Wartime couple mark 70th anniversary

THEY married three months after meeting each other and were separated by war a fortnight later, but Leslie and Margaret Potter's love has stood the test of time.

THEY married three months after meeting each other and were separated by war a fortnight later, but Leslie and Margaret Potter's love has stood the test of time.

They married as Europe drifted into war - and with Leslie preparing for the call-up that would take him away from home for many years.

Their story is one of love at first sight, devotion and 70 years of matrimony - and it all started at a pub in Hull.

The Chantry couple, who both turned 90 in July, were barely 20 years old when they met in the Ferryboat Inn, where Mrs Potter worked.

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Mr Potter was in the merchant navy, having previously worked on the barges on the Orwell as a 'chocolate boy,' selling treats to people on riverboat cruises.

“I used to see him quite often in there wearing a smart uniform,” said Mrs Potter. “My father used to say 'Come on, the fleet is in' - We were always after the sailors.”

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Mr Potter added: “I thought she was the best looking pest in Hull.”

Just three months later, and with the onset of war approaching, the pair tied the knot. But it wasn't long before they were split apart when Mr Potter was sent to the Royal Navy at Portsmouth, and ultimately to battle.

Mrs Potter said: “I always remember that night when everyone got called up. The trains were packed with people going off to war. It was difficult to say goodbye.”

It was another six months before the newlyweds even saw each other again but with Mrs Potter's house overlooking the Humber she could look out for her husband's boat pulling into port.

“The nights were dark and we never used to go far from home,” she recalled. “We were forever in the air raid shelter and sirens used to sound all the time.

“Whenever I got a letter it was all censored and most of it was cut out.”

After the war Mr Potter returned to merchant navy duties but lost an arm and a leg in an accident and was forced to end his time in the fleet.

In 1953, Mr Potter and his wife moved back to his home town of Ipswich, where he found work as a customs officer at Ipswich docks.

The couple moved in with Mr Potter's mother in Bath Street before buying their first home in Martin Street, where they raised eight children.

During their 70 years of marriage, 21 grandchildren followed, as well as 33 great-grandchildren and one four-year-old great-great-grandchild Lily.

Mr and Mrs Potter celebrated their platinum anniversary with their huge family at Great Blakenham village hall.

Daughter Susan Wicks, 60, said: “I think they have been together for so long because there were so many of us children to look after!”

Mr and Mrs Potter married as Britain entered the “Phoney War” at the start World War II - but the Navy saw action very early in the war. It was involved in the first major action of the war, the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939 which led to the sinking of the Graf Spee.

The Royal Navy was the largest in the world at the start of the war - Britannia really did rule the waves.

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