FOR John Bannister it was love at first song when he met his wife of 60 years.

John, now 83, met Rita, 82, in May 1944 when he was in the RAF and she was a singer performing at a theatre in Skegness.

With Rita travelling round the country singing in theatres and John serving in the forces for four and a half years, the couple knew each other for seven years before they got married.

They got married in Richmond, Surrey, and lived in Durrington for a few years before moving to Amesbury. After leaving the RAF John worked with his father, who had a wholesale tobacco business, and carried it on after his father retired.

Rita continued doing some professional cabaret work and taught at Corona, a stage school in London. Their love of the theatre has continued throughout their life together and the couple enjoy going to lots of plays now they are retired.

A love of the stage obviously runs in the family – John’s brother is actor Trevor Bannister, who played Mr Lucas in Are You Being Served?

John said their secret to such a long and happy marriage was being interested in lots of projects. “We’ve both been interested in theatre and all those things add together.”

John is a member of the Wiltshire Crop Circles Study Group, researching and giving lectures, and the pair also both belong to Salisbury Probus clubs. John is a founding member of Amesbury Rotary Club, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year, and Rita is a member of Amesbury Inner Wheel.

John and Rita, who have lived in Salisbury for the last 12 years, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a party at the White Hart Hotel on Saturday for their family and friends, including their children Clifford and Jane, nine grandchildren and two great-grandsons.