Brian McFadden, vice-president of Vancouver Island Military Museum, holds a copy of Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls Who Stole Their Hearts, a book by Judy Kozar which helped form the basis for the museum’s new exhibit about servicemen from overseas who found love while training in Canada and made their lives here after the Second World War. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Canada became home not only to war brides, but also to war grooms

Soldiers from other countries trained in Canada, fell for Canadian women and settled down post-war

The tales about war brides who fell in love with Canadian servicemen overseas during the Second World War have long been told, but Canada also drew its share of war grooms.

Vancouver Island Military Museum has dedicated a new display to war grooms – servicemen who met Canadian women while training in Canada and returned to start new lives here following the war.

“Most people know about the war brides … but no one really knows too much about the war grooms,” said Brian McFadden, Vancouver Island Military Museum vice-president. “These are young men from the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, who came to Canada to be trained as air crew – pilots, navigators and radio operators.”

READ ALSO: Canada’s wartime air training school graduated more than 130,000 crew

Those trainees, McFadden said, met their future wives while training at air bases across the country, often in or near small farming communities that had surplus land suitable for aircraft operations. The training program brought an unprecedented influx of young men to those communities. Many of the young women who lived in these communities ended up being employed at the training bases or in businesses supporting them, which afforded plenty of social interaction between servicemen and the women and local families.

“Hundreds of these young women from these small towns were employed by the air force on the bases. They’d meet these young men and they’d all look very handsome in their uniforms. They had leave. They had money. Dances were organized for them – all types of social activities – so it’s a typical boy-meets-girl,” McFadden said. “These young men got married or went off to war, came back and got married to the girls they’d met in these small towns all across the country.”

McFadden doesn’t know the exact number of men whose hearts were captured by Canadian girls, but accountings of the encounters are chronicled in a book by author Judy Kozar, Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls Who Stole Their Hearts, published by General Store Publishing House.

READ ALSO: More Canadians plan to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies this year, poll finds

Kozar, a retired teacher-librarian from Manitoba, reached out to veterans associations, museums, historical societies and advertised to find stories of 45 war grooms she could include in her book.

In her book’s introduction Kozar noted that the Canadian government provided passage for 48,000 war brides and their 22,000 children to come to Canada, so plenty of documentation about them exists, but she could find no documentation about war grooms because they weren’t Canadian servicemen so Veterans Affairs has no records of them and there is no accurate estimate of how many of them there were.

Kozar includes stories from war grooms across Canada to portray a broader perspective of their experiences. Most of those she contacted were willing to share their stories and in cases where the groom, his wife or both had died, the stories were provided by their families.

Many of the men met their wives through the British Commonwealth Air Training Program as did most of the grooms in Kozar’s book with the exception of four; one was in the British army and three were sailors with the Royal Navy and the Norwegian merchant navy.

Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo and its new exhibits, including the story of Canada’s war grooms, will be open to the public following Remembrance Day observances, Nov. 11.For more information about the museum, visit http://vimms.ca.

READ ALSO: VIU professor hopes project helps to humanize casualties of war



photos@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Vancouver Island woman dead after car smacks elk on Lake Cowichan highway

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were called to the scene at about 8 p.m. Tuesday night

Tim Hortons drive-thru rejects mom and kids on bicycle

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

‘Our culture is not a religion,’ Indigenous educator tells Nanaimo court in case of smudging at school

Mother also gave evidence Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, case continues Wednesday

Courtenay “geovangelist” teacher wins prestigious national award

Andrew Young won the 2019 Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy

EDITORIAL: Random acts of community kindness define us

Greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members

VIDEO: Ron MacLean says he doesn’t believe former co-host Don Cherry is racist

Sportsnet fired Cherry on Nov. 11, two days after controversial on-air comments during ‘Coach’s Corner’

Suspects carry out 500-lb fireplace in latest commercial smash and grab

Third break-in at Campbell River business in less than a week: RCMP

No turn signals, double-parking among top concerns for B.C. drivers: poll

Two-thirds of B.C. drivers said that not using turn signals was their biggest pet peeve

Man accused in fatal Shuswap church shooting also charged with arson

Parmenter family home badly damaged by fire a month before killing

B.C. man who killed Belgian tourist near Boston Bar gets life in prison, no parole until 2042

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

Trudeau to take sober approach to unveiling new cabinet for minority mandate

Liberals survived a bruising campaign that diminished Trudeau’s stature as a champion of diversity

Baby raccoon euthanized after having rat trap stuck to its paw for a week

Wild ARC encourages humane options, practices for pest control

A tour inside a Broadway theatre is the place to geek out

Wander Broadway’s oldest theatre and hear 116 years of stories

’Tis the season for holiday cheer with a Ken Lavigne Christmas

Enjoy the magic of the season with the region’s largest indoor snowball fight

Most Read