Father never returned for promised tea party

Name: Joseph Atkinson
Date: 1916-1917
Unit: 26th Battalion AIF
Location: Europe

Joseph Atkinson was a religious man who loved to sing. When he left for war in November 1916, he was 47 years old and had a wife, two daughters and a young son.

On the long trip by troop ship from Australia to Europe, he wrote letters home including one to his two daughters, Marjorie (aged 4) and Florrie (aged 8).

He wrote confidently about what would happen when he returned home and the presents he would bring his three children. He mentioned also that it would be cold when he got to England and he would play snowballs in the snow and ice, never realising that they would be the cause of his death.

My dear little Marjorie and Florrie,

This is a letter just for you two. I'm sure you will be pleased to hear from Daddie away so far on the water on that big boat. Well dears we have been sailing along for a fortnight since I've left the last port and not seen even another ship, just the great open sea & we have had beautiful weather.

I'm sure you are both good girls & no doubt you miss Daddie as much as Daddie misses you but I miss you so very much but never mind, God is good & will bring me safely back to you & I shall have a big dolly for Marjorie & something nice for my Florrie & of course I won't forget Frank.

I hope you both go to Sunday School & will get a prize at Christmas. I shall be pleased to get a letter from you.

You will soon have Xmas & I hope Father Christmas will not forget my little girls. You must tell me when you write.

Give my love to Daphne & to remember me to her Father & Mother.

The ship has a long way to go before we get where we are bound for & it will be very cold there & snow & ice where I shall play snowballing again like you read about in your school books.

Daddie will be thinking of you all every day & pray that God will keep you all in good health until I come home again & I'm sure He will & so you will ask him to look after me too & He will hear you.

Ask Mamma to try & get Len's teeth seen to if she can & and to put the liniment on Arthur's foot with a brush.

Tel Frank I shall bring him something & won't we have a good time when I get home.

Give my love to Aunty Lottie and Amy & Maggie. I know they are good to you. Tell Grandma I will see Hughie if I can & I'm sure to see Vic as he is only just ahead of us. Tell Grandad to look after himself & then we will have a Big Tea Party when I get back.

Now good night my little dear ones. God Bless you & watch over you until we meet again is the prayer of,

Your Affectionate


But despite Joseph's hopeful words, he never did return for that Tea Party. He had written to his daughters about snow and ice but they were to be his downfall for he died in hospital on 3 February 1917 of pneumonia after being caught in a storm while travelling between Salisbury Plains and Southampton on his way to visit his elderly parents.

Two people he referred to in his letter, Hugh and Vic were his brothers-in-law who had both preceded him with the AIF to England. Both survived active duty.

The material for this article was supplied by Mr Frank Atkinson of Queensland

Last updated: 31 May 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Father never returned for promised tea party, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 17 September 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/father-never-returned-promised-tea-party
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