Platinum Sidmouth couple celebrate 70 years of marriage

Sidmouth couple Tom and Madeleine King celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this week. Ref shs

Sidmouth couple Tom and Madeleine King celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this week. Ref shs 31-16SH 4138. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

A couple who met after the liberation of a Belgian village during World War Two have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

It was ‘love at first sight’ when RAF serviceman Tom King locked eyes on his future wife Madeleine at a celebratory street party, held the day after her village – Coxyde – was freed by Canadian forces.

Sidbury-born Tom, 92, said they had come to know each other through Madeleine’s uncle, Engel, who coincidently was a refugee in Brixham, Devon, during World War One.

Madeleine, who had not been allowed more than 5km away from her home for years, said: “We had been under the thumb of the Germans for four-and-a-half years – I was never allowed very far or anywhere near soldiers.

“I fancied him when I first saw him at the street party, but I dared not show it. It all happened after my uncle came to fetch me one evening and asked me to help out with his papers and, when I went along, there he was – this young man I had met at the dance and that is how it all started.”

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Tom spent another year with the RAF in Germany and Singapore. The couple, now of Cranford, Sidmouth, kept in contact with letters and married when he returned home.

Madeleine said: “Sometimes I would go a fortnight without hearing anything – I still have all the letters today... Our life together started when he came back – we just got lucky.”

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After the war, Tom joined the Imperial War Graves Commission, now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and his work took him and his family all over the world.

Madeleine, now 91, stayed at home and looked after their four children. The pair later retired in Devon.

When asked what the key was to a long and happy marriage, Tom said: “I think you have to be able to compromise - providing your love for each other is strong it can stand any problems that may come up.”

To celebrate their platinum anniversary, which was officially on Wednesday, the pair will be holding a special party at the Dolphin Hotel, Beer, on Wednesday, August 24.

The event will be attended by more than 30 family members and friends. The couple’s 25 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchild will attend from across the world – from places such as France, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and Mexico.

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