Memories Of A War Bride I Knew – Remembering Eileen Elsie (Bromley) Bransfield
Mostly, the meaning behind the activity “Show and Tell” in Elementary School was to bring something into the classroom. It could be something from home or a presentation.
One day in the third grade, my teacher, Ms. Krista Bransfield, told the class she was going to be bringing her paternal grandmother who was a War Bride. None of us knew what a War Bride was and we learned a lot that day from Eileen Bransfield. Following that first encounter, my own friendship with Eileen grew for close to 15 years. Whether it was just out and about in the community or at a Christmas Cantata, I treasure each of the times spent together.
Eileen was born in Canterbury, Kent, England, on October 23rd, 1928, the daughter of Arthur and Doris Kate (Worthington) Bromley.
A War Bride is a woman who met a soldier, mostly during the Second World War, and came to Canada to become his bride. About 48,000 women came to Canada as War Brides and were of English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, French and Italian descents.
Eileen met her husband Robert “Bob” Allan Bransfield of Douglastown on the night of his 21st birthday, December 10th, 1944. He was out celebrating with his buddies and asked to walk her home after the dance.
“We talked outside of my home and he asked me if he could take me to ‘the pictures’ the next night! We went and I still remember the name of the black and white film – The Hairy Ape, not much of a film,” Eileen wrote in a personal memoir for her children.
“It was almost Christmas, and after seeing Bob several more times in the next week or two, he said he was going on leave. I had asked him if he had plans for Christmas. He could stay and spend it with me and my family. But he had made plans to meet with one of his buddies and spend it in Brighton. On Boxing Day, we had mail in those days and the postman left a parcel at my home. I couldn’t think who had sent it as there was no name on it. I opened it and it was a big box of ‘Pot of Gold’ chocolates. What a luxury when all we were allowed on our rations was two ounces of ‘sweets’ candy. I shared it with my mother, twin brothers and sister, so they were soon gone.”
Over the course of the next few months, their love for each other grew, and one day in the spring of 1945, Bob asked Eileen to marry him. Eileen began writing to Bob’s mother and she sent over from Canada the diamond engagement ring and a wedding band.
“Near the time of our wedding, his mother sent me a wedding dress that a neighbour had got for her in Montréal, plus material for my two bridesmaids dresses to be made. The material came, but the wedding dress didn’t come in time for our wedding.”
On August 11th 1945, Eileen married Bob at Saint Martin’s Church, in Canterbury, Kent. Saint Martin’s is the oldest Christian church in England.
“The dress didn’t come in time for our wedding, we were married on a Saturday, and it came the following Monday. A friend who was to marry a sailor lent me hers.”
For their honeymoon, Bob and Eileen left for London and with thousands of troops and other people they celebrated V-J (Victory Over Japan) Day on Monday, August 13th, 1945. “We nearly lost sight of each other in the crowds many times.”
On June 12th 1946, Eileen came to Canada aboard the Queen Mary at Pier 21 in Halifax, and came up to Miramichi by train on June 16th. On arrival at the Newcastle Station, Eileen was welcomed and met by Bob, her mother-in-law Katherine, sister-in-law Marie and Bob’s grandfather.
“My luggage was lost for about a week, it had gone up to Montréal on the train. The train was full of War Brides, so it was understandable that things could be lost. My in-laws were wonderful people and couldn’t do enough to make me feel at home. They had a welcoming party over at the Orange Lodge Hall that later burned down and presented Bob and I with a lovely pair of woolen blankets. I never got lonesome, only the first Christmas when I heard King George VI speak on the radio.”
Bob and Eileen had three children—Richard, Carol and Robert Jr. (Bobby). They also raised their niece, Kathy and fostered two children, Carolyn Veniot and Wayne DeWolfe. In the end they had nine grandchildren, and many great grandchildren, who they all loved.
Eileen was a stay at home mom. She attended the former Saint Mark’s United Church in Douglastown and supported Saint Andrew’s United Church in Chatham. A member of the Saint Mark’s United Church Choir for over 50 years, Eileen was also an active member of the United Church Women. She volunteered at the Miramichi Hospital in Newcastle for over 20 years, delivered for Meals on Wheels, and was an active member of both the Douglastown Senior Citizen’s Club and New Brunswick War Bride Association. She dearly loved going to her annual War Bride Conventions.
Eileen was very artistic and loved to paint, draw, write poetry and long letters to family and friends. She enjoyed growing flowers, watching birds and animals, going out for long drives every Sunday, and attending family picnics. She enjoyed babysitting her grandchildren and made them special birthday cakes every year and unique costumes whenever they were needed for something special at school. Eileen and Bob shared many wonderful trips, with their last big one being to Hawaii in 2001 to see their granddaughter Gaye and her husband Daryl. She and her granddaughter also shared a love of musicals and went to see many when Gaye lived in Toronto.
On March 28th 2008, after nearly 63 years of marriage, Bob passed away at the age of 84.
In the last two and a half years of her own life, Eileen resided at the Miramichi Senior Citizens Home in Chatham. On December 23rd 2014, Eileen Elsie (Bromley) Bransfield passed away at the Miramichi Regional Hospital at the age of 86.
Many thanks to Giv’er Miramichi for giving me this opportunity to share Eileen’s story and to her daughter Carol (Bransfield) Johnston for the loan of pictures and sharing her personal memories.
Anthony W.J. McLean is a Contributing Reporter for Giv’er Miramichi and in his spare time he enjoys digital photography, writing and travelling. He has lived in Miramichi and Saint John, but is proud to call Miramichi home.
Giv’er Miramichi is about “What’s up, what’s new, what’s happening”. We are focused on building people up, supporting one another and celebrating our successes.