Diamond Sidmouth duo celebrate 60 years of marriage

Rosemary and Dick Sidwell celebrated their 60th anniversary at the Victoria Hotel
Photo by Gordon

Rosemary and Dick Sidwell celebrated their 60th anniversary at the Victoria Hotel Photo by Gordon Blood - Credit: Archant

A couple who met in school - and got engaged when their paths crossed again in Africa years later - have looked back on their six decades of marriage.

Rosemary and Dick Sidwell celebrated their 60th anniversary at the Victoria Hotel
Photo by Gordon

Rosemary and Dick Sidwell celebrated their 60th anniversary at the Victoria Hotel Photo by Gordon Blood - Credit: Archant

Retired colonel Dick Sidwell and Rosemary, nee Shallow, were honoured to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary with a card from the Queen.

The couple moved house 27 times in the 35 years Dick was serving as a Royal Marine, but only once since moving to Sidmouth quarter of a century ago. They have no plans to leave their current home in Roselands, Sidmouth.

Rosemary’s father was the headmaster when All Hallows School moved from Honiton to Rousdon. He then took a job at Downs School in Wraxall, near Bristol.

Dick’s father died in 1939 as a result of ptomaine poisoning from World War One, so his mother had to work. She took a job at Downs School, and when their house was destroyed in a blitz, Dick made the campus his home over the holidays. It was there that he met Rosemary.


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On leaving school, Dick joined the Marines and Rosemary moved to Zululand, South Africa, but they stayed in touch and spoke of marriage.

Dick, 87, said: “There was no telephone in those days, and writing a letter would take a month to get a reply – longer if you’re at sea. We had some rather trying times.

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“Halfway through her time in Zululand, I got appointed to the HMS Gambia. I thought, if we’re going to east Africa, perhaps we could meet - we’re only a few thousand miles apart. She got a ship up [to Kenya] and we met.”

Rosemary, 83, added: “I brought my engagement ring with me.”

“After the official party, it became known that I’d got engaged to a local girl on the first night,” said Dick. “I still had another eight months to go.”

The couple were wed on April 5 – in part to take advantage of a £100 tax break for married couples before the financial year ended.

Their first home together was in Exmouth and they were shipped out to Malta and 25 other locations in Dick’s career.

While he was away – keeping Egypt’s Colonel Nasser out of Yemen, or fighting communists in a Borneo jungle – Rosemary and the other wives would take charge and support one another.

“Now partners stay at home on welfare – life is much easier, but it’s nowhere near as interesting,” said Dick.

The couple spent a lot of time apart, but Rosemary said they were both too busy to miss each other too terribly.

“It wasn’t difficult,” she added. “We were used to it.”

Dick was a Royal Marine for 33 years. One of his last acts was serving as the Queen’s aide-de-camp at the funeral of Lord Mountbatten.

He retired in 1980 and became a bursar at a girls’ school, then at Sidmouth International School, while Rosemary worked as the secretary to the Bishop of Buckingham, before a job at Sidmouth’s information centre.

Now he is a woodturner and has made more than 4,500 pieces – each of them recorded, in case he needs to replicate one. Rosemary writes poetry.

The couple have a daughter, Sue, but their son Charles sadly died at the age of 20. Dick and Rosemary have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The couple celebrated their anniversary with their family at the weekend and the date itself, last Tuesday, with friends, both at the Victoria Hotel.

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