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Audrey Phyllis Paschal née Ridgewell

Civilian

Sent through to the American Air Museum by Yolanda Payne, Audrey and Robert's daughter:

A LOVE STORY

My father met my mother Christmas of 1942. The mayor of Saffron Walden had asked the English mothers to invite American soldiers to share Christmas dinner with local families. My grandparents, Arthur and Nellie Ridgewell, invited three GIs and one of which was my Dad, Gran always joked "Never did I dream one of those Yanks would jitterbug my rug to death and steal my only daughter away". Thus my mom became one of the many war brides of World War II.

My grandparents gave my Dad a key to their home and often would return home to find him napping on their settee. He would sneak rations from the base such as eggs and sugar for Gran's kitchen as she was an excellent cook and supplies were scarce. Dad was a medical assistant to Doc Ballard who was also from North Carolina, and married Doreen Ballard of Saffron Walden. Doreen now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and would also probably share her story. As Doc’s driver Dad could use the jeep to visit Mom but the jeep always had to be hidden from view.

So in the middle of war came love and romance and dances in the Town Hall and the beginning of our family. Mom arrived in New York on the Queen Mary and travelled by train to Sanford, North Carolina where she was met by family. My Dad was the oldest of eight children so my mom went from an only child to having a very large welcoming family.

My English grand-parents became Dad’s family away from home – a very welcome home for a lonely soldier. They were able to secure a winter coat for my Dad in the cold English climate. Mom’s story was one with a happy ending as many brides were not welcomed. Dad’s family is still very close to Mom. Doreen Ballard married Claude Ballard in Saffron Walden and she would like to be included in your history.

IN AURDREY'S OWN WORDS
(with additional responses from her daughter Yolanda)

LIFE DURING THE WAR
Our fields were full of aerodromes. They built a lot of things. They built a lot of Nissen huts. My husband lived in a Nissen hut. In East Anglia there was lots of bombing because we were close to France. It lasted a long time. We didn’t starve to death but it was very tiresome.

I was tired of the Germans and I will never like them. They made our lives miserable and they treated some people like animals. They’re made a lot of now but certainly they were very cruel and did some terrible things to our people, they should have suffered some of the things that they did to others, then they’d have seen what it was like.
I do not agree with war. It doesn’t cure anything.

MEETING ROBERT
I was lucky enough to have my husband. I was working in Cambridge as a hairdresser but when it was ruled as ‘non-essential’ I went and did something else. You’re in Essex, well you’ll know the train line – I took it from Audley End into Cambridge each day, the line that came out of Liverpool Street and I passed Duxford each day. Life was not pleasant in wartime but my husband made me very happy. It was Christmas 1944 [1942], GIs were invited to our houses for Christmas, he was a very wonderful man, he asked me to marry him and I said yes.

I was married in the Church of England – at the big church in Saffron Walden. It’s a shame more people don’t attend it now. I was christened there, my husband went along with me, he was a good man, he didn’t say anything about it except that he had never knelt as long in his life, which I thought was very cute.

We were both 20 years old then and we’d both be 90 years old now. He died too young and that was a bad thing. He died at least 20 years ago and I have missed him terribly, more than ever every day.

LEAVING HOME
I left out of Southampton. My parents had a car and they drove me there and that’s where I left from. I went across on the Queen Mary with lots of brides. It was not a good journey. There was ice and rain and altogether very bad weather and I was sea-sick.
[From Yolanda: I do know the journey she made across the Atlantic was difficult for her and she was quite sick since she was 6 months pregnant at the time. The Greatest Generation were an amazing group of people who were strong and courageous and I admire their stamina and fortitude].

They took everything away from us when we arrived so we wouldn’t have anything. It was a different time I can tell you. [Yolanda: Mom also mentioned that her belongings were taken in New York but she arrived by train in Sanford with her trunks which contained her clothing and wedding gifts.]

NEW LIFE
I came to the south, took the train to Sanford. The hot weather wasn’t good. My English clothes were not much good in the heat of North Carolina – I had to buy much cooler clothes! But I was very fortunate. I stayed with the family for three weeks. [Yolanda: She was with the family about 4 to 6 months. Mom was pregnant with me when she arrived in April, 1946 and I was born in July, 1946 in Sanford, NC. We continued to live with the Paschal family for another couple of months before my parents could find housing of their own]. A couple of Robert’s brothers still come to visit. One of his brothers was a minister. They are a wonderful family.

[Yolanda: War is a tragedy but good things came out of it. My father was outgoing and loved to laugh and was very like my mother’s father – oh my English grandparents liked him very much. Some of the youngest brothers hardly understood her when she first arrived. She kept saying ‘pardon’ and the brother who was seven thought she always asking for ‘pudding’.]

I didn’t go back to hairdressing. I didn’t want to redo the schooling again. They said it would take 3 years to get qualified over here so I did something else.

My English parents came over and lived with us for three years but then mother got ill because of the heat and they had to go back. We go an air conditioner shortly afterwards and I wished they’d made it until then because then maybe they would have stayed. My father had fought in the First World War and my husband had fought in the Second.

We moved from North Carolina to South Carolina when my son-in-law went into the carpet business and my husband wanted to help him out. My daughter was a teacher at that time.
My daughter was born here and the heat doesn’t bother her. And I have a grandson and my daughter has two grandchildren. They don’t ask me many questions about England. They were all born here. It was just me that was born somewhere else. I’m a naturalized citizen, have been for a long time. They’re all Americans. I had to become a citizen so that I could vote and take part in life here. You’ve got to take part in life where you live. It was five years before I decided to become a citizen and I encouraged a girl from my home town to do the same thing and she eventually did it too.

My husband was the eldest of nine and I was an only child so it made a great difference to me. Some of his siblings were very young at the time. They have been wonderful. I have been very fortunate. I had enough money and could go back to England if I wasn’t treated well enough. I had my own savings. Many didn’t have that opportunity – if you had a bad time you had to stick it out. One of my friends from England married a doctor and came over. She lives in Las Vegas with her daughter but she used to live in Winston-Salem, which is a change I wouldn’t have liked. I have very much liked the south. Not the weather so much but I’ve put up with it.

LOOKING BACK
I would never have met my husband if not for the war. My daughter and my two grandchildren don’t ask many questions about England or their English roots. I didn’t keep up with English friends. One family came over to visit me but otherwise I didn’t really talk about England or the war. The men didn’t talk about it either.

[From Yolanda: I would not have been able to write her story if I had not asked questions. I spent much time with my English grandmother and learned most of what I know from her. I spent the summer of my 17th birthday with her and learned of my history and the wonderful relationship my grandparents had with my Dad, who loved and adored them, as they did him.

My grandmother and I had a very special bond and I adored her as well. My grandfather had passed away the year before I spent the summer of 1963 there. It was the first I really knew of the war years. She was very lively and jovial and she and I loved to dance together and we never stopped talking when we were together. Mom did not open up and offer much information about the war when I was young. We have talked about things now I am older.

My granddaughters are only 4 and 6 so have not gotten to an age where they ask about England or the war yet. However, they do know their great-grandmother is from England and they love having hot tea with me and keeping up with Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Mom's cousins send inserts from your papers about the Royal Children and I get People magazine when they are in an issue.

I continue to be proud and amazed at how the war brought together two families and gave me a wonderful life.]

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Yes, it is strange that you are calling me from a museum to ask about it now – more than fifty years later. You can put me down as one of those ones who have had a good life, a wonderful life. I have been treated beautifully. My husband was a wonderful man and he was taken too soon.

I have three brothers-in-law who are still alive and they come and visit me twice a year. On 13th December I was 90 years old and we had a party and they came to stay. They're a wonderful family.

Good bye and good luck. God bless you.

Service

People

  • Claude Ballard

    Military | Captain | Medical Officer
    'Doc' Ballard served with the United States Army Air Forces. He was very good friends with fellow North Carolinian Robert Paschal. Both men married English women from Saffron Walden. Doc married Doreen Watts in 1944 and was best man at the wedding of...

  • Doreen Ballard née Watts

    Civilian
    Doreen Ballard lived in Saffron Walden during the Second World War and was friends with Audrey Paschal. Both women met and married American servicemen and moved to the United States as war brides. ...

  • Len Hayes

    Civilian
    Len Hayes was about 14 when the war ended and remembers the bombers from Ridgewell flying overhead. He is married to Muriel Hayes. They were both 20 years old when they married. They have a son, Kevin. They live in Steeple Bumpstead, not far from...

  • Muriel Hayes

    Civilian
    Muriel Hayes is Audrey Paschal's cousin. She attended Audrey and Robert Paschal's wedding in October 1945. She remembers that they had the reception in the garden. ...

  • Gilliam Paschal

    Military | Medic's assistant
    Sent through to the American Air Museum by Yolanda Payne, Audrey and Robert's daughter: ...

  • Arthur Ridgewell

    Civilian
    Arthur lived with his wife Nellie and their daughter Audrey in Saffron Walden during the war. He worked in the Post Office. ...

  • Nellie Ridgewell

    Civilian
    Nellie lived with her husband Arthur and their daughter Audrey in Saffron Walden during the war. ...

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Associated Place

  • Saffron Walden

    Military site : non-airfield
    Headquarters 65th Fighter Wing. Exact location unknown.

Events

Event Location Date
Born 13 December 1924

Her parents were Arthur Thomas and Nellie Ridgewell

Worked in a hairdressers Cambridge, Cambridge, UK 1942
Lived in 88 High Street, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1EA, UK 1945
Married Robert Paschal Jr St Marys Church, Church Path, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1JP, UK 20 October 1945

At St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden

Travelled to New York on the Queen Mary Southampton, Southampton, UK November 1945

Exact date not yet known

Lived in Sanford, NC, USA 1946
Celebrated 50th Wedding Anniversary 21 October 1995
Celebrated her 90th birthday December 2014

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
25 April 2016 13:14:16 Lucy May Changes to biography
Sources

Further correspondence with Yolanda, Audrey's daughter.

Date Contributor Update
18 June 2015 14:00:47 Lucy May Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, biography and events
Sources

Correspondence with Yolanda Payne, Audrey's daughter and a telephone conversation with Audrey herself.

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