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From British Columbia To New South Wales - The Tragic Years

Updated on August 31, 2010

World War 1 and the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919 took a devastating toll on the Christie family that was to forever change the course of events from that time forward. It is quite incredible to sit at a computer in the 21st Century and recognize just how big a roll the past does play in present and future time. These marks in our history both the triumphant and the tragic influence the course of events for ever more.

Once again I continue in my the words of my Aunt Jean as she continues to recount for future generations the story of her paternal grandfather, Harold Platt Christie.

Regimental Crest of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Regimental Crest of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

As implied before, these were good ties but as my reader may already know or sense, World War 1 changed all that.  All the young Englishmen left for a war that would "be over by Christmas".  After completing his obligations in Kamloops, Uncle Reggie also went overseas, joined officers training and was gazetted to the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) whose home is in Hamilton.  It is also the home of his mother's forefathers - the renowned Hamilton family, prominent throughout many centuries of Scottish history.  He was killed on July 16, 1916, at Highwood during an ill-fated British advance in the Battle of the Somme.  One may visit Edinburgh Castle, as many of us have done, and turn the pages of the big book of records to his name in the list of the honoured dead.  His death was reported in the Ashcroft paper and this newspaper clipping is in the family records.

Mr. & Mrs. Harold P. Christie with their son Reginald

Summer of 1911 - Taken at Hat Creek (twelve miles from Ashcroft on Cariboo Road
Summer of 1911 - Taken at Hat Creek (twelve miles from Ashcroft on Cariboo Road
The Brussels Fountain
The Brussels Fountain

During the War, my father was unable to join the forces because of his aforementioned leg injury and thus, was left in charge of the firm.  He never spoke much about his brother when we were children but later I remember him describing how he heard of his death.  He was out on a survey line and, seeing a messenger approaching, had a premonition what news the messenger would bring to hi.  If only one could apply the wisdom and sensitivity of seniors years to one's youth, I would have been better able to talk to him about this. 

Aunt Mabel continued her activities with the Womens Convoy Corps.  they were first in Brussels where Aunt Mabel was almost shot as a spy after an encounter with a particularly fanatical German officer.  Luckily she met up with some more fair-minded military personnel and ended up being shown around Brussels by the Germans. 

The Corps established a hospital at Touraville near Cherbourg.  Then i 1915 they returned to the Balkans.  This time the struggle was between the Serbs on the one had and the German-Austrian Empire on the other.  The Serbian army was in retreat, closely pursued by the Germans, and the Corps marched with them.  Conditions were appalling - bombings, typhoid, the burying of the dead, were daily events and names - all too familiar to us today - Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Prishtina - sprinkle the pages of the account.

Aunt Mabel developed a great love for the Serbian people and had deep sympathy for their struggle for freedom through the centuries.  She would be very grieved by what is going on there today. (note:  this was written in 2001)

After the Americans entered the War, she became a lecturer in the cause of the Allies - speaking in Ireland and in the United States.  In 1917 these endeavours took her, for a third time, to British Columbia to visit the Stobarts and the Christies.

Again, as my reader may know, a virulent flu swept the world in 1918-1919 carrying people off very quickly, especially the young and vibrant.  On November 20, 1918, Uncle Lionel died in a Kamloops hospital and Aunt Phyllis became a widow with two little girls of four and two.

And Walhachin? - The enterprise was too fragile to survive the War.  Anyway, the winters were too harsh in that region for the fruit business to compete with the summer south Okanagan Valley.  When I was young, one could clearly see the old flume on the hillside and drive through several miles of aging apple trees going from Cache Creek to Savona.  As my life has progressed, the old flume has gradually fallen away, and the apple trees have faded from view.  My two brothers and I paid a last tribute to the flume and Walhachin in 1989, when we visited there.  We stood where Uncle Reggie must have stood in taking photographs, now faded, of both Deadman Creek and at Walhachin itself. 

St. Alban's Church Today

And the Gang Ranch? - and Ashcroft? The Gang Ranch remains to this day one of the most prominent spreads in the Chilcotin with a world-wide reputation. Neither my grandparents nor my father would go to Ashcroft again. In our adult years, my two brothers and I, our first cousins Joanna Stobart Crichton and Tony and Nigel Yonge (Boulton) have all made several pilgrimages to the Gang. Some of us have parked outside 612 Brink Street and stood in silence, reading the memorial plaques in St. Albans Church.


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