‘Still in love’ after 75 years of marriage

S05021H14 Bill Russell, 94, and his wife, Irene, 92, celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary
S05021H14 Bill Russell, 94, and his wife, Irene, 92, celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary

A COUPLE celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary say they are ‘still in love after all these years’.

Bill and Irene Russell, who both live at Romans care home, in Roman Road, Southwick, celebrated with residents on Friday then had a family party on Saturday.

Bill, 94, said they met on Brighton seafront in 1936, ‘where nearly everybody met then’.

He had been with a group of friends and got chatting with Irene and her friends.

“That was the first time we met,” he said. “We had a little spell apart, met up again in 1937 and that was it.”

Bill was born in Brighton but Irene had been born in Liverpool and moved down south later with her family.

When Irene started a job as a domestic nurse on the Isle of Wight, Bill went to visit her on her days off.

“I was working on the railway at Lancing and we used to get a free train pass, so I used to be able to go over and meet her,” he explained.

The pair were married on January 31, 1939, at Brighton Register Office. It was seven months before war broke out, but Bill said he had been in the Royal Naval Reserve, so was called up much earlier.

He added: “I was in HMS Vernon torpedo school in Portsmouth when war broke out. After a short spell, I transferred to the HMS Hood battle cruiser and was on it for 13 months.”

When his father fell ill, he asked for compassionate leave but was refused because he was not his next of kin.

“I put in request after request because I had had telegrams to say he was going,” said Bill. “My officer told me the only way would be to get me drafted off the ship, which he did, then he died on it, poor devil.”

Bill was caught up in two explosions himself, the first on HMS Southsea, a paddle minesweeper, in the North Sea on February 16, 1941.

He said: “We went out Saturday night and spent all night searching in the Tyne. A load of new sonic mines had been laid and we caught one and got blown to pieces. I was put in Newcastle General Hospital for three weeks with a broken ankle.”

After that, he went into Navy barracks in Portsmouth but was caught in a blast again in the April and it was when he was on sick leave that the Hood was blown up, on May 24, 1941, killing 1,415 men.

“I feel very lucky,” added Bill.

He was in Sydney at the end of the second world war, so he was not demobbed until June 1946, when he went back to work on the railway. He also rejoined the naval reserve after the war and was involved in mine clearance, meaning he was away from home most weekends.

The couple’s eldest son, Raymond, was born the year after they married, and two more sons and two daughters followed.

The family lived in Hollingbury after the war, then moved to Hove in 1963, before settling in Franklin Road, Portslade.

By that time, Bill was working for Huckle’s, the furnishing company, in Hove.

Once the children grew up and left home, Irene took a job as a waitress at Streets in Shoreham and the couple were able to enjoy holidays all over the world over the years.

Irene, 92, said: “We have had our ups and downs, but we have had a good marriage. We are still in love after all these years.”

She said she had lived with her mother while Bill was away in the Navy and also found comfort from her two sisters, whose husbands were also in the forces.

Irene moved into Romans in June 2012, when Bill found looking after here was becoming too much for him, and he joined her in March last year.

The couple have 16 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.