Romantic pair celebrate 75 happy years

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A Westham couple have celebrated 75 happy years of marriage.

Fred and Phyllis Thomas, of Montague Road, Westham, married on St George’s Day in 1941 at Old Town’s parish church, St Mary’s.

Their romance started when they were in their late teens. Fred, who at the age of 98, is now the last surviving pre-war Eastbourne County Borough police officer, told the Herald how he met the love of his life Phyllis, now 94.

He said, “I was put on duty directing traffic for one week, down outside the railway station at the junction with Gildredge Road.

“On the first morning I saw this slim and pretty girl ride past, sitting bolt upright on her pedal bicycle.

“The next morning I made sure I stopped the stream of traffic she was in and I stopped her every day.

“However, she worked at Bobby’s, now Debenhams, and had to clock in at 9am each morning. If she was late she lost pay.

“My stopping her each morning made her late for work and by the end of the week, on the Saturday, she was furious. She had been getting more and more angry each day.”

A couple of months later, Fred discovered Phyllis worked at Bobby’s and he waited outside the department store for her at the end of the day.

Their first date was at the Luxor Cinema in Pevensey Road.

Fred said, “I bought her a box of Terry’s Old Gold chocolates and the rest is history.”

The couple were together for three years before they tied the knot. After the ceremony they enjoyed a reception with friends and family at the Oak Cabin in Terminus Road.

They have spent most of their married life in Old Town – living in Victoria Drive and Cherry Garden.

Fred was a policeman locally for 32 years, but spent two-an-a-half years in Yorkshire, when he served in the Army during the Second World War.

They have been involved in voluntary work in Eastbourne for decades.

Fred was involved in the Scouts for 30 years and Phyllis was a Girl Guide leader.

Phyllis is a founding member of a club for young mothers and babies, which still runs today at Community Wise in Ockylnge Road, Old Town.

She is still an active member – attending meetings and discussing the future of the club – after setting it up 75 years ago.

Fred played football and cricket for the police teams, was a Willingdon and Jevington parish councillor for four years, was involved in the Air Training Corps for 10 years and was an active member of the National Association of Retired Police Officers for 35 years.

The couple have been recognised for their voluntary work, which has spanned over 40 years.

They were thanked by the Queen for the dedication and invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace with many other hardworking volunteers from across the country.

The couple had three children, Bryan, Sandra and Pauline. They are now grandparents to four, Matthew, Damien, Greg and Amy-Louise. They also have three great-grandchildren, Aimee, Tilly and Toby. The family all live locally.

Phyllis and Fred were joined by their family to celebrate the milestone anniversary with a lunch at the Lansdowne Hotel on Saturday (April 23). During the party, they had a surprise visit from Peter Field, Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, who delivered a message of congratulations from the Queen.

“It was an additional layer of icing on the cake,” said Fred.

Even after a relationship lasting nearly 78 years, Fred is still a romantic and always calls Phyllis ‘darling girl’.

He said, “Every morning I wake-up and say, ‘good morning darling girl’.”

When asked the secret to a long and happy marriage he said, “Quite simply, the secret is to marry a girl like Phyllis.”

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