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Pioneer Lodge War Bride gets Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal

Ninety-seven-year-old Jean Fells, who lives at the Pioneer Lodge and came to Canada as a “war bride” has been given the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.

MLA Colleen Young delivered the recognition at her Lloydminster office in the presence of family members on Wednesday, Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

The term war bride refers to some 48,000 young women who met Canadian servicemen and migrated to Canada after the Second World War. They followed in the footsteps of their spouses or fiancés who had served and were called back home when their service was over. The scene of separation from British ports is described as heartbreaking, as Canadian personnel left their love and sometimes children behind, with short notice that it was time to go home. The cross-Atlantic journey was costly, and it was uncertain how the women would eventually make the trek to rejoin their Canadian betrothed.

Jean eventually came to rejoin Bob Fells who had served in the Royal Canadian Army Engineer Corps. They lived on a farm near Girvin, Saskatchewan, between Saskatoon and Regina. The farm had Angus cattle and chickens. The area is now part of the Arm River municipality.

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Young in pinning the medal onto the lapel of Jean’s jacket said, “This medal recognizes what you personally have done to make Saskatchewan a better place for all of us.”

Jean and her husband, who is now deceased, got married on Nov. 3, 1945, after knowing each other for some three years. She did her wedding dress as they were living on coupons after the war. The Yorkshire girl spent her honeymoon in London. The couple had three children. But her firstborn son did not survive which she says is still a source of pain for her.

Jean says her husband had to get permission from the army to marry her and she had to get permission from the church.

“I was sitting on Bob’s knee in the kitchen when he said, “Don’t you think it’s time we got married.” That was his proposal.”

Jean says there were lots of love letters. Bob asked her what kind of ring she wanted, and she said a solitaire. Her soon-to-be father-in-law got a piece of land for them and that’s how things proceeded. Jean says Bob had reassured her that if she could not settle in Canada then he would return to England with her.”

Jean eventually made it to Canada in July and Bob met her in Regina. They went to visit his sister in Moose Jaw on their way to the family farm in Girvin. Coming in July meant she did not have to face winter in Saskatchewan right away.

Coming to rural Saskatchewan in the late 40s, Jean encountered no power or running water.

“The running water was you running to the back,” quipped Jean. They had heated rocks in a pan placed under the bed for heat at night and sometimes a hot water bottle.

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She says the family had a wonderful life. The couple retired from the farm in 1993 and moved to Saskatoon. Jean volunteered in several community endeavours including being president of the Blackstrap Parks and Recreation. Jean was presented with a certificate from former curler and culture minister Rick Folk for her efforts to build community.

Jean met some of the royals including Charles, Edward, and Anne.

She says the couple spoke to the then Prince Charles when he visited Wanuskewin in 2001. Her husband put on his uniform and shared with the future king that he fought under his grandfather, and Charles replied, “Yes. And you look like you have a very nice lady to look after you.” Her husband then told Charles that Jean was a British war bride and Jean chimed in, “You say hello to your mom and your grandma.”

Jean met Princess Anne in Regina when she was delivering colours to the Royal Regina Rifles for its 100th year in 2007, and Prince Edward in Lloydminster in 2003.

Reflecting on the significance of getting the medal, Jean said her mother came to Canada in 1959 to visit, while the Queen and Prince Philip were touring and her mother said, “I never would have gotten this close to the Queen in England. She was really thrilled.”

Following the medal presentation, the family went out with Jean for a celebratory lunch.

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