‘Garrison town’ tributes to war heroes

Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant for the County of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie, CVO, OBE, unveiling the permanent memorial.
Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant for the County of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie, CVO, OBE, unveiling the permanent memorial.

A permanent memorial to a Carrickfergus-born Victoria Cross hero has been unveiled in honour of his remarkable bravery during the Great War.

James Bell Crichton was bestowed the British Armed Forces most prestigious military accolade for his incredible courage during the conflict, including facing a barrage of enemy fire to remove explosives from a vital bridge, and swimming across a river while under attack to deliver key messages.

The tribute to the North Irish Horse and Lt Col Richard West VC

The tribute to the North Irish Horse and Lt Col Richard West VC

Earlier this year, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed to the permanent memorial to Private Crichton and members of his family travelled to Carrickfergus for Friday’s poignant ceremony, during which a two-minute silence was observed.

Other special guests included Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the County of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie, CVO, OBE, and senior representatives of the North Irish Horse.

A plaque recognising the North Irish Horse and the bravery of Lt Col Richard West VC, was also unveiled at the War Memorial.

Col West’s parents were from Ulster, and the North Irish Horse were keen to mark his bravery in Carrickfergus.

Council representatives and guests at the War Memorial Gardens.

Council representatives and guests at the War Memorial Gardens.

The Mayor, Councillor Lindsay Millar, said: “We in Mid and East Antrim Borough have extremely strong bonds with our military services. As a garrison town, Carrickfergus has been of huge strategic significance for centuries.

“It is a huge honour to have a First World War hero from our town.

“As we move towards the centenary of the Armistice, marking the end of the First World War, it is fitting that we also mark the service of the North Irish Horse during the First World War.

“Mid and East Antrim Borough and Carrickfergus in particular, have very strong links with the North Irish Horse.

“I am delighted that today we also mark Lt Col West’s gallantry and the service of North Irish Horse.”

Pte Crichton was born in Carrickfergus before the family moved to Scotland, where, in later life, Mr Crichton enlisted with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at Edinburgh Castle and served in the Boer War.

He later emigrated to New Zealand and in August 1914 enlisted in the 1st Auckland Regiment, as a Corporal in the New Zealand Army Service Corps.

Pte Crichton served in Gallipoli in 1915 and in France as a Company Quartermaster-Sergeant.

In April 1918, while serving as a Warrant Officer with the 1st NZ Field Bakery, he voluntarily relinquished his rank and transferred as a Private to the Auckland Infantry Regiment.

James Crichton won his Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty near Crevecoeur, France, on September 30, 1918.

He returned to New Zealand in June 1919 and was discharged in September of that year.

In 1937 he attended the Coronation of King George VI as a Sergeant in the New Zealand Coronation Contingent.

He died on 27 September 1961 and is buried in the Soldiers’ Cemetery at Waikumete, Auckland.