The family of a couple from Mabe have joined together to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
Alf and Dot Waddingham, aged 91 and 93, met on Dot’s birthday in 1942 at the Hammersmith Palais in London, while he was on leave from serving on a Royal Navy landing ship, and danced the last waltz together that evening.
Following two years of courtship, during which time Alf was often away at sea while Dot worked as a counter clerk for the Post Office and volunteered as a fire auxiliary, the couple planned to marry on June 3 1944.
However, the war got in the way, with Alf’s ship closed as allied forces prepared for D-Day on June 6.
Alf said he was “told off” by a superior officer for not taking leave to get married, as it could have warned people that a big operation was being planned. He had filled out a leave request but then not submitted it as he had been told there was no point.
He said: “The skipper sent for me.
“He said ‘I’ve got a letter here from your parents to ask for you to get leave to get married, why didn’t you do it?’ “I said I was told the ship was closed and there wasn’t any point.
“He said, ‘If you came to me I would have let you have 48 hours to get married and your family wouldn’t know anything was going on, but now you’ve let the cat out of the bag. When we eventually get back I want you on the gangway to go and get married.’
“We were running back and forwards to France for six weeks until we eventually went into Barry for a small refit for seven days, and there I was on the gangway and sent home to get married.”
During the week he was on leave for his wedding, Alf would go with Dot to the top of nearby Horsenden Hill with a bag of cherries to watch the doodlebug flying bombs fly over London.
He said: “It was one of the worst weeks for the doodlebugs. We sat up there and watched them come over.”
The couple lived in London until 1980, when they returned to Mawnan Smith where Dot had been born and had lived until she was two.
She said: “I’ve still got the Cornish streak in me. I used to spend all my school holidays with my cousins down here.”
The couple return to France every ten years to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, in which Alf played his part, and ten years later they were invited to Buckingham Palace to attend one of the Queen’s garden parties.
They have five children, sons David and Paul and daughters Catherine, Francis and Annette, along with 16 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
The couple said the secret of reaching their platinum wedding is that they have always shared everything equally.
Dot said: “We’ve been quite content, we don’t fall out over much.”
Alf added: “We have the odd argument, but we’ve never had a row. Never a bust up.”
He said: “We’ve always shared everything,” Dot continued, “Even the money.”
She said: “The fact that we do share everything means we’re always honest with each other. We don’t keep secrets. We’ve always been true.”