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Capt. Harry James
Christie D.S.O., M.C.

Born 10 June, 1914, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Died 19 January, 1944, Casino, Italy.

"He was a 29-year-old Belfast school teacher who left the class-room to become a private in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers--and rose to be Captain, holder of the D.S.O. and the M.C., and one of the 8th Army's most gallant officers."

"From office desk and factory bench, from shop and bank, from shipyard and mill have gone the sons of Ulster who have served on this war's battlefronts--and laid down their lives. This is the story of one of them, who went from a Belfast school where he was assistant teacher, and whose parents have just received news that he has been killed while serving with the 8th Army in Italy."

"It is a story typical of Ulster's heroes of the war--typical of their gallant part in the grim struggle against Nazi tyranny."

"Captain Henry James Christie, 29 years old, was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. W.J.Christie, of 54 Oakland Avenue, Belfast. As a boy he was in the Boy's Brigade and went to the Mountpottinger P.E.S., where at 14 he became a monitor. For the next four years he was at Methody and while there played for the school's first XV. at rugby, also gaining his junior and senior certificates."

Irish landscape. Harry painted this and gave it to his
cousin Deborah Ettie (my mother), before going to war.

"He was then accepted as a student at Stranmillis Training College, where he distinguished himself, especially in art. Four years later, in 1938, he was appointed assistant teacher in Strandtown P.E.S., where he remained until he enlisted in August, 1940, as a private in the Inniskillings. A year previous to this he had been a member of Queen's University O.T.C."

"THE STAFF 1938/39"

Front row, second from left Mr. H. Christie.

"In November, 1940, he was selected to attend courses at an O.C.T.U., and four months later was commissioned as a second lieutenant to the Inniskillings, and stationed for the remainder of the year in Northern Ireland. He was offered the post of gas instructor, which he declined to accept, preferring combat duty."

"In January, 1942, he left the Ulster he was never to see again and some time later found himself at the invasion of Madagascar, where he saw action for the first time."

"After landing from the assault barges, he and his comrades were faced with a night march which though estimated as 25 miles was equal to a 50-mile route march at home, because of lack of water and after such a long sea trip. Here he had to pass along track-like roads, inches deep in dust, and for the last half of the journey the sides were packed with weary, tired and thirsty men."

"While in Madagascar he had one of his most exciting adventures."

"After taking up positions the C.O. despatched him on a patrol with his platoon to find a way across the mountains to the sea. They took with them only light equipment and set off at dawn, across very difficult country, through tall jungle grass, scrub, and up the sides of deep gullies cut by rain-streams. Crossing the mountains they reached the jungle, which became so dense with all types of thorny bushes, palm and tropical vegetation, that they had to stop. Wandering from right to left, they finally reached a huge dried river-bed 80 feet wide, with precipitous sides 60 feet to 80 feet high."

"Into this they descended, making use of the long training creepers that stretched from top to bottom and followed the track for seven or eight miles, killing many snakes but seeing no signs of natives."

"When their water supply was nearing exhaustion, they decided to leave the river bed and found the jungle giving place to swampy, mosquito-infested land. Nearer the sea they struck a thick mangrove swamp, and the home of small lizards, thousands of insects and hideous-looking ants."

"After a two hours' search they discovered a narrow rabbit-like trail, which led them to a small native village on the coast, and here they quenched their thirst with milk from cocoanuts."

"Finding the chief of the village they made him understand what they wanted by signs and gesticulations and succeeded in buying a few fish and some chickens."

"After this their return trail commenced and until darkness they were guided by the chief's son along paths, through jungles, over plains, across gullies. From 6 p.m.--the hours of darkness there--they lay, cold, on the hillside, and rose in the morning, their bodies covered with mosquito bites."

*

"As they had no food except the few fish for some 36 hours they shot one of the wild calves with which the country abounded and which they succeeded in skinning and cleaning. With this carcase slung on poles they went doggedly on their way through the jungle."

"Eventually they reached another native village some ten miles from their base, and then at last their base, whose occupants had long since given them up as lost."

"Leaving Madagascar Captain Christie next arrived in India where he served as Intelligence Officer. Some weeks before the invasion of Sicily, then a lieutenant, he succeeded in getting back where he wanted to be--with his platoon."

"His next move was to Sicily where he was among the first to land, and where he won his first decoration, the D.S.O., having his ribbon pinned on by General Montgomery."

"On August 18, 1943, his battalion advanced and took a position held by crack German troops. A terrifying night followed. While he was digging-in the Germans returned in force with tanks and infantry just as darkness fell. Capt. Christie and his platoon had to flatten themselves in a furrow in a tomato field--the only cover available."

"Luckily he had the forethought to place a triple row of mines in one spot across the road leading to their position. However, the defence of three platoons wiped out the German infantry attack. Then the tanks rolled forward. The leading one drove right onto the minefield and blew up, while the rest obviously fearing more mines, stopped, and fanning out right and left to a distance of 50 yards shelled and machine gunned the defenders while the infantry attacked. All night they held on, the river behind them, the Germans in front of them to right and left. Several times the C.O. shouted across for Captain Christie to return with his men if he thought it too much but each time came the answer, 'I'll hold on. No surrender!'"

*

"Among the first troops to land in Sicily, he was also among the first to land in Italy, and took part in a fourth landing when he re-embarked on the toe of Italy and sailed north to land again. Thereon his work lay chiefly in patrolling deeply behind the enemy lines, a hazardous task yet one for which he was well suited, becoming known as 'Long Distance Patrol Christie.'"

"One of his most recent adventures took him to the outskirts of a village held by the Germans, where he tried to draw the enemies fire by standing in full view 400 yards distant. Having failed to do so and as darkness was falling, he returned to the next village where he found himself hemmed in on three sides and then on the fourth by approaching Germans. He succeeded, however, in eluding them by slipping into a river, and by hugging the bank passed out of the encirclement right 'under their noses.' Twice he returned to rescue some of his men still there."

(What was not stated here was the fact that the German soldiers were torturing the villagers and chopping the hands off children to make the villagers talk. Unable to rescue them, and in a desparate effort to help, Harry and his men tossed hand grenades into the village, killing the Germans and mercifully putting the tortured and mutilated children out of their misery.)

"Though this is just a fragment of one of many such patrols it is believed that it was for this that he received his second and, also his last decoration, the M.C. He is thought to be the 'most decorated Inniskilling.'"

"Captain Christie had expected to be home shortly after Christmas, having been abroad for two years."

"All who knew him mourn the passing of a gallant soldier."

Ironically, when an allied shell fell short of it's target, Harry was accidentally killed while sitting under a tree reading a letter from home.


Harry is buried in the military cemetery in Minturno, Italy