It never ceases to amaze your correspondent how far the Biggleswade Chronicle travels. Several months after its publication on April 11, 2014, David Smith and his family who live in Ontario were “delighted” to discover Memory Lane’s feature on the Three Horseshoes pub in Wrestlingworth.
David explains: “In April of 1945, Iris May Cunneyworth (nee Stovell), a British war bride set sail for Canada and settled in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. With her came stories of her youth and many tales focused on life growing up in Wrestlingworth, Beds.”
Iris was born to Charles and Daisy Stovell on May 6, 1921 in her parent’s bedroom at the Three Horseshoes pub which at that time was run by Frank Humberstone (the Stovells were descendants). Iris was 18 when war broke out but little did she know it was to change the course of her life.
She recalled: “Each night my family and I would spend many hours glued to the radio listening to the BBC as WW2 began. In our little town of Wrestlingworth in Bedfordshire, uniformed military troops quickly became a common sight...Like everyone, our family could hear and see the air raids taking place in London night after night. The burning fires from the bombing were visible for miles.”
In 1943 she met Joseph William Robert Cunneyworth, whom she always called Bob, at a local dance. Bob was an airman with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the following year they married in a typical wartime wedding where Iris wore a suit and coupon rations had to be donated from friends and family to make a cake.
Iris subsequently had their first child, Diane and in the spring of 1945 she bravely left her family behind to emigrate with the couple’s baby daughter to Canada on the Mataroa troop ship which had to be escorted by a naval guard and was blacked out at night. By all accounts it was a difficult voyage lasting 19 days. When she arrived, it was the first time she had met her in-laws. Bob was still serving so unable to join her for two months.
Her story features on Canada’s Immigration Museum website.
In 1966, David and his family visited the UK for the first time en route to a posting in Rome with Canada’s Foreign Service and they spent a few days in Wrestlingworth with Olive and Jim Hutchinson who lived in Potton Road. They returned the following year to have their son Simon baptized in St. Peter’s Church.
David was previously married to Wendy, Iris’s second daughter, and the family has “delightful memories of those days along with the stories told to us by the Stovell family.”
Now 93 and still living in Ottawa, Iris also has a sister, Olive, who lives in Kempston and is 95. Iris has the 1910 photo we originally published in her collection along with the names of many of the people in it. In and around the cart are Bert, Harry, Edwin, and Edgar Humberstone. On the steps are Kate Smith, Roselyn Clarke, Daisy Stovell and Florence Carter. The baby in the pram is Madge Smith.
David continues: “Recently our daughter Sarah Smith and her friend Angela visited the UK and made a little pilgrimage to Wrestlingworth to “walk in Grandma’s footsteps”.
“They visited The Chequers pub, the former Three Horsehoes pub, St. Peter’s Church and 9 Alexander Road where Sarah’s great grandparents (Charles and Daisy) lived in the 1960s. They took photos and enjoyed exploring Wrestlingworth very much.
“Returning home, they took great delight in showing ‘Granma Cunneyworth’ photos of her home village and places she knew all too well” says David.
Many thanks go to the Smith family and Iris.