A British Military Heritage

On June 25, the UK will celebrate Armed Forces Day. This year’s central event will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my older brother and the other Royal British Legion Scotland Riders Branch members will lead the parade. Throughout the day fly-overs, parades, concerts and more will take place in honor of the men and women who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Inspired by the approaching day, my older brother and I decided to begin a research project to discover our military heritage. We always knew that both our grandpas had fought in World War II, and both had liberated Burma—receiving the Burma Star. But that was all we knew.

We had also grown up surrounded by the military in southern England, living in such places as Farnborough (in a house at the end of a runway of the Royal Aircraft Establishment or RAE), Aldershot (home of the Parachute Regiment while we lived there), and playing on the local tank training grounds and military training bases. (You learned to watch for the red flags, which meant live fire training was taking place.)

And my connection with the US military, especially the US Navy and US Marines, continues to grow as I work to ensure my kids and other kids have the right kind of role models in their lives.

The research is in early days, as we reach out to family, scour old photos and work to secure full military records. But what we have found so far has already increased our pride in our heritage and strengthened our connection to those who serve even more.

Commander George Christie

Our Great-Grandpa George Christie (our mum’s mum’s dad) fought in the South African War of 1899-1902 and received the Queen’s South Africa Medal for his service. The bars on the medal indicate he fought in Wittebergen (Jul 1-29, 1900), Diamond Hill (June 11-12, 1900) and Cape Colony (Oct 11, 1899-May 31, 1902). He later went on to captain a ship in the Merchant Navy, dying while at sea in 1926. He held the rank of Commander.

Both our grandpas served in World War II. Grandpa Alexander Sutherland (dad’s dad) served in the Royal Signals and Grandpa Ernest Charles Paton (mum’s dad) served in the Royal Artillery.

Sergeant Alexander Sutherland (center)

Grandpa Sutherland received the Burma Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal for his service, much of which was in India and Burma. According to photos we have, he was a Sergeant in the Signals.

Grandpa Paton also received the Burma Star. He was a Major in the Royal Artillery serving with an anti-aircraft battery.

And that’s all we know so far.

Lots of research still to do. But as we approach Armed Forces Day it makes the day even more personal. And my brother and I will be honoring not only all those who serve or have served, but also those in our own family who put their lives on the line in defense of freedom and liberty.

And to those in the Royal Navy, the Royal Signals, the Royal Artillery, the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Air Force and every other branch of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces—thank you!