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Joan Quibell's Diary - Part Eight - 1945 A Wartime Wedding

by Joan Quibell

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Joan Quibell
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05 December 2004

Joan and Leslie's wedding day 13th January 1945 Birmingham

The New Year had barely got underway, when events overtook us rather sooner than we had anticipated. M.T.B. 753’s crew returned to Yarmouth after a stint of operating from Holland and were given 14 days leave which was to start on 11th January. Les sent me a wire “13th JANUARY IS THE DAY” it said. My first reaction was of dismay over the date. The 13th! But this was quickly banished with “Why not the 13th?”. Hadn’t my dear Pop been born on a 13th, and a Friday at that, and hadn’t he always considered he’d had a most fortunate life? I wrote home urgently, telling them the date, and immediately put in my application for leave. Marriage leave was 21 days, so I arranged to begin mine on January 5th, so that I could have a week at home beforehand. Now that it was all happening, I felt numb and dazed. Mother rushed to see Vicar Hart and wrote that it was all arranged, for 1 p.m. on Saturday, 13th January. Invitations were hastily written and sent to the few family and friends who would be attending.

Officially Les had to get permission from his ship’s Captain and I from my Company Commander, for the marriage to take place, but this was a pure formality and presented no problems. My workmates had a collection and bought us a silver-plated fruit bowl, and Hut 6 gave us a cut-glass vase. Our Utility Furniture Dockets had arrived so Les was going to arrange to purchase a bed, wardrobe, tallboy and chest of drawers, to be delivered to our flat in time for our return. Utility furniture was the only kind that could be purchased during the War, except for second-hand items. It was plain but good, sturdy and well-made. We decided to have dark oak. Everything else we would get as and when we could.

I had such a rousing send-off when I left Uxbridge on Friday evening, 5th January, after duty. When I return, I thought, I shall be a married woman. It still seemed unbelievable. Mac, Lindy and Helen were coming on the following Friday evening and I had to find overnight accommodation for them, which I later did in the Y.W.C.A. Forces Club in Birmingham.

I arrived home, laden like a donkey, to find Mother clucking like a chicken, trying to think of all the things she’d got to do in the next week. “We must order the flowers tomorrow” she said “What are you going to have?” Then she reminded me that it was January and very little was available. No-one imported flowers in Wartime so that only left chrysanthemums. “Chrysanths will be all right” I said. “I’ll have white ones and Gladys and Mary can have yellow”. She rushed off next morning with the order.

The next day was my 21st birthday but it was completely overshadowed by the coming wedding. My presents were mainly household items but I was truly delighted with them. That, after all, was our first priority, getting our home together and anything towards it was gratefully received.

I really don’t know how the few days passed before Thursday evening came, and I met Les and his shipmate Ernie Leah who was to be his Best Man, when they arrived at New Street Station. Aunt Elsie had very kindly agreed they could stay with her on Thursday and Friday evenings. The next day, they both came over to 34 where Mother was in the kitchen doing her preparations. Les wondered if rum would do in place of sherry in the trifles — he’d saved his rum ration just in case — and after a second spent considering this, Mother said she saw no reason why it wouldn’t work. “It’ll give it a bit of a kick” she declared, liberally sprinkling it over the sponge cakes in the bottom of the dishes, before pouring on the custard and then, when that was set, chopped jelly.

She opened tins of pears, peaches and pineapple from carefully hoarded stores and mixed them up for fruit cocktail. No cream of course. Evaporated milk would have to do. She’d got lettuces and cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad, opened tins of ham and tongue which Pop carefully sliced, and then it was wrapped and put on the slab in the larder to keep cool overnight. Mrs. Simonds brought round the cake, so beautiful it looked, top-iced in plain white with a single white flower laid on top.

Les and I bade each other a long and lingering farewell in the late afternoon and he and Ernie returned to Aunt Elsie’s. They were going to make their way to St. Paul’s church from there the next morning. I had to dash off to New Street to meet Mac, Lindy and Helen, who fortunately arrived on time, bringing shoals of mail which had arrived at Camp since I left. We greeted each other with excited hugs and giggles, and then I took them to the Forces Club where I had booked them in for the night. I gave them clear and explicit instructions where to get the tram in the morning, where to get off, and how to find 34 Repton Road. Then I returned home to spend my last night as a single girl.

January 13th dawned dull and grey but it wasn’t actually raining. We were up early and Mother and Pop were moving furniture and laying tables in readiness. Breakfast was eaten in the kitchen amongst cries of “Be careful with that”, “Don’t touch that” etc. At about 10 o’clock Mother set off to collect from Prestons the flowers and returned with arms full. My bouquet of white chrysanths with liberal amounts of greenery looked enormous. Like half a garden. The bridesmaids’ ones were also huge. There were no carnations of course, so the button-holes were also chrysanths, white for the men and yellow for the ladies.

Pop wore his one and only suit — navy blue — and his trilby hat and Mother also wore a dark suit with a blue blouse and a hat on the side of her head at a rakish angle over her new perm. Leslie’s Mother and Father arrived, also dressed in their Sunday best, and Mac, Lindy and Helen wore their uniforms. Leslie and Ernie wore their Naval uniforms, Les sporting the white bow that bridegrooms were permitted.

In the bedroom, I was getting decked up in my borrowed finery. Mary and Gladys were putting their lemon lace dresses on, and had simple little head-bands of flowers. They looked very sweet.

Soon everyone had to leave in order to get over to the church. Absolutely no-one of our acquaintance had a car, but the church wasn’t very far, and the taxi Mother had ordered did a few return trips, taking Les’s parents and brother on one, then Mother and the bridesmaids. Finally it returned for Pop and me.

We left the house and a group of neighbours were gathered around the gate to wish me luck. We got in the car and were quickly whisked away to the church. The organist struck up the wedding march, the bridesmaids fell in behind, and Pop and I slowly made our way down the aisle. It was so cold, the church being entirely unheated.

Soon I was at Leslie’s side and the service began. We repeated our vows, sang a couple of hymns, one of which was “For Those In Peril On The Sea” and then were pronounced man and wife. We adjourned to the vestry to sign the register and afterwards processed out to a barrage of confetti. We had done it. Les now had a wife and I a husband.

This is where I will leave my mother’s diaries. My father recalls his wartime memories at My mother and father will celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary on 13th January, 2005. I have submitted these stories on her behalf, as her tribute primarily to the girls of Headquarters, 2nd Anti Aircraft Group, Uxbridge, but also to all those other Privates, on whom England, in her hour of need, placed hope, and trust, and uniforms.

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