'No regrets': The story of a war bride who moved to Canada
TORONTO – Shortly after the end of the Second World War, tens of thousands of women made their way to Canada to begin new lives.
An estimated 48,000 women moved here as war brides after marrying Canadian soldiers who were stationed in Europe during the war.
Margaret Houghton was one of them. She met her husband Arthur in the early days of the war, when he was training near her home of Leatherhead, U.K.
As the 95-year-old Houghton tells it, their meeting was a complete coincidence.
"I was just waiting with a friend, another girlfriend, and she was waiting for her boyfriend, and he happened to come along with him," she told CTVNews.ca via telephone Wednesday from her home in Moose Jaw, Sask.
"She went with hers and he said 'Can I take you home?' and I said 'Yes.'
"I thought he was a very, very nice person. I thought 'well, gee, another country – a Canadian even!' I would have never expected [that]."
She was 16. He was a couple years older. Very quickly, they fell in love.
After a couple years of training in England, Arthur Houghton was deployed to mainland Europe. He was part of the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment, which saw action in Italy and helped liberate the Netherlands.
He returned to the U.K. in 1945 to marry Margaret, then went back home to Moose Jaw. Margaret followed the following year, joining other war brides on the famed Queen Mary ocean liner for the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Halifax's Pier 21 and the large, unfamiliar country that lay beyond.
"It was quite a traumatic experience, leaving home and leaving your family, never knowing if you'd ever come back and never knowing what you were going to either – but everything worked out well for me," she said.
Once Margaret adjusted to the sight of her husband in civilian clothes, the Houghtons wasted no time making a home for themselves in Moose Jaw. They already had an infant son – one of the estimated 21,000 children who arrived with the war brides. Two daughters and a second son soon followed. They moved into a home on a new street with no sidewalks.
"Everything was right back to the old days," Houghton said.
"I've been in that house ever since. I've lived in Moose Jaw ever since. I've raised my family here. Certainly, I have no regrets."
The Houghtons were active in Moose Jaw in many ways. Arthur, who died in 2013, ran an appliance store on Main Street for many years. The Houghtons' youngest son, Colin, is keeping the family's military tradition alive as a major with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Canada's military past is honoured every year on Remembrance Day, keeping soldiers and their sacrifices fresh in the minds of Canadians.
The war brides are less celebrated. A recent Leger Marketing survey commissioned by website Ancestry.ca found that 57 per cent of Canadians aren't familiar with the term. Ancestry is making access to all Canadian military records free from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11, hoping some Canadians will search out their own potential connections to soldiers – and, through them, war brides.
"Knowing about an ancestor who made this journey to Canada, the role they played during the war and the life they went on to live can be an emotional experience," Ancestry family historian Lesley Anderson said in a statement.
Margaret Houghton isn't surprised so many Canadians may not feel a connection to war brides, or may not be aware of their stories.
"The war was over in '45, and that's a long time ago," she said.
Anderson recommends that anyone interested in their own family history start by asking an older relative for their stories and recollections, then use that information to start a more thorough search.