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Annette Archer
By Daughter Anne-Mae Archer

Dutch War Bride
Queen Mary
August 31st, 1946

The story of a Dutch War Bride

Annette was born Annetje van den Berg on February 24th, 1917 in Rotterdam Holland.

Annette was living in Rotterdam with her parents and two brothers when the war broke out. After the surrender of Holland to the Germans in 1940, the German soldiers went door to door looking for healthy young men to dig trenches. Annette’s oldest brother Jacob was suffering from asthma, so when the family knew the soldiers were getting close he ran up and down the stairs a few times, when the German soldiers came into the house Jacob was lying in bed gasping for breath. Hidden in a closet inside the house was a small space between the floors, Annette’s younger brother Bart hid in there until the soldiers left.

In 1944 Annette went to Nijmegen to work in the office of the Dutch Police. Annette boarded with long time family friends the Middelveen’s. I am not sure why Annette left her family in Rotterdam to go to the other side of Holland, unless the family thought she would be safer away from the fighting in Rotterdam.

This was not the case, between September 1944 to May 1945 Nijmegen would be on the front line of the War.

First the British and American’s were in Nijmegen and then in November of 1944 the Canadians Troops arrived.

Times were hard on the War front; Annette talked about porridge for breakfast with mice droppings in it. The Military provided entertainment for the troops. There were dances where they asked the local girls to attend. Annette and other women from the Police office would go mostly for the food, namely the “raisin buns”.

Annette talked about the different dances she went to and said the British were gentlemen and she did meet an English solider that she liked, she never heard from again, assumed he was killed during the War. The American soldiers would sometimes get out of control; I remember her telling me that at one dance she and the other women had to be taken away rather quickly because the men were getting out of hand.

Annette met her husband to be, Private Charles Thomas Archer, a Canadian Soldier with the Army Medical Corps in Nijmegen the winter of 1945. The family Annette was staying with were boarding military personnel. Charlie was a little shorter then Annette and the family joke has always been that when Charlie knocked on the door asking for lodgings Annette opened the top half of the Dutch doors and thought Charlie was on his knees. Another joke was when Charlie proposed Annette said yes thinking he was asking her if she wanted another raisin bun.

After the end of the War in May 1945 Annette was anxious to be reunited with her family in Rotterdam. She had heard that the Germans had cut off the food supply to Rotterdam and many people were starving. At this time civilians were not allowed to travel from one part of Holland to another. By the middle of June Charlie and Annette came up with a plan; Annette would dress up in an army uniform (except for the shoes) and travel with Charlie across Holland. They brought with them as much food as they could carry, walked and hitched rides with other military personnel. If anyone noticed, and I am sure they did, no one said anything about Annette being a civilian women in an army uniform. Annette and her family were very glad to be reunited and that everyone had survived the war and the family home escaped the intense bombing of Rotterdam.

Annette and Charlie were engaged June 6th, 1945 and married July 12th, 1945. Annette’s parents and Charlie’s mother were not too happy about the wedding. In late April Charlie wrote a letter to Annette’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Van den Berg stating his intentions and his wish to marry their daughter. Annette’s father answered by saying they were very surprised "but we have faith in your promise to do everything in your power to make her happy. Our consent to marry our darling will we give with pleasure". To put Charlie’s mother at ease Annette’s minister wrote a letter to Mrs. Archer explaining that Annetje “is a nice and fine girl” and “a women that feareth the Lord”

After the War money did not mean anything, Annette was able to get a wedding dress from a friend. Annette kept a receipt for the flowers that said 40 guilders or 65 cigarettes. The Dutch people had a hard time getting cigarettes at this time and Charlie had a lot of cigarettes, his and those of other soldiers that did not smoke. Most of the wedding was paid for in cigarettes. In Holland you have to be married in a civil ceremony before you can get married in the church. Annette and Charlie rode to the church in a horse and carriage. The church service was held in the family church.

Annette and Charlie’s daughter, Anne-Mae, was born in Rotterdam on February 9th, 1946. The nurses in the hospital asked Annette if she was sure she had not married a native Canadian Indian because the baby had a lot of very dark hair and a somewhat dark complexion, Annette assured them that Charlie’s background was English.

Shortly before their daughter was born Charlie was sent to England on his way home to Canada. Charlie was unaware that he had a daughter because he never received the telegram announcing her birth. He found out when he reached home at the end of February and read his mother’s telegram.

Annette, staying with her family in Rotterdam now had the long wait to hear from the Canadian Wives Bureau about her departure to Canada. Charlie left enough cigarettes for food for Annette and their daughter.

Finally in August 1946 Annette received the telegram regarding her departure. Annette received a total of 3 telegrams. Translated from Dutch to English the first telegram read: "We hereby notify you to keep yourself ready to go to Canada with 24 hour notice on or about August 10 1946. We will notify you by telegram were and when you will be picked up. Please send us a telegram to let us know if you accept this."

Second telegram "All your luggage except the suitcase with the articles for your daily use will be picked up on Aug 16 46"

Third telegram “The arrangement for your trip to Canada are completed. You are asked to come with your luggage to the Beurs Restaurant on the Coolsingel Rotterdam at 2 p.m. on August 21 1946. A representative of the Bureau will be there to transport you to the harbour”.

All 3 telegrams were signed Canadian Wives Bureau North East Europe.

In the meantime a telegram was also sent to Charlie’s mother, Mrs Jennie Mae Archer, of Cookstown Ontario informing her of Annette’s arrival in Canada.

From Ottawa dated August 17th, 1946 “Repat11842 Mrs Annetje Archer expected arrive Halifax Queen Mary 31 Aug 46. wire collect immediately full address final destination and will meet. In reply quote W1157/36262/11842”. Director of Repatriation

Annette arrived at the restaurant in Rotterdam on August 21st, 1946 and from there she was escorted to the Westermeijer Hotel awaiting departure to London. I do not know the details of how Annette got to Southampton, but from what I have found on the internet Annette sailed on either the Lady Nelson or Lady Rodney to London and stayed at the Mostyn Hostel before boarding a train to Southampton.

Annette and her daughter boarded the Queen Mary” on August 25th, 1946 but did not set sail until August 27th. A telegram dated 1946 Aug 25th was sent to Charlie “Leaving on Queen Mary 27/8/46 both are well”.

Annette was assigned to B deck cabin 52 which she had to share with other war brides. Annette did not talk much about her crossing except to say that the Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King was on board and she travelled to Canada with no money. Annette was able to travel with no money because the Red Cross looked after the war brides every need. On the internet I found excerpts from the diary of Red Cross Escort Officer Overseas, Kay Douglass, who happened to sail on the Queen Mary the same time as Annette.

Kay recalls that around midnight of the August 27th a huge wave hit the ship sending water onto the bridge and down into the captain’s quarters. The electrical equipment was put out of commission and the ship stopped for two hours, bobbing like a cork. Everyone on board including the crew was very seasick. The next day the captain did say he had been afraid for the ship because it was going up and down, sideways with no control whatsoever. The weather did improve, Annette has pictures of her and her daughter sunning on the deck of the Queen Mary.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King addressed the war brides on board the ship. Kay’s diary contained the original press release produced by the Queen Mary’s public relations office, in which the Prime Minister’s speech was described as follows:

August 31st, 1946

“Among the prominent civilian passengers aboard is the RT. Hon. WLM Mackenzie King, returning from the Paris Conference. During the voyage the Prime Minister has chatted too many of the brides and has been a familiar figure exercising on the deck. On the morning of 30 August, Mr King, in a short speech of welcome congratulated the brides who won the hearts of Canadian soldiers, the men on their choice of brides, and Canada on the splendid addition being made to its citizenship.”

The Queen Mary arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax late in the day of August 31st, 1946. The next day after going through immigration and collecting her luggage Annette boarded a train to Toronto’s Union Station. Again the Red Cross was on board the train to make sure each war bride arrived at her destination. Charlie was to meet Annette at Union Station, but in case he did not, Annette had meal tickets and a train ticket to take her and her daughter to Allandale, and from there a Red Cross representative would drive her to Cookstown where Charlie’s mother lived.

When the train pulled into Union Station on September 3rd, 1946 Charlie was there to meet Annette and for the first time his daughter who was now seven months old. Annette and her daughter must have stood out in the crowd, because the Red Cross chose Annette to have her picture taken with Red Cross representatives.

On June 18th, 1947 Annette and Charlie’s second daughter Mary-Lou was born at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital.

Life in Canada was definitely different than what Annette was used too. First renting one room in a house, and then moving to a small town and living in a house with no running water. Annette’s parents came from Holland for a visit in the summer of 1949. Shortly after Annette’s parents left both daughters contracted polio. Charlie and Annette were living in Marmora and both daughters were now in a hospital in Toronto. Money was tight so there were not too many visits to Toronto to see her two small daughters. Then in October of 1949 Annette’s mother died and then in April 1950 her father died. Through all these hardships Annette adapted to life in Canada, she learned English and never spoke Dutch unless she was with another Dutch person; she also had to learn the imperial counting and measurement system. Although when Annette was adding or subtracting she still did that speaking Dutch. Charlie changed jobs many times and they moved around numerous times. Finally in 1953 Annette, Charlie and their two daughters settled in Orillia.

From her voyage on the Queen Mary Annette made two life long friends. The first was a Dutch war bride that Annette met on board the ship, Yetty Oldershaw who just happened to also marry a Canadian solider named Charlie. Then in 1953 when Annette moved to Orillia she met her next door neighbour who was an English war bride named Eileen Roberts. When they starting talking about their trip to Canada it turned out Eileen was also on the Queen Mary with her eldest son who was born February 10th, 1946 in England, one day after Annette’s daughter was born in Holland.

Eventually things got better and Annette was glad to have made Canada her home. On August 28th, 1956 almost ten years to the day, Annette took her two daughters for a two month trip to Holland in which they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Annette Archer
February 24th, 1917 -
January 19th, 2008

Charles T. Archer
April 25th, 1911 -
March 10th, 1994

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