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‘A wonderful man’: War bride recalls 67 years of marriage with Moose Jaw sargeant

WATCH: Margaret Houghton is one of nearly 50,000 war brides who traveled from Europe to Canada after the Second World War.

Seventy-three years ago, Margaret Houghton took a “scary and exciting” leap by following her heart across the pond to reunite with her soulmate, Arthur.

Houghton, 95, was born in England and now lives in Moose Jaw, Sask.

She said she met Arthur “quite accidentally,” near Leatherhead, U.K., where both of them were stationed during the Second World War.

“[My friend] was waiting for her boyfriend and I was waiting with her. And when her boyfriend came along, my husband came too,” Houghton said, adding he wasn’t her husband yet.

“I always seemed to like the Canadian boys,” Houghton said. “I wonder why?”

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She was 16. He was 19. Houghton was a private in the British Army, serving as a clerk in a kit store that helped maintain military vehicles. Arthur, a Canadian sergeant from Moose Jaw, served in the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment.

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“We were good friends for a long time before we got to be lovers,” Houghton said. “[Arthur] was different from everybody I knew and right away he was a person I cared for.”

When Arthur was deployed, the two wrote letters to one another, but Houghton said they were few and far between.

In September 1945, Arthur returned from the war. Shortly after, he married the love of his life. Looking back, Houghton said their wedding day was “kind of funny.”

“We went to the registrar’s office. [Arthur] ordered flowers and we had nice pictures taken,” Houghton said.
Margaret Houghton (right) and her husband Arthur pose for a wedding photo on Sept. 1, 1945.
Margaret Houghton (right) and her husband Arthur pose for a wedding photo on Sept. 1, 1945. Derek Putz / Global News

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In those days, many people borrowed wedding gowns from their friends. Instead, Houghton used her friend’s “clothing coupons” to buy a little dress for her special day.

Unfortunately, the couple never had a chance for a honeymoon, or even a moment to take it all in. Arthur left for Moose Jaw the day after their wedding.

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“He said, ‘never mind I’ll be back again,’” Houghton said. “But, I’m afraid when he left me that day it was the last time I saw him until I came to Canada.”

While they were apart, Houghton gave birth to their first son, Arthur. In 1946, they boarded the Queen Mary, setting sail for Canada.

“I had never seen a ship so big,” Houghton said. “They had it all fitted out for mothers and babies and certainly we were well looked after.”

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Nearly 48,000 women and 21,000 children travelled to Canada after the war, reuniting with their soldiers.

When Houghton and her six-month-old son reached the Moose Jaw train station, Arthur was there to greet them.

“He was waiting with his friend and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, who’s that?’” Houghton said.

“It was him in civilian clothes. Of course, I’d only ever seen him in the military in his uniform.”

The reunited family lived with Arthur’s parents before moving into a “wartime” house. Houghton now lives in a care facility, but she said she never sold their family home.

“I’m not parting with it, it holds too many memories,” Houghton said.

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In that home, the couple grew their family. One child turned to four — Arthur, Colin, Linda and Donna — and too many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to count, according to Houghton.

Houghton and Arthur spent 67 years together.

Six years ago, Arthur died in Houghton’s arms, in tune with the couple’s unwavering love. He was 91.

“He was a wonderful man,” Houghton said. “I’ve had a very, very happy life.”