Cautiously, Private James Bell Crichton commenced
his nerve-shredding task. As he removed explosives
from under the bridge, he was isolated, totally alone
and operating close to the enemy lines. It would take
Crichton several solid hours to complete the mission.
James 'Scotty' Crichton was born into a humble home
on 75 Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus in the province of
Ulster on 15th July 1879. His parents were Scots/Irish,
and later they moved to the little hamlet of Northrigg, near
Blackridge, Lothian, Scotland. His upbringing was tough.
By the time the little fellow was ten he was working as a
miner in the local coalpit. In his environment of danger
and strenuous labour, little James gradually developed
the courage and character for his later exploits.
At the age of sixteen, James Crichton left mining to
enlist in the Royal Black Scots; two years later he
transferred to the Cameron Highlanders, joining at
Edinburgh Castle. His plan was to seek adventure,
for South Africa to fight in the second Boer War.
Between 1899 and 1902, Crichton would receive five
clasps to the South Africa medal for his service.
Always on a quest for excitement, upon returning from
fighting the Boers, James Crichton then emigrated to
New Zealand. A period of civilian life followed until the
outbreak of the First World War in 1914. James
re-enlisted, this time with the New Zealand
Expeditionary Force in Auckland. He was first posted to
Gallipoli in 1915, then to the Western Front in 1916 with
The 1st Field Bakery NZ Army Service -- a coveted posting
in which most soldiers would have wanted to remain.
But, Crichton was no ordinary soldier; he transferred to
the 3rd Entrenching Battalion -- a back breaking choice.
However not experiencing action, he went a step further.
In seeking to make a meaningful contribution
to the war, he requested to be transferred
to the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry
Regiment. Crichton was sternly warned by a
Senior officer 'You will lose your present rank
and your chance to become an officer', James
unmoved. He voluntarily took the lowest
rank -- that of private, losing all the privileges
and pay that come with rank. He also lost the
safety of rear echelon service as a warrant
officer second class. He was now heading
head long into the heat if the battle, and that by
his own deliberate choice.
The time of 'Scotty' Crichton's act of heroism was The
Hundred Days Offensive, 1918. The place was near the
village of Crevecoeur by the St Quentin Canal and the
Scheldt River; the date 30th September 1918.
A patrol under Corporal Stewart fell into a prepared
German ambush. After he and his men crossed a
footbridge, they were pinned down under machine
gun fire; it was an obvious chokepoint. They were now
entrapped in a narrow triangle of land, unable to either
advance or retreat to safety. Scotty volunteered to brave
the weight of fire and swim the river to advised HQ of
the plight of the lost patrol. He swam furiously, pursued
by a hail of bullets, but emerged on the other bank
and sprinted to HQ. By this stage Scotty had sustained a
painful wound in his foot.
On his return, he re-crossed the river back to
Corporal Stewart, carrying instructions that
explosives must be cleared from the next
objective -- a stone bridge -- by nightfall at
the latest. Upon relaying the others from HQ for the
patrol, Corporal Stewart asked him to check the area
around the footbridge for injured men. There were
none. The place was strewn with the dead.
Scotty Crichton now acted entirely on his own initiative
turning his attention to the stone bridge wired with
explosives. Crawling on his belly, under the cover of a
narrow ditch, he made his approach. anytime He raised
his body, even slightly, a volley of shots would whistle
through the hedge or slam into the ground around him.
Then in an instant, Scotty was on his feet leaping from
cover into the river. A few strokes took him under
the shelter of the arch.
The amount of explosives on the bridge was colossal;
seven separate devices, with double detonators, bound
by wire to wooden planks, were jammed into the arches
of the bridge. As he began the difficult task of removing
the detonators, dismantling the explosives and dropping charges
into the deep fast flowing water, there was an
ever-present danger of being ambushed - a German
combat engineer would not take kindly to his plans
being thwarted or to the bridge being overrun by
the Allies. Scotty had only a bayonet with which to
Pte James Crichton then began the perilous journey
back through water and bullet swept ground after
being missing for several hours. He came back, as it
were a man from the dead. Upon delivering the news
of the path across the bridge having been
cleared, Scotty Crichton was eager to return
to the action. He was ordered nor to go
because of the severity of the wound to his
foot. To ensure that he went personally to
the first aid post, he was made a stretcher
bearer helping to carry a more seriously
wounded soldier. Finally, after examination by a doctor,
Pte James Crichton then was removed from active
duty and later medically discharged from the army.
We turn in thought from the battlefields in France,
one hundred years ago, to a six hour struggle against
the forces of evil by sacrificial and decisive action of One
Man on Calvary's cross. By contrasting some points of from the
exploits of James Crichton, we can learn some valuable spiritual
lessons to prepare us for eternity. The Bible reminds us that
death is our enemy. 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death'
(1st Corinthians 15v26). We are also reminded of the
supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, 'this man...
offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10v12).
Personally, we also can come into the good of Christ's
trtriumph and the eternal benefits of His decisive victory
Pte James Crichton then loyally brought a message concerning
the plight of the lost patrol. Similarly, we are reminded
that 'this is a faithful saying and worthy of acceptarion,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'
(1st Timothy 1v15). God's message, coming to us through
the Bible, reminds us of our plight as helpless sinners in
tremendous need of Divine deliverance and in real and
present danger of being forever lost. Have you ever at
any time clearly understood and accepted your position
as a sinner in need of rescue from the consequences of
your sin? ''When we were yet without sure fry in due
time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5v6).
Crichton's willingness to sacrifice rank, pay and
potentially his full displays the purity of his
motives. This is but a faint illustration of a greater step
taken by the Son of God when He left the glory of Heaven
to save sinners from eternal death. 'We see Jesus who
was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering
of death... that he by the grace of God should taste death
for every man' (Hebrews 2v9). The Bible tells us that
although He was in 'The form of God... He made Himself
of no reputation... being found in fashion as a man He
became obedient unto death even the death of the
Cross' (Philippians 2v6-8).
Scotty's actions saved the vital bridge and opened the
way for others who could not follow the safely in his footsteps.
This illustrations a basic and essential Bible truth about
the only way to God and eternal safety. 'Jesus said, I am
the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the
Father but by me' (John 14v6). There are not several
ways to Heaven, as many people presume. The Bible
is emphatic: 'Neither is there salvation in any other, for
there is none other name under Heaven, given among
men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4v12).
Some of his comrades never expected to see James
Crichton alive again. However, he returned, wounded
but successful. In a far deeper sense, the Lord Jesus
actually died and literally rose again; this is the very
bedrock of Gospel truth, I declare unto you the gospel:
how that Christ died for our sins... He was buried... He rose
again according to the scriptures. And that He was
seen... (1st Corinthians 15v1-5). Without a risen Christ,
following His sin--atoning death on the cross, there could
be no hope for mankind. 'If Christ be not raised, he are
yet in your sins' (1st Corinthians 15v17). We ask the reader,
'Are you still in your sins? Or have you been forgiven on
the basis of personal faith in the sin--atoning, victorious
death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Pte James Scotty Crichton's chaplain remarked
that most men would have quit after sustaining a
very painful wound -- instead Scotty pressed on to
ultimately win the Victoria Cross.