World War II and its aftermath had a massive influence on British life in the 1940s, and marriage was no exception.
Weddings were hurried last-minute affairs, often timd to coincide with soldiers’ leave dates and even in the years after the end of the war, continued clothes and food rationing put paid to big dresses and fancy wedding cakes.
Resource-consuming production of lace was halted and silk was commandeered for armed forces parachutes – leaving quite the bridal conundrum.
While grooms often wore their services uniforms to the altar, for brides homemade dresses were the order of the day, with wives-to-be and their families making gowns from old materials.
The rationing of clothes and shoes meant most brides had to make-do-and-mend and recycle the clothes of friends and family.
Luckily it wasn’t uncommon for returning soldiers to bring home parachutes as mementos, and they would become fabric for wedding dresses - worn with patriotic pride.
Among these DIY brides were the war-time girls. Brides who, after meeting their American husband-to-be, crossed the Atlantic for their Hollywood ending - the GI brides.
George 'Jonny' Johnson, one of the last surviving Dambusters, at home in Torquay, Devon on April 3, 1943, the day of his wedding to Gwyneth Morgan.
Signalman William Gulless and Betty Baron at their wedding in Brixton, London on October 26, 1939.
Gwendolyn’s hometown of Southampton was taken over by the Americans of the ‘friendly invasion’ as they prepared for D-Day.
She fell in love with a romantic Italian-American officer, and excitedly traveled to California to be with him. But once there, Gwendolyn clashed with a formidable mother-in-law, who told her husband: ‘It’s her or me!’
Sylvia and Bob married in Baltimore. Sylvia was volunteering at a Red Cross Club in the West End when she met an Irish-American called Bob.
Bob swept Sylvia of fher feet while she was volunteering at a Red Cross Club in West London. He then convinced her to fly to America to marry him after the war.
But living with Bob’s gambling relatives proved a nightmare, and in desperation Sylvia ran away to England, giving Bob an ultimatum…