WREN & GI: Betty Farmer & Capt Irving

This section describes GI Brides and captures their facinating stories.

Capt Nelson's unit arrives ......

Taken from the history of the 863rd Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company

The crossing from the States took five uneventful days, with the unit arriving at Greenock near Glasgow, Scotland around 12:00 hours on 25th September 1943.

The following day the unit boarded a train heading for S.Wales, arriving at Cadoxton Station, Barry at about 10:00 on the 27th September 1943.

Officers and troops were billeted in huts at Hayes Farm Camp, Sully, immediately adjacent to G-40.

G-40 camp at Sully


Wartime clothes rationing..........

During wartime Britain, rationing and shortages made it often hard to get new clothes.

By time the GIs started arriving in 1942 Britain had been at war for three years and this could often be seen in the dress of civilians.

The 'Short Guide to GREAT BRITAIN' issued to every GI posted to the country read: "....if British civilians look dowdy and badly dressed, it is not because they do not like good clothes or know how to wear them.

All clothing is rationed and the British know that they help war production by wearing an old suit or dress until it cannot be patched any longer. Old clothes are 'GOOD FORM'....."



WREN Betty Farmer from Barry

No such rationing applied to British women in the armed forces. WREN Betty Farmer's tidy uniform would have looked even smarter against the dowdy background of wartime Britain.........


In Memory:

Irving Nelson passed away in 1995, and Betty passed away a few months later.


Thanks to:

Mr Stuart Farmer, Betty Nelson’s brother and Joy Nelson, Betty’s daughter for their help with this story.






I saw him first! A cartoon highlighting the popularity of GIs in wartime Britain.

The happy couple's newspaper cutting


WREN Betty Farmer and Capt Irving P.Nelson, US Army

Betty was serving as a WREN in the Navy when she met Captain Irving P.Nelson of the 863rd Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company.

Betty's daughter takes up the story: " Dad and Mom met when he and his army buddy were standing at a railroad station. They both spotted my mom on the platform and quickly took her arms - one on one side and one on the other.

After a few steps, my dad looked at his friend and said something to the effect of "This one's mine." Since he was the higher ranking officer, the rest is history - as we say here in the states."

The wedding of Betty Farmer and Irving P.Nelson. Left to right: Stuart Farmer, Lt Johnny Jackson, Val, Debby, Irving (Pete) Nelson, Betty, Audrey, Bill Farmer, Ella Farmer, Col. Pilkington (CO Camp G40). Picture taken by Mr Charles H Farmer, Holton Road, Barry

The wedding of Betty Farmer and Irving Nelson


The couple married on 24th April 1944, in All Saints Church, Barry. The base news said:

“Our commanding officer, Captain Irving P. Nelson, took unto himself a wife, Miss Betty Farmer of Barry, South Wales on 24th April 1944, the ceremony being attended by Colonel G.C. Pilkington, the Company Officers, and some British Naval Officers stationed at Barry."


The announcement in the local paper of the wedding between Miss Betty Farmer and Capt Nelson read:

"Miss Betty Farmer, W.R.N.S.,only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.A.Farmer, Port Road, Barry was married at All Saints' Church, Barry on Monday (24th April 1944), to Capt. Irving P.Nelson of the U.S.Army, a native of Oregaon, U.S.A The Rector of Barry (Rev. W.N.Peregrine) officiated at a fully choral service.

The bride, who was given away by her farther, wore a gown of white crepe. Her veil was held in place by a coronet of orange blossom and she carried a shower of red roses. She was attended by three bridesmaids, Miss Audrey Williams (W.R.N.S.), Miss Valerie Hopkins and Miss Debra Morgan, who all wore gowns of stiff pink silk, cut Edwardian style, with head-dresses to match. They carried shower posies of heather and forget-me-nots. The best man was Lieut. Jackson and the groomamen Capt. MacIntyre and Lieut. Smith of the U.S.Army.

A reception was held at the Victoria Hotel, Barry Dock after which the bride and bridegroom left for an unknown destination. The bride wore a brown model suit with matching accessories for travelling."


Betty's family continues their story:

"In 1946 Betty sailed to New York, where Irving met her at the port, and drove the couple home to Washington State in a used car that he`d bought for a couple of hundred dollars.

Irving had believed that he had enough money left over to drive my mom to his parent's house in Oregon. In those days, roads were not well-marked, maps weren't always helpful, and cash was the only form of payment accepted.

Unexpected expenses mounted as the car broke down several times, and to make matters worse, the young couple spent one entire day driving and ended up only a few miles from where they had started! Eventually they got to Oregon with only a small bag of popcorn to eat and a few gallons of gas to spare.

After the war Irving worked for Signal Oil distributorship in Kelso, and eventually bought the business, which became Exxon Oil distributorship, retiring in 1984."

Betty`s family remembers the couple, saying of this Anglo-American partnership:

" They had a wonderful life together and during the summer months took their two daughters on their 36 foot boat sailing the San Juan Islands. We all had great times fishing for salmon in the Pacific Ocean."