Sheila Grossman saw many English ladies off at Liverpool. Her train then went back to London, the ladies’ ship to America. In summer 1945 London was damaged and recovering familiar. America was intact, budding, unknown. War’s end meant a new journey for all British women, no matter the geography.
What did you do?
“We were seconded by the American Army. They ran the trains which took the young women who were wives and mothers down to be shipped off. Our job was to do the escorting. [The women] were looking forward to going to the States. English ladies who had married Americans. Who they all thought were multi-millionaires and film stars! They were quite sure of that.
The fact was that we met trains coming back about a year later when they found they weren’t and they were perhaps in the middle of the country or in tenements
I was very lucky; I’m sure that there must have been some quite interesting incidents. But we had a really nice crowd of young people going. They were just pleased to have our help. And they felt secure, seeing the Red Cross uniform. “
Any special memories ?
“The trains I went on were for Liverpool. It was occasional and it was night duty. [We made] sure that the bottles were laid out for the babies and the mothers and wives were okay. There were babies and that was what we were needed for.
And also they had wonderful food. We hadn’t seen steaks and things like corn on the cob. Lovely things.”
Any special memories?
“One of the things I did towards the end of the war was caring for women that had married Canadians and were going to Canada to join their husbands.
They had children with them as well, and they used to stay in hotels in London overnight. We took them to Southampton. We were in the train with them to Southampton and helped them through customs and on to the Queen Mary. That was very nice!
We had dinner on the Queen Mary and it was lovely. I always remember…there was a pile of…they had little white rolls on the table. And fast as we ate them, they kept filling them up.
I took two home for my sister!”
In December 1941 American entered the War, and very soon American troops were stationed across Britain. They were known as GI’s, which stands for Government or General Issue. British women who married these soldiers became known as GI brides. After the War ended and soldiers were sent home, many British women and their children followed them to America and Canada. In 1946 the Queen Mary alone shipped 12,886 GI brides and babies to America, and 10,000 to Canada.
As well as accompanying women and children and wounded servicemen on train journeys, the Joint War Organisation ran four ambulance trains for transporting the wounded. Each train had 11 coaches – four for administrative purposes, including sleeping and eating; four ward coaches with 36 cots each; three sitting coaches holding 168 patients – and a ward brake coach with 18 cots. Find out more about Joint War Organisation transport.
The Joint War Organisation also ran a Liaison service for relatives of wounded servicemen. Liaison officers would meet relatives at stations, provide them with somewhere to stay, and see them off when they returned home. In time the scheme was extended to relatives of merchant seamen, relatives of air raid casualties, and to relatives of the Home Guard. In 1944 Joint War Organisation Liaison officers organised accommodation for 17,000 people visiting relatives in hospital. Find out more about welfare work.