It was June 2, 1953.
The day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in London and the people of Tasmania were marking the occasion with a parade through the streets of Hobart.
Two fresh-faced 18-year-olds, Shirley and Geoff Cresswell, were about to cross paths for the first time. Unbeknownst to them what their future held.
Mr Cresswell had joined the National Service, as was compulsory at the time, and was marching the streets of Hobart in the parade alongside other servicemen and women.
He was marching in the band with a bass drum, having learnt the instrument during his days at Launceston Grammar School.
Mrs Cresswell and some of her teaching college friends watched as the parade went by.
A perfectly timed photo captured the pair in the one frame, as Mr Cresswell marched and Mrs Cresswell watched on, something they only discovered after they had married.
They had crossed paths that fateful day but would not meet until the following year at a dance in Launceston.
“I didn’t meet him for at least 12 months after that photo,” Mrs Cresswell said.
“It’s very unusual to be in the same photo even though we had never met each other.”
By 1957 they were married and still blissfully unaware of the photograph, until Mr Cresswell took out a box of photographs and Mrs Cresswell recognised some of her friends and then herself.
“We didn’t realise we just looked at the photo and then I was looking at it and I thought oh, I knew some of those girls, I was down there,” Mrs Cresswell said.
“I kept looking and looking and I found myself, I was hard to find because there’s only the top part of my face there but I know it’s me.”
Mr Cresswell remained in the National Service for a few years before his focus shifted back to life in Deloraine.
“The service was very strict, if you did the wrong thing you had to run around the oval with your rifle above your head.
“It made you very fit,” he laughed.
In other news:
Four children, 14 grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and decades later a wrong was righted.
A misspelling of Mr Cresswell’s surname by government officials when he joined meant he did not receive his medals for his service until recently.
“Everybody else got one but I sort of didn’t worry about it,” he said.
A chance encounter at a Launceston medical practice some 65 years later is all it took.
One of the staff members, Susan Charlton, had worked at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and after hearing about the mistake made some calls.
“She said you should have got them. Because they had spelt his name wrongly on the [record of service card], they wouldn’t allow him to have them,” Mrs Cresswell said.
The 85-year-old received his National Service medal and an anniversary medal to recognise his service.
Although he was grateful to receive his medals, Mr Cresswell always considered himself lucky as he was not sent away to war.
“It was nice to get [the medals] but I thought I didn’t deserve them after having a look at what my uncle went through,” he said.
“It was just a free ride because we were in between wars.”
His uncle, Private Roy Cresswell, from Ferndale was awarded a Military Medal for his devotion, dedication and bravery during World War I as a stretcher bearer.
More than 67 years after their chance photograph, the pair are still celebrating 63 years of marriage.
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