The day a German U-boat came up next to Bob...
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Celebrating a 75th wedding anniversary is a significant achievement for any married couple.
But for Bob Wilson, reaching the marital landmark must have seemed unlikely – when a German U-boat surfaced next to the Lowestoft fishing boat he was working on during the second world war.
Fortunately, despite pointing rifles at them, the U-boat captain and his crew spared Mr Wilson and his fellow fishermen and he returned home safely to his wife Florence, better known as Sally.
And this week he recalled his wartime tale as they celebrated 75 happy years together.
Mr Wilson met his wife-to-be at a fairground in Milford Haven in 1935 while he was on a fishing holiday in west Wales.
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The future Mrs Wilson was afraid to take the young Lowestoft man home to meet her parents but they were soon won over when he turned up unannounced at the family's front door with a freshly-caught fish for tea.
The couple corresponded for several months before Mrs Wilson visited her future husband in Lowestoft and decided to stay. They were married at St Margaret's Church on June 6, 1938 and celebrated with a party at the Rising Sun pub in the town's now-demolished Beach Village.
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Mrs Wilson, who was dubbed Sally by her husband's brothers, went to work at the family's butcher's shop in Whapload Road while Mr Wilson worked on a Lowestoft-based fishing boat.
One day during the second world war, Mr Wilson was standing on the deck of a trawler when he heard an unusual noise and spotted a ripple of bubbles on the calm surface of the North Sea.
He immediately called the skipper, who was angry at being disturbed.
Recalling the incident, he said: 'A German U-boat came up next to us and they got all the rifles pointing at us. The German skipper said 'tell us where we are and we will let you go'. And he did do that.
'We came straight in and the patrol boats were out in five minutes, but they had gone.'
Mr Wilson continued to work as a fisherman and narrowly escaped another tragedy at sea when he was offered a job on the fishing boat Susan M.
The skipper offered to lay off an existing crewman to make way for Mr Wilson. However, the other man had just become a father and Mrs Wilson felt it was unfair for her husband take his job.
Tragically, the Susan M exploded at sea the next day in unexplained circumstances and all of her crewmen were lost.
Mrs Wilson said: 'It was a miracle really. He would have gone if I'd said 'yes' but I didn't think it was right.
'If he had have gone, he wouldn't have been here today.'
Mr Wilson was later called up to join the Army, serving in the Royal Norfolks in Ipswich and Norwich, and after the war, he took a job as a pallet maker at Birds Eye where he stayed until his retirement.
Mrs Wilson worked as the manageress of Claremont Pier and was an inspector for Beacon Lamps, which made headlights and sidelights for cars.
She was also an active member of the Labour party.
The couple, who now live in Rochester Road, Pakefield, said they enjoyed dancing together and would take regular trips on the steamer that would dock at Claremont Pier. They also travelled overseas and spent several months in South Africa, where they made a number of lifelong friends.
Mrs Wilson, 96, said she was glad Mr Wilson, 98, had picked her out at the fair in Milford Haven.
The couple have one son Robert, a grand-daughter, Julie O' Sullivan, three great- grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.