From the Norwood News – Friday 24 August 1945
A ROMANCE OF EVACUATION
Bridegroom 75, and Bride 77
LATEST tenants at Mitcham’s hut town at Wide Way, are a 77-years-old bride and her 75- years-old bridegroom. The wedding at Mitcham Parish Church of these two old-age pensioners was notable for several reasons. First, the bride arrived with no-one to give her away, and then it was found that the bridegroom had been equally forgetful — he had not brought a best man.
The quandary of Mrs. Flora Sarah Farr, Rodney-road, Mitcham, and Mr. Hadyn Douglas Sanders, Bruce-road, was solved by Mr. A. E. Champion, who in nearly fifty years as parish clerk has attended thousands of weddings and has unriddled many such knotty problems.
He not only became best man but persuaded Mr. Joseph Stevens, gallery keeper, who happened to be in the vicinity, to give the bride away. All four members of the bridal party who assembled before the vicar, the Rev. G. S. Lubbock, were over seventy years of age.
The ceremony over, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders sought a wedding luncheon at several local hotels. but it being Sunday they were unsuccessful, and so they went to their new hut home, where the bride opened a tin of corn beef.
The romance of Mr. and Mrs. Sanders began when a party of Mitcham old people were evacuated during the flying bomb raids to a country mansion at Great Barrington, Oxfordshire. Their first meeting was last summer, when they packed into cars at the Mitcham Citizens’ Advice Bureau for their journey into the country. During their nine months stay at the mansion Mr. and Mrs. Sanders sat next to each other at meals, and took walks in the country lanes together. When they returned to Mitcham they decided they would like to continue the companionship and arranged to get married. Both were so anxious to keep the wedding quiet that they did not tell their families the date on which it was to take place. “We were sure that it would leak out and that there would be someone we knew at church who would be able to act as witnesses. But no-one turned up and we had to rely on the good offices of Mr. Champion,” said Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Sanders lost his home in an early blitz, when his wife, son and daughter were killed. As a bombed-out person he qualified for a hut. Both he and his wife like their new home. Mr. Sanders managed to save enough furniture from the ruin of his old home to make the hut comfortable. Its walls are hung with pictures of his family, of whom he is very proud. Among them are portraits of his mother, Grace Armitage, who achieved fame as an actress in the latter part of the last century. His sister, Grace Noble, following in her mother’s footsteps, also became an actress and won renown in Australia.
Mr. Sanders’ father was an opera singer and appeared at Covent Garden, but his early death brought hardships to the family who had chosen Tooting as their headquarters. His mother continued her career and sang at a Manchester theatre on the night her son, Haydn, was born — to help bring up her family of four boys. As soon as he was old enough Haydn went out to work in the shoe trade.
“If there had been enough money for training I should probably have followed in my father’s steps and, become a singer,” said Mr. Sanders, “But as it was I spent a life-time in the shoe trade, starting at a Tooting shop and working in many parts of the country. Now, with Mrs. Sanders, I am going to enjoy a well-earned rest, free from bombs,” he said.
The original news article had the spelling Saunders instead of Sanders, which is the spelling used by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) website and records on Ancestry.
Mr Sander’s wife, son and daughter died during the Blitz, on 11th October, 1940, at 29 Bruce Road. Below are links to the CWGC casualty records:
His wife, Minnie Sanders, aged 69. His son, Reginald Frederick Sanders, aged 44, an A.R.P. Stretcher Bearer. His daughter Ella Marjory Dunn, aged 31, wife of Charles Dunn.
Flora Sanders died later that year. Her death is registered in the last quarter of the year, in registration district Surrey Mid Eastern, Volume 2a, Page 268.
Haydn Douglas Sanders died the following year, on 11th November 1946. His address was 35 Wide Way.