Harry Christian (17th January 1892 to 2nd September 1974)

 

Evening though I was staying in Kendal in the Lake District for a night or two it was still a fairly long drive up to Egremont Cemetery at the top left part of the area. I arrived in failing sunlight about tea time and told myself I wouldn’t eat until I found the grave. I passed through the gates to find a large cemetery though up at the rear I saw much of the land hadn’t yet been occupied by cadavers (normally it’s the opposite - every part of the cemeteries is full.) This meant I didn’t have to spent more than twenty minutes scanning headstones.

 

I found Harry buried in a corner near the front and here I am by his headstone. He was born on a farm in Pennington (near Ulverston). Dad was an ironstone miner who had seven children with this mum Mary. He worked on farms and would have followed his dad into mining but as World War One commended he enlisted with the army at Lancaster and was a Regular by age 18.

 

His early soldiering wasn’t promising - two bollockings and punishments for being drunk. Aged 20 he sailed for India but was admitted to hospital in Calcutta with gonorrhoea for three months. The Battalion moved to Lebong where he was confined to barracks again for nine days for using obscene language to a superior. Punishment didn’t seem to work: later he struck an officer (got 91 days detention), caused damaged, used obscene language to an NCO, was drunk in barracks and threatened an on-duty NCO. Aged 24 he found himself back in England at HMT Kenilworth Castle. He went absent without leave at Winchester on Christmas Eve 1914 and was caught in a drunken state by the Military Police. Another financial charge, another spell confined to barracks for 10 days. On 12th January 1915 he was sentenced to one month in prison for striking a police officer.

 

Once out of prison he was sent to France with the 2nd Battalion. A bullet hit his head but only wounded him and he was put into hospital in France. This seemed to have calmed him down and there were no misdemeanours after this. On Monday 18th October 1915 he was fighting at Cuinchy in the Pas-de-Calais region of France. He was defending a crater with five or six men in front of the Allied lines. The Germans started a fierce bombardment of the position - so fierce Harry and his chums were forced to withdraw. However when Harry saw three men were missing he ran back to the crater. Bombs were raining down on the area and one landed on the edge of the crater causing it to cave in. Harry dug away and found the three men still alive. He carried them one by one on his shoulder back to safety expecting to be blown up at any moment. Later he got himself in a position where he could see where the bombs were coming down and directed his comrades when and where to seek cover.

 

He was presented with the Victoria Cross medal by King George V at Ibrox Park in Glasgow on 18th September 1917. As you can see from the photograph he was in a bad way due to a recurrence of malaria in Greece. After the war he was posted abroad but returned to Egremont in the Lake district where he was the landlord at the Park Head Inn pub for forty years. He died at West Cumberland Hospital in Cumbria aged 82.

 

I got back in the motorhome, quite weak as I hadn’t eaten for hours. I looked on the map and saw St Bees beach was nearby. I drove them and parked up for a curry inches from the sand. I couldn’t settle for some reason though, felt the place was lacking atmosphere so I decided to drive to Keswick where I slept in a car park (only Ł1.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touching the “VC”…

 

 

 

 

Looking for somewhere nice to eat I drove to St Bees to park near the beach and have a curry…

 

…however I couldn’t settle and drove to Keswick and stayed in the car park for the night…