Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Gordon Christie

Gordon, ex 1st Para Sqn, Died 16th November 2009 aged 91 years.

He was born in Glasgow in 1918, the second youngest of five sons. Among brothers in such a City his was a robust childhood with lots of time seeking amusement in outdoor activities. His fearlessness became apparent at a young age when he would climb to the highest diving board in the swimming pool and jump. This was risky because he could not swim! He relied upon his brothers seeing the splash and hauling him out so he could repeat the process!

At the age of 12 he took a Saturday job as an errand boy, delivering groceries to households around the district. He described one astonishing brush with two famous celebrities of the time in his diary. "One delivery was to the house of Mrs Mollison, mother of the famous Atlantic flyer, Jim. I rang the doorbell and was confronted by Amy Johnson, also a famous flyer, who wore a high-collared, leopard skin coat. Amy called to Jim to take the heavy grocery basket from me to unpack. When he returned with the empty basket Jim Mollison handed me a half crown tip." Clearly, Gordon was more impressed with the half crown than with meeting two such famous people!

When he was 16 Gordon joined a Glasgow building company as an apprentice slater and builder. Working on the pitched roofs of five storey tenement blocks in all weathers did not seem to bother Gordon. He was hardy, fit and fearless. Small wonder, then, that he joined the TA (109 Regiment RE — "The Glasgow Highlanders") and, in September 1939, he was mobilised and sent to France with the BEF. In June 1940 he was part of the force that fought its way back to the beaches of Dunkirk. He was one of the last to leave, a fact acknowledged many years later by an award to him from the citizens of the town.

On reaching England he was sent to Wales to recuperate but he became restless and, seeking excitement, he applied to the RAF to be a rear gunner but he was turned down because he was too tall. Around this time Airborne Forces were just being formed and he lost no time in volunteering. After the gruelling selection process and parachute course at Ringway, he joined the 1st Air Troop RE (later 1st Parachute Squadron). With this unit he parachuted and fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy with the 1st Airborne Division for almost two years before returning to England towards the end of 1943.

The Division was stationed in Lincolnshire to re-fit and re-equip and the 1st Parachute Squadron was billeted in Donington where the boys lost no time in acquainting themselves with the local pretty girls. One, a teacher named Martha Balderson, became the special girl for Gordon and he was to fulfil his promise to her and return to Donington after the war to marry Martha and settle down there. But there were more pressing things to do in 1944 and in September, along with the rest of the 1st Airborne Division, Gordon parachuted into Arnhem for the famous "Bridge Too Far" battle. Wounded during the heroic fight at the Arnhem Bridge, Gordon was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

After the war Gordon returned to the building trade, this time in Donington, where he built a bungalow for himself and his new wife. For leisure they both took up Scottish Country dancing and enjoyed caravanning all over Britain. He always retained firm links with his friends in 1st Parachute Squadron and, despite ill health in his later years, he was a familiar figure at the annual Squadron reunions.

Sadly, Martha died in 2004. He remained stoic and outwardly cheerful but it was clear that a part of Gordon had died with her. In his last years he bore increasing ill health and a number of operations with fortitude and courage — the mark of the man. He died on 16th November 2009, remembered with affection by friends, family and neighbours as a reliable, genial and courageous friend: a true, if unsung, hero of a generation who gave their youth for the peace and security we all now enjoy and asked for nothing other than that we should enjoy this to the full."



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