A Surrey architect has told the tragic story of a wartime romance which left him fatherless.
Colin Golding was one of many children left behind when the Canadian soldiers returned home after the last war. By a strange twist of fate, he spent much of his working life as an architect designing shopping centres in Canada and he said he always felt completely at home there. Now retired at the age of 60, he was delighted to find that he has half-sisters in Canada and the USA who had been searching for him.
His father, Canadian Fred Tracey, arrived in Aldershot sometime in 1939 with the Royal Montreal Regiment and fell in love with Grace Bowles. Colin was the result.
Throughout his life Grace had forbidden Colin to search for his dad, but now, with his Canadian father and English mother both in their graves, Colin has traced his Canadian half-sisters Barbara and Betty. Barbara lives in Miami and Betty is still in Canada. Both sisters knew of his existence, but had just about given up hope of ever finding him.
Thousands of Canadian soldiers were stationed in and around Aldershot during the war and no one knows how many children have grown up in an atmosphere of family secrecy and shame, wondering about their fathers across the sea.
Colin said that as a child he told his friends that his father had died in the war. He advises others in his situation to try to find their Canadian relatives.
His daughter Karen began the search after Grace died two years ago. Grace was in the fire services during the war when she fell in love with Fred. Her sister started dating Fred's brother.
Both men were married to Canadian wives, and it is doubtful whether the English sisters knew that.
One thing is certain - that Grace loved Fred and expected him to come back and marry her. She carried a torch for him all her life. Colin said that she had things from Fred in her Bible for 60 years. There were also a few surviving photos including one of the two lovers with Colin when he was about three years old, feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Colin says Fred looked like Clark Gable.
Grace eventually married and changed Colin's name to her new name of Golding. Now he wishes it had been left as Tracey, as it was on his birth certificate.
The search for Fred Tracey began with the regiment, where a spokesman said that many records had been destroyed in bombing during the war and there was no record of Fred or his brother.
But the Genealogy Department of Quebec came up trumps. They knew of Barbara Brock in Miami who was searching for her British half-brother Colin. She was on the point of giving up when the two got in touch by email and realised from old photos that they had the same father.
Colin was amazed to learn that his dad was musical and played the banjo. Colin plays guitar and banjo. His dad could also draw well and would no doubt have been proud to have an architect son. Also, both father and son were left handed and both had an aptitude for languages.
His father ran a good restaurant in Montreal, but was a heavy smoker and died in 1972. In a cruel irony, his Canadian son, also called Fred, died young at the age of 41.
Colin said he is not at all bitter about any of this and because his mum came from such a big family, he had lots of youngish uncles and did not feel at all deprived. "I had a great childhood," he said, "but as you get older, you become intrigued." He now lives in Cheam, with his wife Diane. They have a son, James, as well as Karen.
They are hoping to arrange a meeting, possibly in Miami, so that the fragmented family can at long last get to know one another.
Any readers who may want to do similar research can contact Project Roots on www.project-roots.com