Wartime memories for Diamond couple in Gorleston
PUBLISHED: 18:00 05 August 2011
HE survived a crippling bomb blast on the Italian front line and witnessed the toppling of a fascist dictator.
Meanwhile, back in Norfolk, his future bride was experiencing the horrors of the home front, and fleeing from German bombers swooping on Great Yarmouth.
But these wartime encounters could not prevent a whirlwind romance from blossoming into 60 years of marriage, with Charles and Maud Cole of Gorleston, celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.
The pair first met in 1947 when they joined the hundreds of couples flocking to the Great Yarmouth seafront for dances at Goodes Hotel.
Speaking about the first time they met, Maud, 83, said: “Charles’ parents did not know that he drank at the time, but I always said they could not blame me for having a bad influence on him because I met him with a half pint in his hand.”
The pair became a couple six weeks later. Charles was working as a carpenter for the council, and Maud had settled into her career as a cashier at Woolworth’s on Regent Road.
They married at St Peter’s Church, Yarmouth and had their first child, Denise, four years later.
The decision to start a family saw Maud leave her job and have two more children, son, Leslie, and daughter Alison – who gave them their only grandson, Steven.
Meanwhile, Charles, now 87, continued his trade for the council before becoming a carpenter and a joiner dedicated to the Town Hall, until his retirement in 1984.
But this domestic calm in the suburbs of Gorleston was a world away from the drama the pair experienced whilst living though the second world war.
Charles spent the majority of his service as a soldier in the Italian campaign, where he was called into action at the legendary battle for Monte Cassino, as well as witnessing the execution of Mussolini in Milan.
And it was during this service that Charles feared his number was up when he ran over a land mine whilst in charge of a bren gun carrier,a light armoured track vehicle.
The explosion was so ferocious he was blown out the top of the vehicle and landed metres away on the ground.
Charles said if it had not been for the heavy rain they were experiencing at the time, making the ground soft and muddy, then he would have been dead.
Initially, Maud was evacuated to live with a family in Ragnall, Nottinghamshire, but she eventually returned to Yarmouth where her father was a air raid warden helping families survive German bombers.
It was during this time that a German plane was flying so low she could see the face of the pilot. The aircraft almost skimmed the top of Greenacre Primary School.
Although Charles and Maud did not know each other during the war, they later discovered their brothers had been prisoners of war in Japan.
Describing their marriage, the couple agreed their long lasting memories come from the time they have spent together as a family.
They celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a family meal at the Priory Farm, St Olaves.