A diamond couple have put their long and happy marriage down to a daily hand of cards and game of dominoes.

Fred Hawkins met his future bride Elly when the pair worked at the Oxhey Grange mansion.

Elly, who was born in Switzerland and raised in Austria, came to England in 1938 to learn English.

After being picked up at the train station in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, Elly was taken to the house, where she met a young son of a building labourer from Victoria Road, who worked in the gardens.

Elly, now 89, said: “I came to learn English so I came to a family in Oxhey Grange and Fred worked there. I worked in the kitchen and around the house and he was a gardener.

“So that's where we met.”

In 1939, when World War 2 was declared, Elly found herself marooned from her family in Austria.

She said: “There were four girls who worked in the house, but the three other girls were Welsh so they went back to Wales.

“But in 1940 Oxhey was declared a restricted area for all foreigners so I got another job working for a family in Hempstead Road.”

At the age of 19, meanwhile, Fred signed up to the newly formed Local Defence Volunteers, who were more commonly known, later on, as the Home Guard.

After hearing about the newly formed LDV the night before, Fred and his pal made their way to King Street at 7am the next morning, where they signed up inside Meredith's Wood Yard.

Five months later Fred was conscripted into the army and found himself stationed near Dover, where he helped make guns.

In 1945, Elly returned to Switzerland and then Austria, having had no contact with her family and unaware if they were alive or dead.

Happily, Elly managed to find her family in Austria and shared letters with Fred until she returned to England in 1949.

Fred, also 87, added: “I went over once to see her and we talked things over through letters and we agreed to get married so she came back over.”

The pair were then married on August 1, 1949, in Holyrood Church, in Watford, and celebrated their marriage with a reception at the Windsor Club, in Loates Lane.

Sixty years on, Elly and Fred - who now have two children, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on Saturday with a family meal.

Asked what is the success to their marriage, the pair, who live in Bushey, say they share one hobby.

Elly said: “We play dominoes every morning after breakfast and then in the afternoon we play cards.

“We play for money.

“We play five games of dominoes for 5p a game. The money then goes in a jar and then when we want to go out for a meal the money comes out of there.

“We also play ten games of cards for a penny a game and every game goes to a mission in Africa.”