Growing up I remember this tiny English woman who lived in our town. She had hair so blonde that it was almost white and her daughter had that same blonde hair. As a child I didn’t think too much about it. Later I learned that the lady was an English war bride. She had married an American soldier while he was stationed in England. I wish I had talked to her about it. Unfortunately I didn’t become interested in these English women who followed their hearts and left their homes across the ocean until later in life.
In 1946 English war brides began arriving in the U.S. They scattered across the country, some to big cities and others to small towns like my hometown. In the outlying areas the war brides were truly alone, except for their husbands. They had no family of their own nearby and, despite a common language, there were many cultural differences. In areas where there were larger numbers, brides formed groups or clubs which gave them a sense of comradeship and shared experiences.
The English girls who married American servicemen far outnumbered all the other nationalities of war brides. This is not surprising given the fact that American servicemen arrived in England in early 1942 and remained in the country until after the Japanese surrender in 1945. Three years was plenty of time for romance to develop between lonely soldiers, sailors and airmen and the local female population. An added incentive was the lack of competition from Englishmen who had been conscripted into the Royal services and sent to the far reaches of the British Empire.
I have a number of books, both compilations of stories and individual memoirs, about war brides. I recently purchased one that delves into the media coverage of the war bride phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic. “From the Battlefront to the Bridal Suite” by Barbara G. Friedman is proving to be quite interesting and I’ve only read the beginning.
Other books about WWII War Brides in my collection include “War Brides and Memories of World War II” by Elizabeth Hawthorne, “War Brides of World War II” by Elfrieda Berthiaume Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, “Promise You’ll Take Care of my Daughter” by Ben Wicks, “Memoir of a French War Bride” by Jeannine Ricou-Allunis, “Entangling Alliances” by Susan Zeiger and “Bittersweet Decision” by Helene R. Lee.
At one time I thought I might write a series of novels about World War II War Brides. The subject fascinated me and still does. These women fell in love with men from another country that they barely knew. They left their own families and the only homes they had ever know to move to a foreign country across the ocean. At that time the only communications would have been by letter, with the occasional, very expensive and very inconvenient long distance telephone call which few of these women could afford. A trip back home meant either traveling by ocean liner or by airplane, both of which were very expensive at the time. So many of the war brides never saw their families and friends again. They started a new life with only one person they knew, their soldier-turned-civilian husband. Most of the marriages lasted. Some didn’t.
You cannot deny that these young women made a leap of faith and a statement about the strength of love when they made the decision to marry an American serviceman.
5 thoughts on “English War Brides during WWII”
My mother was an English War Bride, married to an American soldier on 12/28/1944. After the war, my mom left Liverpool, England with me on the John Ericsson & sailed America, joining her soldier husband in Chicago, I was only 16 months old when we departed England. I can’t imagine how lonely and frightened my mother must have been coming to a strange country & knowing nobody but my dad. She did find other English War Brides in the Chicago neighborhood we lived in & they formed the “Cosmopolitan Club” & she belonged to that club for the rest of her life.
I meant to reply to you earlier but family illness took up my time. Sorry about that. Your Mother’s story is very interesting. Some of those ships that brought over the War Brides were pretty rough. I hope she was on one of the better ones. I’m sure the club of war brides helped each other with the transition to life in America. I am curious about your Dad. Was he in the 8th Air Force when stationed in England? The Air Force had more men in England for a longer time that other Americans. There were lots of other soldiers, too. Just wondered. Thanks for visiting my website and sharing your story.
Barbara, Thank you for your response back to me. My American dad was in the U.S. Army. Over the years I’ve tried to find out if he was on leave in Liverpool when he met my mother or if he was stationed there. He did serve in Germany and France. I wrote to the department in St. Louis for records, but they responded that most of their records were destroyed in a fire. I do have his DD214 (discharge paper), but it doesn’t show when he arrived in England or when he left. My dad passed away in 1993 and I never told him I knew he wasn’t my biological father. I never wanted to hurt him. He was a wonderful man and treated me as his own. Carole Broadhurst
My Great Aunt was a War Widow who lost her pilot husband the same day she lost her daughter in the Freckleton disaster. My Great uncle was in the US Army Air core. He carried Aunt Jane’s daughter’s casket for the funeral. My Great uncle was over 6’7″ and I know there were some articles in the states due to his size. I am getting in touch with his son and daughter-in-law to get more info on Aunt Jane. But I believe they were married in England before coming back to the US. I’m still trying to get more info so that we have it on our Ancestry link. I wish I could get ahold of more info from the time of the 8/23/1944 Freckleton disaster. Well pictures and news clippings, I guess.
Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you get any additional information.