The War Brides at Union Station

1944 - 1947

A young woman man sit on a couch, with the man's right arm around the woman's shoulders. A baby with a rattle sits on the woman's lap.

Ann Sherwood was a War Bride from England who settled with her Canadian husband and son in Toronto after arriving at Union Station.  

Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 89212. 

While some War Brides travelled by plane, the majority arrived by ship at Halifax's Pier 21. Soon after, they boarded designated trains to stations across the country. In order to make the newcomers feel welcome, the Red Cross opened receptions centres across Canada, one of which was at Toronto's Union Station. 

The Union Station Red Cross Reception Centre officially opened on July 14th, 1944. It was staffed by female Red Cross volunteers and nurses until it closed in February 1947. The goals of the centre were to create a place where War Brides could feel welcome after their long voyages and rest before taking connecting trains.

Located off the west side of the Ticket Lobby - now called the Great Hall - the reception centre consisted of two peach-coloured rooms filled with modern furniture, artworks, and refreshments. To care for the many children travelling alongside their mothers, the rooms also included a nursery and multiple play areas. 

Union Station has been the site for thousands of reunions throughout its history. During the Second World War, this was no exception. As part of the Allied Forces, Canadians were stationed across Europe and the United Kingdom with the Navy, Army, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Canadian Red Cross. Despite the uncertainties of war, many servicemen became married to or had children with women overseas. 

The Canadian Government officially launched a mission to bring these women - known as War Brides - and their children to Canada. Organized jointly with the Department of National Defence (DND), the Canadian Red Cross and the war-time group known as the Canadian Wives' Bureau, the mission facilitated the movement of over 43,000 War Brides and 20,000 children to Canada. 

A Red Cross nurse cares for two children in the reception centre. 

Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 91515. 

Two woman serve drinks and food at the refreshment's counter inside Union Station's Red Cross Reception centre!

Stepping off their trains, the War Brides were often met by crowded platforms full of voices and camera flashes. Tired from their journeys and apprehensive of what was to come, the women were also hopeful for their new lives. By creating a reception centre, Union Station offered newcomers a place to catch their breath, reunite with loved ones, and meet new family members. 

The refreshments counter at Union Station's Red Cross Reception Centre. 

Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 91514. 

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