July 23 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 1, 2014
There are not many married couples who can say they went off on their honeymoon in a train provided especially for them by a reigning monarch, but a Norfolk couple can make the claim.
But 70 years ago, newlyweds Chris and Kay Christmas, 97 and 96 respectively, were whisked off to spend two weeks near the Himalayas in northern India in a luxury train laid on by the Nizam of Hyderabad Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, in 1944.
The couple, who live in Brandon but who were serving with the forces at the time, did not know Mr Khan personally, but had visited his palace and the top class transport, which had its own kitchen and two beds within the carriage, was arranged by Rupert Strump, a movement controller, who was responsible for planning and coordinating military movements in support of operations.
Mr Christmas, who originally came from Midhurst in Sussex, was serving as a major in the British Indian Army’s 44th Airborne Division based in Secunderabad when he met the then Kay Carton, a nurse with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), when she visited the Officers’ Club at Secunderabad.
She joked Mr Christmas was considered a “catch” among the nurses because he was an army major in his early 20s, while there were not many nurses for the male army officers, so they were in great demand.
Mr Christmas said: “We sat down and talked and one thing led to another. We met quite a few times and after that I popped the question and to my surprise, she said ‘yes.’”
Mrs Christmas, who was brought up in Brentwood, said her husband used to pick her up from her Hyderabad hospital on his bike and take her back to his bungalow in Secunderabad with her sitting on the crossbar, which she said was a painful experience.
During their courtship they spent a lot of time at the Officers’ Club pool where there would be regular parties, though Mr Christmas said he spent a lot of time away on army operations.
The couple, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary today (Thursday), married at Trimulgherry on May 1, 1944, before heading off in their luxury train for two weeks away.
After leaving the army, Mr Christmas worked at Ilford Films and Ciba Geigy before taking early retirement aged 55. He also ran a caravan park after his retirement.
His wife started a nursing home in Essex before working at a factory in Ilford and then the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford until she retired in 1981.
They have a daughter Joan Davis, 69, granddaughter Lucy Davis, 30, grandson James Carson, 40, and great granddaughter Molly Carson, two, and live in Oaklands Drive.
Mr Christmas said: “It is just lucky that we have chosen each other and we love each other. I don’t think there is any magic ingredient to a successful marriage because some people are similar while others are different.”