Brides’ tales

War brides of An­napo­lis Val­ley share their sto­ries

Annapolis Valley Register - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE

An­napo­lis Val­ley war brides share their pre­cious sto­ries.

War brides are a group of ap­prox­i­mately 45,000 women who mar­ried Cana­dian sol­diers dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and moved to Canada with their new hus­bands.

The vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese women were Bri­tish. Most of th­ese war brides came in 1946, land­ing at Hal­i­fax’s Pier 21.

Mary Keddy of Port Wil­liams was one of th­ese war brides, cross­ing the At­lantic Ocean in 1944 at the age of 19, ar­riv­ing in Nova Sco­tia in the dead of win­ter, to meet her hus­band, Har­vey.

Keddy grew up in Eng­land, south of Lon­don, and spent the war years as a vol­un­teer sew­ing wires into oxy­gen tanks for sol­diers. That is, when her fam­ily wasn’t evac­u­ated off the coast.

“You just get used to liv­ing in fear,” said Keddy.

This ex­plains why one day when she heard the air raid sirens, she didn’t pay much at­ten­tion. Keddy says she looked up to see an air­plane over­head, and she im­me­di­ately tried to fig­ure out, by look­ing at the in­signia on the bot­tom, whether it was friend or foe. When it started fir­ing at her, she re­al­ized it was def­i­nitely foe! Keddy quickly rolled un­der a hedge, as per her train­ing.

Hav­ery Keddy, Keddy’s soon- to- be hus­band, had his bride picked out long be­fore she knew it. Har­vey was sta­tioned on the hills above the towns and used to watch Mary go­ing back and forth to work. He even­tu­ally found where she worked and af­ter the sec­ond date, pro­posed. It took her a bit more con­vinc­ing, but three months later, Mary and Har­vey were mar­ried.

Har­vey’s ship was tor­pe­doed off Italy, and nearly drowned. He was sent back to Canada on a med­i­cal ship, to Camp Hill Hospi­tal in Hal­i­fax. Mary even­tu­ally found voy­age on a ship and came across the At­lantic in 1944 to join him.

“Eng­land had been in black­out for so long, that it was so lovely to come in and see all the lights in the Hal­i­fax Har­bour,” she says. “It was like a fairy­land.”

Af­ter promis­ing her mother she would try liv­ing in Canada for at least six months, Keddy set­tled in. Ad­just­ing from city life to be­ing on a farm in ru­ral Cen­tre­ville took some get­ting used to, but at least she and Har­vey were to­gether.

Eileen Spicer, of Bridgetown, was lit­er­ally in the same boat com­ing to Canada as a war bride a few years af­ter Keddy.

Spicer grew up in Cater­ham, 25 miles south­east of Lon­don. Be­cause of their close prox­im­ity to the city, when Lon­don was ablaze from bomb­ings, they could watch the flick­er­ing flames from a dis­tance, she said.

“We were so young, think­ing at the time how ex­cit­ing it was, with­out re­ally think­ing about how se­ri­ous it ac­tu­ally was,” says Spicer.

The West Nova Sco­tia Reg­i­ment was sta­tioned three miles from Spicer’s home. The sol­diers of­ten put on dances and went around town pick­ing up all the young women in a truck to bring them there. One night, Spicer at­tended with her sis­ter’s boyfriend, and it was there that she met Andy Shaffner from Bridgetown. She was 18 and he was 22, and six months later they were mar­ried.

“Andy promised my mother he would never take me from Eng­land,” says Spicer.

When Shaffner was de­mo­bi­lized from the Cana­dian Army, how­ever, they were re­quired to re­turn to Canada. Spicer says her mother en­cour­aged her to go with her two small chil­dren, as there would be more op­por­tu­ni­ties in Canada in­clud­ing hous­ing, jobs for women, and there wouldn’t be ra­tioning.

With a heavy heart, Spicer said good­bye to her mother, not re­al­iz­ing she would never see her again, for it was 18 years be­fore she re­turned to Eng­land and her mother had died.

Spicer ar­rived in Bridgetown in Jan­uary when it was -14 de­grees and be­gan won­der­ing what she had got­ten her­self into. She and Andy had a farm in Tup­perville and raised their chil­dren un­til he died in 1955 in a fish­ing ac­ci­dent.

A few years later, Eileen mar­ried Jim Spicer who was sta­tioned with the air force in Green­wood. He too was from Eng­land and had served in the war. Spicer and Jim were mar­ried in 1961, only for him to die the fol­low­ing year of lung cancer.

Through­out the tragedies, Spicer de­cided to re­main in Nova Sco­tia, es­pe­cially as her sis­ter was still in the same area, hav­ing come over a few years be­fore Spicer, also as a war bride.

Spicer kept in close con­tact with about 200 other war brides in Nova Sco­tia through the War Brides of Nova Sco­tia As­so­ci­a­tion where she served as sec­re­tary for 18 years. The war brides and their fam­i­lies met for re­unions ev­ery two years, al­ways hav­ing a dance, cel­e­bra­tion, and busi­ness meet­ing. Now that mem­bers are get­ting older and num­bers are di­min­ish­ing, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is no longer ac­tive.

Nei­ther Keddy nor Spicer have any re­grets of mak­ing their new homes in Canada. They both felt they were bet­ter off in Canada, with greater op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially post war.

“My heart is in Eng­land,” says Keddy, “but my fam­ily is here.”

SUB­MIT­TED

Mary Keddy, left, came to Port Wil­liams in 1944 as a war bride with her hus­band Har­vey Keddy. The two met in Eng­land while Har­vey was serv­ing in the Sec­ond World War. Eileen Spicer came to Bridgetown from Eng­land in 1946, fol­low­ing her hus­band, Andy Shaffner, who was a mem­ber of the West Nova Sco­tia Reg­i­ment.

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