Published: 10:11, 02 August 2021
| Updated: 12:07, 02 August 2021
Every bride knows that organising a wedding can be a lot of hassle, especially with the uncertainties created around Covid.
Rest assured that previous generations have had it far worse, as this account shows. It was written in 1966 by John Ranger about the difficulties experienced with his daughter's wedding during the Battle Of Britain.
The date is October 5, 1940. He writes:
As we lived in a "Closed Area" in Kent and strangers were not allowed in, our daughter's wedding was to be held in Orpington; most of our relatives lived there and we, the bride's parents had married there in 1913.
Only a few would have to travel by train, which was rather an uncertain and dangerous undertaking at that time. We were to be among those few.
We got up at 7.30am, after a rather disturbed night, and during breakfast heavy firing broke out. An enemy plane was coming towards us leaving a white trail behind it. As our AckAck gunfire got nearer its target, the plane suddenly turned away eastwards.
At 9.30am while waiting at the station we were told our train had been delayed due to enemy action, but we might get away at 10.30am.
More heavy firing, and planes overhead amid shell bursts.
An attempt to bomb the station failed but resulted in the destruction of Perry Street and others (we learnt on our return.) At last a train crept in and we were on our way.
Passing through fields, we noticed men watching the sky and saw six planes appearing to follow the train. However, they passed on. The fields showed the craters of previous bombings.
We changed at Swanley and arrived at St Mary Cray at 12.30pm. It was a lovely day so we decided to walk through a new estate to our destination. We were struck by the silence: no people or dogs, not a sound. Then we discovered the place had just been machine-gunned by low flying raiders and a few light bombs dropped. Everyone was sheltering.
We arrived to find Bessie and her aunt busy. The hotel had cancelled the reception as they did not want the responsibility of a party on their premises in the event of an air raid.
However, a cafe had kindly agreed to cater for a small tea.
The air-raid siren sounded about every hour and "things" happened, sometimes near, sometimes far.
At 4pm, Bessie and I drove to the church and just as we crossed the High Street again the alarm sounded. As we walked up the church path, the RAF circled overhead. A very welcome guard of honour!
The church was decorated for Harvest Festival and looked lovely.
The service was carried out in the old style, without hurry or worry, before a number of guests.
As I stood behind the bride I could hear the guns thundering among the hills.
I had stood at those chancel steps with my own bride in 1913 and I could not help reflecting what an awful change had come over the world since then.
As we were leaving the church, two young girls rushed up, Bessie's friends from Maidstone. They had been delayed on the railway and were just too late.
At the cafe, we found no windows, several ceilings down and no electricity, but we were a gay party, and at 6.15pm we saw the bride and groom off plus the two girlfriends, and the bridegroom was ragged about having three to look after.
Our relatives urged us to stay the night, but we wanted to get home so an uncle drove us to the station for the 7.30pm train.
Time came and went, but no train, while the siren sounded mournfully.
We could see gunfire to the south and east and coming our way.
Then we heard a sound like thunder, which swept towards us and finally enveloped us.
Flashes were everywhere and the noise was one great roar.
At times aircraft could be heard above. The station was pitch dark and as far as I knew we were alone.
The building was new and strongly built, so putting my wife in a "safe" corner, I went to watch from the door, but glancing round I found she was watching from the other door.
She said I should not have the show all to myself.
There seemed to be several places on fire, but nearby trees prevented identification.
Once or twice the firing died down only to recommence more violently than ever.
It seemed like a year, but at 9.15pm a train slid in.
No-one alighted and we got into a darkened compartment.
We didn't know where it was going, only that it was moving in the right direction.
It crept on again and at Swanley we were told "All change."
If we thought the last place was bad, this was worse. Flashes, bumps and bangs all round, an absolute nightmare.
A few servicemen were waiting too, but there were no seats, so my wife suggested we sit in an empty train at the back of the platform.
We were tired, there were no lights and we pulled down the blinds to try to keep out the flashes from the guns. The roar went on.
After a long time, the train began to move out, fortunately heading for home.
Slowly it crawled along, occasionally stopping altogether, but the gunfire and flashes never died down.
At last we reached our own station to find our own anti-aircraft batteries banging away as hard as the rest.
The journey home from the the station was made by dodging from one doorway to the next, rather awkward as the flashes were dazzling, but we were indoors by 11.30pm.
Our journey of 20 miles had taken only four hours, but it seemed like an eternity.