Case study

WW1 New Zealand VC recipient James Crichton

The story of New Zealand First World War Victoria Cross recipient James Crichton.

James Crichton
Credit: © IWM (detail of Q 31308)

16 men from New Zealand received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed in the grounds of the New Zealand Parliament, Wellington. This archive tells their stories.

Name: James Crichton

DOB: 15 July 1879

Place of Birth: Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland

Date of Action: 30 September 1918

Place of Action: near Crèvecœur, France

Rank: Private

Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force

James Crichton was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, on 15 July 1879 and served with the British Army during the Second Boer War in South Africa. He later emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand, and volunteered for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force upon the outbreak of the First World War.

Private Crichton was serving with the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment when he was awarded his Victoria Cross during the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’, a series of Allied attacks in the final weeks of the war, on 30 September near Crèvecœur in France. Private Crichton’s platoon was conducting an offensive across the Scheldt River when they came under machine-gun fire. His citation explains further:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, although wounded in the foot, he continued with the advancing troops despite difficult canal and river obstacles. When his platoon was subsequently forced back by a counterattack he succeeded in carrying a message which involved swimming a river and crossing an area swept by machine-gun fire, subsequently rejoining his platoon. Later he undertook on his own initiative to save a bridge which had been mined, and, though under close fire of machine-guns and snipers, he succeeded in removing the charges, returning with the fuses and detonators. Though suffering from a painful wound he displayed the highest degree of valour and devotion to duty.

After the war, Crichton returned to work as a cable splicer in New Zealand. He died in 1961, and his Victoria Cross is on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Published 20 June 2016