The war was over, it was spring and 17-year-old June Harris was in love.

She had met the man she was going to marry and life couldn’t be better.

But to the rest of the world, her romantic plans were a bit more complicated.Daily Echo:

It was 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War.

June was a British girl, living in Braishfield near Southampton, whose parents had been heavily involved in the home front war effort. And the young man she had fallen in love with was a German prisoner of war.

June’s father owned a smallholding in Braishfield next to a prisoner-of-war camp.

The prisoners were allowed out of their camp but had to wear a distinctive uniform to ensure that they were easily recognisable.

“I used to be very snotty about it because the prisoners used to whistle at us and I thought: ‘How dare they do that?’” 75-year-old June told the Daily Echo in 2005.

“I thought, the same as everyone else, that the prisoners weren’t like us. We thought they were a different kind of people – steel-helmeted bullies!”

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But one day a chance meeting with a handsome young man changed all that.

It was a dull, wet spring day in 1947 and June’s sister had suggested they cycle into Romsey to pick up their parents’ copy of the Echo.

As the girls rode down the hill they were greeted by two German prisoners walking in the opposite direction. The girls ignored them and continued their journey, passing them again as they made their way back home.

“When I got to the top of the hill the cover came off the chain of my bicycle.”

“I was struggling to get it back on and realised that they were getting closer and closer. Just as they reached me I managed to get it on. I began cycling away when I thought: ‘Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done that – he was gorgeous.’ So I hooked the cover off with my foot and they caught up with us again!”

The handsome German was a young fair-haired man in his early 20s called Gerhard.

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“His friend fixed my bike while Gerhard and I chatted – we were together ever after,”

“We met again after about three days and went for a walk. He told me that he learnt ten new English words every day – that was his limit.”

Gerhard told June that he was really a musician. He’d joined the Luftwaffe, the German airforce, in order to become a member of their orchestra.

When war broke out he had been posted to Russia where he had been seriously wounded and sent back to Germany. He was then posted to France where he was captured by Canadian forces in November 1943 and sent to Britain.

While he was recuperating in Germany his mother had arranged for him to have his tea leaves read. He was told that he was going overseas and that he was going to marry a foreign woman. Gerhard scoffed at the time but it seemed that fate had plans for him.

“I’d only known him for about two weeks when he said: ‘When I take you back to Germany with me…’ It was as much of a proposal as I got!

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“My parents did try to separate us but we were determined to stay together,

“At first my mother was really kind. She was very understanding and as my younger sister was with me when I met him we just said that we had talked to two prisoners of war.

“I think my mother thought: ‘Oh, the poor boys. They didn’t really want to be in the war.’ She was very hospitable to Gerhard and she told me to bring him round for a meal. Of course, she didn’t know how things were going to develop. I think I did know, though. I think I knew from the very beginning.”

June’s parents became alarmed as they saw the relationship developing between June and Gerhard, partly because he was penniless.

June’s parents allowed her to marry Gerhard, realising that she was so determined that she would do it with or without their blessing.

The couple wed in August 1948, several months after the prisoners were officially released and most had returned home.

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“My dad was not happy

“In my wedding pictures he looks as if he’s at a funeral! When you think about it, I was only 18 when I got married. I think now, if I had been my parents I would have been the same. They were remarkably understanding really.”

Not everyone was so understanding though. June received anonymous hate mail, which her mother did her best to protect her from, and one of her relatives was particularly venomous towards Gerhard.

“He was really nasty to Gerhard but even he eventually realised how good he was,”

June said fondly. “Everyone liked him, absolutely everyone. He won people over.”

June’s mother and father were shocked by the romance. But looking back, June realises it must have been much harder on Gerhard’s parents.

“When you’re young you don’t think about anybody but yourself so when I met Gerhard I just thought he’d stay here with me because we couldn’t go back to East Germany. I never thought about his mother. She’d already lost her youngest son, who died fighting in Russia, so it must have been the most appalling shock when Gerhard told her that he was staying here.”

June and Gerhard went to Germany to visit his family and his mother came to Britain, secretly travelling here from West Germany, without the East German officials knowing.

Gerhard loved living in Britain but always kept his Germany nationality, which June also adopted.

“When we were first married and went abroad he had to go into a queue for aliens which would have meant him being in one queue and me being in another. I thought: ‘I’m not having that,’ because if he’d had any problems I’d have wanted to be there, so I went on his German

passport. I always had one eye on him to make sure that everyone was being nice to him. I was always protective of him. He was nearly seven years older than me but I always wanted to protect him.”

When June and Gerhard Kievel got married they were penniless – their honeymoon consisted of a series of day trips – but happy.

Gerhard got a job on a farm which came with a small cottage which at first had only one habitable room. But he was a hard and ambitious worker and it wasn’t long before he went into business himself, with some help from June.

After trying a few avenues he eventually went into stone importing and cutting and built up an international business – Kievel and Sons – which was based on the site of the farm that Gerhard had worked on.

Gerhard became very involved in community life, returning to his love of music as a member of Southampton Concert Orchestra and becoming their concert manager.

June and Gerhard had three children and were devoted to each other from the moment they met until his death in September 2001.

“It sounds silly to say that it was preordained but…well, it was the right thing to do. It’s like Gerhard said.

"Once, when he was already quite ill, he turned to me and said: ‘The world had to go through a lot for us to meet.’”Daily Echo: