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Dutch War Brides formed vanguard of massive post-war immigration

February 1946 Mauretania II arrival remembered

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – The arrival of the troop transport ship Mauretania II at Pier 21 in the harbour of the Nova Scotia port on February 9, 1946, marked the start of a huge move of War Brides and their dependents to Canada. That year, 45,000 War Brides and their children, mostly babies, crossed the gateway to a new life, among them about 1,800 Dutch women. A recent ceremony in Halifax commemorated this significant chapter in Canada’s postwar history.

The ceremony included representatives of various War Brides’ groups as well as individuals who were part of that 1946 immigration process.

For the Dutch community the 1,800 were the vanguard of a massive trans-Atlantic population movement, dwarfing the footnote reference in history textbooks, which spoke of de grote volksverhuizing during the tribal era of the 5th century. Many of the Dutch War Brides later helped sponsor other family members.

Dubbed “Operation Daddy” by the press, the transportation of War Brides was organized and paid for by the Canadian government, which had set up the Canadian Wives Bureau in 1944, to bring the wives and children of servicemen over. The bureau with a staff of about 100 people, also maintained an office in Brussels and The Hague.

On the ships the women were strictly segregated from the thousands of returning soldiers. The historic Mauretania II sailing carried over 900 servicemen’s dependents aboard, navigating across the Atlantic, still infested with mines.

At its peak, the 1938-launched Mauretania II, originally accommodated 1,360 passenger but as a troop carrier packed in well over 10,000 soldiers a sailing. Once the army’s repatriation was accomplished, it was the turn of the War Brides to cross the Atlantic.