Sylvia Power (back row, second from right) with comrades from the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in Didcot, England, 1945.Sylvia Power
Sylvia Power with her group at training camp in Guildford, Surrey, England, 1944.Sylvia Power
Sylvia Power (left) arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia from England with other War Brides in November 1946.Sylvia Power
"My husband and his sister and his father were standing there waiting for me and the band was playing “Here Comes the Bride,”"
Before I went into the army, of course, I grew up in London, so I lived through the London Blitz, and that’s where I experienced all the bombing, and the Battle of Britain ̶ and the civilians, which is something that I would like to remember because many times, the civilians are forgotten, but there were a lot of casualties. With school friends, their houses were bombed and destroyed; and we slept every night in an Anderson Shelter, which was just basically a hole in the ground covered with a corrugated iron roof, just a tiny little place, just big enough to stretch out in, all through the winter, while we were being bombed. I’m thankful that I survived. It was very difficult for women at the time who were homemakers because most of them were alone because their husbands were away in the services; and they had to cope with all this and look after the children, and go out shopping every day because we didn’t have refrigerators, so it was shopping every day and lining up at every shop for something, the butchers or the green grocers for the vegetables, or the dairy for the milk, or bread. This took a long time and everything was strictly rationed. So it was a hard time for civilians.
At that time, they were sending people of my age who were not employed to war-related jobs, so I could have been sent to a factory up in the north of England or anywhere else; and so I decided I would much rather join the services, so on my 18th birthday, I signed up for the ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service], which is the British Army. It’s the Auxiliary Territorial Service, that’s the women’s British Army.
When I was posted to the unit I was going to be in, which was the [Royal Army] Ordnance Corps, I was in a drawing office, having the experience of art, so I was in a drawing office; and I drew maps and plans, and posters. He [her husband-to-be, Private Douglas Power] came to the depot where I was working because they were picking up their supplies to go over right after D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings of June 6, 1944] and he was in the Royal Canadian [Army] Medical Corps, and that’s where we met.
They were just there in Didcot [England] for about two weeks and then they went to France and Belgium, and Holland. So we corresponded for several months and then he came back on leave to see me. When we got married, 11 days after we were married, Doug had to return to Canada. So I was left in England as a civilian because they, as soon as you get married, they discharged us. So I was already discharged from the army and I had to wait for three months before I got permission to get the boat to come over to Canada.
It was full of war brides. They came to London and from all over the place, from all parts of England; and some of them were from Holland and other countries in Europe, and they all met in London. We went down to Southampton together to board the ship to come to Canada. I arrived at Pier 21 [in Halifax, Nova Scotia] and as you probably know, Pier 21 is now a museum. We’re actually in the archives there. They have a wonderful museum containing all the history of people who arrived there by ship, immigrants and war brides. So when I arrived, of course, it was a pretty bare place. There was no museum then. My husband and his sister and his father were standing there waiting for me and the band was playing “Here Comes the Bride,” and there were only four of us that got off there because we were staying in Nova Scotia. That’s where we lived most of our married life, in Nova Scotia, because that’s where Doug comes from. So they were there to meet us. It was very exciting.