Ted and Peggy Ingram look back on seven decades of happy marriage after surviving the D-Day landings, the Blitz and wartime perils.
A devoted couple who survived everything Hitler could throw at them are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in Ilfracombe this Saturday.
It was love at first sight for D-Day landing craft driver Ted Ingram, 90, when he saw his future wife Peggy at a South London cinema and they were engaged in 1942 the day before he joined the Royal Navy aged 19.
Despite the hundreds of miles that lay between them while Ted was at war, they agreed each night at 9pm to pause and think of each other, no matter where they might be. Ted wrote Peggy numerous letters and poems, with their 9pm assignation recalled in ‘Rendezvous’.
Today they both live at Fernbank House care home in Ilfracombe and Peggy, 93, is sadly affected by dementia, but they remain as devoted to each other as ever and Ted is never far from her side.
“I was in love with her as soon as I saw her,” he recalled.
“She worked there and had been talking to one of the ushers. I asked ‘who was that lovely girl?’ and he said ‘lay off, she’s mine!’ So I said, ‘We’ll see about that!’”
On Saturday they will be joined for an anniversary celebration by their three daughters Maureen, Sandra and Donella, plus some of their eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Peg and Ted’s wedding had been set for June 25, 1944 – the couple reasoned the war must be over by then, but unknown to them the small matter of D-Day and the Allied invasion of Europe was about to come between them.
Peg had already come under fire from the Germans – in 1940 a delayed-action bomb had gone off in Lewisham High Street, killing her fiancé of the time and hurling her through a plate glass window, fracturing her spine, arm, ribs and puncturing a lung.
At 7.30am on June 6, Ted’s landing craft arrived at Sword Beach in Normandy to land tanks and troops while under enemy fire. Despite becoming grounded, they managed to unload their cargo and eventually make it off the beach, returning to Portsmouth to pick up reinforcements.
“Days merged into night and we were on tablets to keep us awake,” recalled Ted.
“You don’t think, you are trained – I didn’t have time to think about the danger.”
Peg knew nothing of this until the BBC broadcast on the morning of the invasion, when she wrote in her diary ‘I only wish I knew where Ted was, but I know he is in good hands as I am always praying for his safe and speedy return’.
Ted thought his luck had run out when a torpedo or mine broke the back of his landing craft, but the survivors were picked up by the navy and made it back to Portsmouth on June 24.
Everything had been set for a June 25 wedding, but it was not to be. But the vicar told Peg he would marry then as soon as Ted returned home and when he arrived on the evening of the 27th, the good reverend happily agreed to conduct the ceremony the next day.
On their wedding photo, Ted wrote, ‘the day had 12 air raids and a thunderstorm, but nothing could mar our happiness’.
‘The wedding went ahead in the bomb damaged church with ‘doodlebugs’ (flying bombs) flying overhead. We didn’t worry because, against all the odds, we’d made it’.
That bond has remained unbroken ever since.
“We were lucky, that’s all there is to it,” he told the Gazette.
“We are just lucky to still be here. I still love her – she is still my Peggy.”