MY FAM­ILY HERO

Dr David Moore’s brave 3x great grand­fa­ther fought at Water­loo

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - DR DAVID MOORE

Spurred on by the sound of bat­tle cries, pipes and drums, Bri­tish in­fantry­men charged into the ter­ri­fy­ing theatre of war, wield­ing pikes, ri­fles and bay­o­nets. Be­fore them stood vast reg­i­ments of French foot sol­diers and cavalry. This was the Bat­tle of Water­loo, which would change Euro­pean his­tory for ever.

Among the Bri­tish sol­diers was Thomas Christie, a Scot­tish pau­per who just weeks ear­lier had been scrap­ing a liv­ing off his croft in Kin­car­di­neshire. Now he was fight­ing for his life.

Thomas is the 3x great grand­fa­ther of Dr David Moore. “I had no idea that we had a Water­loo vet­eran in the fam­ily,” ex­plains David. “The dis­cov­ery came through a chance men­tion in Scot­tish parish reg­is­ters. The birth record for my great great grand­fa­ther stated his father – Thomas Christie – was a ‘ hero of Water­loo’. I looked him up on the Forces War Records web­site. There he was in the Bri­tish Army serv­ing at Water­loo with the 92nd Reg­i­ment of Foot, Gor­don High­landers. Like all Bri­tish sur­vivors of the bat­tle, he was awarded a sil­ver medal for his ser­vice.”

What prompted a 33-year-old crofter to en­list and travel, mostly on foot, to Bel­gium? “The an­swer could lie in the poverty of the times. Bri­tain was emerg­ing from a mini ice age, crops had failed and times were des­per­ately hard. Per­haps the re­cruit­ing drive of­fered Thomas the chance to es­cape grind­ing poverty.”

In Fe­bru­ary 1815, Napoleon es­caped from ex­ile in Elba and jour­neyed to Paris, where he be­gan re­group­ing his forces. Bri­tish, Dutch and Bel­gian reg­i­ments were mus­tered to fight as the French moved north in an at­tempt to take Bel­gium.

David has dis­cov­ered much about the 92nd’s role in the bat­tle from the web­site electric­scot­land.com. On the evening of 15 June, the alarm was sounded in Brus­sels and prepa­ra­tions were made to meet the en­emy. The 92nd marched to Quatre Bras, a cross­roads near Water­loo, where they came un­der in­tense fire from French forces and suf­fered heavy losses. The reg­i­ment then formed a front at a nearby farm­house and lined a ditch by the cross­roads. The Duke of Welling­ton and his staff were sta­tioned on higher ground nearby.

The French fired a hot rain of ar­tillery on this post and their cavalry be­gan to at­tack. Welling­ton de­clared “92nd, you must charge th­ese fellows” and, out­num­bered by at least 10 to one, the Scots­men stormed in.

“Imag­ine the scene. Th­ese great hairy High­landers in kilts come charg­ing at you from be­hind a hedge, bran­dish­ing pikes and scream­ing ‘Scot­land for ever’. Their foe were just or­di­nary French in­fantry­men, not the elite Pres­i­den­tial Guard, and they were panic-stricken by the sight.

“Those at the front ran for their lives, which opened an op­por­tu­nity for the Scots Greys cavalry to charge in, slash­ing their sabres. Around 1,800 French sol­diers were cap­tured and many killed at this point.”

Af­ter hours of bat­tle, Blücher’s Prus­sian army joined Al­lied forces and cut heav­ily into French lines. The day was won and Napoleon had fought his last bat­tle.

“Thomas and his fel­low Scots­men had played an im­por­tant role in what Welling­ton would re­fer to as a ‘ dashed close-run’. It’s even more as­ton­ish­ing that he sur­vived.”

Af­ter the bat­tle, the 92nd pro­ceeded to Paris to form a pro­tec­torate force, be­fore re­turn­ing to Scot­land via Ire­land. A vast crowd as­sem­bled on the streets of Ed­in­burgh to wel­come home the he­roes of Water­loo.

“I find it in­trigu­ing that af­ter such a dra­matic episode Thomas re­turns to Kin­car­di­neshire and be­comes a crofter once more. It’s hard to be­lieve that his ex­pe­ri­ences in bat­tle didn’t change his life. He mar­ries Chris­tine Mas­son and they have a fam­ily, which is one of the few de­tails I know of his post-war world.

“Life must have been hard for them, be­cause on Chris­tine’s death cer­tifi­cate in 1864 it states that she was the ‘widow of a sol­dier-pau­per’.

“I’m sure that like so many of his fel­low men Thomas would have had to sell his sil­ver medal in or­der to get mar­ried and have a fam­ily.

“I’m over­whelmed by his coura­geous at­ti­tude to duty, a prin­ci­ple held by other men in 1814, 1914 and to­day.

“For cen­turies, sol­diers have vol­un­teered to fight over­seas and be­cause they did I can sit here at the age of 73 and read about them in won­der. Thomas will al­ways be a hero to me.” Gail Dixon

Weeks be­fore Water­loo, Thomas was scrap­ing a liv­ing as a crofter

Do you have a fam­ily hero you’d like to see fea­tured in

worth £ 99.50.

A Water­loo Medal sim­i­lar to the one that Thomas Christie would have been awarded

is a re­tired mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist who lives in Cheshire

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