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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, December 2003 Contents

Berkshire Family Historian
December 2003

Canadian war children

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’.

American GIs sightseeing in London
American GIs 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 Berkshire.

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 his father.

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 still smiling.

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 Canadians, Overnight Copy Service, Hyde Park Road, Ontario, Canada.

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© Berkshire Family History Society 2004

created 13th March 2004