THEIR marriage has seen 14 prime ministers move into Downing Street, two monarchs’ reigns and a terrible world war.

And 70 years after their wartime wedding, Joan and Ernie Keeble are still going strong and looking forward to their platinum wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Joan was only 16 and Ernie just a year older when the pair tied the knot at St Michael’s Church, Pitsea, on December 16, 1940.

The couple, who live in Barnard Close, Vange, say the reason they have enjoyed such a long and happy marriage is very simple.

Joan, 86, explained: “I think the secret is just liking each other and getting along.

“We have our little rows and differences, but we always get through them.

“We married very young, but it’s all worked out well.”

So was it love at first sight?

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Joan. “I remember I met Ernie when he was with his friends and they asked if my sister and I wanted some sweets.

“I said no, but then I took a toffee from Ernie. You could say it all started from that moment.”

The couple soon started a family, though Ernie was sent to North Africa to serve in the Army, leaving Joan at home to care for their little ones.

Joan said: “It was very hard during the war, but then we were all in the same boat and we had to just get on with it.

“Times were tough and there wasn’t much to go around.

“I remember I only had one adult gas mask for all the kids – not even a child’s one, so thank God we didn’t have a gas attack.”

Joan and Ernie have three sons, 14 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Joan added: “We both have our hobbies. We didn’t have a television until 1954. We had to entertain ourselves in those days, but in a way, it was better. We all talked to each other a lot more back then.”

The couple are celebrate their anniversary with a meal at the Watermill Pub, in Basildon, along with friends and relatives.