Dunkirk veteran and wife mark a 70-year milestone
A COUPLE from Tiverton are celebrating 70 years of marriage this week.
Ben and Eva Eccles marked their anniversary on Wednesday, with a special lunch at the Castle Hotel in Taunton, yesterday.
The couple met at Beyer Peacock, a railway locomotive manufacturing plant, when they were living in the Gorton area of Manchester during the Second World War, and they married after a 10-month engagement, but neither have any photographs from their wedding in 1943.
Mr Eccles, now 92, left school when he was 14 and served the majority of his engineering apprenticeship with Beyer Peacock in Manchester, building some of the biggest steam engines in the world.
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When the Second World War broke out, Mr Eccles joined the the Army and served with the Royal Engineers.
He was one of the last soldiers evacuated from the beaches and is now among last surviving Dunkirk veterans.
He and his colleagues stayed behind to destroy as many of the guns and as much of the ammunition as they could, preventing them falling into enemy hands.
His task was to drive the remaining vehicles into the sea, dodging the falling bombs, to immobilise them by ruining the engine and then swimming back to shore to repeat the action.
Son David said: "He couldn't even swim so how on earth he managed to get back I don't know. I think it must have been the adrenaline or something that kept him going."
With the end of the steam age, Mr Eccles moved from trains to planes, working at Hawker Siddeley – now British Aerospace in Chadderton, Greater Manchester – where he stayed until his retirement almost 30 years ago.
For many years he enjoyed working on his allotment in Manchester.
Mrs Eccles worked as a sewing machinist in the evenings and as dinner lady during the day at a primary school and was much loved by generations of school children.
Until recently the pair enjoyed regular holidays abroad. They have three children David, Peter and Gharry . They also have seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
They moved to Tiverton from Stockport in 2008 to be closer to their family. David, their eldest son, moved to the town where he met his wife nearly 40 years ago
He said: "My mum and dad were struggling so I managed to get them to move down here where I could keep an eye on them.
"My dad's memory isn't that great now, but my mum is quite proud that they've reached their platinum anniversary."
Most of the family made their way to Somerset for the get-together yesterday in honour of the couple, at which David read a poem entitled the Platinum Pair to mark the grand occasion.