February 14th 1945 was a special day in the life of young Lytham girl, Avril Lewis-Lewis, for it was the day she married her American sweetheart serviceman Rudy Switzer. This Valentine’s weekend, as they celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, this wonderful couple are featured on the front page of their regional broadsheet, The Richmond Times. And they have a brilliant story to tell.
It was April 1944. Seventeen year old Avril Lewis-Lewis was serving in the St John’s Ambulance Brigade when she met American serviceman, Rudy Switzer. She reminisces how as a Lytham school girl she knitted sea boot stockings, hats and gloves for the British navy, how she met Rudy, the romantic walks along the front with her boyfriend and planning their marriage for Valentine’s Day in 1945. Rudy fondly remembers Lytham being very dark at night. ‘There were no lights whatsoever at night. No streetlights. Nothing.’ recalls Rudy. Despite not being under direct attack, blackout rules were in force – and Rudy had to cycle back to base by 10.00 p.m. But shortly after their church marriage in Lytham, Rudy was shipped to Germany, where he became part of the occupying force.
The war was over and at nineteen, Avril said goodbye to Lytham and her family. She boarded a converted hospital ship with 499 other war brides and left for America as part of U.S.A. Operation War Brides. She disembarked in New York and was escorted to Grand Central Station. It was all so different to Lytham. At the station, she was put on an overnight train to Roanoke, where Rudy’s parents were waiting for her. Their first words were, ‘Are you Avril?’ They took the young Lytham girl her to their home.
A month later, Rudy returned to America from Germany. Since then Rudy and Avril set up their own home together, and raised three children. But they still remember their life in Lytham when they ‘were going out’. Times have changed but their love has ensured. Rudy is 95 and Avril is 93.
Does any reader remember Avril or her family? Please let us know at your Lytham St Anne’s News.