How a WWII Vet and Survivor and His Wife Died Hours From Each Other on Their 76th Wedding Anniversary

WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland, 101, and his wife, Marjorie, 97, passed away only hours from each other on what was suppose to be their 76th wedding anniversary.

WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland was the first one to say goodbye to his adoring wife on the same day they got married in 1938. 14 hours later, Marjorie, followed suit with reports attributing the cause of her death to a broken heart.

The couple’s death brought to an end what was described by their daughter as the perfect love story.

That perfect story of the WWII vet and survivor along with his wife was not without its downs, though.

WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland and Marjorie had a love at first sight thing. They got married on August 5, 1938 and spent three years of blissfulness in each other’s arms before Mr. Hartland was shipped off to Singapore as a gunner after the outbreak of WWII.

A year later, his regiment comprised of 700 servicemen surrendered to the Japanese. The WWII vet and survivor was, like many others, starved, tortured and worked until their death by their captors while building the Death Railway.

When 1942 came in, Marjorie received a letter from the Coast Regiment colonel telling her that her husband was missing and presumed to be dead. Along with the letter was her papers for claiming widow’s pension. However, Mrs. Hartland refused to believe the letter’s contents and never went to claim the sum she was allotted. During that time, she was conscripted to work in a parachute factory in the Cardiff Bay area. She hated the workplace which she described as dirty and filled with rats.

But, according to their daughter, Christine Pearson, every time Marjorie went on to work, she would always stop by a church she passed along the way and prayed that her husband would come home. This went on for four years. She lived throughout that time in high hopes of seeing WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland alive.

Fortunately, the WWII vet and survivor did come back home! Mr. Hartland lost 6 stones (he weighed 11 stones when he went off to Singapore but came back a mere 5 stones) and had a scar from a poisoned bamboo shoot, a mark made by one of the camp guards  when that latter caught him smoking banana leaves.

The WWII vet and survivor withstood brutal difficulties from 15 different camps. He even recalled how he was forced to dig his own grave. When he came home in 1945, he was welcomed with a street party in Cardiff, his hometown, and a letter of gratitude for his service from King George.

From the 700 men of his regiment, the 7th Coast Regiment Royal Artillery, only four survived including him. The WWII vet and survivor had to spend a considerable time in the hospital but Marjorie was too happy to care. What mattered more was that her husband did come home and that he was alive when he did.

WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland were among the Allied POWs who built the Burma Railway also known as the Death Railway.
WWII vet and survivor Clifford Hartland were among the Allied POWs who built the Burma Railway also known as the Death Railway.

In 1946, their joy was doubled with the arrival of their daughter. The WWII vet and survivor then went on to work as a factory foreman for Morris Engines (his occupation until his retirement) and the family moved to Wyken, Coventry in 1947.

The WWII vet and survivor died last August 5 in Saint Martin’s Rest Home, Woodway Lane, Coventry just hours after Marjorie was discharged from the hospital with a broken leg.

Mrs. Pearson, their daughter, believes that he was just waiting for his wife to come back to their shared room before he passed away. That very same night, Mrs. Pearson recounted that her mother rang her and tearfully said that she cannot live without her WWII vet and survivor husband. Mrs. Pearson in return told her to think of their happy times.

Marjorie died hours later at 1 AM. Mrs. Pearson would like to think that her mum did so while thinking of the joyful moments she had with her dad through the years they were together.

According to paramedics, Mrs. Hartland died from a heart attack. A joint funeral was put in order for the couple and took place last August 12, Tuesday.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE