ROMANCE may not have blossomed when they met the first time around, but two-and-a-half years later there was clearly a spark – and John and Benita Whatley are still together 60 years later.

Benita, 84, and John, 85, from Chandler’s Ford, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a card from the Queen and a meal with family.

When their paths first crossed as teenagers at Bishop’s Waltham youth club, John was already seeing someone.

But when he returned after two-and-a-half years in Malaya with the Royal Air Force things had changed and romance blossomed when the couple were reunited at a weekly dance at Upham Village Hall.

They danced and John invited Benita, who was teaching at Lydlynch Road Infant School in Totton, to a party to celebrate his return home.

Two years later, on August 14, 1954, they were married at Upham Parish Church.

The couple, who moved to Chandler’s Ford in 1955, had three sons – Robert, Hugh and Stuart – though sadly Stuart died at just seven months old from viral pneumonia.

After ten years in the RAF, John worked in aircraft production and electrical engineering, while Benita continued teaching, retiring as deputy head at Chandler’s Ford Infant School.