War Bride’s quest

Central and North Burnett Times - - OLDER & WISER - TRACEY JOHN­STONE

JACKIE McLaugh­lin won­ders if there are still women like her who came to Aus­tralia by ship at the end of World War II.

They were the War Brides. About 70,000 of these women left Bri­tain in the 1940s bound for Canada or Amer­ica. Some of them came to Aus­tralia.

“I never kept in con­tact with any of them,” Jackie says sadly. But now, at age 96, and as she pe­ruses the reg­u­lar Vet­eran Af­fairs mag­a­zine, Jackie has started to won­der if there are any of those women left, or their fam­ily mem­bers, who she can chat with about their life jour­neys.

The spritely English­woman lives just west of Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast. She has buried her hus­band of 64 years and her only child, but still has the com­pany of her sec­ond hus­band, 80-year-old Colin.

The mem­o­ries of her time dur­ing World War II and how she came to live in Aus­tralia are still vivid and heartwrenc­h­ing. Chris­tened Daphne, she ran away from her coun­try home in Sur­rey and trav­elled to Lon­don to sign up for the Air Force at age 17-and-a-half. The war had started two years ear­lier.

She had lis­tened to her brother talk about his “ex­cit­ing” time in the Air Force as the bored young lady re­flected on her fu­ture.

“It was ei­ther go into one of the forces or the land army or be called up for a mu­ni­tions fac­tory, and I wasn’t an in­door girl,” she says. “That’s the sole rea­son I signed up and I am so glad I did.”

Her mother threw her hands up in hor­ror, but her fa­ther said, ‘you re­ally want to do this, don’t you?’. “I said yes I do,” Jackie says. “He then said ‘this will be the mak­ing of you, my girl’. I didn’t live up to the la­dy­like name of Daphne, at all.”

Af­ter the first week in train­ing camp, her fel­low trainees de­cided they needed to find a less la­dy­like name for the tomboy. “They came up with Jackie, and it stuck.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Jackie said, she spent most of the war work­ing in an of­fice.

It took five months from first set­ting eyes on each other af­ter an “inane” meet­ing out­side the lo­cal pub at Bridling­ton in York­shire in 1944 to walk­ing down the church aisle for Jackie with her first hus­band Doug, an Aus­tralian Air Force nav­i­ga­tor and bomb-aimer. She was 20 and he was 21.

Soon af­ter the war ended Doug re­turned to Aus­tralia while Jackie stayed in Eng­land un­til May 1946.

She then joined 360 English women and chil­dren on board the for­mer hospi­tal ship At­lantis.

Some of the women had been vis­it­ing Eng­land when the war broke out. Oth­ers had mar­ried Aus­tralian per­son­nel. “One or two of them were go­ing for the trip only, and they weren’t go­ing to stay here, even though they were mar­ried to an Aus­tralian,” Jackie re­mem­bers.

The ship first stopped in Fre­man­tle be­fore dock­ing in Melbourne on June 29. From there she trav­elled by train to Syd­ney and on to Bris­bane, where Doug was wait­ing to start their life to­gether in the city.

Be­fore she left Eng­land, Jackie bumped into an old school friend who was to marry an Aus­tralian from Goondi­windi. The fare was be­ing paid for by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment as long as she was mar­ried within three months.

Both were ex­cited they would be liv­ing near each other. “Just imag­ine; in Eng­land

you walk from this place to that,” Jackie says

The two girls looked at a map of Queens­land and got the tape mea­sure out to work out the dis­tance be­tween Bris­bane and Goondi­windi.

“We thought, that’s not that far away; we can have af­ter­noon tea to­gether,” Jackie says with peals of laughter.

Pic­ture: Con­trib­uted

REM­I­NISC­ING: Jackie McLaugh­lin came to Aus­tralia in 1946 as a War Bride. INSET: Jackie signed up for the Air Force at age 17-and-a-half.

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