WHEN Doug and Betty Hale married 73 years ago, it was 1941 and the height of the Blitz.

Their then home city of Bristol was being pummelled by German air raids, and hundreds of men, women and children were being killed or injured.

But against a backdrop of the widespread devastation and misery of war, a gentle love story set to last for decades was just beginning.

The young couple, who had met through the church they both attended, were preparing to tie the knot.

Unfortunately when Betty arrived at Bristol’s only surviving bridal dress shop it had just been hit – and wardens feared there was still an unexploded bomb hidden somewhere in the street.

She was given just ten minutes to race through the barrier and try to find herself the frock of her dreams.

Miraculously she spotted it hanging on a rail smothered in broken glass and, on closer inspection, discovered that it was in her size too.

Betty hastily paid the shop owner - who was by now loading all her stock into her van - and ran off.

“I was the last person to buy a wedding dress in Bristol during the Blitz I guess,” says the 95-year-old, smiling broadly.

“Doug had a week’s leave from the army for the wedding. He came home on the Tuesday, we married on the Thursday and he went back the following Monday.

“Rationing meant we had fish paste sandwiches at the reception. And no one’s even heard of fish paste now!”

Doug served in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry for the entirety of the Second World War, so the couple barely saw each other for the first six years of their marriage.

His unit was involved in the D-Day landings.

On being demobbed the couple moved to London where they lived for 33 years.

Doug worked for Christian organisation London City Mission, while Betty became a teacher.

The couple arrived in Winchester 35 years ago, living in Arthur Road, before moving to accommodation at St John’s Winchester Charity in 1998.

They now have rooms at Devenish House, in Southgate Street, where they celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary last month.

Their two children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in Cornwall and Canada, but are all due to converge on Winchester for the beginning of April when Doug celebrates his 100th birthday.

And the secret of their long and happy marriage?

“I’m not going to say we haven’t had a cross word in all these years because that would be ridiculous,” insists Betty.

“But we’ve never gone to bed without putting things right.

“And our strong Christian faith has played a huge part too,” she adds, casting a loving glance at her husband.