Couple renew vows in Santon Downham on ruby wedding day

A couple who became engaged just three days after meeting and married less than a year later celebrated their 40th anniversary at the same church in which they exchanged their original vows.

Dave Philpot, 63, was just 15 when he left his home in Santon Downham, near Brandon, to begin what would become a 35 year career in the Royal Navy.

And while docked at Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia, he met his future wife, Daphne, at a dance on board his ship HMS Albion.

The couple were engaged just three days later and married in August 1972 at St Mary the Virgin in Santon Downham, where they returned on Saturday to renew their vows in front of family and friends.

Mr Philpot, who now lives with his wife in Fareham in Hampshire, said: “We knew this year was our ruby and we’ve just come back from a cruise which was part of the celebration and I thought of having a service but when we booked they couldn’t do church services at sea so we talked about it and thought said let’s see how many guests and family we can get back.”

Mrs Philpot, 63, who was born in Wales but moved with her family to Australia where she studied to be a nurse, returned to England in July 1972 and stayed in Santon Downham while Mr Philpot visited at weekends from his naval base in Cornwall.

“Santon Downham is a family home and I was made to feel so welcome there when I came back to England and it’s such a lovely village,” she said.

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Saturday’s guests included Mr Philpot’s sister who was a bridesmaid at the original wedding, the couple’s son and daughter and Mrs Philpot’s school friend who was unable to make the wedding in 1972 but flew from Australia especially for this weekend’s event.

The couple, who also have one grandson, who was the best man at Saturday’s service, moved to Portsmouth after their wedding where Mr Philpot served in the navy until 2000, retiring as a chief petty officer, and now works for the Office of National Statistics, and Mrs Philpot returned to nursing.

“We are almost an identical couple,” Mr Philpot said. “We have the sort of relationship where I love to cook and she hates to cook and there are parts of the housework she hates to do and I do the washing up.

“Obviously when the kids were young life was a bit difficult but we just seem to get on like a house on fire. We both have the same aims in life - we were never going to be high flyers. We were happy in our life and we have a boy and a girl and they’ve grown up and things have gone swimmingly for us.

“We’ve had our ups and downs but 99pc of the time it’s been fantastic.”

Mrs Philpot said: “I think it’s because we love each other so much and we’ve gone through tough times with him being away and me being on my own with the children but I couldn’t have asked for a better marriage.

“I’ve never regretted it one little bit and I was always planning to come back here anyway - I think both of us have the same sense of humour and neither of us are what we’d call beauties or handsome but it’s been good company.”