COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Audrey Hanlon, left, and author Deana Driver chat prior to a book reading at Central United Church on Monday evening. Driver penned “The Sailor and the Christmas Trees,” a children’s book detailing a remarkable true story from the Second World War involving Hanlon’s husband, John.
Central United Church was the scene of a special book launch Monday evening involving longtime Brandon resident, the late John Hanlon.
"The Sailor and the Christmas Trees" is a heart-warming Christmas story, an ideal gift for children who are learning to read and anyone who enjoys true stories of unsung Canadian heroes.
Hanlon was a sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. In late November 1944, the frigate he was posted on was docked in St. John’s, N.L.
Hanlon decided he and some friends should cut down a few evergreen trees and stow them on the ship to surprise their fellow sailors on Christmas morning while they were at sea. So that’s what they did.
They sailed to England in a convoy and had no problems along the way. On Christmas morning, they were in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean on their way back to Canada, when Hanlon and two friends brought the trees out of hiding.
The other sailors on their ship were surprised and thrilled. They set about decorating the trees and celebrating Christmas.
The other happy recipients of this unexpected Christmas gift were some small English children who were being transported to safety to Canada on another ship within their convoy. A tree was sent over to the children, on a line thrown between the two ships.
Decades later, Hanlon met one of those now-grownup children and savoured the memories of that special day.
The result was "The Sailor and the Christmas Trees."
Written by Deana Driver and illustrated by Catherine Folnovic, the book is published by DriverWorks Ink, which is donating a portion of the book sales to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Trust Fund to help support veterans and their families.
"The Sailor and the Christmas Trees" is Driver’s first children’s book. However, she is a veteran writer and journalist, having written five books and more than 2,000 articles published in different Canadian newspapers and magazines.
She has also published or co-published 21 books (written by herself or other Prairie authors) through her publishing company DriverWorks Ink.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 23, 2012