Permanent memorial planned to honour Mid and East Antrim VC hero James Bell Crichton

Tuesday 6 March 2018

A permanent memorial to a Carrickfergus-born Victoria Cross hero is to be installed in the town in honour of his remarkable bravery during the Great War.

Mayor Cllr Paul Reid pictured at an exhibition in honour of James Crichton VC

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

Mr Crichton’s Victoria Cross citation read: “Though suffering from a painful wound, he displayed the highest degree of valour and devotion to duty.”

At Monday evening’s meeting of Council, Elected Members agreed to the permanent memorial to Mr Crichton in recognition of his exemplary service and contribution to the war effort.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “We are very proud of our strong links to James Crichton, who was born in Carrickfergus on 15 July 1879.

“The bravery and leadership he demonstrated during the First World War is nothing short of phenomenal and his actions were key to the Hundred Days Offensive, which ultimately led to the cessation of the fighting.

“James Crichton was one of just eight Victoria Cross recipients from what is now Northern Ireland, during the Great War.

“The installation of a permanent memorial paving stone in memory and honour of James Crichton is a fitting tribute to this inspirational man and will further ensure his story is remembered and celebrated for generations to come.”

James 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.

Mr 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 30 September 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.

A Blue Plaque was unveiled at the Woodburn Road birthplace of Mr Crichton in 2006.

Cllr Reid added: “Carrickfergus is justly proud of having two holders of The Victoria Cross Medal, the highest British award for bravery on the field of battle. 

“The stories of these two soldiers are now commemorated on information panels in the Carrickfergus Museum. 

“Both of these men were honoured for acts of outstanding bravery – Daniel Cambridge in the Crimean War and James during World War One - while being severely wounded. Their actions will never be forgotten by the people of Mid and East Antrim.”

Photograph: Mayor Cllr Paul Reid pictured at an exhibition in honour of James Crichton VC, and James Crichton VC