Thursday, 21 April 2016

Major Neville Chrisopherson MC, Royal Artillery

After transcribing the War Diary of the 140th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, I must admit to wanting to know a bit more about the man who wrote the report of the unit's final battle during the 1940 campaign. I mentioned this to my wife – who happens to be a genealogist – and within a few hours she had done quite a bit of research about him.

Neville (or as it is sometimes written, Nevill) Christopherson was born on 8th February 1894 in Bickley, Kent, and was the son of Percy Christopherson* (31st March 1866 – 4th May 1921). Like his father – and his father's nine brothers(!)# – he was a great sportsman. Neville played both cricket and rugby, and was involved in both until he died.

By 1901 Neville's father was a headmaster (he had formerly been Assistant-Master at Wellington College for eleven years), and the family was living at Locker's Park Preparatory School, Hemel Hempsted.

Locker's School.
Neville attended Winchester School, and when the First World War broke out he joined the Royal Field Artillery. He was commissioned in early 1915, and by the end of the war he had reached the rank of Major (Acting). He was awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal, and they were sent to his home address in Folkestone.

In 1923 Neville married Nina Geraldine Bird in Bromley, Kent, and was working as a Lloyds underwriter.

By 1939 Neville was a Captain (later Major) in the Territorial Army and became second-in-command of 140th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. He took over command of the regiment when the CO was wounded, but was himself wounded and captured on 29th May, 1940. He became a prisoner of war, and was released from captivity when the war ended. He was awarded the Military Cross and was mentioned in the 25th October 1945 issue of the London Gazette, where it stated that:
'The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field: —


Royal Regiment of Artillery

Maj. N. Christopherson, M.C. (20865)'
On reaching the age of fifty five Neville retired from the Territorial Army with the rank of Major, but he remained very active, visiting Brazil several times between 1952 and 1959~ in his capacity as a Lloyds underwriter.

A rugby team photograph. Neville Christopherson is standing on the right of the photograph and is wearing a suit.
Neville Christopherson died on 31st December 1972 in Maidstone, Kent. His obituary in Wisden stated:
'CHRISTOPHERSON, NEVILL, who died on December 31, aged 78, did not gain a place in the XI at Winchester. From 1950 to 1959 he was secretary and manager of Kent and became the county President in 1962. He was one of ten brothers in a notable Kentish sporting family. His father, Percy, gained two England Rugby International caps in 1891 when a Blackheath player and an uncle, Stanley, became President of the M.C.C. Nevill was for a time honorary secretary of Blackheath R.F.C.'

* Percy Christopherson played Rugby Union for Blackheath, Oxford University, Kent, The Barbarians, and England, and cricket for Oxford University, Kent, Berkshire, Shropshire, and the Gentlemen of England. When he died his estate was estimated to be £47,800.

The Barbarians team in April 1891. Percy Christopherson is third from the left on the middle row.
# The whole family once played as a team - known as 'The Christophersons' - against Blackheath Cricket Club on 8th September 1888 on The Rectory Field, Blackheath. The team comprised:
  • Stanley Christopherson (11th November 1861 – 6th April 1949) [He also played cricket for Kent and England, was the President of the Marylebone Cricket Club between 1939 and 1946, and from 1943 to 1945 he was also the temporary chairman of the Midland Bank.]
  • Percy Christopherson (31st March 1866 – 4th May 1921)
  • Kenneth Christopherson (First quarter 1865 – ?)
  • Sidney Christopherson (First quarter 1864 – 28th September 1916)
  • Cecil Christopherson (Fourth quarter 1862 – 11th May 1925)
  • Malcolm Christopherson (Fourth quarter 1870 –?)
  • Douglas Christopherson (1869 – 5th March 1944)
  • Derman Christopherson (6th August 1835 – First quarter 1907)
  • Horace Christopherson (2nd June 1872 –?)
  • Derman Christopherson (Jnr.) (24th March 1875 –?)
There were ten player per side and five balls per over ... and Blackheath won by 22 runs!

~ On 11th October 1952 he sailed to Rio de Janiero aboard the Alcantara. He returned from Buenos Aires on the same ship on 24th November 1952. He returned to Rio de Janeiro on the Alcantara on 20th March 1957, and returned to Plymouth on 21st February 1959 aboard the Antilles.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    Thank you for posting Nevill's Dunkirk diary. I am his grandson; he was a lovely man who never spoke about his experiences in 4 years on the Western Front in WWI or Dunkirk and 4 years in a POW camp 1940-44 (then he was repatriated via Red Cross for ill health). His passion was cricket, in which he continued to be very active for the rest of his life.
    Tom Christopherson

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    Replies
    1. Tom,

      It was a pleasure and an honour to write this blog entry about your grandfather and his family.

      As you might have gathered, my maternal grandfather served as an NCO in the same regiment as your grandfather. My grandfather was wounded and was lucky enough to be evacuated from Dunkirk. He later became a Ship's Sergeant Major, and spent the rest of the war overlooking the military administration aboard troopships. After the war he became a blacksmith, specislising in ornamental ironwork for important buildings and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He died in 1958 from cancer.

      All the best,

      Bob Cordery

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