Part 12: "Engaged to an Australian Airman - wonder if it will last!"
In Brighton during the War if you walked along the seafront, the Metropole Hotel and the Grand Hotel was just full of Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen. And they were all hanging out of the windows whistling at the girls walking along the seafront. My sister [Joy] actually met one, and married one, and she is now a great grandmother out in Australia.
My brother and I had decided to take the train to go to Dover because we had never seen France. Dover of course was still being shelled from France by the Germans. The train journey was absolutely horrific because of all the war traffic. We got there but on the way back I can remember arriving at Ashford and we had to stay there for ages.
We eventually got home and that was the night that Joy wanted to break to all of us that she was engaged to this Australian airman. Of course my mother and father were just so anxious about their two boys it completely spoilt Joy’s evening. She wanted to announce that she was engaged and there was my mother: “Oh where are the boys? Where are the boys?”. Joy always tells me “You spoilt my engagement evening!” – quite unintentionally.
I wrote in my diary that evening, typical young lad, “Joy is engaged to an Australian Airman – wonder if it will last!”
They were married just after the War ended in August ’45. The wedding was quite near to the house; we lived in Walpole Road and where College Terrace joins Freshfield Road was St Matthews Church [where Joy and John were married]. The church is long, long gone. We had a reception at our house in Walpole Road.
Remember that everything was on ration, you had to have coupons so people from all around in the neighbourhood gave their spare coupons to anyone getting married so they could get a wedding dress and a trousseau and that sort of thing. When my sister got married the whole road pooled their clothing coupons so she could have a wedding dress and the same with the food. In my diaries I’ve got a note that “We had a feast like we’ve not had since 1938”.
Tony Simmonds was interviewed for the My Brighton and Hove website by Zoe Woods.