HE always knew it would last.

But even Charlie Norton could not have guessed just how long his marriage to his childhood sweetheart would endure.

Charlie and his wife May, both aged 98, have just celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary – making theirs one of the longest unions in the UK.

The Hampshire couple have known each other since they were 14. They got engaged at 18 but May’s father, in keeping with the times, barred her from tying the knot until she turned 21.

Charlie and May were married in the year Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister and the Duke of Windsor wed Wallis Simpson.

Charlie said: “I knew it would last.”

Not surprisingly for a couple who have been together for almost eight decades, the couple have remarkably similar views on what makes for a long and happy marriage.

Charlie said: “Love for each other.” May added: “Loving each together and trying to help each other.”

The couple were the toast of staff and fellow residents at the Grey Gables residential care home in Kennard Road, New Milton, as they reflected on their long life together. Charlie was working as a painter and decorator when he met his future wife, who worked in a clothes shop.

May said: “I never had a boyfriend until I met Charlie. But my father wouldn’t allow me to get married until I was 21 – and then we dived for it.”

Charlie and May were born in 1916, two years after the outbreak of the First World War. They were married at St James’s Church in Bos-combe on August 28 1937 and had four children – Avril, Paul, Peter and Susan.

The couple lived at Christchurch and Walkford before moving to Grey Gables earlier this year.

Their anniversary comes just days after Bournemouth couple Maurice Kaye, 102, and his wife Helen, 101, celebrated 80 years of married life. The record for Britain’s longest married couple is thought to be held by Karam and Katari Chand, from Bradford, who wed in 1925.