Thank Goodness They’re Going – GI Brides, 1946

The vitriol is really flowing in this opinion piece about the GI brides taking their leave of the UK for pastures new with their American husbands. I would be amazed if there wasn’t a dash of personal indignation over a potential sweetheart here, although the American GIs based in the UK were famously resented as being “over-fed, over-paid, over-sexed and over here,” wooing British women with their ready supply of nylons and cigarettes.

The writer, a serviceman recently returned from overseas, is “fizzing” about the luxuries bestowed on the travelling wives – the ships laid on for their trip containing beds, food, clothes and toys galore. Or at least “galore” from the perspective of those having suffered the deprivations of 6 years of total war. He points out that the ships also contain “Thousands of soluble nappies (whatever they may be)” – and yes, whatever were they? I can’t find any more details about them but presume they were an early form of disposable nappy.

Their food is a particular bugbear:

“Notice their breakfast the day they sailed? Tomato juice, porridge, scrambled eggs, bread, marmalade and coffee. Now, I hope America provided that for them. Because if it came off our rations, then I take more than [a] somewhat dim view of it. Particularly when I think of the mess of dried egg I went to work on this morning.”

Well, he’s got a point. But between the delights of young love and the joy of the war ending, it must have been a giddy time.

“Well, isn’t that just too, too thrilling?”

Lanarkshire Sunday Post, 3rd February, 1946

Lanarkshire Sunday Post, 3rd February, 1946

And here’s the article that has got our brilliantly sarcastic author all worked up – bananas, soluble nappies and all. It’s from the same newspaper, a week earlier. It shows that an amazing 12,000 brides were due to sail to the U.S. in February 1946.

Lanarkshire Sunday Post, 27th January 1946

Lanarkshire Sunday Post, 27th January 1946

Interestingly, I found out that “over-fed, over-paid, over-sexed, and over here” is a phrase that doesn’t seem to have featured in print during the war, despite it being extremely well-known at the time as it was popularised by comic Tommy Trinder. The earliest reference to it in print found by Phrases.org.uk is from 1958, but I’ve found this, an ex-GI mentioning the phrase, from 1948:

Lichfield Mercury, 30th July 1948

Lichfield Mercury, 30th July 1948

 

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4 Responses

  1. Cara-Ann Randall says:

    Re. Soluble ‘nappies’, I think this might be a US/UK translation error. In the context of disposable products, ‘soluble’ used to mean flushable, both in US and UK english. Many early disposable nappies were designed to flush away and were sometimes referred to as ‘soluble’, but they weren’t on sale in 1946 so it seems unlikely that this is what was meant. Soluble sanitary towels had been available since the 1920s, but in US english these would be called ‘napkins’ or ‘pads’ while nappies (i.e. napkins for babies) are called ‘diapers’. Therefore what might have been meant was ‘flushable sanitary towels’ but napkin was incorrectly understood to mean nappy.

  2. Estelle says:

    Ah, interesting thought, thanks Cara-Ann.

  3. Cara-Ann Randall says:

    They actually seem to have been disposable nappies after all. Betty Ryckman, one of the brides aboard ‘Letitia’ leaving the UK in 1946, mentions them in one of her letters home: “We are given four soluble nappies each day [for her daughter Linda] but he [Joe] manages to get more so there isn’t much nappie washing done.” I didn’t think disposables were generally available in 1946 but evidently they were being made somewhere, or some alternative kind of absorbent products were being ‘re-purposed’ as nappies. In the UK, Valerie Hunter Gordon is given credit for inventing the disposable in 1947 so perhaps there was some parallel development going on.
    Reference: https://www.pier21.ca/stories/english-war-bride-betty-m-ryckman

  4. Estelle says:

    Fascinating, thanks so much Cara-Ann. Wonder if I can find anything more in the Newspaper Archive.

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