Platinum anniversary for Chichester couple

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A HUSBAND and wife who married just weeks after D-Day have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

Robert and Jeane Ashby tied the knot on July 8, 1944 – Jeane’s 19th birthday.

They live in Plainwood Close, Chichester, and were joined by family on Tuesday (July 8) to celebrate their platinum anniversary and Jeane’s 89th birthday.

“I had just started to get to know him when he was called up,” recalled Jeane.

Robert, 98, was called up to the army, later transferring to the army’s Glider Pilot Regiment.

“It was a pretty dangerous thing to be in,” he said.

“I did three airborne operations as a glider pilot. I must have been one of the few that survived three, I suppose.

“The first one was D-Day. That was a day. That was engraved on my memory.”

He was tasked with flying into Normandy 
with a bulldozer in the back of his glider.

Upon his return he was granted a 48-hour leave to get married at a church in Hitchin, in Hertfordshire.

However at the last minute, as Jeane was waving him off, Robert had a message to say he could have an extra week off.

After their wedding, Robert also flew a mission at Arnhem, now famed for the film A Bridge Too Far, and his third mission was at Nijmegen.

“Being a glider pilot, my prospects of survival weren’t very good,” said Robert. “It was a one-way trip for us. You could only fly the glider inwards and had to get out by using your wits.”

After the war, Robert suffered from post traumatic stress disorder but returned to work, later becoming county librarian for Surrey, and he was also the curator of a museum in Kettering.

The couple first met in the Hitchin library, where Robert was a librarian.

The couple lived in Hitchin, Kettering, Walton-on-Thames and Guildford before moving to Prinsted, near Southbourne, in 1985, later moving to Chichester.

Jeane spent many years as a volunteer at St Wilfrid’s Hospice and has also been a tour guide at Chichester Cathedral for more than 20 years.

They have two sons and two daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.