Sunday, September 17, 2017

Voyage of the RMS Melita

Grace and Hugh Clark, taken in Sheffield, England

On September 17, 1919, my grandparents, Hugh and Grace Clark, boarded the RMS Melita for their journey to Canada. Hugh was a returning Canadian soldier; Grace, his war bride. Grace would document their crossing in a letter to her parents back home in England. It chronicles her maiden voyage on a troop ship carrying returning Canadian soldiers, military dependents, and civilians after the First World War.

The original letter (or as she describes it - her "epistle") was sent to her family back in Sheffield, England and it describes the events that occurred during her trip on board the Melita. It was written in pencil on both sides of 5 x 8-inch paper, more than 68 pages in all. Although some of the pages are missing or tattered, the majority of the letter is still intact.

It became evident as I tried to learn more about the war brides from the Great War, that they were barely a footnote in Canadian history. Not many stories could be found, and the ones that I did locate were in local histories. Fortunately, a few of these war brides wrote about their experiences for a new generation of war brides arriving in Canada after WWII; yet their collective history remains to be told.

Since 2006 I have been an avid researcher of the war brides from this era. I have documented a large number of the ones who made their home in Canada. If you have a war bride from the First World War in your family, please let me know. Email me at  or

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Born in Mid Ocean


Thousands of war brides traveled to Canada after the First World War in an immigration scheme that was paid for by the Canadian government.

While the war brides were not supposed to travel during the latter stages of their pregnancy, a number of war brides gave birth while on their journey to Canada. In April 1919, the newspaper reported that two war brides on the Grampian gave birth to sons. However, records show that Mrs. Susan Riddell had a son, while Mrs. Germaine Durand, a daughter.

In September 1919, while traveling to Canada on the ship Cedric, Mrs. Winifred Orchard, wife of Private Frank Orchard, gave birth to a son. He was christened “Cedric” [1] after the ship and the captain was chosen to be his godfather. He gave the couple $50, while the passengers chipped in and gave them $95. It’s a good thing he wasn’t traveling on the Grampian or Metagama otherwise he might have a very different name!

Edmonton Bulletin, January 16, 1919, page 7

I found this article about another ship that had quite a few births on board but I have not been able to learn just what ship it is yet. If anyone finds a ship landing at Halifax in January 1919 with a large number of births on the manifest, send me an email at I'd love to track the families.

[1] He is listed as Franklin Cedric Orchard, 3 days old, on the ship’s manifest.