A tribute to a Murton Somme hero – and the wife he left behind

Northumberland Fusilier Robert Christopher, who died on the first day of the Somme.
Northumberland Fusilier Robert Christopher, who died on the first day of the Somme.

A Wearside family remembered the ultimate sacrifice made by their war hero ancestor.

Northumberland Fusilier, Robert Christopher, gave his life for his country 100 years ago.

Service at Murton War Memorial  for Robert Christopher who died at the Battle of the Somme.
Family came from all over the country

Service at Murton War Memorial for Robert Christopher who died at the Battle of the Somme. Family came from all over the country

He was the only man at his gun battery when it was hit by enemy artillery on the very first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Robert, from Murton, died aged 37.

He was remembered in a family memorial service,

100 years on from the day he died.

Robert was in the Fusiliers 20th Tyneside and Scottish Battalion and he was one of 16 lads from his company to die that day. It is history now but the least we can do is remember them

Tom Moreland

But as well as remembering Hutton Henry-born Robert, relatives also honoured his widow Amelia who picked up the pieces of a devastated family after her husband’s death.

The couple married in 1902 in Easington before settling in Amelia’s home village of Murton. Robert became a coal miner at Murton pit

before volunteering to go to war.

Meanwhile, Amelia was back at home raising their five children - two boys and three girls aged from two to ten.

Service at Murton War Memorial  for Robert Christopher who died at the Battle of the Somme.
Grandson Mark Appleby laid a wreath

Service at Murton War Memorial for Robert Christopher who died at the Battle of the Somme. Grandson Mark Appleby laid a wreath

But on July 1, 1916, tragedy struck. Robert stayed at his gun post while the rest of

his outfit retired to get something to eat.

The battery took a direct hit.

Tom Moreland, of Tempest Road in Seaham Harbour, will always remember his grandfather’s selfless bravery. “It is important we never forget,” said Tom, a father of six himself.

Medals won by Robert Christopher, who died aged 37 at the Somme, leaving a wife and five children.

Medals won by Robert Christopher, who died aged 37 at the Somme, leaving a wife and five children.

“He was in the Fusiliers 20th Tyneside and Scottish Battalion and he was one of 16 lads from his company to die that day.

“He was also one of seven men from Murton to be killed inside the first day of

battle.

“It is history now but the least we can do is remember them.”

The service was held at the war memorial in Murton and included a laying of the wreath, a speech by

Tom to remember the bravery of both his grandfather and grandmother, and to mention the other Murton men

The sort of memorabilia sent home by soldiers serving at the Front.

The sort of memorabilia sent home by soldiers serving at the Front.

who died in battle on July 1, 1916.

The project to organise a tribute to Robert also included the compilation of a box filled with artefacts including a copy of a photograph of Robert, memorabilia, and the poppy.

The children of the family took the box into their schools to spread the message to other children.

Tom Moreland with a picture of his grandfather Robert Christopher.

Tom Moreland with a picture of his grandfather Robert Christopher.