- Contributed by
- Audrey Lewis - WW2 Site Helper
- People in story:
- Ron and Muriel Axford
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 February 2004
Muriel and Ron Axford on their wedding day in 1944
My brother-in-law, Ron, was a gunner and driver mechanic with the army in 1944. It was likely that he would be sent abroad to fight on the battlefield of Europe and he therefore decided to get permission to marry from his colonel, who gave him a 48-hour home leave for the occasion. He already had his parents' permission as he was under age at 21. Muriel, his fiancée and my sister-in-law, was also under age and needed her parents' consent to marry.
Preparing a feast from wartime rations
It was all arranged so quickly. The wedding preparations had to be speeded up. Muriel made all the arrangements for a marriage licence, wedding ring, and a car to take them to church. Cars were used for emergencies only and a wedding car was governed by distance, petrol consumed and a time limit of two hours. She was so relieved when someone she knew managed to get a film for his camera to record the big event.
Everything was strictly rationed during the war, now well into its fourth year. By this time everyone was feeling the pinch. In spite of wartime restrictions, the family and friends in the village rallied round to chip in with clothing coupons for the wedding dresses. Muriel was able to purchase a length of white velvet for her dress, buy two dresses for her bridesmaids and include sufficient material to make into little suits for two pageboys. Her mother had to conjure them up so quickly her feet hardly left the heavy treadle of the sewing machine she kept under the stairs. There was such excitement, and utter amazement at the speed and ingenuity of the operation.
When the two families involved got together to make a list of wedding guests it surprised them when it came to 76 - far more than they were expected to feed, even for a wedding, during wartime rationing. The only thing allowed on ration for a wedding was two pounds of cooked ham, and nothing more. Again, family and friends came to the rescue with precious rations of butter, tea and sugar. Some gave up their precious bottles of preserves and the men raided their winter stores of potatoes, beetroot, swede and prized hothouse salads.
Muriel's sister-in-law offered to make a wedding cake using what ingredients had been donated and it was put on display with all the trimmings she could find.
An uncle, with some know-how, managed to get his hands on a leg of lamb. No questions were asked, but it was hastily cooked in the bride's mother's coal-fired oven and with some of her chicken eggs, hard boiled, it was beginning to look as if a wedding feast was imminent at Vine Cottage.
The bridegroom's mother, who lived in Bristol, extracted a promise of red roses from a local florist for the bride's bouquet. A dozen were produced on the day - the entire month's ration for the florist.
The groom goes missing
As things were hotting up, the bride began to worry that Ron might not turn up on time for his wedding. Rumours were always circulating about sudden postings. This could happen to Ron and all the preparations would be wasted. By 10pm on the day before the wedding it began to look like her fears would be realised. She nearly went up the wall worrying if he was going to make it.
He was due to arrive at 6pm on Friday night at Bristol Temple Mead's railway station but, unrealised by the bride, there was no public transport to get him from Bristol to the village of Frampton Cotterell in the blackout. His only choice was to walk the eight miles through the empty roads and lanes in the dark. A policemen stopped him on the way and asked what he was doing on his own at night. Ron told him he was on leave and about to get married the next day, but worried that the policeman might ask him to empty his kit bag because he had his service revolver at the bottom of it.
He arrived at his bride's house at 10pm.
Ron's parents lived in Bristol. All dressed up in their wedding clothes there was no other way to get to the village but by bus on the day.
Wedding and honeymoon in 48 hours
The marriage was to take place at the Hebron Methodist Church in Coalpit Heath and conducted by the Rev. Trevor J Smith, attended by two bridesmaids and two young pages. The bride's younger brother, Ian, who was an usher at the church, was asked by one of the pages what he had to do when the bride and groom got to the front of the church. Being something of a joker he whispered loudly, 'You get hold of the bride's veil and give it a good tug.' Muriel and Ron heard it, turned round and gave him a dirty look. The other pageboy spent the entire prayer time, when Ron was on his knees, touching every one of the steel studs in the bottom of Ron's shoes and counting them with his finger.
All went well and the wedding feast was enough for all the guests. Muriel wondered what her mother had been up to when she caught her sneaking downstairs with one of the sleeves of her green dress covered in white powder.
After all the guests had departed to their homes Ron and Muriel found themselves up to their elbows in dishwater washing up until 1.30am. When they got upstairs to their wedding bed and pulled back the top sheet, they knew what mother had been up to. Too tired to bother, Muriel pulled the sheet covered in flour off the bed and was content to sleep on the bare mattress.
There must have been a glut of teapots that year because the bride and groom were given ten as wedding presents. For a few years Ian was able to beg a teapot from his sister as presents for every village wedding he was invited to. Ron was back in barracks by 9pm. the following day, still wearing his army uniform.
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