Bilney couple still in love after 75 years of marriage

Barry and Vera Hawes are celebrating 75 years of marriage. Picture: Ian Burt

Barry and Vera Hawes are celebrating 75 years of marriage. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

It was the darkest days of war, France had fallen and Churchill was just days away from giving his rousing finest hour speech – yet Barry and Vera Hawes were celebrating the happiest day of their lives.

The couple wed in June 1940 and on Monday celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

They first met at a dance before the Second World War had even broken out. Seaman Mr Hawes had been on leave in Portsmouth and his wife-to-be had inadvertently taken his chair at the dance.

They ended up dancing the night away together and the young sweethearts' relationship blossomed.

But it could have ended all too soon – a month later the war started and just six weeks after Mr Hawes joined the Royal Marines from the Navy, his ship HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed at Scap Flow, Scotland, sinking and killing 833 of his shipmates.

Mr Hawes miraculously survived and is now the oldest surviving member of the disaster.

He left the Royal Marines in 1948, reaching the rank of sergeant major, and spent much of his career working in insurance.

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The couple's lives saw them live all around the country, from Portsmouth to Jersey to Croydon, before they returned to Mr Hawes' home county, Norfolk, 37 years ago. Seventy-five years after their wedding day, Mr Hawes, now 97, looks back at their marriage with fond memories.

'We were in love then and we're still in love now,' he said. 'We've had fantastic times together.'

Over the 75 years, the couple, who moved from their Toftwood bungalow to Bilney Hall, near Dereham, two years ago, have travelled to Morocco, Tunisia, Germany, Canary Islands and Spain.

They can still recall the Queen's coronation and days when there were few cars on the road.

The couple has two children, Barry, 71, and Julie, 62. They were joined on their anniversary by Dereham Town Mayor Linda Goreham and received a card from the Queen. Their daughter Julie Jenner, who lives nearby, said: 'It's absolutely incredible that they're celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary.

'They have gone through and seen so much together in that 75 years, and in their lifetimes.'

Mrs Goreham added: 'They are absolutely wonderful. You can tell the love they feel for one another.

'They have lived through so much – the Second World War, rationing, times when you didn't need to pass a test to drive, the man on the moon, computers, mobile phones. It's an amazing time to have been around as so much has happened.'

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