By Randy Evans
During the course of World War One, some 650,000 Canadian males in uniform would have spent time in England. They were young and predominately single.
It was inevitable that some of these men would find time out of their military duties to meet and fall in mutual love with young women of the host nation.
Amongst the enlistees was 18 year old Corporal Percy Bodaly of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. An orderly, he was stationed at the Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital located at Taplow just 27 miles west of London.
In September 1917, while on leave in Manchester, Corporal Bodaly met 19 year old Miss Hilda Thornhill of that city.
A spark obviously occurred. After only one more May, 1918 leave together and many letters, the couple were married on January 23rd, 1919. The now Mrs. Hilda Bodaly thus became a War Bride – one of the estimated 43,500 mostly English women to have that World War One distinction.
The moniker War Bride is a misleading term. To be sure, it is accurate to the extent it describes the time of marriage. But War Bride does not reflect the reality of the extraordinary courage which these ladies came with.
Out of love, these women were willing to leave their family and friends perhaps never to see them again.
Out of love, they proceeded out of their current life and into a future full of unknowns.
The War Bride would be starting a new life in a country and culture never before experienced.
She would be entering into a family whose members she had never met.
The courtship was often brief. After military discharge and only a few war gratuity dollars in the pocket, unemployment loomed. But despite all that, confronting the sacrifices with love in their heart and grit in the gut, the ladies set out for the colony.
The trip to the ultimate Canadian destination would not be comfortable. Despite the war service of their Canadian soldier husbands, the government offered only meager travel. That meant a spot in often turbulent third class steerage for the 7 to 10 day Atlantic crossing. Thereafter, the journey would continue by arduous train accommodation in old wooden seat colonist car.
And so it was for Hilda Bodaly. After 8 days at sea, on August 14, 1919, she first stepped onto Canadian soil at Halifax. But the excursion to her new home and family had just begun. A 3,600 mile train trip to Victoria awaited.
Together with Mrs. Bodaly, the war brides would overcome the difficulties of transport and, thereby, settle at points here and across the nation.
They would leave their positive mark upon the generations following.
Their youthful fortitude endured to the lasting benefit of their adopted homeland.
Thank you ladies.
Editors Note: The author is the very grateful grandson of Hilda Bodaly.