“That’s My Story.” Unpacking Canadian War Bride Veterans’ Life Histories

  • Lauren Beth Auger

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis analyzes the life histories of women who served in the Second World War British auxiliary services (the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and the Women’s Royal Naval Service) who migrated to Canada as war brides (the wives or fiancées of Canadian servicemen). It argues that understandings of womanhood which connect ideal femininity with domesticity operate on the ways in which war bride veterans view themselves as veterans and how they remember their experiences as servicewomen. In their oral histories, these women portrayed themselves both in accordance with and in opposition to traditional feminine roles. However, identities associated with traditional femininity such as ‘sweetheart,’ ‘wife,’ ‘mother,’ and ‘grandmother’ were frequently most prevalent. My findings indicate that war brides who had more satisfying and smooth transitions to Canadian life generally remember and emphasize their war bride past over their military history and view themselves as having a Canadian identity. Alternatively, those who had more difficult experiences of migration gain composure in remembering their experiences as servicewomen since these experiences were less troubling and complicated. These women tend to assert their British identities. This project contributes to scholarship in gender history, memory studies, and studies of migration though unpacking how cultural discourses regarding gender in wartime and national identity intersect with stories of migration in the life history narratives of war bride veterans. It provides a new framework for the study of women in war in Britain, as well as war bride history in Canada. This thesis produced and draws from eighteen comprehensive life history interviews with war bride veterans. Part I begins with a chapter exploring theoretical concepts setting out the combined material and cultural epistemology of this project, including popular memory theory, as well as understandings of gender and nationality that assisted the methodology developed for analyzing war bride veterans’ narratives in relation to historical and cultural research. This methodology based on the work of T.G. Ashplant, Graham Dawson, Michael Roper, and Richard Johnson, recognizes the circular and nuanced relationships people have with cultural codes and memories. The historical context chapter examines historical understandings regarding appropriate roles for men and women in wartime through primary source research and contemporary gender historical theory. It also examines how war brides have been recognized in Canadian cultural memory. Part II applies this work with three chapters centred on life history interviews with Wendy Turner, Victoria Sparrow, and Penny MacDonald (pseudonyms).
Date of AwardJun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorLucy Noakes (Supervisor) & Graham Dawson (Supervisor)

Cite this