A woman who overcame wartime heartache as her new husband was held in a Nazi prison camp has marked her 100th birthday.
Nancy Burt, nee Lavender, married Ernie in 1940 before he headed off to North Africa as a driver with the Green Howards.
While Nancy and their newborn son Peter were evacuated from Sunderland, Ernie was held as a prisoner of war for more than two years when he was seized by Erwin Rommel’s men, returning home when the Second World War came to an end.
Nancy and Peter were reunited with Ernie and the couple went on to set up home in South Bents, Seaburn.
During their time without Ernie, Nancy was helped by her mum Margaret, who had been widowed herself when her husband Alfred died as a result of injuries he sustained in the First World War as a member of the Royal Artillery.
Ernie returned to his job with the Prudential insurance firm, while Nancy had her own career as a hairdresser, employed at the end of her working life at Patricia’s in Derwent Street.
I don’t think she feels 100, but she would still really like to take a holiday.Peter Burt
The couple had a love of travel and would holiday around Europe, with Nancy taking a break to join Peter when he spent winters in Arizona and she was widowed when Ernie died in 1997, aged 82.
She continued to take cruises and other adventures with Peter until she was 95, and although still keen to see more of the world, problems getting health insurance and slowing mobility have scuppered her plans.
Nancy, who was born in Fence Houses, overcame health problems in 1980, when she had cancer.
Today, her son Peter, who know lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, will join her, alongside children of her sisters’ Beatty and Freda and her best friend Marie Foster, who she met when a group of women would gather in the cafe of Joplings.
Retired teacher Peter, 76, has been joined by his partner Cindy, 60, who has put together a collection of pictures on a DVD to show at her birthday celebrations at Gildacre Fields, Southwick.
The family will also be joined by relatives of Peter’s late wife Eileen, who died two years ago aged 73, and neighbours from South Bents, where she lived for 60 years.
Peter said: “I don’t think she feels 100, but she would still really like to take a holiday.
“She’s always loved to travel.
“Reaching 100 is a big milestone for her.”