Wartime sweethearts to finally tie knot

WARTIME sweethearts who separated more than half a century ago are now back in each other's arms – and have vowed never to be apart again.Patrick Sleight and Jean Giles, who are both 77, first met in 1941 and their friendship soon turned to romance.

WARTIME sweethearts who separated more than half a century ago are now back in each other's arms - and have vowed never to be apart again.

Patrick Sleight and Jean Giles, who are both 77, first met in 1941 and their friendship soon turned to romance.

But in the autumn of 1944 their relationship began to fall apart when Mr Sleight was posted abroad and soon the couple were left with only memories of their time together.

That was until last year, when they were reunited following a dogged search by widower Mr Sleight - and the remarkable love story will be completed when the couple are married next month.

"We first met in Littleport when we were in school together," said Mr Sleight, from Downham Market.

"We both won the same handwriting competition and became friends but there was always a rivalry between us over who had really won.

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"We used to go out together and I remember playing in a military bugle band with Jean's brother Peter.

"We stayed very close and there were very many happy memories. Our friendship grew and grew and I remember celebrating out 21st birthdays together.

"In 1944 I joined the RAF and shortly after that Jean went into nursing. I was going to buy her an engagement ring but I didn't keep that promise through no fault of my own. When I was posted overseas it didn't do the relationship any good and the relationship fell apart.

"We both went on to marry other people and have had fulfilling married lives. In that time we only met once, by coincidence, at Littleport fair."

But in the spring of 2004, Patrick bumped into a mutual friend and as they talked about his late wife the friend told him Jean, from Bury St Edmunds, had lost her partner too.

"I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to meet again, I thought she would understand what grief was all about and that she could help me. But I didn't know how to find her - initially I searched the internet, but I came up with nothing.

"At last I remembered that Peter (Jean's brother) had worked in Cambridge so I searched the area. Eventually, I tracked him down and he in turn contacted Jean and arranged a meeting."

Mr Sleight said he was anxious about meeting his teenage sweetheart. "I was very apprehensive. I didn't know what to expect - Jean didn't recognise me because I had changed so much but as soon as we started talking it sparked a few memories," he said.

"It is difficult to explain how it felt - we still remember a lot of the old times when we had a lot of fun. I used to have motorbike and Jean would ride on the back - it was the thrill of a lifetime.

"Now we are trying to get back into bowls and hopefully we can join a club and make a name for ourselves. We are looking forward to getting married, we are in love and we want to spend the rest of our lives together.

"If all goes well we will make a new start in Bury - it is a wonderful place to live and that will be our future. I believe we have been given a second chance, we might never have met again, so I think we have been very lucky."

Mrs Giles said she was more than a little surprised to hear from Mr Sleight after a break of so many years.

"I had no idea he was still alive when my brother rang and told me to sit down but I just knew who it was," she said.

"When we met it was emotional but we are always emotional. It is better than when we were youngsters because we've got more sense. It is more romantic than when we were younger, Patrick is very romantic. He proposed on the bed because he didn't want to hurt his knees."

The couple are due to get married at St Peter's Church, Bury, on October 15.

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