MY FAMILY HERO
Dr David Moore’s brave 3x great grandfather fought at Waterloo
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
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A Waterloo Medal similar to the one that Thomas Christie would have been awarded
is a retired microbiologist who lives in Cheshire