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> War Bride Stories > Iris Ricketts

Walter Ewen and Iris Ricketts in a studio portrait taken during the war.
Click image for larger view. Walter Ewen and Iris Ricketts in a studio portrait taken during the war.
Iris Rickets in a photo taken around the time she married Canadian serviceman, Walter Ewen.
Click image for larger view. Iris Rickets in a photo taken around the time she married Canadian serviceman, Walter Ewen.

Iris Ricketts was born in Leatherhead, Surrey, England; the seventh child of eight. At the age of fourteen she was working as a housekeeper-cook for four shillings and sixpence a week, about one dollar in Canadian money at that time. Her meals were part of the pay packet. After a few weeks she took sick and was found to be malnourished as she was severely rationed by the owner. She left that job and found employment in a laundry. Before the war, Iris worked at a factory making covered wire which was very heavy work.

After the war broke out she worked in a factory (which was previously a Ronson Lighter factory) where she made instrumentation for wartime boats and aircraft, as well as camouflage nets.

Iris, her brother Ted and sister Olive worked together in the Ronson factory. One day, amidst heavy bombing, the employees were told that if they did not have transportation home, they should stay in the factory. Iris had her bicycle so she raced home dodging the bombshell craters. Her mother was anxiously awaiting her and news of Ted and Olive. Later that night, when the bombing had ceased, Ted and Olive were able to walk home safely. In the morning 26 craters were discovered around the factory. The factory itself, was not hit, but the guard shack was and the guard killed.

Walter Ewen, a Signalman in the Royal Canadian Corps Of Signals and his brother Jack were stationed in Ashstead, a neighbouring town. Jack had enlisted in 1940 and Walter in 1941 from Elgin, Manitoba.

Iris met Walter at the Woodsman, a neighbourhood pub in Ashstead around Christmas time in 1942. They were married in the Parish church in Leatherhead. The Bride's sister, Dorcas Sayers got leave from the Women's Auxiliary Air Force to be the Maid of Honour. Fred Hawkins, brother in law to the bride, was the Best Man. Fred's children, John and Irene Hawkins, were the Page Boy and Flower Girl. Iris's parents and Daisy Hawkins, sister of the bride, were also in attendance. In her bouquet of red roses the bride carried a sprig of heather and a tartan ribbon from the groom's aunt in Scotland.

The wedding supper was held in the home of the bride's parents. A chicken from the back garden was slaughtered and roasted and was served with fresh garden vegetables. The bride made the wedding cake from ingredients saved from weeks of rations.

After her marriage Iris worked as an usherette at the Big Cinema while her new husband was fighting overseas.

Walter had a one week leave from France and came to the theatre to surprise Iris. He was sitting in the shilling and 9 pence seat, which was a high priced seat at the front.

The manager saw Mum talking to him. He says, "Who you got there?"

"That's my husband on leave from France. He's got a week."

"Go on then and come back in a week." The manager was very generous.

She sailed for Canada in April 1945 on a Greek ship the "Nea Hellis". The crossing took three weeks all the while avoiding the torpedoes. There were over 1000 war brides and children aboard as well as wounded soldiers going home.

Iris resided with James and Irene Ewen, Walter's parents until he came back from overseas a few months later. They resided in Winnipeg until 1950, and then moved to Edmonton where they raised three children and spent their working years. Three years after Walter's retirement they moved to Qualicum Beach, B.C.

(This story was submitted by Iris Rickett's daughter, Joy, in January 2005)

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