade the continent as a spearhead of a R.E.F., they will leave a long, long trail of broken hearts.

Recently, a rumor swept through one village where this regiment was billeted to the effect that it was being transferred to another part of Britain. For two days the commanding officer hardly dared to walk down the main street of the village. Telephone calls, letters, threats and tears made his position virtually untenable until an official notice was posted denying the rumor.

It all underlies the fact that Canadians have brought spice in the villages and towns of Britain in more ways that one. Driving high powered trucks at fifty miles an hour through country lanes which were designed for a twenty-mile pace, they have succeeded in killing quantities of chickens and conditioning stray dogs to run at the first sound of an approaching Canadian convey. Even the old folks are learning to jump.

PLAY WITH INTENSITY UNKNOWN IN ENGLAND Pay day is also something to reckon with. For long hours on pay night pubs and dance halls resound as these North Americans celebrate with an intensity unknown in England. Intensity is typical of everything they do. On maneuvers they fight hard. On the parade ground they drill hard.

But their energy is so immense that it occasionally overflows and then they may take a pub apart - thereby gaining a reputation for being rough and tough.

For those who are consistently rough, they’ve got a “Toller Downer” building, so-called because the men confined in it are always in full view of the sergeant major, whether they’re eating working and sleeping.

The men are usually just too high-spirited for routine discipline, and so the regiment is put through a course of work that would break weaklings. But when they finish this course, the men are always model soldiers for the discipline is designed to mold men, not break them.

The number who have been assigned to the guardroom in recent months is negligible. Any officers will tell you that what is needed to cure the over-exuberance is some front line action. These men have been away from home for two years now and except for brief excursions have had no action.

I talked recently to 84 officers and soldiers in a Saskatchewan infantry regiment which took part in the raid on Spitzbergen, when large coal supplies and mines were destroyed. I got the impression that they wanted action like this every day. Of course what they really want is to invade the continent, but they admit that there are not enough troops in England to permit such an operation at this time.

Canada’s continued non-conscription is a sore spot with the soldiers here. They say that the good jobs they gave up to enlist in the battle to save England are being filled by men who have let their desire for big salaries take precedence over their loyalty to the mother country.


While they wait hopefully for the day an invasion of the continent will be possible, these troops work hard and play hard. That’s fine, say the English, as long as the play is not carried too far.

The number of marriages which have already taken place attest to the liking English girls have for the average Canadian. Among the particular regiment the marriage rate is only about 10 percent, so it is still largely a bachelor regiment. But in some units, the figure has soared well above 25 percent.

The girls think it’s fine being married to a Canadian. But when the war ends, there are going to be social repercussions which will probably upset two continents.

Many a girl believes that she is married to the son of some Canadian wheat king. They visualize themselves sailing towards that New World after the war, living happily forever after on a 1000-acre ranch. Others married solely for love. A few married for the half-pay and living allowance they get as the wives of Canadian soldiers. This is a considerable sum by English standards – about 560 a month.

When, at last, they arrive in Canada, some of these girls will be in for a hard time. Some will find that the “vast wheat ranch” doesn’t materialize, instead will come the routine of settling down to the rugged life of a small Canadian town. Maybe that town will be a mining center of a mill town. The bride may find that her husband’s family regards her as an interloper. Her nice manners, her habit of serving tea promptly at four every afternoon, her wanting her husband to wear a coat at the dinner table – all these may become memories.

When the war censes, too, there may be a repetition of the last war’s infamous Australian “Bride Ship” episode. This boatload of English war bride, sailed to Australia after the last war to join the soldiers they had married in England. The ship was met at the Australian docks by several thousand women who created such a scene that the government was reluctantly forced to order the boat to set sail on the long, lonely journey back to England without discharging its cargo of brides.

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