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Best friends reunited after more than 76 years

Two childhood best friends, who had not seen each other in 76 years, struggled to hold back the tears as they were reunited this week.

Visiting south Norfolk with her family, Barbara Shelton stopped by the Roydon home of her old friend Joan Culf, as they exchanged pictures and memories – having not seen one another since they were schoolmates during the Second World War.

Ten-year-old Mrs Culf arrived in Warsop in 1940, having been evacuated from her home in Aldeburgh due to the impending threat of a German bombing campaign.

Joan Culf (left) and Barbara Shelton after meeting last week. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Joan Culf (left) and Barbara Shelton after meeting last week. Picture: Mecha Morton.

It was at primary school in the Nottinghamshire town that she met Mrs Shelton, who would go on to become her best friend for the next five years.

“I first met Joan when she came to live in Warsop, and we just immediately became best friends,” said Mrs Shelton, 91, who is now a great-grandmother of three.

As the war finished, Mrs Culf moved back to Norfolk, and the pair continued to exchange letters for a few years before eventually losing touch.

“We had a wonderful home in Warsop, and didn’t want to go,” said Mrs Culf, who is also 91. “It was heartbreaking when I had to go back, and I cried all the way home.”

Mrs Shelton added: “Joan and I were great friends, and we sobbed our socks off when she left. We were sending letters, but you get busy, and you just take it for granted.”

Having last exchanged correspondence in the early 1950s, Mrs Shelton had grown to expect she would never see her old school friend again – until her daughter, Catherine Black, found Joan’s name in a census.

Following a phone call in October, the pair were finally reunited on Wednesday at Mrs Culf’s home in Roydon Gardens, accompanied by Catherine, Mrs Shelton’s son-in-law Andy and two grandchildren, James, 14, and Xanthe, 11.

“It was nerve-racking, but really exciting,” said Mrs Shelton. “I just couldn’t believe it – I never thought we would see each other again.”

Despite spending the best part of three-quarters of a century apart, Mrs Culf had no trouble recognising her old friend.

“She doesn’t look any different at all,”she said.

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