Lesley Munns




Life and Work

I was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire in 1923, but from the age of three
onward, all of my life was spent living in Wimbledon, south west
London. I have one sister, Barbara, two and a half years my senior,
and although we attended different high schools, we have always been
close. When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany in
1938, and returned triumphantly saying he and Adolph Hitler had made a
pact for “peace in our time”, like everyone else my family (consisting
of my mother, Barbara and I) breathed a sigh of relief.

At first, the war that was declared in 1939 made little difference to
our lives. We were quite content, having been assured that the Maginot
Line was the entire defense needed to keep France (and Europe) safe.
However, while I was still fifteen, I signed up to serve in the Air
Raid Precautions service, where members were taught first aid, the
fitting of gas masks, and all the duties that would be necessary should
a war come to pass.

In May of 1940, after having occupied most of Europe with little opposition, the
Blitz on London was begun. Every evening, around 6:00 p.m., the air raid
sirens would wail out their warning, and people in general took to
their air raid shelters. Some of these were small tin huts, which had
been dug deep into the ground, others used the Morrison shelters, which
were like a substantial table, reinforced, and placed on the ground
floor of the house. Many Londoners preferred to use the Underground
or “tube” stations, and travelers were treated to families and groups
sleeping on mattresses at each station. For our family, this habit had
bad repercussions. We lived in a two storey house, and below us, on
the ground floor, lived a family of three - father, mother and sixteen
year old daughter. There was also a son, who was married and living in
his own home. One morning, I returned home after A.R.P. duties, and my
mother was holding the young girl, who was sobbing uncontrollably. The
previous evening the family had gone as usual to the local underground
station, but a bomb had dropped directly hitting the station. When the
bomb hit, the girl was some distance from her parents, visiting a
friend, but managed to get up to the street level. Here she searched
for the rest of the family, her brother and parents, but had been
unable to find them. I spent the morning going to various nursing
stations, but there was no sign of the family. Eventually, when all
hope of finding the parents had gone, the girl’s grandmother came and
took her to her own home. The son had also been killed, he had spent
the night with his parents because his wife was in hospital and had
given birth to a baby that day. This is just one of hundreds of such
occurrences during those times.

When the R.A.F. won the battle of Britain, the air raids became less
frequent, but continued nevertheless throughout the war. And another
phase was begun, that of the V.1s and V.2s. These were pilotless
planes, and the first wave consisted of the V.1s. These could be heard
from quite a distance, but at a certain point, the engine would cut
out, then the craft fell to earth, exploding on impact. In flight,
the V.1s made a tremendous noise as they passed overhead, the silence
as the engine cut was “deafening”. At this point, everyone dived for
shelter! The V.2s came later, and were far more destructive, a
single one on impact could destroy a whole city block.

The war in Europe ended in May 1945, victory over Japan coming in
August of that year following the dropping of the two atomic bombs. In
August, 1945 also, Hugh Munns of Craik, Saskatchewan and I were
married, with Hugh returning to Canada shortly after. In February
1946, I boarded the Aquitania to sail for my new home in Canada.
Hundreds of “war brides”, many with children, made the voyage with me.
After boarding a train at Halifax, I was on my way to my new home. It
was March 7th, 1946, when I arrived in Regina, to step off the train
into a cold blast of air such as I’d never experienced! And I just
couldn’t understand how the sky could be blue, the sun shining, and all
that snow on the ground. It just didn’t seem natural!

After spending a couple of days in Regina meeting relatives, Hugh and I
left for Craik, where yet another “different” experience awaited me.
We were met by Hugh’s parents, who took me to the house of a friend,
and I was told to change from my skirt and jacket into warm ski pants
and a heavy coat, because the ten mile trip to Hugh’s home was to be
made with a team and wagon! This was just the beginning of so many
different experiences, and I’m sure all the women who came to Canada as
war brides shared the same experiences.

Hugh and I spent twenty happy years farming at Craik, raising our
family of three, but Hugh didn’t particularly care for grain farming,
although he had done it all his life. We had also raised cattle, so in
1967 we left Saskatchewan and made our home at Sundre. We remained on
the 19 Mile Ranch (so named by Hugh because of its distance from
Sundre) for a further twenty years, at which time we purchased our
present home at the north end of Sundre. Today, both in our mid
eighties, we continue to live in and enjoy this town.