Bride Stories > Eswyn Lyster
here to read Eswyn's story
about her trip to Canada on the Mauretania II, February
for larger view. War Bride Eswyn Lyster's wedding
day. Photo courtesy of Eswyn Lyster.
for larger view. War Bride Eswyn Lyster in a picture
taken during wartime. Photo courtesy of Eswyn Lyster.
for larger view. War Bride Ewsyn Lyster's berthing
card. Courtesy of Eswyn Lyster.
Visit Eswyn's very own War Bride Website
The groom and the best man stayed overnight at Mrs. Tooze's guest house in the village. I'm sure she showed them, as she did every new arrival, the cigarette burn inflicted on one piece of her furniture by an earlier guest, film star Ronald Coleman. Cigarette burn or no, it turned out afterwards that the groom understood that the best man had paid for the accommodation, and vice versa. But I get ahead of myself.
According to a letter I wrote to my mother-in-law, the day started off with rain, but the sun came out in time for the eleven a.m. ceremony at our parish church.
My mother-in-law (bless her) kept that letter and also the one my mother wrote to her several days later, in which she said:
'Of course we couldn't have things as we would have done in peace time but Bill and Eswyn seemed too thoroughly happy to mind . . . Bill did not know until the previous Wednesday whether he was certain to get his leave . . . I think the whole village turned up at the church and if people's good wishes count for anything they should be among the happiest couples on earth, for I have had streams of people asking me to pass on their wishes for their happiness . . . both Bill and Eswyn looked radiantly happy; it did one's heart good to see them. One instinctively felt that here was a couple that entered into the true spirit of the vows they were taking . . . '
There were only eighteen people at the reception, so many friends being away in the services or unable to travel. Of course Bill did not have any relatives in attendance, but at least his best man was an army friend. Though my family was a small one, my relatives were well represented, there was even the aunt who had said in my hearing some months earlier: 'I don't know what a Canadian would see in Eswyn.'
The guests soon divided; the drinkers in one room, the non-drinkers in another. My father's contribution to the feast was a concoction of his own: prunes soaked overnight in gin, drained and then impaled on toothpicks. He went from room to room dispensing these, and sampling several each time. Eventually even the non-drinkers were aglow, and my father was persuaded to lie down for a while. I have no idea how he or the guests fared next morning!
My father also had a hand in the wedding cake. My mother had made a very small fruit cake, but had no icing sugar to finish it off. A friend said she'd heard of an American recipe for boiled icing and volunteered to make it. She was entrusted with the whites of two precious eggs and a quantity of equally precious granulated sugar, and began beating the mixture over heat. For many anxious minutes the "icing" was in a liquid state, then it suddenly turned a caramel colour, and set solid with the egg beater held firmly upright in the middle.
Not to be outdone, my father cajoled cubed sugar from some unknown source. He unearthed his chemist father's mortar and pestle and spend hours and hours grinding the sugar into powder. The cake was finally iced, and for the rest of the war my father sweetened his tea and coffee with pieces chipped from that first disastrous icing that remained welded to the saucepan and egg-beater.
According to my mother's meticulous reporting, we caught the 1:55 train from Bognor Regis to Victoria. My going-away outfit was an expensive suit of very fine checks, incorporating many different colours. The shoes decided the accessory colour. They were the only possible ones in the shop: green suede and a size too big, so they had to be stuffed with tissue paper. My handbag was made by weaving strips cut from an old green leather jacket. These were reversed to the "suede" side.
My hat was an old one of my mother's, which I steamed over various bowls and other objects into what I fondly imagined was a more flattering shape. The groom outshone me anyway in his kilt, sporran and knee socks.
On that 1.55 train we shared a carriage with a number of Canadian officers, and were sure we were acting as bored with each other as any old married couple. As we drew into Victoria Station and all rose to leave, the other Canadians grinned from ear to ear, shook Bill's hand, and wished us both a happily life together! The confetti in the brim of my green hat must have given the game away.
We spent our honeymoon attending London theatres and sightseeing. We were oh-so-young, and it didn't matter to us that most nights we were serenaded with air raid sirens and the distant 'crump' of bombs.
Contributed by Eswyn Lyster, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia
Visit Eswyn's very own War Bride Website at http://www.home.istar.ca/~lyster/warbride
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