In the months before D-Day more
than a million United States GIs and Canadian servicemen were stationed
in Britain, mostly in southern England. For many young girls they must
have seemed like glamorous Hollywood stars winning hearts with Hershey
Bars, Chesterfield and Lucky Strike cigarettes, but it was nylon
stockings that were most sought after. Liaisons blossomed and it’s been
estimated that the number of babies born out of these war-time affairs
between US GIs and young British women must have been at least 23,000,
while an estimated 30,000 Canadian war children were born during and
immediately after the war in Britain and Europe. Many servicemen
married and took their brides back to Canada, but some children were
left behind to be brought up by single mothers or fostered. The most
famous of these children was rock-star Eric Clapton who discovered that
his father was a Canadian serviceman. Every child’s story is different.
This is from one war child who lives in Berkshire.
My story began when I was about seven years old. I remember sitting in
a large room with my mother and stepfather. They had married two years
earlier and they were about to adopt me. On my way back to school my
mother told me not to tell anyone I had been adopted, but I wasn’t sure
what adoption meant; so when I went into my classroom and my teacher
asked me why I was late for school, innocently I replied that I had
just been adopted. All that it meant to me was that I had a new sister
with whom I could share my life. Once when I was with my father’s
sister she reprimanded me, and said, ‘I can’t smack you as you’re not a
blood relation’. I remember thinking it was an odd thing to say, but as
a 12 year old I didn’t realise its true meaning.
Sometime later my parents had gone out and I knew they stored their
private papers in a brown suitcase in their bedroom; I found a letter
from my mother’s brother, in which he said that many women have babies
before they are married. It was then that things started to fall into
place and memories flooded back; like living with my mother, my
grandfather and mother’s brothers and sister. I vaguely remember my
stepfather visiting and giving me sweets. They must have been going out
together when I was about four. I started crying and thinking Why me?
Who is my real father?
I remember being quite a difficult teenager and during a row with my
parents saving ‘it’s not my fault for being illegitimate’.
sightseeing in London
I met my husband and pushed things to the back of my mind for many
years, but there was always this yearning to find my natural father,
more so after I had my children as they knew who both their parents
were, but not my real father. I had one big obstacle to overcome and
that was to broach a taboo subject with my mother. I waited until my
daughter was about twenty-five when an opportunity arose. I managed to
get my mother on her own and shaking with nerves, I said, ‘I don’t want
to upset you, but I need to ask you something about my natural father.
What was his name?’ She was very reluctant to say anything, but I did
discover that he was a Canadian soldier named Ralph Newins. Knowing
that was only one part of the equation, where to go from there?
Eventually I bought my first computer, and then began to search the
internet for clues. For five years I trawled the internet for this
soldier who had been in the Canadian army stationed somewhere in
A few months ago I visited my mother again to get more information. I
asked her how his name was spelled. She did say that it didn’t have a
‘g’ but it might have included an ‘a’. I asked her where he was
stationed in Berkshire, and where in Canada he lived. The answer was
once again why did I want to know? As I was leaving she said to me ‘I
will tell you one thing and that is your son, my grandson, looked the
image of Ralph’. This made me even more determined to get to the truth.
I registered with an organisation called Project Roots and sent them
all the details I had. They wanted photographs of my mother when she
was eighteen, so I contacted my uncle in Tasmania and he sent me one
together with my birth certificate which simply said ‘Father Unknown’.
I went back to my computer and put in Ralph Newins and then something I
hadn’t done before, I ticked the Soundex box. Soundex will bring up
names that sound like the name you are searching. Suddenly up came one
match for Ralph Newans, and ‘there was the answer ‘ans’. All I needed
to do was change one letter from ‘e’ to an ‘a’.
Ralph was buried in a cemetery in Maynard, Ontario. Immediately I wrote
asking for details of his date of birth and death. Still trawling the
internet I then found a Dwayne Newans, son of Ralph Edward Newans.
After all these years of searching I had found what could be a
half-brother. I wrote another letter, not saying why I was looking for
Ten days later I got home from work and the letter from the cemetery
was waiting for me. It was from a Ron Shannon who explained that his
cousin, Ralph Newans, had been killed in a road accident at Prescott,
Ontario, in 1966. He sent me newspaper accounts of the accident which
revealed that Ralph was survived by eight children, four boys and four
girls. I realised that although I would not be able to meet my natural
father I had eight siblings. The biggest shock of all was one Friday
evening when the telephone rang and I spoke at last with Dwayne Newans.
We exchanged news about our families and he promised to send me
photographs. It all seemed so surreal after dreaming of a moment like
this for forty years.
Anyone who reads this and is in the same position, keep looking and
trying because there were times when I did despair and didn’t use the
computer for a while, but without it I would never have found my
natural father, or my eight half brothers and sisters and yes — I’m
Websites and further reading
> is a website dedicated to war brides and their children.
> is the homepage for Canadian war brides
Olga and Lloyd Rains, We Became
, Overnight Copy Service, Hyde Park Road, Ontario,