McLoughlin, Barbara

Barbara McLoughlin was born July 1, 1920, in Devon, England, and she grew up in and around Teignmouth.  Her father immigrated to England from Italy at the turn of the century; he grew up to be a loyal Englishman, serving in the Great War.  He married an Englishwoman from Devon – Barbara’s mother – and together they raised a family of four, with plenty of ice cream and fish’n’chips as Barbara remembers.  Barbara attended Catholic school in her early years, but with the Great Depression, she left school and went to work as a domestic. By the time the war began, Barbara was working other jobs around Plymouth, including being a waitress; she saw her family registered as “enemy aliens” because of her father’s ancestry, and she saw the bombing of Plymouth as the Luftwaffe began the Blitz.  Barbara herself was called up in 1942, and trained as a clerical assistant/typist, working on a number of bases in wartime Britain, from North Wales to North Yorkshire to Reading.  Along the way, she met a British soldier by the name of Bill McLoughlin, whom she would later marry. Bill served in the Medical Corps and spent the early part of the war in the Middle East and North Africa; he was returned to England in the lead-up to D-Day, and one evening at a pub in Reading he made Barbara’s acquaintance.  The two of them struck up their relationship, which they maintained after Bill shipped out to Normandy. Bill helped to evacuate the wounded on D-day, and as the Allies fought their way inland and on to Germany, the Medical Corps followed the liberating armies, treating the wounded soldiers. For Bill, that included the very grim task of treating the liberated prisoners at Bergen Belsen, one of the Nazi death camps liberated by the British.  The two of them married when Bill was on leave, and after the war they started their family, making the decision to move to Canada in 1956, where they settled in London, Ontario. Together they raised their family, falling into the rhythms of postwar Canadian life.

Barbara McLoughlin was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters, who visited her at her home in Port Stanley in December 2019.