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Who are the War Children of World War Two?
An estimated 30,000 Canadian War Children were born of unions between Canadian servicemen and unwed, single women in Britain and Europe during and immediately after the Second World War.
The most famous Canadian War Child is legendary rock-blues guitarist, Eric Clapton, who found out in March, 1998 that his father, Edward Fryer, was a Canadian soldier from Montreal.
Most Canadian War Children, (22,000+), were born in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, reflecting the length of time Canadian soldiers were stationed in the UK between 1939 and 1946.
It is estimated that there are at least 23,000 War Children of American soldiers in the United Kingdom as well.
The largest number of Canadian War Children on the European continent were born in the Netherlands (6,000) after the Dutch Liberation in May, 1945. The majority of these (4,500) were born to single women, the remainder (1,500) were born to married women whose husbands were still in German concentration camps or other parts of Europe at the time the Canadians were in Holland. These children were registered under the mother's married name.
Lesser numbers of War Children were born in Belgium and other countries where the Canadians were stationed during and after the war.
Every War Child's story is different. Some parents were actually married and for reasons known only to their father, he disappeared after the war. But the overwhelming majority of War Children were born to unwed, single mothers who were treated as outcasts in a society that viewed unwed pregnancy and single motherhood as a social taboo. Many suffered as a result of the circumstances of their birth. For them, the search for their father takes on greater meaning.
Many of the War Children were put up for adoption immediately after birth. For these children, the search also includes their mother.
Other War Children, like Eric Clapton, were raised by their grandparents or relatives who pretended to be their parents.
Some courageous women defied social prejudices and kept their children. Many married when the children were still young. These children grew up never knowing their real father was a Canadian soldier.
Like Eric Clapton, many War Children were told at an early age of their paternity. Others found out about their Canadian fathers as teenagers, others as they grew into adults and into middle age. Some War Children found out only recently about their Canadian fathers, many after their mothers died and the truth could finally be told.
The oldest War Children were born in 1940, within a year of Canadian's arrival in Britain in December, 1939. The youngest War Children were born in 1946-47, towards the end of the Canadian's presence overseas.
Every War Child is different, but one major similarity they all share is a desire to know their Canadian roots.
Like Eric Clapton, they may just want to know if their father is still alive and where he lives. Some War Children may want to know if he married and had other children. They may want to know more about their father's personality and life, such as what kind of a person he was, what kind of a family he came from, and what kind of work he did.
Others may want their fathers to know they exist, they would love a picture of him, or for him to have a picture of them. If he is willing, they would like to meet him and his Canadian family, and hopefully to meet their half brothers and sisters.
If their father is dead, they may want to know where he is buried so they may visit his grave. They may also want to meet some of his relatives in Canada, if the relatives are willing.