Vera Lynn’s classic We’ll Meet Again will be played at the funeral of two wartime sweethearts who spent the rest of their lives looking after each other. The family of Fred and Elizabeth Noble are thankful they did not have to wait long for their “sunny day”. Gavin Havery reports.

EARLIER this year, a couple who shared a birthday celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary after notching up 70 years of married life.

But last week, when Fred Noble died, his ever-loving wife, Elizabeth, followed soon after, proving that that they could not live without one another.

While their family have shed tears at their loss, there is some comfort in the fact that the couple, from Wingate, County Durham, are as united in death as they were in life.

Their grandson, Dr Andrew Rowland, a consultant in children’s accident and emergency medicine, said: “It is sad that they are not here anymore, but for a couple who have lived to 96 and 92, who have been married for a month short of 71 years, it is right that they died within three days of each other.”

Mr Noble, the son of an engineer, was born in Aston, Birmingham, on April 25, 1915, but his family moved to Station Town, in County Durham, and he went to school in Wingate.

He initially worked as a motor mechanic until he was selected as a professional footballer for Aston Villa, but in 1936 he volunteered for the Army in the Royal Tank Corps, so never played for the team.

Elizabeth Bradley was born the same day in 1919, in Woodhouses, and was one of the first pupils at the new AJ Dawson Secondary School, in Wellfield.

There, she won the school prize in German, which would become useful to her during the Second World War, when she communicated with prisoners of war working on farms in County Durham.

They were introduced by a mutual friend in 1936 and, following a short courtship, Mr Noble proposed to her, but the following year he was posted overseas and sent his fiancee a card saying “Cheerio, ’til we meet again”.

Mr Noble progressed to the rank of acting sergeant major and served all over the world, with postings in Burma, Ceylon, India, Afghanistan and France, while Mrs Noble trained as a nurse.

He returned from the Army on leave at Christmas in 1940 and they were married on New Year’s Day 1941, in Leadgate, near Consett.

After the war, Mrs Noble continued to work as a nurse at Leeholme Hospital, Sunderland Hospital and Peterlee Health Centre, before retiring at the age of 60, while Mr Noble became a miner in the east Durham coalfield and progressed to colliery overman.

Dr Rowland added: “They have kept each other’s Christmas cards, birthday cards and anniversary cards and written notes to each other inside them. You can tell how devoted they were.”

Mr Noble died peacefully in his sleep, aged 96, on Sunday, December 4. His wife died three days later.

They leave two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Their daughter, Denise Rowland, of Peterlee, a retired headteacher of the School of Early Years, Health and Social Care at New College Durham, said: “We did wonder whether they were going to die on the same day.

“We wondered whether my mam knew she was going to die. It is very sad, but right for them.”

Their joint funeral will be held at Durham Crematorium at 2pm on Wednesday and the family are collecting on behalf of Alzheimer’s Research UK.