King pins Victoria Cross on wounded South Cumbria hero at Glasgow soccer stadium
A brave and badly injured South Cumbrian was the centre of national attention a century ago as King George V pinned a Victoria Cross on his hospital coat in a packed football stadium.
The hero was First World War soldier Harry Christian whose gallantry was marked with the laying of a Victoria Cross paving stone next to Pennington war memorial in October 2015.
That marked the century of his notable deed in rescuing three comrades but he was wounded in action so badly that his medal could not be presented for more than a year.
The ceremony on Tuesday, September 11 in 1917 was noted in the Ulverston News that week.
It said there was a huge crowd as the Glasgow soccer stadium to see a series of gallantry medal presentations by the King.
The article recorded: “He is still suffering from the wounds which his gallantry cost him.
“He had to be carried to the King’s presence on a chair.
“His Majesty talked with him a perceptible while, after pinning the cross to his breast.
“A thrill of high-wrought admiration rang through the multitude as they cheered the warrior’s departure.”
The Ulverston News also gave quotes from another unnamed newspaper which noted: “He was very pale but obviously proud of his honour.
“The medal was pinned on his hospital coat by the King, who spoke cheery words of commendation to the hero.”
Pte Christian was born on January 17 in 1892 at Wallthwaite, Pennington, near Ulverston and went to the National School in Ulverston.
His parents moved to Egremont in 1909.
Harry worked on farms and at the age of 18 he went to Bowerham Barracks, Lancaster, to enlist in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.
He served in India and returned to Britain in December 1914.
He was sent to France in February 1915 and during the Battle of Loos showed exceptional bravery at Cuinchy, on October 18.
The citation for his medal was published in goverenment paper the London Gazette.
It recorded: “He was holding a crater with five or six men in front of our trenches.
“The enemy commenced a very heavy bombardment of the position with heavy ‘minenwerfer’ bombs, forcing a temporary withdrawal.
“When he found that three men were missing, Private Christian at once returned alone to the crater and, although bombs were continually bursting actually on the edge of the crater, he found, dug out and carried one by one into safety all three men, thereby
undoubtedly saving their lives.
“Later he placed himself where he could see the bombs coming and directed his comrades when and where to seek cover.”
For 40 years he was landlord of the Park Head Inn, Thornhill, near Egremont in West Cumbria, with his wife Nellie.
They retired to Dent Road, Thornhill and Harry died on September 2 in 1974 aged 82.
His grave can be seen in Egremont cemetery.
The former soldier’s medals were purchased by the King’s Own in 1974 and can be seen in the regimental museum at Lancaster.