WEDDING Rationing, restrictions and the uncertainty of the Second World War were just some of the challenges faced by couples marrying in wartime.
But despite wartime privations, these couples made their big days special with help of families, friends and their communities.
LESLIE SPELLER AND EILEEN STONE
In February 1940 Eileen Stone received a court summons for riding her bike without lights in Littlehampton, West Sussex. The summons was written by solicitor’s clerk, Leslie Speller, who admired Eileen and, after recognising her name, included a note in the summons asking her to go to the cinema. Their ‘date’ was finalised when he sent her a letter notifying her of her fine. They went out together many times before Leslie joined the RAF in May 1940 and left for his training. Eileen joined the Land Army and they started to write to each other. They wouldn’t see each other again for four years.
After his training Leslie was posted to the Middle East, where he was shot down over Libya in May 1942. Wounded, Leslie was taken as a POW to Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, on the border between Germany and Poland. During his time as a prisoner Leslie was involved in a number of escape activities including writing coded letters. He was able to continue writing to Eileen, and her letters supported him during his three- years imprisonment. Leslie was liberated by US troops on 29 April 1945. He returned home on 9 May 1945 and was reunited with Eileen.
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JOAN MARY AND DENIS CHARLES
Joan and Denis met at Plesseys factory in Ilford, London. Denis was a mechanical engineer and draughtsman and Joan an aeronautical inspector.
Joan and Denis benefited from having family members who worked at a local farm in Epping and were able to supply eggs, chickens and other rare supplies for the wedding breakfast. The highlight was a beautiful wedding cake, a rare treat as rationing made cake-making difficult. Some wartime wedding cakes were decorated with painted cardboard and rice paper with the actual, much smaller, cake hidden underneath.
MARY AND JAMES WHITTLE
During the war Mary worked for the Ministry of Food. James had wanted to join up but was needed in his role as a telephone engineer. When not on shift he also worked as a Fire Warden, putting out incendiary devices.
They got married in St Helens. Mary’s dress was made from a rare cloque fabric – which was very hard to get hold of under rationing. Her veil was kept in place by an orange blossom head-dress and she had a bouquet of pink roses. Mary was also able to have a tartan going- away outfit made for their honeymoon in Scotland.
WINIFRED MAUDE AND ARNOLD HOOPER SMITH
Winifred and Arnold met at Christian Union Meetings at Harrods, where both of them had worked from the age of 18.
They got married in Pinner Green, London. Winnie wore a turquoise dress. She bought all her wedding clothes using vouchers, probably from Harrods.
Winnie volunteered for war work at Shipton’s Factory in Northwood Hills, which made electrical components. While working as an engineering inspector she was called into the manager’s office and told she would be paid a man’s wage for doing a man’s job – something she was very proud of.