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



[email protected]

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake City Council and community advocacy leads to GPS monitoring of six prolific offenders

Counc. Scott Nelson said he is happy at this result and hopes to build on momentum

New MP Taylor Bachrach makes his first trip to Bella Coola

Bachrach said he is keen to get to know his riding and the members of his constituency

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Bella Coola leave their mark on All Native Basketball Tournament as they reach Intermediate final

Nuxalk Braves bring home a strong second place finish; three individual awards for Marlon Edgar-Apps

All Native Basketball: Finals matchups start to take shape as title games approach

Two Prince Rupert sides in contention, while two dynasties are on the brink

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Conservative MP questions whether rail blockades constitute terrorism

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders

Lawsuit over African mine can be heard in British Columbia: Supreme Court

B.C. courts dismissed Nevsun’s attempts to make Eritrea the forum for any lawsuit proceedings

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Most Read