A Carrickfergus soldier awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in the First World War has been recognised by the Orange Institution.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland launched a commemorative jewel in tribute to James Crichton, who was born in Carrickfergus in 1879 and served in the British Army before emigrating to New Zealand.
He joined the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force when the First World War broke out and served in Gallipoli then France.
An Orangeman, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour on 30 September 1918 in Crevecoeur, France. During the Allied advance, Crichton injured his foot but when his platoon was pushed back due to a counter attack he continued on to deliver a message by swimming a river and crossing a machine gun infested area.
Later, under enemy fire, he removed explosive charges from a bridge which saved it from destruction. He was bestowed the honour for showing the highest devotion to duty, despite being injured.
Dr David Hume, Grand Lodge director of Services, who launched the jewel during a talk at Albert Road Orange hall, said: “This jewel was launched in Carrickfergus and Bellshill outside Glasgow to symbolise the connection James Crichton had with Ulster and Scotland.
I know that the members who wear his medal will do so with pride
“He is one of a number of Orangemen who were highly decorated during the First World War and I know that the members who wear his medal will do so with pride, no doubt many of them will be from Carrickfergus.”
In 2007, a blue plaque was unveiled at Woodburn where James Crichton was born. His image also featured in a New Zealand postage stamp tribute.
Dr Hume added: “Thousands of Orangemen served in the British and Commonwealth forces during the war and many sadly did not survive. In the ranks of English, Irish, Scottish, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand regiments many belonged to the Orange Order, not to mention those in the navy.”
He added: “The first Australian casualty of the war was an Orangeman and a battalion from Manitoba in Canada was known as the Orange battalion.
“Ulster’s great unionist leader Sir Edward Carson summed it up well in the aftermath of the war by saying that many of them were the best we had, so it is important that they are remembered during this centenary period of the Great War.”
A total of 300 limited edition Crichton jewels, priced at £15, are available to purchase from the enhanced shop at the new Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast. It is also available via the Grand Lodge website: www.grandorangelodge.co.uk or by telephoning 028 9070 1122.