Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who blogs at No Story Too Small, has set a challenge to write about one ancestor each week. I’ve decided to take up that challenge to not only hone my writing skills and wake up my (somewhat) languishing blog, but to honor my ancestors. I plan to post every week on Sunday, and I encourage others to join the challenge with me.
Sailing Sunday Morning Love Darling
My mother, Doreen Mason, met my father in England during World War II, when she was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps. She was just 18 or so at the time. My father was stationed in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and my mother was housed with other ATS women 15 miles away in Oundle. She first caught my father’s eye at one of the regularly-held dances in Peterborough for servicemen and women. They later married in the church in Moorends, Yorkshire – the small coal-mining village where she grew up.
At the end of the war, my mother was among the first group of “war brides” to come from England to America in early 1946. The newspapers were full of stories of the women and children who boarded ships bound for New York – “brides and babies” one paper wrote. In the U.S., it was nicknamed “Operation Stork.” My mother and her young baby – my sister Annette – came on the Queen Mary, which was being used for the first time to transport war brides.
By the time my mother and her baby sailed for the U.S., she and my father had been apart for 6 months, as he had gone back earlier. She had to take care of the medical exams, permissions and paperwork related to the journey on her own. Imagine the anxiety and excitement as the days to departure drew nearer! At last my mother had a date for arrival and sent a telegram to her husband.
My dad says that he thought he’d wear his uniform when meeting the ship, to make it easier for her to spot him in the crowd. “It was chaos,” he recalls. With 2,334 brides and babies aboard, my mother missed seeing him and even thought he’d changed his mind. With the help of a Red Cross announcement, though, they were reunited and boarded a train to Elmira, New York, my father’s home town.
My mother passed away on New Year’s Eve day, 2013, just 5 days ago. She lived an adventurous life as my father’s military career took us to many interesting places, and she traveled the world. She raised us with love, humor, and tea. I shall miss her.
Doreen Mason Judge, 1925-2013. Born in Kirkby-in-Nottinghamshire, England; died in Edgewater, Maryland.