On this page you can find the life stories of war widows and their children in the form of oral history interviews. The interviews recorded as part of this project attempt to capture women’s lives and identities beyond their widowhood, meaning stories often span their childhood and youth as well as their lives today.
We will announce the publication of new interviews via our social media channels, and you can subscribe to receive email notifications about new posts by clicking on the “Follow” button at the bottom right of your screen.
All content published in this volume, including interview transcripts, their online versions, and corresponding audio files and accompanying images, are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives Licence. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as the work in question is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to War Widows’ Stories. If you wish to use this work in ways not covered under this licence, you must request permission.
Rita shares her life, career, volunteering, and how she coped after her husband, Henry, passed away as a result of the injuries he sustained from serving in the Parachute Regiment in the Second World War.
Bernice speaks about her life and about losing her first husband, Harry Golding, while being pregnant with their second son. Harry was killed in action in Italy in 1944 while serving in the British Army.
Jeannie talks about growing up in post-war London as the daughter of a war widow. Her father, an RAF pilot, died in action during the Second World War, leaving behind her mother Betty and two baby daughters.
Christina talks about growing up as the daughter of a war widow – Christiane Kirton – and without ever having known her father, John, who was killed in action aboard a submarine during the Second World War.
Kathleen Cockroft shares her life story, including the loss of her husband Roy during the Korean War. She was eight months pregnant with their child when he was killed. Kathleen describes growing up in the Huddersfield area of West Yorkshire during the inter-war years. She recalls meeting her husband, courting, and their frugal wedding in … Continue reading An Interview with Kathleen Cockroft
Joy Cousins’ husband Derek served in the RAF, touring in Germany, Singapore, and Northern Ireland. While serving on a ground tour in Old Sarum, Wiltshire, in 1978, Derek sustained five angina heart attacks and died. Derek’s death left Joy in the middle of a large house renovation with three children. Joy talks about her early life, her career in property management, her fight for a War Widows’ Pension, remarrying, and how remembering their former spouses forms an important part in her and her second husband’s relationship.
Catherine Drummond, in the company of her daughter, recounts her life growing up in Scotland and enlisting for the Women’s Royal Airforce (WRAF) at the age of nineteen. Catherine talks about her experiences as wireless operator during the Second World War and meeting her husband, John Boyd, during his wireless telegraphy training. John was killed … Continue reading An Interview with Catherine Drummond
Joan talks about facing war widowhood in post-war London after her husband, Dougie, passed away as a result of his service during the Second World War, leaving behind her and his son, David.
Sylvia talks about her life during the Second World War, her marriage to veteran William Plowman, who served in Korea and died in 1992 as a result of the injuries he sustained during the war.
Wendy met Edward ‘Ned’ Gibson when he pinged the back of her bra in a pub. They married 14 April 1984, and had one daughter, Marlene. Ned joined the Ulster Defence Regiment in February 1988 in addition to his job as a general labourer for the Council. Just two months into his UDR service, on … Continue reading An Interview with Wendy Gibson
Maggie talks about her father’s life as the son of a war widow. Maggie’s grandfather, Lance Corporal Matthew Evans, died in the First World War, leaving behind his wife, Annie, who was pregnant with their fourth son.
Elaine shares the story of her childhood in Kent, her engagement to her fiance Marc, who was killed in a helicopter collision in the North Arabian Gulf in 2003, and her life today as a successful business woman.
Denise talks about her childhood in Ireland and England, and how her mother coped with war widowhood after Denise’s father was killed in the Second World War just before his thirtieth birthday.
Brenda talks about her own life and war widowhood as well as that of her mother. Brenda’s husband, Terry, served in the RAF, and she reflects on how she coped after he was killed in a helicopter accident.
Wendy talks about her life with her husband, Tony, who served in the British Army and suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for over two decades. Tony died by suicide in 2015.
Maureen Jarvis was born in Sunderland. Her first husband, a flight lieutenant in the RAF, died when the RAF Shackleton crashed on the Isle of Harris in 1990.
Christiane talks about her childhood in South Shields, the conditions she faced when starting work in service at the age of fourteen, and how she met her husband, who later died in the Second World War.
Primrose has lived an interesting and varied life in Britain and South Africa and has worked for organisations such as MI5, the NSPCC, and the Probation Service. She married retired Second Sea Lord Sir Andrew Lewis KCB JP in 1989 when he was serving in the ceremonial role of Lord Lieutenant of Essex. Sadly, just … Continue reading An Interview with Lady Primrose Lewis
Ruth talks about her mother, Joyce Mary Maxwell, a founding member of the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain. Ruth’s father died in 1950 after having served in the British Army during the Second World War.
Mary is from Bangor in Northern Ireland, and the current Chair of the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain. Her husband served in the Ulster Defence Regiment during the Troubles and was killed in 1988.
Romana met her husband Nigel at university in Nottingham during a Christian Union gathering. Nigel joined the RAF as a Navigator and married Romana in 1992. Romana relates her experience of balancing her teaching career with her husband’s service and the duties expected of her as an officer’s wife. Nigel died during a training accident … Continue reading An interview with Romana Morton
Tracey was born in Newbury, Berkshire, and married her first husband, Trevor, in 1988. Trevor, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, died of a sudden heart attack aboard the HMS Gloucester in 1997, when their son was four years old. Tracey lost her war widows’ pension when she married her second husband, and she is one of several hundred women who, despite recent legislative changes, have not yet had their pensions reinstated.
Sue grew up in Darlington, County Durham. She married Alan, a sailor in the Royal Navy, in 1973. Sue shares her experiences raising her two daughters and living on and off-base at Rosyth. Alan died of cancer on 29 May 1993. Sue describes her journey as a war widow after the death of her husband and describes the acute emotional challenges personally and for her children.
Anne talks about her childhood and the life and war widowhood of her mother, Patricia Starr Vicary. Anne’s father was killed during at the Battle of Arnhem during the Second World War.
Susan, originally from Glasgow, lives in Otley, Yorkshire. She married her first husband in 1971 and was widowed less than a year later, while six months pregnant with their daughter. Susan lost her war widows’ pension when she remarried in 1989. She talks about her early life, her struggles as a young wife and widow, her second marriage, and her fight to have her pension reinstated.
Click here to download the transcript of this interview as a pdf file. INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT This is Melanie Bassett recording for the War Widows’ Stories project. I’m here with Kate Thomas and it is Wednesday 18th September 2019. Can you tell me a little bit about your current life, Kate? My current life … Continue reading An interview with Kate Thomas