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Caister diamond anniversary couple navigate calm seas and rough

PUBLISHED: 14:57 10 December 2011

Alfred and Olive Brown celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

Picture: James Bass

Alfred and Olive Brown celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

SHE did not know if her husband would return home each time he braved treacherous storms to rescue men from stricken vessels in the North Sea.

But Olive Brown’s marriage to Alfred (Mabby) has lasted longer than his marriage to his work 
as a Caister lifeboatman, and the pair celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary this month.

Alfred, 91, has saved sailors from sinking ships rapidly filling with water, rescued a teenage girl spotted shivering in a canoe in the distance off the Norfolk coast and seen the dead body of a close friend when he was called to the Bristow helicopter disaster of 1981.

All 13 men aboard the helicopter died when it crashed into the North Sea en route from a gas platform, 
but Alfred did not know that until he arrived with the volunteer lifeboat crew.

And his wife Olive, 85, was fully aware of the risks involved each time he embarked on another rescue mission.

“It was difficult for me at times and there were some anxious waits,” she said.

“One of the boats he went to just after we married was called the Olive May - it had overturned.”

And she joked that Alfred was more wedded to his job than her, saying: “He hasn’t got so much to relate about 
the marriage!”

But while he did love his job and has racked up more than 100 rescues over the years, he says it could never have replaced Olive.

“The secret of a long marriage is meeting a lovely woman,” he said.

“And I wouldn’t change her for the world.”

The couple have a daughter Dawn Roper, 58, and two granddaughters, Abbie, 25 and Briony, 22 and said their family was the most precious thing to them.

They married at Temple Methodist Church Chapel in Great Yarmouth on December 1, 1951 having met at Harry Drake’s dance hall in Potter Heigham.

Alfred had served in the second world war as a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy.

He joined the Caister lifeboat at the age of 25 in 1945, eventually becoming coxswain and then staying on with the independent rescue service until retirement, after the RNLI had pulled out of the station in the 1970s.

It was a perilous job, but having worked with the lifeboat service since before the use of motor launches and radar it was accepted.

He said: “I never knew whether I would come back from a job alive.

“I used to have to row out to the boat.”

He and Olive said it was difficult, but they have always been active people and embraced life, still keeping ponies in their garden to this day.

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a special meal at the Cantley Cock with family,

And as a surprise, their daughter Dawn had arranged for her parents’ bridesmaid Valerie to attend the meal from her home in Sussex.

“They had a lovely evening and enjoyed the family get together very much,” said Dawn.

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