Born in Ealing in 1914, Gwen was the eldest of 5: brothers, Herbert (Robbie) and Frank and sisters, Muriel ( Mandy ) and Margaret. They were orphaned at quite an early age and like many others had a difficult childhood, with Gwen leaving school at 14 to earn a living to help support the family.
Gwen was extremely active and very hard working particularly with the very early morning delivery of newspapers getting up at 5 am. She did shop work and then accountancy.
During the war Gwen took over a man's job as cashier at the London paper, The News Chronicle and Star. It was in these offices that she met her husband Harry, a journalist who worked on the evening paper, "The Star", in 1938 whilst walking on the Embankment. She admitted later this was not entirely accidental!
A few months after marrying, Harry was called off to war. Not long after he was caught up in the fall of Singapore in 1942 and became a P.O.W. of the Japanese for almost 4 years. It was a miracle he survived.
Throughout this time Harry was in Gwen's thoughts although it was a very long time before she received any letter from Japan. At one time she received a telegram " M issing believed killed" but Gwen never gave up hope. In the second half of the war she wrote him many letters hoping some of them would get through and many did even though they were often over a year late! Harry's letters to Gwen are now kept in the Imperial War Museum. Their daughter Linda published the se l etters 2004 in a book entitled, "My Darling Wife: The true wartime letters of Harry to Gwen 1940-1945." Gwen waited faithfully and cheerfully for Harry's return which was to be almost five years later.
Like all Londoners Gwen never knew if she would have a house to return to each day after the bombing during the blitz. She was hard of hearing and at one time during her working day in the war a " buzz bomb " cut its engines and was about to "land". Everyone was told to duck but Gwen did not hear this and wondered why everyone was under their desks. Nobody had shouted loudly at her but she made sure they didn't forget her again!
D uring her 40s , Gwen had a marketing job at Eastcote and was always turning down offers of job promotions because she said time with her family was more important. She retired at 64.
For her leisure Gwen enjoyed going out with her friends, " the girls , " to keep fit classes and various outings. They enjoyed a laugh together. She enjoyed gardening and had "green fingers" and was especially good with cactus. Gwen made good wine out of all kinds of things including runner beans and tea bags as well as their own red grape vine in Ickenham.
For many years after the war Harry and Gwen enjoyed a good life together travelling extensively all over the world, before it was usual to do so and had many adventures together including getting caught in the tail wind of a hurricane in the W est Indies on a Saga cruise on which the ship lost all power for 3 hours and tossed in tumultuous waters in the middle of the night. Gwen said "Never again! " Whilst on holiday in Rio de Janeiro Gwen got mugged while waiting for the bus and lost consciousness. Harry thought for a moment that that was it. This did not put them off further travels .
In the early 1990s Gwen became ill with Parkinson's Disease. But the disease (unusually) did not affect her mind which was always very sharp but only her body which became thin , tired and weak. She found it hard to move around in her last 3 years.
Gwen received nursing care at home from many good and dedicated carers some of whom professed a Christian faith . Gwen would not call herself a committed Christian but her values were. On the surface she could be quite dismissive of the idea of a loving God. However in the deep recesses of her heart something else was going on. She chose devout Christians to be Godparents to their only daughter Linda: the late Margaret Farmer , her sister, and mother of Brian, and the late Joyce Grantham, Harry's sister who incidentally was the first woman in the family to go to University when it was not easy to do so. Both God parents took their role seriously and over 40 years ago Linda was confirmed at St Giles ' Church Ickenham.
Gwen was always interested in people and cared for them deeply and identified deeply with their joys and their sufferings. Even when very handicapped herself she would always ask people how they were and meant it. When she became handicapped with osteoarthritis, Harry cared for her devotedly 24 hours a day for several years. Although they could be a combative couple there was no doubt they were also an extremely devoted one. They had been married for over 62 years.
Gwen was 2 months in Hillingdon Hospital having been taken in just before Christmas 2002 . She had her 89th birthday in January there. Harry saw Gwen for the last time the morning of the 22nd February 2003. In the early hours of the 23rd February Gwen died of Parkinson's disease and bronchopneumonia. David and Linda had returned back to UK after living in France for 7 years the previous day. At the end of January, extremely ill, thin and fatigued , Linda and David saw Gwen for the last time. She was, in spite of her own pitiful state, still compos mentis and concerned for others. Gwen was much loved by family and friends.
Harry never got over her death. He died within the year, early 2004 but not before enjoying trips up to Bollington, Cheshire to stay with Linda and David.