The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

Belfast - Telegraph, Wednesday, March 6, 1946 (Ulster)

Smile and Tears as Bride Ship Sails

“Come Back to Erin”
See pictures When the 12,000-ton transport Henry Gibbins sailed from the Herdman Channel, Belfast, this morning for New York with 314 wives and 140 children of United States Servicemen, a group of men from the dock sheds and works gathered on the quay and sang “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Come Back to Erin”.

The G.I. brides, who had crowded along the deck-rail responded amid smiles and tears with “When Irish eyes are smiling” and “Auld Lang Syne”.

A small group of relatives gathered shortly after eight o’clock, but by ten o’clock when the transport sailed, the crowd had grown to over 200 made up mostly of dock workers and carters. Fifteen minutes later the transport had moved down the Herdman Channel, and the dock-side was deserted except for seagulls picking up morsels of food thrown by the brides and left behind by a salvage van.

The Henry Gibbins had sailed to form another link in Ulster-American friendship.

Wearing warm clothing and many of them with coloured hankerchiefs as head-gear, the brides took up position along the deck rail from an early hour.

Here and there a baby was given a peep at the assembled crowds. Even the biting wind and a sleet shower could not drive them to the warmth and comfort “below deck.”

As brides picked out relatives along the dockside there were shouts of greeting.

“Don’t worry, Mary, I’ve posted on your shamrock,” shouted a mother from the shelter of the shed.

“Keep up your heart, perhaps we’ll join you one day,” called out another relative.


There was the usual interchange of banter, but when the gangway was hauled away, Captain George Nelson appeared on the bridge, a tug drew out in front to take the transport in tow, and the ship’s siren gave a shrill blast, it was time to say the last farewell.

Handkerchiefs were shipped from handbags along the length of the deck rail, kiddies were hoisted a little higher, and brides stood on tip-tow and waved briskly.

Smiles and tears intermingled as the great grey stern of the transport grew smaller.

A small crowd of spectators who attempted to move down the dock-side as the transport sailed were halted by harbour police.

They remained for a few minutes as the Henry Gibbins sent up a cloud of smoke and gathered speed down the channel.

Crews of boats lying adjacent waved to the brides.

Member of the crew of the Henry Gibbins, American Red Cross nurses, W.A.A.C.s and stewardesses were also on deck to witness the scenes of farewell.


For many on the brides there is a long train journey after they arrived at New York. Some have to travel the 3,000 miles across the rolling wheat fields and throught the Rockies, now snow-covered, to California.

It will be some time before they settle down to the American way of life, but as Lieut. J. Mays told a “Belfast Telegraph” reporter today, they start off with the advantage of having much in common with the American hearts,” he said.

The final stages of embarkation went throught without a hitch.

United States Army officials present were - Major Dana Robertson, Captain R. A. Banks, Captain E. T. Perkins (baggage operation); Captain T. F. Stein (cargo operations), Captain Myron Rosenthawl (administration and operations officer), and Lieut. J. Mays, P.R.O.

On board in Mrs. Catherine Graham, who has already made the long journey from Waterford. She is bound for the agricultural State of Iowa. The brides will be at sea eight days and everything possible will be done to relieve the tedium of the trip. In addition to the library a cinema and recreation rooms the brides will be permitted to run their own concerts and musical talent competitions. Taking everything into account their voyage should be a happy one.


A Cleveland (Ohio) man, Captain Richard Banks, U.S. Army Transportation Corps, who came over from London to assist in the embark action of the first Ulster contingent of D.I. Brides, told our representative that everything had moved smoothly, and that arrangements are complete for reception at New York.

The shipping agents are Henry Gowan and Co., Belfast.

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