Remembering Vera - the GI Bride from Norfolk who moved to America
PUBLISHED: 11:32 02 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:32 02 March 2019
They were our GI brides, the girls who couldn't resist the charms of the dashing American airmen who arrived in the "friendly Invasion" during the Second World War.
There were a blast of light in a dark world. One of death and destruction. Thousands of them arrived in East Anglia, many died in the fight for freedom, while others got married to girls from Norfolk and Suffolk.
One such bride was Vera Brady who married Norman J Miller of the 349th Squadron of the 349th Squadron, 100th Bomb Group stationed at Thorpe Abbots.
The ceremony took place at St Catherine’s at Mile Cross, Norwich, in 1945 and celebrated their diamond wedding, 60 years of married life, before Norman died later that year.
I told Vera’s story when we met in 2008 and that was the one which was on display at the celebration of her life followed her death in Royal Oak, Michigan, near Detroit, where they had lived for more than half a century.
Following her death recently at the age of 97, her family told me she was one of the “Greatest Generation” returning to her beloved Norwich and Norfolk to see family and friends many times.
And those who wished to were invited to contribute to the upkeep of St Catherine’s Church on Aylsham Road, Norwich, where she was married.
A gesture in memory, not just of Vera, but all the GI brides, who crossed the Atlantic following the end of the war in the 1940s.
Vera went to Dowson School in Norwich and then went to work at Fletcher’s the printers and then moved to Colman’s, When the war started she moved on to work at a factory in Welwyn Garden City making wire coils for tank radios.
She would head back home on the milk train at weekends to a city which had been blitzed by the Luftwaffe. Parts were in ruins, reduced to rubble, and so many lives had been lost.
But the Americans had arrived to help us win the war by flying dangerous missions deep into enemy country turning East Anglia into a “Little America” operating from makeshift airfield with cross-crossed Norfolk and Suffolk. Thousands of them lost their lives.
They worked hard and played hard and one night Vera and her friends went to a dance at the old Lido, which became the Norwood Rooms before turning to bingo, and she met the love of her life...Norman.
“He was the best Yank of them all,” Vera told me.
After a whirlwind romance they married and at the end of the war, she embraced her family and set sail for a new life in America. They included her sisters Edith, Edna, Muriel, Joan, Beryl and brother Bert.
She and Norman settled in Royal Oak, Michigan, near Detroit, where they lived for more than 50 years raising two daughters Colleen and Susan and there are three grandchildren and five great grand-children.
Her sister Joan also married an American, also called Norman! Vera’s Norman died in 2005, Joan’s Norman also died...but the families remain close.
She was on one of her trips “home” when I spoke to her in 2008 and she told me: “My life has been full and active. It’s wonderful to be remembered.”
Her daughters said: “She remained a British citizen. She inspired all with her resilience, her enthusiasm.
Her story-telling and her never ending love of life. She deeply valued higher education and her British history professor fondly referred to her as ‘Ms Britannia.’”