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War Service & Early Career

War Service & Early Career

War Services & Early Career

War with Germany was declared on 3 September 1939. Without hesitation, Christopher enlisted and began army training, reporting to Colchester three weeks later. His leave was spent mainly at home, where again Quex was offered for war services. It would be used only briefly as a first aid post and temporary ward for local troops.

In January 1940, training completed, Christopher was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) and stationed at Canterbury. In May Major Powell-Cotton, weakened through pleurisy and angina, was sent to recuperate at this sister Ida’s house in Midhurst, West Sussex. He died there of heart failure on 26 June 1940. His funeral took place on 2 July at All Saint’s Church, Birchington. Christopher read the lesson.

As with all qualified ‘University Men’ on national service, Christopher was awarded his BA degree in his absence. However, there were more important issues to consider.

In August Christopher was released from the Army to enter the Colonial Administration Service in Uganda. This move had been the result of much discussion with his late father. However, he was not content to spend the war years as a colonial administrator. No doubt, he was anxious for the future of British East Africa after the Italian invasion of British Somaliland.

In October he re-joined the Army and for the rest of the war served the Ugandan battalions of the King’s African Rifles in areas familiar to his father- Somalia, Ethiopia, Ceylon and Burma.

For the first time, the African battalions fought outside their home continent, in areas notorious for the appalling conditions and ferocity of the enemy.

 Christopher was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the crossing of the Irrawaddy in Burma in Februaty 1945. The war took its toll on him. Although he rarely spoke of this period, he retained some contact with his fellow officers and in August 1995 they held a reunion in London to mark the 50th anniversary of VJ Day.


1.Christopher admiring his father’s Kashmir coat, December 1939
2.Christopher on leave at Quex, December 1939
3.Military Cross citation, 1945; ‘He set a fine standard of leadership and personal courage in a number of actions. In particular, while commanding the company garrison of Selkpyu, he attacked and occupied the southern position of the village and held it against counter-attacks’.
4.Helping out with some late chrysanthemums in the greenhouses at Quex, December 1939
5.Christopher receives his commission in the Buffs, January 1940
6.Reunion of King’s African Rifles comrades at the oriental club, London, August 1995 (Christopher 2nd from right)


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