‘Combat Salsa’ in Iraq Leads to Marriage

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An Army couple who first met at salsa dancing classes held at a British Army base in southern Iraq are to marry in Wigan this weekend.

Army Medics Major Alan Taberner, aged 50, and Captain Linda Marshall, aged 51, will marry at a civil ceremony at Haigh Hall, Wigan, two-and-a-half years after first meeting at Shaibah, near Basra, while both were serving at the military base’s field hospital.

As a novel means of keeping the troops entertained, keen dancer Alan had started “combat salsa” classes, which became a popular event on camp. Linda was one of the many to enrol. The couple, who began a friendship which later became a relationship, are now set to tie the knot at a special ceremony.

Alan and Linda live in Standish and both serve as Territorial Army officers in 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital (Volunteers), based at its headquarters in Stretford.

The couple’s love of dancing has blossomed from its bizarre first steps in Iraq. They now take part in ballroom dancing competitions nationwide, most recently in London.

“We just lead a really exciting life,” explained Linda.

It was late 2004 that Alan and Linda deployed to Shaibah for a four-month tour of duty. Linda was then living in Sunderland, and serving with 201 (Northern) Field Hospital, based in Newcastle, while Alan was serving with his current unit. Alan worked in Iraq as Officer Commanding the community mental health team, while Linda was a ward nurse on the surgical ward. She also spent a short spell up in Baghdad. Alan said:

“I did a bit of dancing anyway before I went to Iraq and I thought I would organise some salsa classes. We had a big portakabin which we nicknamed the HAREM [Hospital All-Ranks Entertainment Mess] and I had a Latin music CD which I played on a ghetto-blaster.

“A lot of people came. We had as many men as women. It helped our fitness and it broke up the monotony that is part and parcel of being on operations.

“I was not a dance teacher, but I knew a bit – I flew by the seat of my pants really. Linda came along to the classes. We became friends and it all started from there. The relationship only took off when we got back and Linda later moved over to the North West.”

This is the second marriage for both Alan and Linda, who both also have two children:

“I decided I was not getting married again, but Linda has done it for me,” explained Alan.

Alan proposed, going down on one knee, at Linda’s 50th birthday party. Linda said:

“He asked me three times before I answered because I was just in shock!”

“We do lead an exciting life and that’s what I love. We love doing competition ballroom dancing and Latin American dancing.”

“I am also planning to ride a motorbike and Alan has got me a 600 Suzuki – I am going to be a lady biker!” added Linda.

The wedding on 30 June 2007 will have a strong military flavour. The Lancashire Fusiliers Drummers will play and a Guard of Honour will be formed by soldier comrades from 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital (Volunteers). Alan will be wearing his “Blues” Service dress, although the bride has opted for non-military attire.

Source: Multi-National Force-Iraq

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