Nora Canfield: Norwich girl was one of the city’s first GI brides

Nora Canfield Herman Canfield Dec 2 1944

Nora Canfield Herman Canfield Dec 2 1944 - Credit: submitted

One of the first GI brides from Norwich, Nora Canfield, has died aged 89 in what would have been her 70th wedding anniversary year.

She had met and married Sergeant Herman Canfield on December 2, 1944, and then almost two years later left her native city to start a new life in the United States as a dairy farmer's wife in Bloomingdale, Indiana.

Born on May 25, 1924, in Norwich, Nora Miriam Norgate went to the Blyth School. Between 1941 and 1946, she worked in the freight office of the London and North East Railway at Thorpe station, Norwich.

She was living in Belvoir Street, off Dereham Road, when the first of what became known as the Baedeker Raids took place on Monday, April 27, 1942. Later that day, when about 160 people were killed, her house, number 31, was one of the few left standing in the street.

While a patient at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital she became friendly with the lady in the next bed, Mrs Joan Dye, of Wendling, who took in laundry from Americans on the nearby base.

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Later, she visited Mrs Dye at weekends and met a sergeant who was collecting his laundry. He said that next week he would bring his corporal, Herman, to meet her. He was based at Wendling, serving with the Eighth USA Air Force, 392 Bomber Group, 577 squadron.

The next day they went walking and he took some photos so she gave him her address. Three weeks later she received a letter inviting her to meet him outside the Hippodrome.

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Because of postal delays due to D-Day, the date had already passed and anyway his leave was cancelled. He eventually visited her home and their courtship continued as he cycled, hitched or got a ride on the 'Liberty Run' to Norwich.

A week before the wedding, the tower of her church, St Philip's in Heigham Road was hit by a crippled Liberator, the Lady Jane. All nine members of the crew died when the plane crashed narrowly avoiding nearby houses. Fortunately, the third reading of the bans was waived and the couple were wed in the damaged church.

The wedding reception was held at The Volunteer, run by her uncle, Harry Brock, and they went to Blackpool on honeymoon by train – she had a free rail pass and for a serviceman, the fare was not too costly.

Then, on July 3, 1945, he left Wendling and returned to the USA. Seven months later, on February 10, 1946, she left Southampton on the USAT Bridgeport. After 13 days of seasickness she arrived in New York to snow and bands playing. Then, on February 22, she boarded a train for the last 850 miles to Bloomingdale, Indiana.

Two days later, she was reunited with her husband, becoming the first second world war bride to arrive in Parke county, Indiana.

They ran the dairy farm, also growing maize, wheat and soya beans until the early 1990s, when they retired. They did visit Norwich in 1982 and 1991.

After the tragic fire destroyed the Second Air Division Memorial Library, she gave a number of documents and memorabilia including escape maps, originally given to her husband, to replace lost items. She died aged 89, at home in Indiana shortly after the Journal, the official record of the 2nd Air Division Association's Journal had been published for the last time.

She is survived by her husband, Herman, and five sons and daughters in law – Norman and Irina, of Pearl River, New York; Kenneth and Betty, of Kingman, Indiana; Wayne and Jeanne, of New Berlin, Wisconsin; Steven and Phyllis, of Crawfordsville, Indiana; Geoffrey and Tracy, of Kingman, Indiana; and seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Michael Pollitt

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