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James Murdock Christie


Christie, James Murdock, formerly of Carman, Manitoba and the Yukon Territory, originally of Perthshire, Scotland. Medals Honours: Military Cross (MC), Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), Mentioned in Dispatches (MID). Occupation: Guide and Hunter. Military Service: Private, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Reg. No. 826, PPCLI. Attestation Papers.  Diary Reference: “Bombing affray between a number of our fellows and some of the enemy whom they had waylaid. Conflicting reports as to results obtained,” See note, 2:9 [7] Oct ’15. According to Hodder-Williams, 75, Lt. Christie was wounded 22 April 1915 and on 16 July 1916. He was struck off strength on 20 June 1918.

Additional Biographical Information:

Lt. James Murdock Christie was the son of Joseph and Helen Christie, who immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1885 and farmed at Carman, Manitoba. Besides James, they had at least three younger sons, Thomas, Duncan, and Robert, and a daughter Agnes. (1901 Canadian Census, Manitoba, Lisgar, Carman, “Christie”  and 1911 Canadian Census, Manitoba, MacDonald, Carman “Cristie”.

7 October 1915: A patrol of 8 snipers & 2 grenadiers under Sgt. Christie went out late this afternoon from our left Trench and made their way, crawling through the grass to the German side of the marsh, with a view to intercepting a German patrol believed to pass down the road from LaGrenouilère [sic] to Curlu about 7 p.m. each evening.

Our patrol got safely to the German side of the marsh and concealed themselves 20 yards from the road.

Just after dusk a strong German Patrol came down the road, (consisting of 30 men under an officer) marching in fours and with a flanking party in the marsh. Sgt. Christie seeing himself hopelessly outnumbered and in danger of being cut off between the two parties resorted to bluff and ordered the Germans to “Hands up.”

The enemy not complying, our men opened rapid fire, the grenadiers at the same time throwing their bombs into the midst of the close mass of men in the road. The Germans threw themselves down and returned the fire of our men while the flanking party closed up. Our two right hand men faced around to meet them and one of our men killed a German who had come within a couple of yards of him.

The enemy after throwing 2 or 3 bombs which did no damage began to crawl away, leaving several dead and some wounded men groaning in the road.

Fearing a return of the enemy with reinforcements from La Grenouillere [sic], Sgt. Christie took the opportunity of withdrawing, his whole party returning to our lines without a casualty.

Pte [A. G. S.] Fleming did splendid work with his bombs, remaining behind with Sgt. Christie to cover the retreat of the remainder. (The War Diary of the PPCLI, 7 October 1915)

17 January 1916: Dranoutre, 17/1/16, … Extract from the London Gazette of Janry/14/16 … D.C.M … . 1576 L/Cpl. J. M. Christie … (The War Diary of the PPCLI, 17 January 1916)

In his history of the PPCLI, Jeffery Williams explained how Col. Farquhar, the commanding officer of the PPCLI [early 1915], organised a sniping unit under Lt. W. G. Colquhoun and Cpl. J. M. Christie. Williams described Christie as “the most durable of men,” who had joined the regiment when he was over forty years of age. He had been a bear hunter in the Yukon, and “in one encounter with a grizzly, his jaw and the left side of his head were nearly torn off.” He had “to finish the bear with his knife,” and then make a “five day” trip to “reach civilization and medical treatment.”

Williams included a lengthy testimonial from Lt-Col H. W. Niven, who described Christie as follows:

His long life alone in the mountains made him the most observant man I have ever known. He saw everything and said nothing. He could put his hand on the ground in no man’s land and tell whether a man had walked there one hour ago, two hours ago, three hours ago. It was uncanny, and he was never wrong. He would lie out in the open behind our trenches, day after day … and get his sight on some part of the enemy trench and wait for someone to put his head up. If he did not put it up today, he would be there tomorrow, and sure enough some German would come to that spot, and Christie would get him. This happened year after year. I have never known anyone outside an Indian who had the patience of Christie. He would concentrate hour after hour on one spot. No white man that I know of can concentrate for more than say, three hours on one spot. Christie could do it for two days. Everything told him a story – a bent blade of grass told him something.

Christie wandered over no man’s land all night long, and he came back one morning saying that he thought a German patrol went past our front about 2 am. He wanted four men to go out next night to scupper the lot. I rode into Headquarters and spoke to Gen Sir George Milne (afterward CIGS – ‘Uncle George’ to the PPCLI) who said he would come along about midnight.

About 2 a.m. a hell of a row started away to our left front in no man’s land. We could not fire and neither could the Germans as we both had patrols out. About 3.30 am Christie and his men came in and Uncle George questioned them.

Christie and his men had lain out in the open ground each with four grenades and his rifle. The German patrol, one officer and sixteen men came across where Christie thought they would. First he shot the officer, each of his men threw two Mills bombs and finished them off with their rifles. Then Christie cut off their shoulder straps for identification and put them in a sand bag, and put all the officer’s papers etc in. But Christie was in a state of consternation. He found that his patrol had pinched the German rifles and two of his men had left their own. Christie asked Sir George for permission to go out and get the rifles as he was responsible. The General’s face was a study, but he gave permission and he awarded Christie an immediate DCM. Jeffrey Williams, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry:1914-1984 Seventy Years Service (London: Leo Cooper, 1972, 2nd edition, Leo Cooper in association with Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1985), 8-9.

Christie, who rose to the rank of lieutenant, was in charge of the snipers until he left the PPCLI in June 1918. Williams, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 9.

8 July 1918: “Lieut J. M. Christie M.C. struck off unfit for Service in France.” PPCLI War Diary, 8 July 1918.