- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) - Cups of hot tea first united a group of British women in Winfield in 1946.

They were “war brides,” women who married American troops stationed overseas during World War II. At one time, there were as many as eight war brides living in Winfield.

They met over tea for 65 years - nearly 3,300 Fridays.

Now there is Peggy Eudaly, and she drinks tea alone.

The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1RaNoRW ) reports that at 88, Eudaly is the last British war bride in Winfield. A French war bride still lives there, and another British one lives in a nursing home in Oxford, she said.

Eudaly still remembers everything: meeting her husband at the gate of an insane asylum, boarding a ship with 450 other war brides and living almost exclusively in Winfield for nearly seven decades.

And she wants to make sure the story of the Winfield war brides is not forgotten.

“Life’s been wonderful for me here in America,” she said. “Even with all my losses, yes. No regrets.”

Eudaly remembers first meeting her husband at the gate of Tone Vale Hospital in Somerset County in southwest England.

She had grown up on the grounds of the asylum as the daughter of the institution’s resident plumber.

The U.S. troops stationed in the area were looking for girls to date, she said, and they would wait outside the gates every night at 8, when the nurses’ shifts would end.

Eudaly’s younger brother had gone to the gate to “bum some cigarettes” from the Americans, Eudaly said, and she and a friend went to get him.

She was 16.

Neither she nor her friend smoked, but Eudaly asked her brother for a cigarette.

“We knew he didn’t have any because Mother didn’t allow him to smoke, but the American said, ‘Well, I’ve got cigarettes,’ ” Eudaly said. “We knew he would volunteer a cigarette.”

The soldier, 21-year-old Roy Eudaly, would become her husband two years later.

He walked her home and asked to take her on a date - and all the while, she simply held the cigarette between her fingers.

The two fell in love, seeing each other almost daily in the winter and spring of 1944 until D-Day, when Roy, a Winfield native, left for France.

“November in England can be absolutely awful, and it was pouring with rain every night,” Peggy Eudaly said. “He brought a poncho and we would stand . underneath a tree until we got too cold to stand there anymore.”

They couldn’t light a cigarette for fear of the German bombers that frequently flew overhead.

So they stood together in the pouring rain.

Later that week, Peggy’s parents invited Roy into their home.

“We looked at each other and saw each other for the first time in full light,” she said. “I guess we liked what we saw.”

Roy left eight months later to help with the invasion of France, landing about five days after the Normandy invasion. He was a member of a glider unit, Eudaly said.

Roy Eudaly also fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He trekked all the way to Munich, Eudaly said.

And at night, he would write love letters to Peggy back in England.

After victory had been declared in Europe and Japan, Roy Eudaly told her he was coming back to England for 10 days of leave. When he got there, he asked her to marry him. She said yes.

“My mother, bless her heart, got all that up and got me married” before Roy’s 10 days of leave were up, Eudaly said.

They were married on Oct. 24, 1945.

Roy Eudaly returned to Winfield in December 1945, and Peggy came the following June.

She and 450 other British war brides came to America on the USS John Ericsson, a ship that had previously been used to transport troops.

She then rode in a Pullman train car to Winfield, where she has been ever since.

Adjusting to life in Winfield was “very seriously hard,” she said, but she found some help along the way.

Eudaly met other British war brides who had come to Winfield with their soldier husbands and invited them over for tea, the proper English thing to do.

One tea party turned into another. And another.

The women alternated hosting the get-togethers at their homes in Winfield, talking about what was going on in the world that day.

“Goodness knows what they’d think about what’s going on now,” Eudaly said.

Women who married American troops overseas during World War II are known as war brides.

Though the ladies had tea together in Winfield approximately 3,300 times, Eudaly still remembers the first time. They had Twinkies, because the July sun made it too hot to bake cakes.

“We’d do it properly - set the table, teapot . little plates of cakes,” Eudaly said. “We had never seen a Twinkie - can you imagine? It was a treat, a Twinkie.”

At the parties’ peak, as many as eight women attended, though “it dwindled down to five eventually,” Eudaly said.

Most of the war brides in Winfield were English, though it was not uncommon for there to be a few French brides as well.

“We became very, very close,” Eudaly said. “Like sisters.”

3,300 Times the Winfield war brides met for tea

Eudaly eventually got a job packing crayons at the Binney and Smith Crayola factory in Winfield, where she worked for most of her life.

Her husband, Roy, worked different jobs around the area, once packing up the two for a short-lived job in Tonkawa, Okla.

Though he never said anything about it, Eudaly could tell her husband was emotionally affected by fighting in World War II.

“He didn’t show any . signs of it when he got home, but basically it was there,” she said.

In his later years, Roy Eudaly developed leukodystrophy, a progressive nerve disorder. Peggy Eudaly had to take him to the Veterans Home in Winfield, where he died in 2008.

Peggy uses a motorized chair now, the result of childhood polio.

She has lost most of her English accent, although occasionally it slips back at the end of her phrases.

She takes pride in her four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and enjoys when they visit her small, rural Winfield home.

And she is proud of her English heritage. She’s putting all of her travel papers and historical documents in a book for her family to peruse “a couple hundred years down the line,” she said.

“I’m a hoarder - I keep everything,” she said. “I can’t imagine anybody showing any interest in us after all these years.

We’re not forgotten yet.”

___

Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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