From a Blind Date to a Blushing War Bride
I was not the least bit interested when a friend I worked with asked me to go on a “blind date” with a Canadian who was in London, England on leave. She had met with another Canadian pilot and did not have a date. I protested because that kind of dating was not only frowned upon at the time, but usually a failure.
I remember protesting many times. I had not been dating because of a failed relationship and did not care about some Canadian who didn’t have a date. I can still hear my friend saying: “Oh, come on Hazel, you’ll only have to see him once. You won’t have to see him again.”
Well, here I sit at a computer 66 years later writing about the meeting that quickly led to marriage and a lifetime in a country I knew nothing about - Canada. The meeting place was to be at the Underground Station, Piccadilly, under the clock.
As we rode up the long escalator at the station I wondered what I was getting myself into.
It was not hard to spot the two Canadian Pilots waiting for us.
My friend greeted the one she had dated previously and I found myself standing in front of the other one, a stranger, ready to reject any advances.
However, he was very handsome in his Air Force Blue ‘Great Coat’ with his cap tilted a bit over one eye. It was October and he was wearing brown leather gloves… I think we shook hands on the introduction.
The evening was a bit stilted as the four of us went to the pictures (movie). I remember very little about the evening except that he took me home all the way to Wembley which was many railway stations away from the centre of London. Somehow, he found his way back to the Beaver Club, very late at night, where he was staying.
What really amazed me was that he made no attempt to kiss me goodnight on my doorstep, but simply said, “Goodnight” after making arrangements to see me again and disappeared into the blackout.
The nights were very dark and cold in November with its fogs and blackouts, but still he made his way to Wembley on dates where we went to local cinemas causing him the long walk back through the streets of London because had missed the last train or bus.
Soon, his leave was over and he went back to his Air Force Station at Watchfield, near Swindon, Wiltshire where he was a Flying Instructor.
After a couple of more leaves and more trekking back and forth across London I made arrangements for him to stay at a hotel in Wembley on his next leave which enabled our meetings to be longer. The hotel was just down the street from my house.
Between leaves we wrote to each other. His leaves occurred more frequently during December and January as the last months of the war became less intense following the D-Day Landings of the June before. There was still little realization that the 6 years of war would end a few months after our marriage in February 1945.
I had no ration coupons for a new dress and did not know anyone with a Wedding Dress that I could borrow. I was married in my most recent purchase. The very brief ceremony took place in a registry office. Following a couple of “I do’s” we soon found ourselves back out on the street wondering what had happened. I had one Matron of Honour and Russell had Harold Green, another Flying Instructor as best man.
We did have a lovely reception at Odenino’s at Piccadilly, then home to my mother’s house in Wembley. Our honeymoon would come later.
The brief time we had known each other had flown by and he was sent to the South Coast of England prior to being sent home to Canada. I managed to get away from my job and joined him for a week at a beautiful resort in Paignton, Devonshire, England where we could finally have a honeymoon.
When he was sent home to Canada I became a new bride without a husband, living with my mother as I had always done and going to work as I had always done. It seemed a strange arrangement.
It would be 10 months before I received word from the Canadian Government that I would sail on the Aquitania on April 24th 1946.
Leaving my home was very difficult. My mother did not want to come to Waterloo Station for the goodbyes. A friend took me there.
The full realization of the parting from my home and family came when the ship we were on started pulling away from the dock. For a moment I thought the dock was moving away, but it was us. There were tears, some joy and some misgivings.
My arrival at Pier 21, Halifax, Canada with thousands of other War Brides lasted a very brief time because we were soon loaded onto a train beside the dock that would take us to our various destinations across Canada and to unknown futures. Mine was to live on the prairie in a very small town in Southern Alberta, a journey of 13 days since I had left my home in England.
It requires a book-length memoir to record the rest of the story, which I have done.
It covers ours and the lives of our 5 children, 16 grands, 16 great grands and a most welcome great great grandchild born in 2010.
It has been quite an adventure following a blind date!
Russell is 90 and I am 87. He is making toast for breakfast and I keep saying, ”O.K. I’ll be there in a minute,” and keep on typing.
- January 2011. Hazel L. West
( Originally published on the Wall of Service )