Clearing up the aftermath of the Vietnam war has led to romance for a former Southrepps boy and his bride-to-be.
Henry Marriner, whose parents still live in the village, was clearing unexploded bombs and mines in the country pummelled by air strikes during the gruelling 10-year war which ended in nearly half a century ago.
Mallory Graves, from Nashville, was working miles away helping to reforest areas – some of which were destroyed by American Agent Orange chemical attacks on vegetation designed to strip away enemy hiding places and escape routes.
They were strangers working in different places, but both for charities trying to repair the long-lasting damage of the destructive conflict – Henry for the Mines Advisory Group and Mal for the World Wide Fund for Nature.
After meeting during a weekend off in a bar in the city of Hue, a casual friendship turned to romance, more travel adventures together and an engagement up a mountain near Barcelona.
Henry’s parents, Max and Louise, both of whom are retired from army careers, said they were delighted with the news and looking forward to a wedding in Tennessee next summer.
Max, a brigadier who oversaw the British Army’s withdrawal from Iraq, said the engagement was a bit of a secret mission for their former Royal Navy diver son as the couple sailed around the Mediterranean for four months on a 50-year-old boat.
“They went walking in the mountains, but before they left the boat Henry had to hide the ring, pour some champagne into a vacuum flask, and smuggle two glasses into his backpack.
“When he got down on one knee and popped the question on the mountain viewing platform, he had to put the ring on her finger a few yards away so it didn’t fall through the slats.”
Henry, 33, a former Gresham’s pupil, met Mal’s family at her brother’s wedding, when he asked for permission to marry her from her father.
Henry spent eight years in the Royal Navy, turning his passion for diving into a career that saw him rise to lieutenant and lead teams clearing modern and historic mines from the paths of military shipping.
He joined the MAG charity three years ago and ran a 500-strong team clearing unexploded ordnance – combining hands-on work on devices with training the locals to detect and defuse explosives, as well as teaching local youngsters English. Mal was supporting sustainable forestry projects and working to counter the trade in illegal timber in south-east Asia and continues to oversee sustainable forestry projects in
Brazil, Uganda and Mozambique, working remotely.
Since meeting they have travelled to India and the Far East, and their sailing odyssey is due to end this winter before their next adventure begins – planning for married life.