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Home > War Bride Stories > Eswyn Lyster > My Journey to Canada on the Mauretania II

My Journey to Canada on the Mauretania II

Click to read Eswyn's story about her wedding day.
Eswyn Lyster and her husband Terry on their wedding day. Eswyn Lyster came to Canada with her son Paul on the RMS Mauretania on February 9, 1946. Eswyn will be a guest speaker at the event in Halifax on February 9, 2006.
Eswyn Lyster and her husband Bill on their wedding day. Eswyn Lyster came to Canada with her son Terry on the RMS Mauretania on February 9, 1946.

Eswyn Lyster in a war time photo. Eswyn and her son Terry will be coming to Halifax for the February 9, 2006 event and Eswyn will be a guest speaker.

At the beginning of 1946 I was waiting with my 18-month-old son Terry, at my parents' home in Sussex, for passage to Canada.
My husband, Bill, was in the Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary undergoing operations because of wounds suffereded just before the war ended.

Terry and I sailed from Liverpool on the Mauretania in a group of nearly 1000 Canadian war brides, in the early hours of February, 5th. This was the first dedicated war bride sailing, although small groups had made the crossing while the war was still on. From the dock the Mauretania had looked like a floating warehouse, and most of us assumed that no amount of water could unsteady it. We were wrong.

My boarding card was stamped 'First Class', so when I found that our cabin, originally designed for two passengers, contained four double bunks I thought a mistake had been made. I was so pleased to be on my way that I decided to say nothing. (Many other wives were far worse off, down in the hold.) I'm glad I did not complain because this was 'First Class' . . . wartime First Class!

The Atlantic in February gives a watery impersonation of the Canadian Rockies. The good ship Mauretania tilted much too far one way, slid into a valley; tilted as many degrees the other way, and rode a sloping wall of water until nothing could be seen from the porthole but sky. Not that anybody was looking. The process was repeated endlessly for five days with predictable results.

Most of us made it to the Dining Room the first day. Long enough, anyway, to be aware of the quality and the amount of food, and without exception to exclaim over the white bread and rolls. For several years our bread had been the dark National Loaf, ingredients unlisted. (They were rumoured to include 'cinema sweepings' – smoking being allowed in theatres back then.)

Halifax was all grey rock and swirling snow. Terry had been very ill so we were rushed through Pier 21 and on to the waiting train where Canadian nursing sisters, bless them, cared for my son while I caught up on my sleep.

Several days later we reached our destination. It was 2 am when I stepped down into Alberta snow and the waiting arms of my husband (despite the body cast that held his right arm at the salute).

Terry, completely recovered, was fussed over. I then turned to my sister-in-law Vera, mentally identifying her from photographs I'd seen, and thinking how young she looked, said, 'Hullo, Mother, how wonderful to meet you at last.'

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