Sweethearts reunited, 62 years after Normandy.

The Times March 29, 2006

Sweethearts reunited, 62 years after Normandy
By Michael Horsnell

THEY had not set eyes on each other since 1944, when Marie-Henriette Steffens bravely sheltered him from the Germans after his tank broke down.

But for more than 61 years after kissing her goodbye, Arthur Jones carried the image of the pretty young French girl in his heart.

And, when they finally met up again, there was “instant chemistry” between the former gunner and the sweetheart he left behind to rejoin his unit.

“I’m so happy, I feel like I’m walking on air right now. I just don’t want this feeling to stop,” he said yesterday after their reunion. “I’d given up hope of ever seeing her again.”

Mr Jones, a widower from Wolverhampton, now 80, and his comrade Ian Cohen were left behind by the 147th Field Regiment as the Allies forced the Germans out of France after the Normandy landings in June 1944.

The two men spent three days sleeping rough and living off rations after their Sherman tank broke down just outside the town of Liévin, near Lille.

But Mlle Steffens and her family accepted the risk of German reprisal when they harboured them in their home for five weeks.

And, as the soldiers waited to join a supply convoy to take them back to their unit, the 18-year-old soldier became smitten with Mlle Steffens, who was 22 at the time.

“I spent a lot of time with Marie and I took a real shine to her,” he said. “We used to talk and play cards; it was all very innocent of course. It was my first time away from home and she was so wonderful. I was so grateful to have her company.”

After helping to liberate Europe, Mr Jones returned to Britain, began working as a mechanic and in 1949 married Dorothy who died two years ago from a stroke, aged 77.

But he never forgot the girl who had been so kind and vowed to find her.

Their paths finally crossed again after Mr Jones met Alan Brown, an expatriate who is now the councillor for Sainte Cécile in northeast France, at the RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire. He showed him the faded pictures he had kept of Mlle Steffens, and Mr Brown made inquiries. Six weeks later, in January, Mr Jones received the news for which he had been waiting.

He said: “I’m in love. For what she did, I can’t help but love her. She’s still pretty, bright as a button and, like me, very active in her old age and, as soon as I saw her again there was an instant chemistry between us.

“She never married and sometimes I wonder if she was waiting for me to find her. Well, I’ve found her now and I’m on cloud nine. We now talk over the phone all the time and in a recent letter she told me, ‘I already feel as though we are married’.”

Mlle Steffens said: “He hasn’t changed much. He’s the same — a very nice gentleman.”

Awwwwwwwwww, thats just too cute!!
That is cute.
Poor girl if she was waiting for him all these years!!! That's one hell of a drought!!
I have a deep respect for the French, as well as the Belgian and the Dutch citizens of World War II. Those people endured hardship of the likes we cannot fathom. In addition to NAZI oppression, stravation, and complete and utter destruction of their homes, these people risked their lives to shelter soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. I think it's a fitting end to a huge sacrifice she made so many years ago. I'm happy for the both of them.
My grandparents were children during the war and had to be evacuated. Only my maternal grandparents were evacuated as they were the ones who lived in a big city. If people lived in small towns, they weren't evacuated. But they remember hearing the explosions of the city being bombed even though it was miles away, and the night sky in the distance glowing eerily in red. But my grandmother was sent to live with a family who were cruel to her, and it was a quite common occurence for children to be sent to families who were cruel.

Even as late as the 1980s, there were still areas of British towns and cities that were the remains of bombed buildings that hadn't been rebuilt.

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