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Kelly’s 12 Christmas Days – No 12, Atlantic Ocean 1942

December 23, 2016

Christmas Day 1942 for Thomas Kelly was celebrated on board the troopship Rangitata, making its way up coast of south America to New York to collect American troops coming to Europe.

The Rangitata left the Clyde in August 1942 as part of one of the Winston Specials convoys taking the 8th Army to North Africa. On its return journey it was sent with additional troops to reinforce Diego Suarez on Madagascar, which had recently been seized from the Vichy French to prevent it being used as a base by the advancing Japanese forces. While there it collected a troop detachment to take to Mauritius.

It then eventually continued as originally planned to Uruguay and Argentina to load up with food to bring back to the UK but was then unexpectedly diverted to New York. These various diversions meant that Kelly missed his daughter Rosemary’s wedding in London on 11 January 1943.

Kelly continued serving on troopships and Atlantic convoys until the middle of 1944 when, aged 74, he returned home to London.

His wife Gertrude for the first time in her married life then enjoyed an unbroken period with her husband. As well as the arrival of grandchildren there was the novelty of being together to celebrate a succession of landmarks in their lives: his 75th birthday in March 1945, her 60th the following year and their 30th wedding anniversary in April 1948.

This happy postlude came to an abrupt end on 29 January 1949.

While shaving at home in Paddington Kelly suffered a massive heart attack. The curtain was thus lowered on a life of adventure, courage and service to country and his fellow human beings of many races.

The Kelly story is told in Fighting for the Empire.

Follow his remarkable life through 12 Christmas Days.

Previous: No 11, London 1939

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