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Her daughter tells her she'll be as famous as King Tut and while she doesn't quite buy it, Winnie Field is clearly thrilled by the idea of a musical based on her romance with her husband.
The English war bride who left her family in London to settle in Brandon with her Canadian soldier husband, Clifford, is the subject of a play set to open in Toronto next month. "It's beyond me. I've never been a star before," Field joked. "This should happen to everybody because it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling."
Field's daughter, Janet Field Moase, will portray her mother in the play, The War Bride MusicalThe Light in Winnie's Window, next month at the Royal Ontario Museum, which is known more for its historical exhibits.
The musical, to be produced by Tom Kneebone with music by Dinah Christie, was performed in Toronto in the early 1990s but didn't travel outside the city. This time, Kneebone hopes to take the show to other places, including Brandon.
And this time around, Field is prepared to see her story on the stage. In its original presentation, Field's family surprised her with the play.
"I thought I was going to see The Gift of the Magi," she said. "This is what I thought I was going to see. I didn't have a clue. I didn't know until it started and then I started to cry."
Kneebone first learned of Field's story when he was a guest at Moase's wedding and decided the now 79-year-old Brandon resident was a character he had to bring to audiences.
Telling the story of one of the nearly 50,000 war brides who left their homelands for a new life in Canada also held a lot of appeal.
"There's a bitter sweetness about (the war brides) I find very charming, of them falling in love with somebody, travelling to a foreign country to live with them," he said. "Albeit, there were successful marriages but all these women bore the homesickness."
Field admits she had her doubts as she boarded the ship for Halifax and was shocked by the sparseness she found on the prairies. But her love for her husband, who died in 1982 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, overcame her longing for home.
It wasn't exactly a love-at-first-sight experience that sparked their romance, though, as she recalled.
Field met her husband in an English pub one Saturday night while she was on leave from the army, in which she served as a member of the women's auxiliary.
When he announced he was going to take her out, he was feeling so "oh-so-joyful" that she wasn't sure he'd even remember the next day, but he did and she accepted.
"I'd never been out with a Canadian, so I thought I'd take a chance," she said.
The couple married in 1944 and had four children.
Field is happy that her experience, and by extension, that of all the war brides, is being told to a wider audience.
"They are a wonderful, wonderful bunch of women," she said. "It took guts to leave your family and everything you knew to come here.
"But when you're young and blinded by love ..."
AIR MUSEUM SEEKS HERITAGE STATUS
by Rod Nickel ~ Brandon Sun ~ Sunday, June 3, 2001
By mid-summer, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum hopes to have federal heritage status, clearing it for more funding and national recognition.
The museum's application which it submitted last year, has awaited completion of a $500,000 provincially funded upgrade to the roof and trusses.
"It (would) mean Canada recognizes what took place here and at other (Air Training Plan) sites," said executive director Stephen Hayter. "It would help (marketing) in a big way. It's a higher level of recognition within Canada."
Federal heritage status would allow the museum to apply for ongoing federal funding as well as grants for capital projects, Hayter said. Currently, the museum's own revenues made up most of its $125,000 budget, which also includes an annual $55,000 provincial grant.
The Commonwealth is Canada's only air museum dedicated solely to those who trained and fought for the British Commonwealth during the Second World War. Training occurred in many cities and small towns, including Brandon.
The museum has nine Second World War planes on display and owns another 11 training aircraft. It's currently restoring three of those - a Tiger Moth, Cessna Crane and Fleet Fort.
Ronald Fortier, curator of aviation history at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, said some of his museum's exhibits overlap with those in Brandon. But that shouldn't make the Commonwealth's application less credible, he said. "To have a museum dedicated to the CATP is certainly significant," he said, adding he hopes the Brandon museum's application is successful. "To tell the history of aviation in CAnada, we can use the resources of every museum in the world and still not tell the whole story. There's no physical way for any museum to cover it all. It's too vast."
Gaining federal recognition would be a boost for the CATP museum, which is one of a dozen Canadian air museums, Fortier said. "It would probably add to its prestige. They could show (the designation) to potential sponsors."
The application jointly covers the hangar which houses the museum and the museum itself, Hayter said. But he said the federal government could also include a replica motor transport building the museum is constructing this summer and an H-hut airmen's barracks which CFB Shilo donated.
The Commonwealth, which already has municipal heritage status, has also filed a provincial heritage application. Brandon's two NDP MLAs have already stated their support, Hayter said.
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WOMEN OF THE WAR YEARS
Stories of Determination and Women
Whose Sacrifice Made An Incalculable Difference
to the Success of the War Effort
PEGGY BOYER (nee HEDGE)
When I joined the service, RCAF (WD), my mother was very upset as I was shipped off to Rockcliffe in a week. After the usual postings for Basic and Trade training I was sent to Lachine, Quebec, Moncton, New Brunswick and finally Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
My sister was in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and I was going to visit her on a pass. I had met this Officer on our station who was a Navigator on a Liberator. They did patrols along the coastal waters. He told me if I got permission, I could fly with them to Sydney. In my excitement I made an appointment with the CO and after a long discussion, he approved. What a thrill for me!
We flew in the bubble at the nose of the Liberator and between Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, low and behold, on the bottom of the Gulf of St. Lawrence was a German Submarine. There was a lot of activity on the aircraft radioing back to base, as they were only a patrol craft without ammunition. We circled around for several minutes, giving positions, but what a sight to see, the enemy laying in wait for our ships coming and going through the St. Lawrence.
On my return to Summerside I was informed that the pursuit ships and planes were able to intercept and destroy but it was a sight I shall never forget!
DORIS HARDERN (nee SHUFFLEBOTHAM)
I worked in the ammunition factory at Radway Green with my Mother and three Sisters. My three brothers were in the forces, as were my three brothers-in-law, so we did our duty for England during the war.
I met my husband, Bill Hardern in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. He was visiting his Auntie in Trent Vale a mile from my home. My sister, my friend and I stopped in at the Globe Cafe for tea on a Saturday afternoon in April 1942 before going to a show. Bill came over and joined us at our table and guess what, we never made it to the show. There was a dance at the Castle Hotel so the four of us (Bill and 3 girls) went there instead.
Bill had told his buddies he was coming to the dance and was bringing his wife. They told him he didn’t even know me but he said I was his wife. A few days later he asked me to marry him. This was in April 1942 and we planned to marry in August of that year but things didn’t work out that way as Bill was shipped out and didn’t return until April 1945. We were married on April 21, 1945 and Bill was again sent back overseas. I only saw him once until just before I came to Canada. He was shipped home in December 1945.
I came to Canada in March 1946 on the “Aquitania”. Bill and I lived on a farm 13 miles Southwest of Killarney, Manitoba. While on the farm our three daughters were born, Gwen on February 14, 1947 and Shirley and Brenda in 1948 and 1950. I now have 10 Grandchildren and 7 Great-Grandchildren. We left the farm after ten years because of my poor health. Bill passed away in November 1995.
My second daughter traveled with me to England in 1996 and 1997, for a month's visit each year. She just loves it over there - especially the shopping! With any luck I will be making another trip to England in 1999 with my oldest daughter Gwen and her husband Victor. We hope to do some touring as well as visiting.
I have belonged to the War Brides of Brandon since 1983 and have attended every reunion except last year (1997) became of having surgery. I do, however, plan to attend the October 1998 reunion if nothing unforeseen happens. I thoroughly enjoy getting together with "the girls".
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