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Search for Mystery Sister
Residents in Shirley could be unwittingly harbouring information about a secret marriage between a local girl and a Canadian Soldier during the Second World War.
The American family of Soldier John Joseph Graham is searching for their long lost half-sister who originates from the Shirley area.
John "Jack" Graham, from the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, met and married Nora Gladys Elizabeth Grain, from Spring Park Avenue, at Shirley Methodist Church in 1943.
The couple's daughter, Dianne was born on June 21st 1944 but a year later the soldier went back to Canada, apparently without Nora or the baby.
He married again in 1950 to a Canadian woman and had two daughters.
The Soldiers 49 year old daughter April, who lives in California, stumbled accross her fathers secret when she went through his paperwork in 1998. She was stunned to discover that not only had her father been married before, but he also had another daughter in Shirley.
Andrew Graham, a senior steward at Shirley Methodist Church, became involved in a search earlier this year when April contacted the church for help in finding her half-sister.
He was prompted to contact the Guardian after the success we had in reuniting a New Zealand war veteran with the Croydon brother of his RAF comrade.
He told the Guardian : "I became interested purely because the chap in question shared the same surname as me."
"April had been going through he fathers documents after he died and was stunned when she found out he had been married before."
"There were army discharge papers which mentioned the wife and child in Shirley and a marriage certificate."
The Baptismal Register at Shirley Methodists Church records the birth and baptism of Dianne but Andrew, from Edgewood Green, fears that man's second marriage could be a bigamous one.
He added : "Both April and I fear that his second marriage could have been bigamous because there is no record of a divorce."
"At one stage we believe he was planning to bring Nora and baby over to Canada but that never materialised."
"It wouldn't surprise me. I've spoken to many of our older parishioners who, while they don't remember the couple, say that it was common for foreign soldiers to marry local girls and then go home without them."
"I'm hoping the Guardian can help trace Dianne, or Nora if she's still alive, because I saw how you were able to reunite the man from New Zealand with his war-friend's brother."