Captain Stephen Henry CHRISTY DSO
Date of birth: 1879
Date of death: 27 August or 3 September 1914
Killed in action aged 35
Buried Perreuse Chateau French National Cemetery at Signy-Signets:
1 D 25
Stephen Henry was born at Highfield in Bramhall, Cheshire, the younger son of Stephen Christy JP, hat manufacturer, and Blanche nee Chichester. He was educated at Harrow and Christ Church Oxford.
The hat-making firm of Christy & Company was founded by Miller Christie (1748 -1820). The works were in Bermondsey, London, and became known as the House of Christy. In 1826 Christy & Company bought out a firm of hat manufacturers in Stockport. A later member of the family to own the company was William Miller Christy and the firm became known as W M Christy & Sons Ltd. The success of this company was due to the manufacture of their Royal Turkish Towel, which was introduced at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was favoured by Queen Victoria. Another successful introduction was the Terry Towel.
Stephen Henry joined the 20th Hussars on 20 December 1899, gazetted 2nd Lieutenant from the Militia, and served in the South African War in 1902 on the Staff, receiving four clasps to his medal. In 1903 he served in the Sokoto-Burmi operations in North Nigeria, winning the DSO, and being mentioned in dispatches. He was slightly wounded during the campaign. He married Violet a daughter of the late Mr. William Chapell-Hodge, of Pounds, South Devon, in 1905 and resigned his commission in the following year. In 1913 he was living at Plaish Hall and was Master of the South Shropshire Hounds. His wife Violet died in November 1913 and is buried in Cardington Parish Burial Ground, near the Church. Deeply affected by his wife's death, at the outbreak of hostilities Captain Christy at once volunteered for active service, and was fortunately able to rejoin his old regiment as second in command of B. Squadron. He took part in all the fighting during the earlier phase of the war which terminated in the Battle of the Marne, but did not live to see the recovery and advance of the Allied Armies, having been killed in action at Ussy near La Fert (about 30 miles from Paris) on 3 September. The following account of his death is compiled from various letters received from eye-witnesses and others:
“On September 3rd, when about five miles from Meaux, the officer in command of B. squadron, 20th Hussars, was ordered to cover the retirement of another squadron of the same regiment which was reported to have been heavily attacked. B. squadron held the enemy in check until the others had retired and was then ordered to fall back. They were subjected to a heavy shellfire and in consequence retired at a gallop in extended order, Captain Christy being on the left of the line. On reaching a farm, probably that of Caissy mentioned later, the Squadron was rallied, remaining there some hours, during which time Captain Christy chatted a good deal with the farmer and his people. At about 5 p.m. a hostile aeroplane was sighted, and shortly afterwards the enemy shelled the place to cover the advance of some Uhlans. B. squadron was ordered to retire across the River Marne at La Fert-sous-Jouarre, and while this was being done Captain Christy and his mare Kitty were both shot. There is every reason to suppose that death was instantaneous. It was some little while before the squadron commander learnt that this had occurred, and it was then impossible to go back. After the squadron had crossed the river the bridge at La Fert was destroyed in order to hinder the advance of the enemy.” (cardington.org.uk/Wardead/SHChristy.html)
“It would be unseemly to allow the passing of Henry Christy of Plaish to be recorded without some public recognition of his high character and devoted services to the poor and needy. In his own county of Salop, where he is today mourned by rich and poor alike, there is no need of such witness. There can be few who are not the richer for his friendship and ever-ready sympathy and help. Not in this neighbourhood alone, however, were his activities confined. The full extent of his benefactions elsewhere are known only to God. It was characteristic of him that they should have been accomplished, whenever possible, in secret, and by personal service. He was not the man to do good by proxy.
ln his gifted young wife, who died suddenly last year, Henry Christy found a devoted helper in all good works. Through her efforts a resident nurse was established in their remote parish of Cardington, and together they planned a village reading-room and institute which is now approaching completion.
Captain Christy never recovered from his loss; yet he did not permit his great sorrow to make him self-centred. Rather did it spur him on to do even more for the alleviation of the sorrows of others.
If our hearts are heavy at his loss, we may yet rejoice that he is once more united with the wife he had so deeply mourned. —R.I.P.”
(Church Times, 6 Nov)
On October 20th two friends of Captain Christy reached the village of Ussy near La Fert, where they were informed that an English cavalry officer of that name was buried on the farm of Caissy in the neighbourhood. They went at once to Caissy and there found the grave in the middle of a large field. It was covered with flowers placed there by some of the villagers. The mare was buried a few yards away. Captain Christy's ring, identification tablet, and saddle were handed over to his friends, the rest of his things having been stolen by the Germans. Several of the villagers expressed to these gentlemen the gratitude they felt to Captain Christy for the protection he had afforded them, and desired that their sympathy should be conveyed to his relatives.
The following extracts are taken from letters received from brother officers.
His Colonel wrote: "I am confident that had he been spared he would have done some very good work in this terrible war, as he was such a first-rate officer."
Another wrote: "No one regrets the whole thing more than I do. Apart from being a great friend. he was absolutely invaluable in the squadron, and loved by officers and men." A third said, " He made himself exceedingly popular with the officers and men of his squadron, and his disappearance has cast quite a gloom over the regiment. Everyone says they never saw a man so utterly devoid of fear and so absolutely unselfish in every way. He used to move about the squadron chatting with the men when bullets and shells were screaming in every direction, and would even give his last cigarette to someone else rather than smoke it himself. . . . It is not every day one meets a man of his sort."
“It is good to remember that Captain Christy's last visit to Cardington was for the purpose of making his Communion; he walked down from Plaish in the pouring rain at 7.30 a.m. to do so. We need hardly say that from our village altar the prayer will often rise before the Eternal Throne that God will have him in His holy keeping. May he rest in peace.” Cardington Parish Magazine
His Estate amounted to £98,764 10s 3d. Probate granted to Hugh Archibald Christy Esq and Thomas Cole Porter, Brigadier General Retired, His Majesty’s Army. The registered charity “Stephen Henry Christy For Reading Room, Caretaker’s Cottage And Nurses Home” was set up “for charitable purposes for the general benefit of the inhabitants of the ancient parish of Cardington”.
(The Charity continues in 2010)
CARDINGTON WAR MEMORIAL UNVEILED
St. James Church was packed to its limit last Sunday evening when a memorial cross in honour of those who laid down their lives in their country's service was unveiled. The solemn service opened with a muffled peal and the National Anthem, then followed appropriate sentences from the first portion of the prescribed evenings service. Special lessons were read, special prayers were offered by the Rector, Rev.A.C. Buss and the hymn "O God our help in ages past" was sung by choir and congregation with much spirit. During the singing of the hymn "Fight the good fight" the collection for the war memorial was taken. Next the members of the choir, ex-service men on parade and relatives proceeded to the veiled cross, situated exactly opposite the school entrance and near the west wall of the church, whilst the congregation assembled immediately in front of the cross. The hymn "For all the saints" was then sung followed by Psalm 23 "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Rector having read a prayer, the silence was broken by the sounding of the "Last Post" and then Major F.A. Corfield, D.S.O., O.B.E.. gave the address saying that he regarded it as a great honour to be asked to unveil the Cardington Memorial and eulogising the glorious dead, the Major then stepped forward and unveiled the Memorial Cross, the Bugler, Mr A. Pinch (formerly of the RWF Kinmel Camp) then gave the Reveille, all ex-servicemen standing at attention.
The Cross is dedicated in thankful remembrance of the following.
Capt, S.H Christy, 20th Hussars, Privates Noah Biggs (KSLI), Samuel Bright (KSLI), Lionel John Carter (S.I.Y), Oliver Davies (S.I.Y.), Harold Chester (S.I.Y.),
William Davies (KSLI), Thomas Edwards (S.I.Y.), Thomas Francis (S.I.Y.),
Frank Heyes (S.I.Y.), Samuel Howells (S.I.Y.), Pryce Tudor (KSLI),
Rev. Geo. Bernard Hamilton Bishop, Chaplain (Northumberland Fusiliers).
Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, July 8th 1922, page 12