Meet and Marry Eddies: A War Bride's Story
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
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
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.
I 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.