Monday, 9 February 2009

Wartime romance

Maternal grandparents – Percy Edwin GALE & Jessie MACKENZIE

There are two quite romantic stories surrounding the courtship and marriages of my mothers’ parents, Percy and Jessie.

Grandad Percy was born in 1886 and was a career army man, serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers. At the outbreak of WW1 he was sent to France with the Territorial Forces and spent almost all of the next 4 years there on the blood fields. One exception to this was when he was repatriated to London to recover from what we believe was a gas attack. It is at this time, according to family legend, that he fell in love with my grandmother.

The story goes that granddad was temporarily blinded by the gas and fell in love with the voice of one of the nurses – my grandmother. He would keep her at his bedside as long as he could just to hear her voice. When his sight was restored he fell in love all over again and the two began courting.

Unfortunately, Jessie’s father was not at all impressed with his daughter stepping out with a common soldier and actively discouraged the romance. Such was the strength of his opinion that when Percy and Jessie married at Trinity Church St Marylebone on 9th September 1916 they did so in secret.

Percy then went back to the front to see out the end of the war.

Jessie must have worn her father down or perhaps he relented when Percy was promoted; an officer would have been a far more suitable husband for his only daughter. Whatever the circumstances, he was present when his daughter and Percy married again at St Clement Danes Church on 3rd August 1918. Both Jessie and Percy broke the law when they declared themselves to be “bachelor” and “spinster” on this marriage certificate. How fortunate Jessie didn’t fall pregnant between her two weddings!

I used to love the pure romance of this story when I was growing up and for me the only story which surpassed it was that of my parents courtship during WW2.

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