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Two Sisters Meet and Marry Eddies: A War Bride's Story

By Garry Browne

In June 1940 Garry and Phyllis Ashford were teenage sisters in the quiet English town of Oxted, when The Edmonton Regiment moved into a nearby wood. Now living in Victoria B.C., they write of wartime romance, and of the danger from the skies over England. Both these ladies are veterans themselves, Garry serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) of the British Army, Phyllis in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS).*

By 1940, when I was 18, we were used to troops passing through the English countryside, but we were unprepared for the arrival of so many Canadians. I recall with horror the first night after they arrived in numbers, cycling home from my office. They Canadian Uncle Dewey Keeblerwere sitting beside the road eating from their mess tins. I was trying to keep my skirt down over my knees as hoards of khaki-clad men whistled and shouted, "Hi, Blondie!" or "See you tonight, honey!" It was a nightmare I had to endure twice daily until they all moved on. My poor father was having conniptions! Suddenly, there were all kinds of new rules and regulations in our house. Three daughters and all those strange Canadians.

We were surrounded. We had the Edmonton Regiment in the woods, right across the road from our house. When winter began setting in the troops moved out of the woods and fields and into either empty houses or spare rooms in people's homes. Our woods became our own once again.

The Royal Oak Pub, just a stone's throw from my house, was a favourite spot for the troops, especially on pay days, where they would fill watering cans full of apple cider. Those poor boys had no idea how potent it was. There were many other pubs in the area like the Hoskins Arms, the Bell, the Wheat-sheaf, and the Haycutter, and by the time they closed the dance floors would be almost too crowded to move. Dances were also held every week at the Barn Theatre or the Hay Wain and at many church halls. The locals became very fond of the Loyal Eddies, and to this day they are still welcomed back. The Oxted British Legion has entertained many in recent years.

My maiden aunt, Mabel, on a visit to us, met a nice man by the name of Dewey Keebler of Signals Platoon. They had a whirlwind romance and, before we knew it, we had a Canadian uncle.

Bob McEwanI had dated a number of young men, and in 1941, while dancing in a hall on Merle Common, I saw a tall, handsome Regimental Policeman standing in the doorway, making sure there was no trouble. I remember thinking, "Wow!"' On enquiring of my newly acquired uncle who this handsome chap might be, I learned it was Corporal Robert (Bob) McEwan. So, a week later, with a little help from Uncle Dewey, I met this stranger from across the sea and fell helplessly in love. From then on I dated no other and we married in 1942, when the Regiment was on the south coast.

On one of his leaves Bob brought home a friend, Bill Remple, who was interested in my sister, Phyll. Then began the second romance in the Ashford family. Phyll was about to join the Wrens, and Bill was soon to leave for Canada to attend officer training at Gordon Head in Victoria. By this time, many local girls had married Canadians and it was with much regret that we all saw the Regiment leave us for Shoreham on the south coast of England.
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Reprinted with the permission of Garry Browne and The Fortyniner (No. 102, December, 1999): 23-26. 
*Please see the above listed issue of The Fortyniner for the article by Phyllis Remple.
 
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