A Story of Three Christmases

George Chippendale

Christmas one.

Late December 1941 I was in camp at Ingleburn, in the 53rd Battalion. We were told that we were going “…. to Darwin or elsewhere”. We had Christmas dinner in camp, then were allowed two hours leave in the afternoon, on an understanding that so long as we returned by midnight, all would be OK. Next morning we were on the Aquitania, and sailed off. During the voyage we were told we were going to Port Moresby. So, this Christmas time was a sad one, leaving family and girlfriend Joan.

Christmas two

After about 16 months in New Guinea, during which I had been transferred to a signals/cipher group, I had leave in Sydney and Joan and I married in April 1943. I had malaria soon afterwards, and recovered at Bonegilla, in Victoria. Then I was in Townsville later that year when I had word that my Dad was gravely ill in Sydney. I applied for special leave, and was granted two days. It took nearly two days to travel to Sydney by train, and during the two days I had in Sydney, he died on 20th December 1943 mainly from gas during the First World War. I was granted another day to attend the funeral on 22nd December, and I was not on the Draft for several days, so was at home on Christmas Day. Understandably, this was not a happy Christmas, but at least I had time with my wife and family.

Christmas three

During December 1961, when I had been working in the N.T. for seven years, Joan and I and our four children were driving from the N.T. to Sydney, via Queensland. On Christmas Eve, our car was hit by another car travelling in the opposite direction, and Joan and our youngest daughter, Roberta, were killed. I had many injuries. Later, in hospital in Maryborough, I was told that the brakes and/or steering on the other car had failed. I recovered after several months, and returned to the N.T. with my surviving children. But, clearly, Christmas time 1961, was the saddest Christmas I experienced. I felt my world had ended.

To end on a happier note, I was fortunate to marry Thelma in 1963, and we have now been married for 41 years,.