A War bride is a woman who marries someone in the military in war time. More than 13,000 Australian soldiers married while serving overseas during the First World War.
Soldiers often met their prospective brides during leave, while billeted out or while receiving treatment in overseas hospitals, such as in the UK, Belgium and France. Australian soldiers were particularly popular with British women. Although these romantic unions were made in haste, with short engagements and weddings often organized around leave, they were commitments taken seriously. Some marriages were cut short with husbands leaving to fight and die in the war; some women were left widowed and pregnant.
Australian soldiers initially were required to pay for their bride’s journey back to Australia, but then the Australian Government offered free passage for the wives of Australian soldiers who married before the 1st of September 1919. The enticement of free passage created a rush of marriages which resulted in the need for the government to provide ‘Bride Ships’ specially to transport the wives and children to their new homes in Australia.
Settling in Western Australia was difficult for many. It was the beginnings of the Great Depression and employment was scarce. Some soldiers were allotted land under Soldier Settlement Schemes where living conditions were far from ideal and the work back breaking with often unfruitful outcomes.
The marriage of serving military men did not just occur in World War 1. It was also common practice in World War II and in the Vietnam War. War Brides travelled out of Australia as well. An estimated 15,000 Australian women left to live in America having married American servicemen stationed in Australia during the Pacific campaign in the Second World War.
- What was the public perception about war and soldiering at the time of World War I? How may that have affected a woman’s decision to marry a soldier about to go to war?
- What happened to widowed brides who made the trip to Western Australia?
- What was the reception of many war brides by Australian women and families upon arrival?
- How were relationships maintained in times of war?
You may wish to find out more about War Brides. The following key words can help you find information:
Soldier Settlement Scheme
The following websites can help you with reliable information:
State Library of Western Australia
Australian War Memorial - War Brides
Australian National Maritime Museum - War Brides
Sydney Morning Herald - War brides' letters tell the stories of our boys overseas