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War Brides

Website rekindles stories in year of the war bride

Mrs. Burp sent word to Mum that our family was invited to a farewell party for her daughter Etha who was leaving to take up residence in England. She had fallen in love with and married the previous year, a serviceman in the RAF who was stationed in Moncton, New Brunswick.

I thought parties were meant to bring happy memories but all the way home, Mum wiped tears from her eyes as she talked of a mother’s sorrow and worry in having a daughter move so far away from home, even though Dad told her it was expected that about forty other war brides would be accompanying Etha on this voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1945.

There were probably many tears shed in 1946 by mothers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean as thousands of young women who had fallen in love with Canadian servicemen left for Canada as war brides.

Although the food that was served was delicious, travelling across the ocean either alone or with children, was not a pleasant journey. But for many who were brought up in cities, the worst was yet to come when they reached their husbands and entered their living quarters and found no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing and no inside toilets. To add to the distress, many discovered the home that had been described to them did not meet their expectations. Others had to cope with in-laws who gave them the cold-shoulder as they would have preferred their “boy” had married one of the girls from “back home”.

The thought of, “How did I get myself in such a mess?” must have crossed the minds of these girls who were now living in a strange country without the support of relatives and friends.

Some of the young women were fortunate to find their situation in this foreign land with the cold winters was beyond their greatest dream. Love blossomed while the sound of the patter of little feet blessed their homes.

Here it is sixty years later and the year 2006 has been declared as the “Year of the War Bride” to honour these ladies.

Melynda Jarratt of Fredericton, wrote her master's thesis on war brides and has been researching and writing on the subject since 1987.

Her desire to tell the stories of war brides has become a labour of love for her and led into her volunteer work in developing a web site in which much information plus links have been posted, including her complete thesis which can be downloaded.

In one section of the web site you will find stories of the Canadian War Brides, of love, war and the romances that led to 48,000 marriages between Canadian servicemen and their British and European brides, with the vast majority of them coming to Canada in 1946.

One of Melynda’s stories is of Anna Lavigne of Bathurst a war bride who had a lot of adjustments to make when she moved to New Brunswick: as one of only 26 Italian women to marry Canadian soldiers during World War Two, this bright and resilient woman overcame barriers of language, class and culture - not to mention homesickness - to make a rewarding life for herself and her family in northern New Brunswick.  Anna came from a prominent family in Avellino, Italy, where her surgeon father was well known for both his groundbreaking surgical techniques and as his compassion for the poor.  

The war was a terrible time for the Perugine family. After the liberation by American soldiers in September 1943, Anna and the rest of her family moved to an apartment in Necoliano, not far from Avellino.  It was during this period that the Canadians came to Avellino and, as fate would have it, Anna met her husband Aurele.  Over the next three years the two courted and, in June 1946, they were married.  On November 12, 1946, one day before Aurele's birthday, Anna arrived in Halifax on board the Lady Rodney. Aurele was waiting for her there and the two went on to Bathurst. Anna was still not able to speak English fluently, but Aurele's Acadian family did their best and Anna was welcomed with open arms.

For the first few years, she and her husband and their growing family lived in the tiny Acadian fishing community of Shippigan where Aurele and his brother operated a hardware store.  Shippigan became Anna's new "home" in Canada, and it is a place which she still holds dear to her heart.

In comparison to other war brides who may have had a difficult life in New Brunswick, Anna considers herself to be very fortunate indeed: I consider myself very lucky.  I was lucky in finding Aurele.  He is such a good [man].

On Melynda Jarratt’s Canadian War Brides web site at you will find not only stories like Anna’s but many links to other sites filled with information on these ladies who for “love” left their homes and families to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to take up a new life in Canada.


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