b. 14/05/1895 Edmonton, London. d. 10/09/1967 Stockport, Cheshire.
John Alexander Christie (1895-1967), the son of Andrew and Sarah Christie, was born in Edmonton, North London, on the 14th May 1895. Both parents were Scottish and the young Christie was always known as “Jock”, and after finishing his education he moved to the Midlands for a short period before returning to London and living in Islington. He found work as a clerk in the Accounts Section of the Parcels Department of the London & North Western Railway Co., at Euston Station, the company’s main London terminus station. He returned to his education at the Working Men’s College, Holloway, and in his spare time he was a keen athlete and played football for the St. John’s Holloway team.
On the 1st September 1914, Christie enlisted as a Rifleman in the 1/11th (County of London) Battalion, (Finsbury Rifles), London Regiment, a Territorial Army unit attached to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. The battalion had only recently been raised at 17, Penton Street, Pentonville, and were part of the 3rd (London) Brigade, 1st (London) Division. The battalion underwent their basic training at Crowborough, Sussex and remained there until the 24th April 1915, when they were transferred to the East Midland Brigade, East Anglian Division, and posted to Norwich, Norfolk. Their stay there lasted just a few weeks and on the 7th May, they became part of the 162nd Brigade, 54th (East Anglian) Division, and moved to St. Alban’s, Hertfordshire, and stayed there until the 28th July 1915, when they sailed from Plymouth, on board HMS “Aquitania” to Mudros as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
The battalion landed at Suvla Bay, on the 11th August, but within two weeks of arriving in the theatre of operations, Christie was wounded and after the initial evacuation to a field hospital he was transferred to a main hospital in Alexandria on the 1st September with gunshot wounds to his head and left knee. He was then sent back to England for further treatment at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and he remained in England until he sailed from Devonport for Alexandria in mid-July 1916. He re-joined the battalion who were in positions known as “Manchester Post”, but he was then posted on attachment to the 1st/7th Essex Regiment, for a short period before returning on the 24th August. He attended a Brigade bombing course on the 27th November and upon completion of the course re-joined the battalion in the Canal Zone two weeks later.
The battalion had moved to the Mesopotamia Front by March 1917, and took part in the advance along the coast towards Gaza, that took place between late March and mid-April, which culminated in several unsuccessful attempts to capture the town. At some point during the period between April and August, Christie suffered from severe sunstroke, but he was hospitalised for conjunctivitis on the 18th August and later returned to the battalion.
Christie was 22 years old, and had recently been promoted to Lance-Corporal when, on the 21st December/22nd December 1917 at Fejja, Palestine, after a position had been captured, the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. Following the capture of a position, the enemy immediately made counter and bombing attacks up communication trenches. L./Cpl. Christie, realising the position, took a supply of bombs over the top, proceeding alone about fifty yards in the open along the communication trench and bombed the enemy. He continued to do this alone in spite of very heavy opposition until a block had been established. Returning towards our lines he heard voices behind him; he at once turned back and bombed another party moving up the trench, entirely breaking up a further bombing attack. By his prompt and effective action he undoubtedly cleared a difficult position at a most critical time and saved many lives.
After performing the actions that resulted in the VC, Christie was granted home leave and he returned to Islington. When news of the award broke he was he was given a hero’s welcome and presented with a testimonial from the Borough, however, he was not presented with his VC on this visit, presumably due to his leave coming before the announcement had been made. By March 1918, Christie was back in Palestine, and was wounded in the wrist and knee at Medjelyaba, and while he was recovering in hospital he was presented with the VC ribbon by the Duke of Connaught at Yezour, Jaffa. Christie returned from Palestine, in November 1918, and on the 16th, five days after the Armistice, he was presented with his medal by the King in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace.
Christie was presented with a cheque and bureau by his colleagues at Euston Station in January 1919, and he continued to serve in the Army until the 11th February 1919, when he was demobilised and then returned to working at the station and in 1920, the LNWR named their Claughton-class locomotive No. 1407 ‘L/Cpl J.A. Christie, VC’ in his honour. He attended many of the VC functions that took place between the two World Wars, including the VC Garden Party in June 1920, and the service for the Unknown Warrior in November 1920, but he was unable to attend the VC Dinner held in the House of Lords in 1929, because he could not get the time off work.
During the General Strike of 1926, Christie drove food wagons around London, but at some point in the mid to late 1920’s he left the railways and moved to Nottingham, where he met Muriel May Newton, while he was working as a traveller. The couple married in Worleston, Cheshire in December 1931, and made their home in Bramhall, Stockport, and Christie became a well known figure amongst the wine and catering trades in the Manchester area. He became Northern Sales Manager for Colmans of Norwich, and was later a member of the Brands (Wine & Spirits) Protection Association, and later became the Vice-Chairman of the organisation.
During the Second World War, Christie joined the Auxiliary Fire Service as a driver and then transferred to the Special Constabulary until the end of hostilities. Following the war, he attended the Victory Parade and dinner that was held at The Dorchester, and in his working life he became a director of Messrs. Smallmans Ltd., a position he was to hold until 1964. When the VC & GC Association was formed, Christie became the Treasurer, and was a very active member of the association, taking an active role in the organisation of the dinners and reunions that they held, including the VC Centenary events of 1956.
Christie and his wife continued to live in Stockport, at 3, Bramley Close, Bramhall, and he became the Captain and later President of his local golf club but in March 1967, he suffered a stroke and was admitted to hospital. He never fully recovered and passed away six months later on the 10th September. He was cremated at Stockport Crematorium on the 15th September, and the funeral address was prepared by Sir John Smyth VC, Chairman of the VC & GC Association, who had been great friends with Christie since they had first met in 1920, but who was unable to attend his friends funeral. There were four VCs in attendance including Robert Henry Cain VC (Arnhem VC), James Towers VC (1918) and Wilfred Wood VC (1918) and the Rev. Geoffrey Harold Woolley, VC, OBE, MC (1915), who read Smyth’s address. A plaque inside Euston Station commemorating the action of Christie was unveiled by his son on 28 March 2014. His medals are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: STOCKPORT CREMATORIUM, MANCHESTER.
ASHES SCATTERED IN GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE
Brian Drummond – Freemason’s Memorial, London
Graham Gill – Image of replica medal group at Cheadle Hulme School, Manchester.