Zoo helps Sailor pull off homecoming surprise with visit to Santa

Marwell Zoo in the UK helped spread some extra festive cheer when they arranged a surprise reunion for a Navy family at their magical Christmas event.
Staff at the Hampshire attraction captured the moving moment Naval Engineer Warrant Officer Chris Tisdell was reunited with his children inside Santa’s Grotto at the zoo’s Marwell Hall.

When Father Christmas asked what they would like for Christmas the brother and sister replied that they wanted to see their dad, who they have both been missing terribly since he deployed to the Middle East four months ago. At that point Father Christmas took them to the magical Christmas tree and told them to make a wish. Little did they know that the serviceman was behind the scenes and took this as his chance to sneak into the room. On turning round, the children were in absolute shock to see their Dad holding their presents with open arms. After just a few moments they ran into the arms of their Dad and there wasn’t a dry eye in the grotto!

Naval Engineer Warrant Officer Chris Tisdell has been serving in the Gulf on board HMS Daring since August. His children, Lois aged 9 and Ewan aged 8, were not expecting to see their dad again until May next year but he had secretly managed to secure a few days ‘R&R’ to return home for Christmas.

Chris revealed how it felt to be reunited with his family: “I think we are all absolutely overwhelmed and they were very shocked to see me! I have been away a lot this last year, so it’s great to be home.”
Chris’s wife Helen had helped set-up the amazing surprise reunion with help from Marwell staff.
Helen said: “I am so pleased to see him at home for Christmas with the family.”
Daughter Lois added: “It’s great and amazing! I can’t wait to tell my friends!”
The family of four will now enjoy ten days leave together before Chris returns to the ship to complete his tour of duty.