Chris Bingham (left) and Ken March with their father and step-father, “Happy Jack” John Bingham, in hospital where they are staying by his side.
Chris Bingham (left) and Ken March with their father and step-father, “Happy Jack” John Bingham, in hospital where they are staying by his side.

Sons meet after 50 years apart

“HAPPY Jack” Bingham’s two little boys became emotional adult brothers in arms when they met yesterday for the first time in more than half a century – as their much loved dad and step-dad prepared to say his last goodbye.

“It’s great to meet you finally, Chris.”

“Ken, it’s so good to meet you.”

The greetings between Chris Bingham and Ken March at Hervey Bay airport were both tender and sombre. They have been corresponding and sharing phone calls for just over a year.

Step-son Ken and son Christopher live a world apart – Ken in Sydney and Christopher in Norway – and their meeting happened because each had rushed to the Hervey Bay Hospital bedside of John Bingham, 95.

Burma Railway POW Happy Jack, as most know him around these parts, has been in hospital for more than a week, was moved into ICU on the weekend after an operation in St Stephen’s in Maryborough and yesterday was transferred to a surgical ward where he is fighting pneumonia and life weariness.

“I have been waiting to see my two boys together and now I have. I’m happy,” Jack whispered.

In 1945, after three-and-a-half years as a POW and then an escapee from the Burma Railway, April 1942 to August 1945, Jack came home to Melbourne and within a few weeks had wed Freda, the sister of one of his Air Force squadron mates.

“In December 1946 we had a little son,” Jack told the Chronicle in an earlier interview.

“A beaut lad, sturdy and fair haired, just what I wanted. It felt terrific to have a son. He was always outside in the pram, cooing to the waving trees and working his feet up and down. He was a happy lad in those days. I was very proud of him.

“His name is Christopher George, in memory of my brother George, killed in Burma. Some time later Freda gave birth to Gail but Gail died some years ago,” he said tearfully.

Environmental scientist Chris was at his father’s bedside 30 minutes after his plane landed in the Bay – and that after 38 hours of constant travelling.

Jack and Freda divorced and Jack met up with Peggy March, the woman he had silently loved before he went to war and who had married Jack’s mate, Ian March, both believing their friend had been killed by the Japanese.

When Jack and she met again, Peggy was divorced and they became life partners. Ken March, who was serving in Vietnam at the time, was thrilled his mum had got together with Jack, or “Johnny” as he calls him today.

When the Chronicle left Happy Jack’s bedside, he said softly:

“I’ve had a wonderful life, Toni. Thank you for being such a good mate – and keep an eye on my two boys for me. I love them both very much.”



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