London during the Second World War wasn’t the most tranquil of spots for a honeymoon. But Alfred and Louisa Taylor took air raids in their stride and managed to have a lovely time.
The young couple had only checked into their hotel half-an-hour before the sirens began, but they were used to them by that point.
‘We looked out and there were Canadian soldiers racing to the shelter. We looked at each other and thought “we’ve been through worse than this, we won’t bother”,’ says Louisa.
The Portsmouth couple, who are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, explain that they’d got used to how the raids worked and realised the bombers were focusing on a different part of London.
And as Portsmouth Dockyard workers they were used to bombs dropping directly overhead.
‘It’s strange but we gradually accepted it,’ says Louisa. ‘It was frightening yes, but it wasn’t any good living a life thinking you were going to be killed at any time.’
By the time Alfred and Louisa were married at St Margaret’s Church, Southsea the raids were becoming less frequent.
They invited about 40 guests to their wedding and everyone enjoyed a meal at Southsea restaurant and ballroom Kimbells. The venue was allowed extra rations for weddings and the meal was quite a luxury for the newlyweds and their guests.
Alfred and Louisa had met a few years before when they were both studying, Alfred at Chivers School and Louisa at the Municipal College.
The teenagers had seen each other on the way to school, but began talking at one of the regular evening dances at the bandstand on Southsea Common.
After finishing their studies both worked in the dockyard, Alfred as an apprentice engineer and Louisa as a bookkeeper.
Alfred’s father William, who was an inspector of ship fitters, was killed during the first raid on the dockyard and his son and his sweetheart endured years of running to the shelters and wondering if each other and their families were okay.
So it seems strange they didn’t choose a more peaceful location for a post-wedding break.
‘London of all places,’ laughs Alfred, but the couple explain that they managed to see the sights and enjoy many concerts and shows.
After marriage, Alfred and Louisa lived in Fareham for a while before returning to Portsmouth and raising their three children – John, June and Douglas.
Alfred worked as a draughtsman and then became an engineer in the merchant navy. Louisa held several voluntary and civic positions, including Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth from 1984 to 1985. The Lord Mayor was Alfred’s friend John Marshall, who was a bachelor and asked Alfred if Louisa would take the role.
During their time in office they took the advice of nurses in the Portsmouth area and began the fundraising drive for the Rowans Hospice in Purbrook.
Alfred and Louisa, who have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, celebrated with family and friends at their Old Portsmouth home.