|Jack Wall Christie|
In one of our conversations on family history, my father had expressed that he would love to visit Gallipoli and see where his father had fought. He'd told the story often of his father's war experiences and we loved to hear it. For us, the memory of 'Pop' was of an old man, tall and straight, a shock of strong, grey hair ... proud and quiet. We had little time to really get to know him, or my grandmother, as Dad's family lived in Western Australia and we resided in Sydney. The few visits we had with Pop he talked about the war in a way I guess many ex-servicemen of the time did. Telling tales about shooting a Turk to get a new pair of boots, rolling over in his sleep and just missing a bullet, sharing smokes with the Turks and calling out to them over 'no mans land.'
I'm not really sure where I heard about the Gallipoli Centenary Ballot but I mentioned to Dad that it might be a really good opportunity to fulfill that 'bucket list' desire and go there.
He agreed that it would be good and I told him I'd look into it.
Remembering something about Battlefield Tours from a television show, I looked that up on google and collected a little information ... and then forgot about it for quite some time.
On hearing a reference to the Gallipoli Centenary I asked my husband if he would look it up and see what one had to do to apply for tickets. He said he would and that night he checked it out through google and informed me that the ballot was actually closing that evening at midnight ... talk about timing!
Without thinking too much about it we applied for 2 tickets. If only we'd given that a bit more thought and put in for a couple more so my husband and brother, who will be travelling with us, could attend the event too but, at the time, things were 'sketchy' and there were no plans in place.
I double checked with Dad that he still would go and he um'd & ah'd a bit. I asked him what he was waiting for, at 83 how many more opportunities did he think he'd get to make that trip and see Gallipoli. He was worried about mum and how she'd feel about it. Of course she wouldn't be happy, I understood that, but she would not be physically able to make the trip with us. This is a once in a lifetime event and requires that you put yourself first ... for a change, I advised him.
So the wheels of action were slowly turning and the journey had begun.
Remnants of Scottish blood runs through my father's veins and the cost of the trip would be substantial however I reminded him, "might as well spend it on yourself as leave it for the family to enjoy when you're gone."
A sense of urgency was hanging in my stomach. I felt a need to make bookings and cement our place in the tour that would take us to Gallipoli. When we approached the Travel Agent we discovered that all the tours that would have been available any other time had been overhauled and 'jacked up' in price and duration.
There was only one tour available that would take us out to Lone Pine for the service and return us the next day and there were extremely limited places left. Madonna, the Agent at 'HelloWorld' Helensvale, secured two places for us and we were extremely grateful for her expertise and efficiency. We were in, booked in the nick of time. This kind of scared us a bit and we started piecing together where and how we wanted to travel.
Not absolutely loving the idea of flying anymore than necessary we asked the Agent about the possibility of travelling by train from Instanbul to Paris as we intended to visit the Somme after the Gallipoli Event to visit the gravesite of Dad's uncle, who was killed in the Battle of Poziers. I also wanted to make the internal travel as comfortable as possible for Dad. Having had knee replacement surgery in 2013, getting around wasn't exactly his strong point and I thought we would see more of the country by train.
As Madonna investigated our requests it became apparent that train travel wasn't an option as there was no direct route and it would require many changes and much discomfort. Madonna suggested that we fly to Paris and spend some time there and maybe consider taking a cruise to see some of the surrounding countries, it would be a nice way to relax and recover from the emotion of Gallipoli and the Somme.
Slowly an itinerary was developing and after a few adjustments it was complete. Next step was to book everything; Madonna had warned us the prices would be up on the norm and there would be a huge amount of people on the move through Europe during this time competing for tours and accommodation.
Madonna and Krista expertly organised everything, making sure all our requests were investigated and final decisions organised; flights, wheelchairs at Airports, tours and accommodation.
There was no way we were going to attempt to organise this ourselves, not with Dad and my Brother (who has an mild intellectual disability) to consider. We couldn't afford to have something go wrong; a flight not connect or a motel booking fall through, so professionals were the best way to go. I'm certain Madonna and Krista would loved to have choked us at times however it was never obvious on their part.
Our flights are booked, 17th Jan our accommodation in Paris was finalised and January 20th our tours were booked to the Somme, the Louvre, Palace of Versailles and Eiffel Tower. Everything is in place, just waiting for us. Today Monday 22rd February it's only 56 days till take-off ... it's seems so close now and yes, I'm a little anxious, but excited too and just needing to work out how I'm going to entertain myself on the long flights. How wonderful it would be to just sleep and wake up there - "Beam me up Scottie"!
Dad turned 84 last June and now has a second new knee, a great improvement on the first one, which should make travelling somewhat easier for him.
He just may be the oldest Australian person participating in the Anzac Commemoration and by the time we return home he will be 4 weeks off turning 85 and will have completed a grand journey, and a big tick on his bucket list.
Gallipoli will be a tough journey but for one night of discomfort, a token offering of acknowledgement to my Grandfather and the many other young men who served there ... the pain, the suffering, the hungering for home and loved ones ... one night will be an honour.
|Jack Christie, 21 years, Kings Park Perth W.A.|
|Discharge from employment 1914 - possibly in order to join up|
|Mates off to a great adventure 1914 - Jack Christie & Eric Coupland|
|Soldiers Pay Book|
|All members of the A.I.F should make a Will|
|This photo of Captain Henry William Murray, V.C recipient, |
sent to Jack by his mate Eric Coupland, 1920.
|The Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs W|
Born Jack Wall Christie, 26th July 1890, York WA.
In 1914 Jack, was a young man of 24, enlisting to serve his country and embark on ‘the adventure of a lifetime,’ ... like many a young man, he had no idea what he was getting into and the horrors that would befall them.
Assigned to the 11th Battalion Infantry, 3rd Brigade, he participated in the landing at Gallipoli.
After several months at Gallipoli Jack, like many others, was ill; just 7 stone (& just on 6' tall) and struggling to walk or eat solid food, he was finally shipped to Lemnos for initial medical treatment and rehabilitation and then onto Malta where he spent many months in hospital. Finally he was classified as unfit for active service and sent to Salisbury Plains Hospital in England for rehabilitation. Later he was attached to 11th Battalion Headquarters, uncertain location. After another round of treatment at Salisbury Plains he was classified as fit for active service and was on a ship, half way across the English Channel bound for France, when the news came through that the Armistice had been signed.
He didn't ever really recover his health and was plagued with ailments throughout his life.
My Grandfather not only survived the First World War, he fronted up again for WW11 at the ripe old age of 51, serving with the 10th Casualty Clearing Station, near Darwin, for about 6 months until his age was discovered and he was sent back to Headquarters in East Perth, where he served for the rest of the war.
We believe we have found one reference to him in the book 'Game to the Last,' James Hurst - on page 179 ... 'Of Inman's company, Herbert Truran and six others were evacuated sick, and the following day Christie was wounded in the face by broken glass when a bullet hit the periscope he was using.'
After the war he joined the Merchant Navy, mainly on the Perth-Sydney Coastal run but also included a trip to Japan (transporting the BCOF from Australia to Japan) and later Italy (taking British Troops from Port Saad in Egypt toTrieste) after the resettlement of Jewish Refugees in Palestine.
The last job he held was as a Lift (elevator) operator in a Perth retail store (Harris, Scarf & Sandovers) before he retired.
Although his health was always poor, he was twice rejected for a Service Pension however on his third and final attempt he was finally granted a well deserved pension and was told by one of the panel that, in fact, he should have received it twenty years prior.
My grandfather was a proud man, a man of substance. I am always sad that in the short time we had with him, we didn’t realise the importance of his experiences and document them.
At age 14 my father, at the request of his mother, left school to help support the family as Jack had
developed Asthma and was unable to continue working. His older sisters, Audrey & Verna, were both working and contributing to the household however as Jack's health deteriorated, more money was needed. With no welfare hand outs in those days, this was the only course of action available.
At 22 he (Bruce) joined the forces, serving in the Navy 1952 – 1958. Enlisted as a Signalman, completing his training at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria, drafted in 1953 to the Aircraft Carrier HMAS Vengeance as an Ordinary Signalman and later served on HMAS Murchison in the Far East.
After a short period ashore at HMAS Watson he was drafted to HMAS Quiberon where he saw active service during the Malaysian Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation and discharged in 1958 with the rank of Leading Signalman. Like his father, he too, is a man of principle.
This journey to Gallipoli will be a huge event for him - to stand in the place where his father landed on the beach, dug trenches and struggled to survive ... for a moment, walk in his footsteps and pay homage to the young man who became his father.
(BCOF – British Commonwealth Occupation Force)
|Game to the Last, James Hurst.|
|Jack Wall Christie - Soldiers Record of Service WWII|
|Jack Wall Christie, service book photo, 1942|
|Jack with his 1930 Morris Cowley|
Dad did not often speak of his experiences at Gallipoli but as he grew older he would occasionally outline a memory from that time such as the attack on Lone Pine where they had to pull logs from the top of the Turkish trenches to gain entry and in places they were occupying the same trench as the Turks separated only by a wall of sandbags. And of occasions when their front lines were only ten yards apart and the Turks would throw tobacco tins with cigarettes inside and sometimes a photo of their family which were then returned with Aussie smokes inside. As Dad often commented 'it was almost civilised!'
On another occasion, just before he was evacuated to Lemnos Island, he tells of coming out of the line for a spell suffering from the fever which was rife at the time, this was due to the unsanitary conditions and the swarms of flies that were ever present. Barely able to walk and unable to eat solid food, his body weight down to a little over seven stone he collapsed by the road side and fell asleep, in his own words 'I didn't care if I lived or died.' On awaking some time later a sentry came over and said 'mate if you ever get back to Australia buy a ticket in Tatts (lottery), you rolled over in your sleep and as you moved a snipers bullet hit where your head had been.'
In the book Game To The Last, written about the men of the 11th Battalion, there is mention of Christie being cut on the face when a snipers bullet shattered the periscope he was looking through ... another close one?
Incidentally Dad did win a prize in Tatts lottery some years later and he bought the family car a 1930 Morris Cowley which was his pride and joy for the next 25 years.
At our home in South Perth Dad would never eat apricot jam, his reason being that it was all they ever got during the campaign and it was spread on army biscuits but before it reached your mouth it was completely covered in flies which left him with a lifelong revulsion for apricot jam.
Another irritation were the lice that bred in the seams of their clothing, as Dad put it 'causing as much discomfort as Johnny Turk.' 'We spent as much time trying to eradicate these beasts as we did actually fighting the Turks.'
My impression of Anzac Day prior to WW2 (6 to 9 Years of age)
I remember the night before Anzac Day Dad would sit at our kitchen table and polish his medals with brasso and a small Union Jack would be fitted to the radiator cap of the trusty Morris Cowley. The next morning we'd be up well before sunrise and off to Kings Park in Perth for the Dawn Service.
It was so exciting and eerie marching along with my Dad and the survivors of the 11th Battalion in the darkness past the gum trees that lined the road to the memorial, each tree bearing a plaque to a soldier who had fallen.
One year I recall just before sunrise a star fell through the sky directly behind the memorial and even at that young age I found that significant and moving.
After the service it was back home to pick up Mum and my two sisters and back to Perth for the march and what a wonderful atmosphere it was with the bands and the lines of returned servicemen marching by and we were very proud and vocal when the 11th Bat. came past.
Dad was never a drinker but I think he enjoyed a couple on those days and a chat with his old friends. In particular Snowie Jennings who was a real character and filled my young head with the exploits and fanciful tales of what he and dad had got up to at Gallipoli.
One such exploit was how my Dad's boots wore out and he had to go out and kill 12 Turks before he found one with the same size shoe.
I believed and repeated these stories for many years until with maturity, commonsense finally prevailed. Good one Snow. I think humour was one way these men dealt with the nightmare they had experienced.
At that time Anzac Day had something of a carnival atmosphere, to me understanding the true significance and horrors that these men had suffered was to come later,
That period was the last time I attended Anzac day with my Father much to my regret, with the coming of WW2 and my own postwar involvement in the service, marriage and living in another state, it was not possible.
I now attend the Dawn Service every year at the Bundeena RSL in NSW and always think of my Dad and the horrors and suffering he and his fellow diggers endured during that terrible struggle.
One must also respect the Turkish defenders who suffered the same conditions and horrific loss of life. Dad often spoke of his respect for Johnny Turk or Abdul the Turkish Soldier.
It is with great Pride that I will follow in my Fathers footsteps 0n the 25th of April 2015 and perhaps walk the same ground that he did 100 years ago, It will be a very exciting and moving ceremony and, having recently read Peter Fitzsimons book Gallipoli, I now have a greater understanding of the terrible conditions, the impossible terrain and the often flawed leadership that was experienced by our Anzacs.
|Bruce Leonard Christie - Signalman (1952)|
(Son of Jack Wall Christie)
|Anzac Day March Sydney 2010|
Mitchell McCarthy (Grandson), Bruce Christie, Christopher Christie (Son)
|Bruce and Shirley Christie|
June 16th 2014 (Bruce's 84th birthday)