Richard Christian, Durham Light Infantry or maybe not.

During our researches and whilst trying to create a book for each one of our local soldiers, we came across a bit of a brick wall;

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Richard Christian was in the Durham Light Infantry when he died on the 18th November 1918.

” Private R Christian, 61814, Durham Light Infantry who died on 22 November 1918 Age 34
Son of Elizabeth Christian, of Kirkby Underwood, Lincs and the late Robert Christian; husband of the late Kate Christian”

Richard Christian is buried in Billingborough churchyard, but his date of death and regiment should have meant that he was still in Europe and not yet demobbed.

We tried to find out which battalion of the DLI he was in to see if there were any clues there… no his military records did not survive the blitz. So once again no answers.

Finding out that his wife died on the same date gave us the idea that he was at home when they both died but at the same time and what about baby Kate who was born and died in the same quarter of 1918. That’s unusual until you think of the Spanish Flu which was rife in Britain during this period, maybe that answers the question of why they died at the same time but no proof yet.

Our next clue came from the Kirkby Underwood war memorial;

“In thankfulness to God giver of peace and victory
and to the honoured memory of
Pte Bertie Evlyn Rudkin, Lincolnshire Regt
Pte Ernest Henry Rudkin, Royal Berkshire Regt
Pte John Thomas Wyer, Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regt
Pte Richard Christian, Labour Corps
of this parish who fell in the Great War, 1914-1919″

Now we have a discrepancy CWGC states Durham Light Infantry and the memorial states Labour Corps. A bit of further digging finds that he was transferred to the 409th company of the Labour Corps from the DLI. OK mystery solved but then why has the CWGC got it wrong?

Google came up with the Long Long Trail website which had the following to offer with regards to the Labour Corps;

“Formed in January 1917, the Corps grew to some 389,900 men (more than 10% of the total size of the Army) by the Armistice. Of this total, around 175,000 were working in the United Kingdom and the rest in the theatres of war. The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the “A1″ condition needed for front line service. Many were returned wounded. Labour Corps units were often deployed for work within range of the enemy guns, sometimes for lengthy periods. In April 1917, a number of infantry battalions were transferred to the Corps. The Labour Corps absorbed the 28 ASC Labour Companies between February and June 1917. Labour Corps Area Employment Companies were formed in 1917 for salvage work, absorbing the Divisional Salvage Companies. In the crises of March and April 1918 on the Western Front, Labour Corps units were used as emergency infantry. The Corps always suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organisation: for example, the men who died are commemorated under their original regiment, with Labour Corps being secondary. Researching men of the Corps is made extra difficult by this, as is the fact that few records remain of the daily activities and locations of Corps units.”

So the Labour Corps is hard to trace, well that sound like a challenge for the future.

Another search finds that the 409th Labour Corps was the Kesteven and Lindsay company and was based in Lincoln and run through the Northern Command.

So now we have placed Richard Christian back in Lincolnshire, possibly after an illness or injury had him unfit for front line duty, transferred out of the Durham Light Infantry and assigned a new regimental number, 19310, in the 409th company Labour Corps.

How hard can that be to sort out without any official records?

Death certificates for Richard and Kate plus baby Kate now on order, so we can at least find out what sad outcome befell that young family.

More about Richard’s family can be found on our website