Long walk was well worth it for chivalrous David

David and Sheila Lear
David and Sheila Lear

From broken bones to new beginnings

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When David Lear met future wife Sheila, he offered to walk her home from the cinema as her bus hadn’t arrived.

It was a particularly chivalrous act, because after they had walked from Waterlooville to Hambledon the young soldier had to make his way to Hayling Island!

‘I got back just in time to get up,’ recalls David, now 94. ‘I said to myself ‘‘I’m not going to do this again’’. But of course I did.’

The couple, who now live in Havant and are celebrating their platinum wedding, met in 1942 when David was serving in the Royal Fusiliers London Division. Sheila worked at the Airspeed Factory in Langstone at the outbreak of war.

David was based in several places around the Hampshire area, but always managed to visit Sheila and the couple were married at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Havant on June 23, 1943.

But happiness was often fleeting during wartime and only a few days after the wedding, David was posted to North Africa and then Italy as part of the Anzio Campaign, when Allied troops landed as part of Operation Shingle.

He had an extremely rough time, losing most of his friends in battle, and Sheila received a telegram saying David was ‘missing believed lost behind enemy lines’. They were only able to make contact weeks later.

‘I was just hoping he was safe. I was always hopeful, you had to be you, you couldn’t give up,’ says Sheila, now 88.

After the war David worked as a builder before getting a job with British Rail as an interpreter for Italian employees.

This led to a long career on the railway. As a patrolman he would walk 15 miles a day checking the track and was the last lengthman to walk the old Hayling Billy line.

Sheila and David celebrated their anniversary at home with the whole family.

They have three children, Yvonne, Ann and Michael, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.