A young bride takes a leap of faith
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Eileen (neé Wilson) Cruickshank and husband Al on their wedding day, 1946
It was World War II.
Young Canadian 'boys' in uniform were landing in Britain. They were far from home and handsome in their military uniforms.
In London, England, it was a time of 'stiff upper lip' despite the bombings but, it was also a time when young people, Canadians and British, began to mingle.
The young British men were off to war in Europe and the young British women often worked in the Service Canteens as part of the war effort.
At 16, young Eileen Cruickshank, (neé Wilson) of London, used to serve at the canteen dances for the service men. " I remember seeing and listening to Glen Miller," says Eileen. "We used to dance to his orchestra in Piccadilly, and his drummer, Ray McKinley. That's how Al and I met ... at a dance. He asked me to dance and I guess the rest is history."
Al Cruickshank was attached, through the Army, to the medical corps as a driver. He helped set up, what is now known as MASH units, and transport wounded soldiers from the battle-front to medical care. Stationed in England, Cruickshank was then assigned to Holland as part of the Allied deployment.
At war's end, the young service men returned home to their various Commonwealth countries, with promises to send for their 'war brides/girlfriends'. Many did and many didn't.
Alexander (Al) Cruickshank of Toronto did-s. He sent his young 'bride', Eileen Wilson of London, a passage on the ship 'Samaria'.
"It was a rough crossing," says Eileen Cruickshank. "It was November and seas were rough. I think though, that I must have been a sailor in a past life because, while everyone was sea-sick, I loved it!"
Arriving in Toronto in November, 1946, at the age of 19, then-Wilson, knew no-one. In addition, her 'fiancee' had no family. "It was total culture shock," says Cruickshank. "I had come from London, a city of millions, to Toronto." Two weeks after her arrival, the couple married.
Eileen went to work at Simpson's catalogue division in Toronto and eventually ended up working at the schoolboard.
Now, 63 years later, the young Canadian soldier and his English bride, have retired in Southampton on Lake Huron.
The couple had two children, a son and a daughter, both of whom ended up in the educational system, and they now enjoy their grandchilren and their most recent addition, a great-grandchild.
This is a family of tradition. The member of each generation has been baptized in the baptismal gown that Eileen Cruickshank's grandmother in England hand-sewed."
"We've lost a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law.," says Cruickshank, "but the family pulls together."
Eileen Cruickshank displays her original documentation from World War II and her invitation to the Queen's Garden Party in 1964
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Sunday, November 29, 2009