Sidmouth couple ‘destined to be together’ celebrate 75 years of marriage

PUBLISHED: 17:30 27 September 2018

Mary and Les Harlow have celebrated their 75th anniversary. Picture: Nick Irving

Mary and Les Harlow have celebrated their 75th anniversary. Picture: Nick Irving

Archant

A hero Lancaster bomber pilot and his wife who wed during World War Two have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

Les and Mary Harlow on their wedding day in 1943. Picture: Nick IrvingLes and Mary Harlow on their wedding day in 1943. Picture: Nick Irving

Les and Mary Harlow– both now aged 97 – had known each other since they were six years old and dated as teenagers.

But they lost contact as they went their separate ways – Les travelling to America to train as a pilot and Mary won a scholarship to go to the Guildhall School of Music, when she was just 16.

But a chance conversation between Les with an RAF stranger on a rail trip led him to find Mary again.

Mary said: “Les was talking to someone in the RAF and he asked did they know me and they told him where I lived.

“You came and I was going out with some one else. But we were together only about three months before we were married.”

They tied the knot in September 1943 and they spoke about the risk of marrying in the war.

Les survived 36 gruelling bombing raids over Germany. His bravery earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross and in 2000 he and his six-man crew, nicknamed the Magnificent Seven, were recognised as the last fully surviving Bomber Command crew.

Ex-British Airways pilot Les said:”In 1941, I was taking a train from London to Chester and got chatting to another RAF man who was a complete stranger. He said he knew a Mary Catherall and knew she had moved and had her address.

“He lived in the same local area. So I went to her home in Blackpool. She was with someone else at the time

“But we were married in 1943.

“If it wasn’t for that conversation on the train I doubt I would have seen her again.”

Soprano singer Mary said of their wedding: “It was happening to every other person. It was also very exciting., There were terrible tragedies but they were very good times as well”

As a bomber pilot heading over Germany, Les said:”It was quite frightening actually. I was never quite sure I would be coming back. I used to go quite confidently with a crew of mine who I liked very much and they all backed me up.

“We had one ambition in life – to survive.”

Mary said they felt destined to be together. They have two daughters,four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Their secret of a long marriage is loving each other always and toleration, said Mary adding: “Les is special, there is nobody else like him.”

And Les quipped about the secret of a long marriage ‘me behaving myself!’

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