8th June 1940
Dorothy was twenty-five. The youngest of four children born to parents who may simply have married young to escape their families, who bickered, but no doubt loved each other. Her mother cut her hair short at a time when it was unknown for women to do such a thing, had a good business sense [having owned a sweet shop] and would probably have gone to university if she had been born just fifteen years later than she was.
Dorothy was vivacious, flirty and busty. A qualified dressmaker, she had, in the past, worked for the company who designed and made Wallis Simpson’s wardrobe.
Herbert was nearing thirty, worked as a clerk for British Rail. A life-long Tottenham Hotspurs fan with an eye for the ladies. The youngest of at least six children, his father had left rural Suffolk to seek his fortune in London at the age of twenty-one.
They were on the cusp of a new adventure. Around them the world was at war. The everyday lives of ordinary folk were affected by events that they had no control over.
Dorothy and Bert had no idea of the adventures they would stumble through. They didn’t yet know of the two daughters they would have, the toddler years that Bert would miss of his eldest daughter as he served with the Royal Engineers in North Africa, the nigh-on three years that they would be parted, how he would clam up on his return home and speak little of the atrocities he may, or may not, have witnessed. Was he moody before he went to fight for our freedom?
They would bring up two beautiful daughters who, between them, would supply four grandsons and three granddaughters to a pair of doting grandparents. They didn’t yet know that they would have to support one daughter through a bitter and painful divorce, nor that they would lose the other daughter to breast cancer.
They would suffer when Bert was diagnosed with cancer in the late 1960s and he would almost be lost before he saw his second grandchild. He would never be able to let his grandchildren clamber all over him, but that was a small price to pay for surviving and being able to see their smiling, cherubic faces. Perhaps their marriage would be made stronger by such a near death experience. As it was, he was able to live to see the birth and first two years of their first great-grandchild, William.
But they didn’t know that yet.
They didn’t yet know that sixty years later they would receive a signed card from the Queen in celebration of a Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2000. That Bert would reach the grand old age of ninety. That before his death in January 2001 he would appear to his granddaughter in her sleep, reaching our for her, to hug her and tell her he loved her. That it would become her most precious [non-]memory of him.
Together they would survive the war, see black & white tellyboxes turn colour, watch the coronation of a Queen, see a man walk on the moon, find out about AIDs, wonder at the magic of a far-too-quickly advancing technology, laugh at the views of ever-changing Prime Ministers, despair over the antics of grandchildren and the youth of yesterday, learn of a princesses death, listen to cricket on the radio, enjoy seaside holidays, watch Look East and marvel at the professionalism of Susie Fowler-Watt, celebrate the beginning of a new millennium …
Together they would enjoy life.
Together they would love.
Sixty-five years ago today they were married in Burnham, Buckinghamshire.
And if they hadn’t been then there’s the distinct possibility that I wouldn’t be here. And nor would I have tasted the best peas that anyone ever cooked …
I love this picture taken during their heady courtship days. My nana [on the left] looks remarkably like my cousin, Celia. My grandad smiles the same smile that The Eldest Brother now smiles. I’m not entirely sure who the other two women are, although I know they’re distantly related to me. I am rather perturbed/possibly intrigued by the jaunty hand on thigh …
The happy couple …
The happy couple surrounded by family and friends … a happy event during a time of suffering and pain.
I sometimes find myself surprised by how I never think of them as people. They’re my grandparents. It seems strange to think that they laughed, loved, lived lives I’ll never know about, have secrets I’ll never hear …
please God bless grandad wherever he may be, and nana as she enjoys her ninetieth year xxx Elsabeth