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Grandad was born and bred in the Hertfordshire village of Kings Langley. Married in 1912 to Maud Swan, they had eight children. He enlisted in September 1914 and went to France on 26th July 1915, less than two months before the birth of my father.
In France he served with the 7th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment as a stretcher-bearer, and took part in the Battle of the Somme. Wounded in the leg on the first day, he returned to the battalion in time for the battle for Thiepval in September.
In March 1917 his battalion took part in the advance as the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line. The 54th brigade moved into the Loupart Line on the 13th March, the 7th Bedfords opposite Achiet-le-Grand. Although the Germans were withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line they fought a controled rearguard action and held Achiet-le-Grand and Bihucourt villages strongly. The 54th Brigade had to advance 2 miles over open ground. It took five days.
I was only seven years old when he died, and he spent his last years in hospital, after falling from a factory roof. I never remember him talking about his wartime experience, so his actions must be described by those who served on the battlefield with him. The citation and transcriptions of the reports that were written as part of the procedures for awarding a decoration are linked below:
-:- Citation -:- Army Form W.3121 -:- Sgt Bayford -:- Sgt Eakins -:- Cpl Simmonds -:- 2nd Lt Chapman -:- 2nd Lt Dealler -:- 2nd Lt Clarke -:-Sgt Nicholson -:-
About a month after the action which won the VC he sustained two wounds to his foot during the attack on the village of Cherisy, again the stretcher-bearer had become the patient, and he was helped off the battlefield by one of his mates. After an operation to remove the bullets he was invalided back to Blighty, to the Queen Mary Military Hospital in Blackburn. He was presented with the VC by the King on 21st July 1917 at Buckingham Palace, one of 32 VCs presented that day.
This second picture shows him with Maud on returning to Kings Langley after the presentation ceremony. The child on her arm is my father.
After the war he returned to live in Kings Langley, where he worked for a few years for a builder. He then worked for many years at the Ovaltine Factory. It was here in 1954 that he had the accident that put him in and out of hospital for the rest of his life.
During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and again showed his courage by entering the bombed-out Griffin Pub to search for the publican in the ruins. Unfortunately Ted Carter was already dead, the only civilian killed in Kings Langley during the war.
On the 17th March 2007 a memorial was unveiled by Christopher's son Ian at the Star Crossroads outside the village of Achiet-le-Grand, instigated by M. Philippe Drouin of the Somme Remembrance Association http://www.somme-remembrance.com
Unveiling Ceremony - more pictures
Since I originally wrote this page Mary Hallett has published an excellent biography, and some of the changes I have made are based on information in her book. email Mary , or visit her website at http://www.fourbears.worldonline.co.uk
The Bedfordshire Regiment in
The Great War website has a short biography, as well as
excellent coverage of the regiment.
Page updated 18th April 2009