Glider pilot’s dash to altar a legacy of true wartime love

MILESTONE: Herbert and Helen Parsons, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today

MILESTONE: Herbert and Helen Parsons, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

SEVENTY years ago today pilot Herbert Parsons scrambled over the fence of his RAF station to get married.

The young member of the 1st Airborne Division’s glider pilot regiment rushed from RAF Brize Norton to St Aldate’s Church, Oxford, to wed Helen Corby.

Now 93, war veteran Mr Parsons said: “It was the Second World War, two months after D-Day, and we were due to fly to Paris – but it never happened.

“The order came in on Friday that everybody was confined to camp in case we were called up.”

The couple were due to wed on the Tuesday.

Mr Parsons said: “I thought: ‘Helen will be waiting at the church,’ and I took a chance.

“I jumped over the fence and tried to catch the train back to Oxford.”

But despite the station being next to the camp, it wasn’t so simple.

Mr Parsons said: “Over the station tannoy they called for me, and it turns out my commanding officer had called me back.”

Thankfully, his superior, a Major Jackson, turned a blind eye for 24 hours as he knew Mr Parsons was supposed to be getting married.

He left on the Saturday at 11am and when he got to Oxford he met up with his bride-to-be and the vicar.

He explained they could not get married on the Tuesday.

Luckily, the vicar said there was a space the following day at 11am.

They tied the knot, then Mr Parsons went back on a train to the camp that afternoon.

Just over one month later, the D-Day reservist saw his first action in the nine-day Battle of Arnhem, which began on September 17, 1944.

It was seven days into this battle, named Operation Market Garden, when he was wounded and captured by the Germans.

He was taken to Stalag XI-B near Fallingbostel in Saxony and spent six months in the hospital there before it was liberated in April 1945.

Oxford Mail:

  • CHURCH ON TIME: The couple on their wedding day in 1944

The couple have lived in Seacourt Road, Botley, for more than 10 years. They ran their own wine shop in St Aldate’s, for 25 years.Mr Parsons said of his wife, 92, who worked in a records office in Gloucester throughout the war: “We’ve known each other since we were 15 or 16.

“She would come in and buy tobacco for her father from my father’s tobacco shop in St Aldate’s.

“We lived very close to each other and there was a social club in Lake Street, off Abingdon Road. We used to go dancing there.”

The couple have two sons, Richard, 68, and Stephen, 65, and are grandparents of four with one great-grandchild.

Giving advice on how to have a successful relationship, Mr Parsons said: “Pick the right partner to start with. I have. She never raises her voice and is so calm.”

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