France, Christmas Eve, 1944 – the night I laid eyes on my wife

The wedding of Joseph Bernard Kenyon and Marie Therese Rudant, June 8 1945. The couple married in the same church where, just six months earlier, they had celebrated midnight mass, on the evening they first met.
The wedding of Joseph Bernard Kenyon and Marie Therese Rudant, June 8 1945. The couple married in the same church where, just six months earlier, they had celebrated midnight mass, on the evening they first met.

In the final part of a series looking back at the life of Bernard Kenyon, Wray historian and descendent David Kenyon looks at Bernard’s life towards the end of World War Two and afterwards.

Bernard describes his return to France:

Sgt Joseph Bernard Kenyon, proudly wearing the cap badge of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, December 1940.

Sgt Joseph Bernard Kenyon, proudly wearing the cap badge of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, December 1940.

“After six weeks in hospital and one month’s leave, I re-joined our unit in Lowestoft, East Anglia.

In 1944 we were mechanised and trained for the Normandy Landings, where we went in at Courseulles-sur-Mer.

After about two months on the outskirts of Caen in Normandy the breakthrough came under Monty.

The journey through liberated France, Belgium and Holland was unforgettable. We ended up near the Rhine. We could see Germany across the river, with the V-1 buzz bombs and the V-2 rockets going up for London.

It was very cold and miserable in Christmas week 1944. We had to order to pack up but they did not tell us where we were going. It was to refit with new tanks. At dusk on Christmas Eve 1944 we parked in a town square in Houplines near Armentieres, France.

The mayor, all excited, gathered together the local loyal citizens. They entertained us with what they could find and gave us a concert. It was such a welcome experience. During the interval I saw two young ladies. My friend and I began a conversation with them.

One of the girls was wearing a blue dress. Suddenly I knew I was going to marry this girl. She ran home and warned her parents that she had invited two British soldiers to supper.

We went round to such a wonderful welcome, the poor people providing what they could. It was Christmas Eve 1944. We ended a wonderful day at midnight mass in the church at the end of the street.

Six months later, on June 8 1945, I married Marie Therese Rudant, the girl in the blue dress, in the same church at Armentieres.”

After the war Bernard went to Liverpool University to study medicines and then studied obstetrics at Chester Hospital.

He then became an assistant GP in the Knotty Ash area of Liverpool. One of Bernard’s patients was Ken Dodd, the famous comedian. Bernard was very fond of Ken.

Bernard later moved to Burnley as a principal GP. In one of his letters Bernard wrote of his wonderful elderly patients, many of whom had spent a lifetime working on the looms in the cotton industry. Many suffered with chest problems caused by the cotton dust.

When Bernard retired he moved to Kimbridge near Romsey. He moved there to be near his eldest son Julian who was also a GP.

Bernard passed away in April 2012 and his wife, Marie Therese, in December the same year.