I had a soldier's baby but our wartime love was doomed to fail

Memories of her love affair during the war stayed with Phyllis Roller all her life.

Monday, 6th November 2006, 10:40 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 9:34 pm

She fell in love with a Canadian soldier and had his baby, only for him to marry somebody else when he returned home.

She was brokenhearted, and still not many days go by without thinking of him - though she met another man and had five more children.

Now 83, Phyllis, of Claremont Road in Sidley, features in a UKTV History series to be broadcast next week.

Sex, Love and War transmits on November 6-10, and she will be in episode 2, on November 7.

She will tell how as an 18-year- old living in Crowborough, she met softly-spoken Ken Orr who was stationed there in 1941. He came into her father's hardware shop, where she was working, looking for yellow dusters.

"He had such a lovely voice, it could charm the birds out of the trees."

A few days later she went with her friend Cathy to the local village hop, and Ken was there.

"Strangely enough they were playing the old Berlin song "Not just for an hour, not just for a day, not just a year, but always..."

"He was very handsome. I loved him very much. In fact, I still do.

"We both fell in love.

"He didn't tell me he was married."

By the time Phyllis knew, there was no turning back, and as he was stationed never too far away, they were able to see each other regularly.

"In 1944 I spent a weekend in Midhurst where he was stationed. There were rumours of war then, the big push was going to be soon, and I thought if he gets sent away to war and he is killed, I will have nothing. So I decided I wanted a baby."

Phyllis became pregnant, and Ken was sent away, but as the war ended soon after, he returned home to Ontario.

The plan was that she would join him after his divorce came through, but delay to the process meant three years passed, and during that time the couple were only able to write to each other.

The letters became less frequent, and so Phyllis became worried something was wrong. She took her baby daughter Christine and left her family to sail to Canada.

As Phyllis arrived, she was called to the purser's officer where a major from the Salvation Army took her aside.

"He said - Ken got married two weeks ago."

"I just wanted to go back home to mum."

She stayed in a refuge for waifs and strays for a while, then travelled to London, Ontario, where her friend Cathy had moved with her Canadian husband Jack.

She did see Ken again, and he explained that his new wife was someone he had known before the war, and she had decided she wanted him back. Ken wanted to see Phyllis again.

"He said he had never stopped loving me, and he wanted to start going out with me again, he wanted to meet up somewhere without Christine there. But I knew if I did I would give in, so I was very strong. I said to him something from Gone With The Wind ... as Rhett Butler says to Scarlett, I can't spend the rest of my life waiting to catch you between marriages."

A friend of Jack's fell for her and proposed within a few weeks. Phyllis knew she would never feel the same way about Vic Roller, but realised he would look after her and Christine, and she wanted more children. The couple were together until 1990, having been married for 41 years. They moved to Bexhill in 1972.

She believes falling in love during the war was significantly different.

"You don't know if there is going to be a tomorrow. We didn't get a lot of bombs in Crowborough, but there was an occasional one, and there was also the chance that he would be killed.

So you hoped tomorrow would be there but you were never quite sure."

The feeling is still there to this day: "I don't know how to stop - how do you stop loving somebody.

"I don't think about him as often as I used to, but not many days go by when I don't think about him.

"I don't know exactly what the attraction was, but we were always so much in tune. We never ever had a cross word. We just seemed to always hit it off."