WWII

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RCAF Childrens Christmas Party 1943

by J.Pinsent

 

As part of the history of Gander we would like to relate some of these memories and stories during the war years as published in their RCAF Gander quarterly magazine

One story from Christmas past occurred at Gander airport during WWII when the RCAF airmen & women carried out a plan to instill the Christmas spirit at the multinational military base. During the winter of 1943-44, at a group meeting of some senior NCOs, it was expressed that Christmas was not like Christmas without the joy & the excitement of having children celebrating the merriment of the season. Families were not permitted at the airport with the exception of those very few families that settled there before the war, so the idea of having a huge children’s party was out of the question with the few children that resided in Gander.

An idea started to evolve. Why not bring children in from the nearby villages by train and have a Christmas party for them along with the few children from Gander. And that is what they did. They contacted the base commander with this idea which was enthusiastically approved. The next step then was to inform the families of the nearby locations for their approval and to establish age limitations because they would be required to travel alone. Parents were not permitted because of security.

They then contacted the NL railway to lay on a special train to bring the children into Gander for the day, then to return them in the evening.

Word was put out to the other military groups for their assistance which also was received with a positive response. On the agreed day the train stopped to pick up the children in the morning and brought them into Gander. There they were taken to the RCAF theatre to meet Santa where he handed out candies & cookies. For some, this was the first time they had seen a Santa that wasn’t a recognized resident of their community so maybe he was the real Santa.

Then it was on to the NCOs mess where they were feed a sumptuous meal, entertained with music and lots of planned fun.

They were then given brief tour of the airport and then back on the train in the afternoon for their trip home. For the children it must have been a lasting memory. To visit the military base, to see real airplanes up close and a story to tell their parents when they got back home. It also was a treat for the service people at Gander as well who were so far away from their home towns, where again, they experienced the spirit of giving at Christmas.

 

Contributed by GAHS

 

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