Big 60 for ‘action man’ and his love

Joy and Norman Phillips celebrate their anniversary
Joy and Norman Phillips celebrate their anniversary

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Joy Phillips was used to husband Norman’s adventurous career but his 13th parachute jump made her a little nervous.

Norman, a frogman in the Royal Marines’ Special Boat Service, was being dropped with his colleagues into the sea off Eastney and Joy heard their plane overhead.

Norman and Joy Phillips on their wedding day

Norman and Joy Phillips on their wedding day

‘I was working down near the airport in Portsmouth and we heard them going over. I was a bit worried about that one I have to admit,’ says Joy.

Norman had already seen action in the jungle in the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s when he met his future bride in Southsea.

He had returned home from the conflict between Commonwealth forces and the armed wing of the Malayan Communist Party and was enjoying time with friends at the beach.

Joy has never forgotten how he made fun of her when they first talked! ‘He was a bit rude to me,’ she laughs. ‘I came out the sea and he was sitting on the beach and he said “what was that?” I said “I was swimming” and he said “you didn’t even have your feet off the ground”. I did this kind of doggy paddle with my head out of the water but it was a bit of a cheek.’

Obviously Joy didn’t mind being teased because more than 60 years later the couple are celebrating their diamond wedding.

They were married on December 19, 1953, at St Andrew’s Church, in Eastney Barracks where Norman was based.

The couple walked out of the ceremony under an arch of canoe paddles, held aloft by Norman’s colleagues, and were pulled through the streets of Southsea on a canoe mounted on wheels. Two seats had been constructed for them,with the signs ‘His’ and ‘The Boss’.

Shortly after their honeymoon, Norman was whisked away for more training and found himself living in a snowhole in the Cairngorms. ‘It was fine. That was the life we had and what we expected. It was my job,’ he says.

He served in the regulars for seven years and the reserves for a further five. Joy worked in the accounts office of a firm that made petrol tanks and then concentrated on looking after the couple’s three sons – Stephen, Mark and Kevin.

Another exciting moment in their lives was when Norman worked on the 1955 film Cockleshell Heroes.

The film about a dangerous canoeing mission in the Second World War was being shot on the River Tagus in Lisbon and several real marines were required to be doubles for the more daring action shots.

‘So I never got to see myself on screen, but we had a lot of fun doing it. It was a great experience,’ says Norman, who also worked on the movie at Shepperton Studios and invited Joy to meet the cast and crew.

After Norman left the service he became a coach-builder and the couple settled down to life in their Paulsgrove home, where they have now been living for 54 years.

The grandparents had hoped to throw a big party for their anniversary but the celebrations had to be cancelled because Joy was taken ill. She’s now on the mend and they’re planning a nice meal with their family.