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Wedding at the Outbreak of war

by rayleighlibrary

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Location of story: 
Rayleigh, Essex
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 November 2004

Dick and Muriel's Wedding

On October 21st 1939, Dick (Richard) Wilkins and his young lady Muriel Keys, were married at the little Elim Church in Castle Road, Rayleigh, Essex. He was a member of the auxiliary fire service at the time, so his comrades held up an archway of axes for them to walk through. This was the first civilian forces wedding to be held in the district.
However, since all these forces had to be cut down by 20% when Chamberlain came back from Berlin saying “there would be no war”, Dick had to leave the wedding breakfast, covered in confetti, in order to go to the labour exchange to sign on for the armed forces.
The man who dealt with Dick’s papers said, “Hello, whose wedding have you been to?” I told him “mine” and he said, “I was in the last lot”, meaning the 1914/18 war. I said, “Well, you got back alright”, to which he replied, “My top half did, but I have no legs.”
After army training all round England and Scotland, Dick came home on embarkation leave, after which Muriel lost touch with him except for some cryptic printed postcards which she received two years later. She did not see him again for three and a half years.
He kept 2 envelopes which had been sealed by Muriel with lipstick kisses, which he got out to boost his morale when stricken with disease and hunger in Thailand. Of course leaflets dropped by the Allies in the jungle also helped, although any prisoner found with one was immediately and thoroughly beaten up.

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