Wiggins, William Esmy. Died 19th Aug 1916

WILLIAM ESMY WIGGINS

2ND LIEUT LEICESTERSHIRE YEOMANRY No 1018

DIED 19.08.1916 AGED 23, BURIED OXFORD (BOTLEY) CEMETERY

 

William Esmy Wiggins born in 1893 was the son of William Wiggins (1858-1935) and his wife Mary Elizabeth nee Bromwich (1868-1937) who were married in 1892.   The Wigginses were a longstanding farming family in Hillmorton.

His father was an auctioneer and valuer, his mother was born in Weedon, Northants, and was some ten years younger than her husband.   In 1901 they lived at No 41 Hillmorton Road, Rugby; their neighbours were Catherine Arundel at No 39, a widow of independent means, and Lewis Loverock, shopkeeper and draper, and his family at No 43. In 1911 the family lived at 45 Hillmorton Road, a sizeable house as it is listed as having eight rooms.   They had two servants in both censuses.

William was the eldest of four surviving children, having two brothers George Frederick and Henry John, and a sister Mary Elizabeth.   By 1911 he is a “farm pupil” living at Toft, Dunchurch, in the household of James Russell, a farmer. Wiggins and Russell later became a well known auctioneering firm in Rugby.

William must have enlisted early in the war as his medal card states that he qualified for the 1914 Star, landing in France on 6 November that year.   He joined the Northampton Yeomanry as a Private, and was transferred as a 2nd Lieutenant to the Leicestershire Yeomanry which was part of the Household Cavalry Regiment.

He was invalided home due to an attack of appendicitis   and died at Somerville Hospital Oxford, on 19 August 1916, and is buried in Botley Cemetery. His father was granted Letters of Administration for his estate, valued at £2218.1s.11d, on 26 June 1920.

A well as the Rugby Memorial Gates he is remembered on the Old Laurentians Memorial

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

14th Aug 1915. Experiences of a Rugby Red Cross Nurse

EXPERIENCES OF A RUGBY RED CROSS NURSE IN A LARGE BASE HOSPITAL.

“ SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE.”

The first intimation that I was to be sent to work abroad was received on Friday, May 7th. The telegram read: “ Wanted for France, Tuesday. Wire if available.” Having replied by a wire in the affirmative, I next day received orders to report myself by noon on Monday at Devonshire House (the headquarters of the British Red Cross Society) previous to proceeding “ somewhere in France ” on the following day.

I left Rugby early Monday morning, and arrived at Devonshire House, and found 29 other V.A.D’s assembled there, all for the same purpose. We then want to 83 Pall Mall, where Lord Onslow issued our Army certificates, brassards, identity discs and numbers ; then a visit to the War Office, where we signed many forms and documents, and received final instructions to be at Victoria Station next morning at 7.30 a.m. On arrival we had to register our luggage and have camp kit served out to us from the War Office.

A special saloon had been reserved on the Folkestone train, and thus on a glorious May day a party of 30 V.A.D’s left London for an unknown destination in charge of a military sister.

Our embarkation at Folkestone and arrival at Boulogne were full of interest. Being “ Army Medical Service,” and not mere civilians, we did not undergo a Customs examination, but were conveyed from the station by motor ambulances to a hotel, where we spent the night. We soon realised that we were in a country where war was raging. A convoy of wounded was being conveyed to a hospital ship in the harbour. Some of the men looked quite cheerful, while others bore unmistakable traces of pain and hardship.

The night was spent in Boulogne—one cannot say in peace. One’s advice to any other nurse contemplating active service is to provide oneself with a supply of Keating’s powder. Indeed, I feel sure that Keating’s Company would be pleased to supply it free of change did they know what a boon it would be !

At Boulogne our party of 30 became divided, some going one way and some another. The part to which I belonged left next morning at 7 a.m, and our destination was reached at 3.30 p.m. You can tell how quickly we had travelled when I tell you that we had only come about 60 miles. At the station we were met by one of the sisters from the hospital and two motor ambulances. Our party again became divided, six of us going to a large hotel converted into a hospital, which stands on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea, and the other six to a hospital under canvas.

When shown our quarters, which were large and empty, we set to work and unpacked our camp kit, putting up our chairs and bedstead. I have now learnt to sleep on my bed, which seemed very narrow at first.

Our duties began next moving. The daily programme (including Sundays) is :-Reveille at 6.30 a.m, breakfast at 7 a.m, on duty on the wards 7.30 a.m. The first duty on entering the wards is to tidy the beds and lockers ; then boil the instruments and have everything ready for the medical officer when he appeared at 9 a.m. The dressings are then begun, and these go on all the morning, the V.A.D waiting on the medical officer and sister. Some at the small dressings and fomentations are done by the V.A.D herself, but the extent of this naturally depends on the number of patients in the ward at the time. In the surgical ward where I work there are 101 beds and a staff of two sisters and myself.

When the hospital is very full dressings go on practically all day. In the evening the V.A.D has to make the beds, take the temperatures, make lemonade and beverages, wash the dressing bowls and instruments, while the sister does the dressings.

Dinner is at 8.10 p.m. and lights out at 10.30. When in a heavy ward with serious cases the mental and physical strain is considerable. Sisters out here say that the V.A.D’s have stood the sights remarkably well, and not one of them has fainted at a dressing yet !

One has not time to get tired of any particular dressing, as patients go to England immediately they are fit to stand the journey, unless the wound is slight enough for them to pass on to a convalescent camp en route for the front. It is rather disappointing not seeing the results of an interesting case, but the men are so pleased to be going to “ Blighty ” (as England is called by the Tommies) that one can but rejoice with them.

From what I have heard, on the whole the V.A.D is a success out here. There is so much in the way of cutting dressings, making gowns as well as ward work that can be done just as well by V.A.D as a trained nurse, and relieves a sister for doing the dressings and other important work that only she can do.

A V.A.D signs on for six months’ service abroad, in addition to one month on probation. This can be extended at the expiration of the time. The conditions governing her employment are the same as for the Q.A.I.M.N.S.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Lance-Corpl G S Rowbottom, younger son of Mr C H Rowbottom, of Lawford Road, Rugby, has been promoted to acting corporal. He is in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and enlisted in August last year. He has been at the front about three months, and was with the regiment during the heavy bombardment in the neighbourhood of Ypres, so has experienced a good amount of modem warfare.

Lance-Corpl W E Wiggins, of the Northants Yeomanry, son of Mr W Wiggins, of Rochbierie, Hillmorton, Road, has this week visited his home on short leave after nine months in the trenches. Lance-Corpl Wiggins, who returned to the front on Thursday, states that his regiment has been in a number of warm corners, notably, at Neuve Chapelle, but has given a good account of itself ; and, except for the engagement mentioned, has suffered very few casualties.

George College, eldest son of Mr W W College, 48 Church Street, Rugby, enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in June last, and is with the 3/2nd North Midland Brigade. As he showed great proficiency at mathematics, he was quickly promoted to be corporal, and he has now been made quartermaster-sergeant, and ranks as a warrant officer. Not bad for a recruit of three months’ standing, and he and his parents are to be congratulated on his quick promotion. He is an old Murray School boy.

During the past week a rumour—which has since been found to be baseless—to the effect that Sergt George Fiddler (son of Mr and Mrs F Fiddler, 15 Plowman Street, and brother of Rifleman H Fiddler, whose death we announced recently) had been killed, was freely circulated in the town. Sergt Fiddler, who enlisted in the 7th K.R.R early in the war, has written to his wife stating that he is in hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown, and the report doubtless arose from the fact that a number of letters and parcels had been returned.

SAPPER E R LADBROOK WOUNDED.

Sapper Ernest Roland Ladbrook, of the Royal Engineers, has written to his parents, Mr and Mrs J W Ladbrook, of 377 Clifton Road, Rugby, stating that he was wounded in the right leg and foot during a fierce bombardment on July 30th. An operation was performed on Sunday, August 1st, and the unfortunate young man is now an inmate of the General Hospital, Etaples, France, Sapper Ladbrook, who is 22 years of age, enlisted at the commencement of the war, previous to which he was employed by Messrs Willans & Robinson as a turner and fitter.

ANOTHER BILTON SOLDIER KILLED.

Mr and Mrs J Goadby, Magnet Road, Bilton, received the sad information from an officer of the King’s Royal Rifles that their son, Pte George Goadby, was killed in action on Saturday, August 7th. Pte Goadby, who was a bricklayer by trade and 24 years of age, joined Kitchener’s Army in September, and, with a number of other young men from this neighbourhood, became attached to the K.R.R’s. Much sympathy is felt in the village with Mr and Mrs Goadby and family in their loss.

He was a member of the Club, of which for a time he also acted is secretary ; also the Cricket Club and the Working-Men’s Club, and was generally respected in the village. He went out with his regiment to France a little more than three months ago, and since then he has been invalided and spent a month in hospital at the base, from which he was discharged only a short time before he met his end.

RUGBY FOOTBALLER WOUNDED.

Lance-Corpl Albert Ashworth, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, has been wounded in the knee and sent to an English hospital. His mother, who lives at 355 Clifton Road, Rugby, received a card, posted at Dover on Wednesday, in which he stated he had fine time crossing the Channel, and hoped soon to be all right. According to information supplied by a comrade, the injury was caused by the bursting of a “ Trench mortar,” part of the exploded shell striking the knee, but the relatives have not received any direct information as to the nature of the wounds. Previous to enlisting Lance-Corpl Ashworth played full back for Rugby 2nd XV.

HOME FROM THE TRENCHES.

Sergt W J Bryant, of the Rugby Infantry Company, is at his home in York Street on a few days’ leave. He left the trenches on Sunday, and arrived in Rugby on Tuesday, but has to return almost immediately. He says that the Rugby Territorials are now occupying trenches taken from the Germans by the French, and are contriving to make themselves as comfortable as possible. The men, though almost constantly under fire, are reported to be fit and well. Their trenches are in places 10ft deep, and, in addition, there are dug-outs, which have been made bomb proof, and bear evidence of much time and effort in their preparation.

A UNIQUE ADDRESS.

Mr James Renshaw, of the Black Horse Inn, Castle Street, has recently received a postcard from the front bearing a unique address. The card, which is from an Old Rugbeian, Quarter-Master-Sergeant A J Dodd, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, bears Mr Renshaw’s name, under which is drawn a black horse, followed by the word “ Inn,” and then a “ Castle ” Street ; the last line being taken up by the representation of a Rugby football, across which is written “ Rugby, Warwickshire, England.” The writer states that the address was “ drawn in the trenches under hellish shell fire,” and the ingenious and well-executed design is a remarkable illustration of the way in which the gallant lads at the front relieve the monotony of their long spells in the trenches.

RECRUITING AT RUGBY.

Recruiting has been somewhat slack in Rugby during the past week, and the following have been attested :—R G Webster and C W Kirtland, R.A.M.C ; H T Cross, C Berry, and A E Turner, Rifle Brigade ; F W Reynolds, Northants Regiment ; C W Davenport, Coldstream Guards.

26 Dec 1914. No Cause to Grumble – At the Front

NO CAUSE TO GRUMBLE.

Pte J Richardson, of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, writing from the front on December 9th to his sister, says :—“ You saw it in the paper about the Coldstreams being praised up, but you can take it from me it was hard-earned, and not without losing some good lads over it. . . . We are about making a general advance right into Germany, so I expect by that we shall lose a few. Still, I know the lads will meet it with a good heart . . . We can’t grumble out here ; we get plenty of tobacco and clothes—as much as you can expect. Those who talk about it being cold on the moots just want to have a night in the trenches. The bombs and the ‘ Jack Johnsons ‘ keep you ‘ warm.’ I hope you will enjoy yourselves together at Christmas. Don’t bother about me ; I shall be all right. It would only disappoint me if I thought you were sitting worrying about me. If you send me anything, send me some cake or plum pudding, and some writing paper, as I have more tobacco now than I could smoke in a month. It is ‘ get out and get under ‘ all right here. You can hear them singing in the air—the fifth of November—a long time before they reach you ; but that is what we have to watch up above, dropping the little bomb down. You must remember me to all the ‘ boys,’ and tell them to be quick and give us a hand, or else there won’t be any left for them.”

THE WARWICKSHIRE R.H.A IN ACTION.

The Warwickshire R.H.A, whose headquarters are at Warwick, went to France about six weeks ago, and after doing patrol and other work on lines of communication, eventually reached the firing line. They have been in action, and letters from gunners in the Battery state that they were successful in doing a good deal of damage to the enemy’s trenches. The Germans turned two heavy batteries upon them, and the “ Black Marias ” dropped all round the Battery, till at last the order was given to retire and leave the guns for the time being. The men retreated to a village a short distance to the rear while a heavy battery of 4.7-inch guns pumped shells into the enemy, and eventually silenced their batteries sufficiently to enable the Warwickshire men to return to their guns and man-handle them into a safer position. It was an absolute marvel how they managed to get out without being smashed up and without any casualties.

CLIFTON SOLDIER KILLED WHILE WRITING HOME.

As we briefly announced last week, Pte W J Hutt (7698) Northamptonshire Regiment, of Church Lane, Clifton, was killed at the front on November 5th. Although early this week no official intimation had been received by his wife, to whom he had only been married a short time, there is no doubt that the news is true. From particulars furnished by a friend of his, and the four men who assisted in his burial, and who have returned home wounded, it appears that the unfortunate young man was killed near Ypres while writing a letter home. He was with his regiment in the trenches for five weeks in the Battle of the Aisne, during which time they made almost imperceptible progress. Their losses in this battle were very heavy. In one week Private Hutt went through five bayonet charges, and escaped without a scratch. Previous to being called up he was employed in the Winding Department at the B.T.H.. He would have been 26 years of age next month.

 

RUGBY SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCES.

Pte J Lickorish, of the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, has written a lengthy letter home, in which he recounts a number of interesting experiences. Referring to their first taste of modem warfare, he says :— “ We hastily entrenched, but had to evacuate them, as the German guns were getting terribly close. We retired behind a farm in open formation, the — Regiment leading the way, and our regiment following. It was here I saw the first horrors of war. The Germans got the range on the farm, and dropped shells all round it, killing and wounding several men. As we lay waiting for the next move a shell burst directly in front of me, and the time fuse went “ plonk ” into the earth about a yard in front of me. At first I thought it was a piece of dirt, as I could see it coming, and my pal reached out for it, but soon dropped it ; it was so hot. I have got it as a souvenir. Our captain, who was afterwards taken prisoner, behaved splendidly here, and it was a treat to watch him walking about, laughing and chatting to us, while we were under shell fire. By-and-bye a battery of ours dashed up, and so diverted the shell fire from us, and we were able to retire again in safety : but about half-a-mile to our right we could see the deadly shrapnel following our troops up with hellish persistency, but with few casualties on account of the open formation. We kept this up until nightfall. Up to this we had not sighted the enemy, but behind us was one consistent rifle fire, which showed that our troops were giving the Germans some of their own medicine. . . . We could see the — Regiment piling arms. All of a sudden a whole nest of German machine guns opened fire on them, and in less than five minutes the greater part of the battalion was either killed or wounded. We could see it all, but could not help them. Transport and all was lost. That morning, and for several days afterwards, we had to live without rations as best we could. In a graphic account of an artillery duel, and relating how 2,000 Uhlans who charged the British guns were repulsed, the writer says : “ Our guns were greatly outnumbered, and gradually gun after gun of the battery was put out of action, and the gunners killed of wounded. We were forced to retire again and again and leave the guns, which we took back off the Germans the next day. Those brave gunners sang and whistled during the whole time.” The writer refers to the retirement of the Germans, and says : “ Here we could see where they had left their trade mark behind them-guns, ammunition, two aeroplanes ; in fact, nearly everything military, and thousands of empty wine bottles. They had also smashed the village and shops, and had left numbers of their dead and civilians lying about. Occasionally we scooped up numbers of prisoners. . . . A German aeroplane dropped two bombs close to us, and killed a woman and two children, causing a great panic among the people. British and French aeroplanes fought the German in mid-air and brought him down.” Describing a sanguinary fight, in which both sides lost heavily and the gallant major of his regiment was killed, the writer says : “ It was here that the Germans hoisted the white flag, and shot our men down. Can you wonder after this that we used our bayonets mercilessly ? The Germans have behaved rotten in this war so far. . . . In one place he says 1,200 German shells were fired over their trench in 24 hours, nine-tenths of which failed to explode, being very old ammunition, and this goes to prove, he adds, that the German supplies are running short.”

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY AT THE FRONT.

The squadron of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, to which Q.M.S Goodman, of Flecknoe, belongs, has for some time past been on active service at the front. The men have taken their turn in the firing line, and find the conditions in the trenches bitterly cold. One member of the squadron has had his feet frost-bitten ; but the yeomen write cheerful letters to friends, although for obvious reasons the exact locality in which they are serving with the Expeditionary Force is not disclosed.

Another trooper in the regiment writes:—“ Well, we are absolutely right among it. The Northamptonshire Yeomanry are taking their turns just as infantry in the trenches, doing three days and three nights—72 hours in all—six days’ rest before going in again. However, before we went to the trenches we did a lot of patrolling and scouting on our horses. and it was then that I found the benefit of being able to ride, which I learnt to do when following the hounds in Old England, In fact, it’s just like hunting ; only no hounds, but bullets instead. Quite half our Yeomanry are fellows who hunt, and whenever we meet another troop the first thing that happens is the giving of the ‘ View Hallo,’ so you, can rest assured that we are in high hopes of seeing the fox as well as hearing the ‘ View Hallo’ next season. Only you must keep the thing going while we are away, as you see it does good in more then one one way. Many a soldier has got a good horse out here and able to get over this country who would not be able to do so had his horse not been schooled in the hunting field, so whatever you do you must keep it going ; if you don’t,there will be no fellows to join another Yeomanry.”

E Wiggins, son of Mr Wiggins, Rugby, a member of the Northants Yeomanry, writes under date December 13th :— We returned from the trenches on Thursday last. We went in on the previous Monday. I will not describe it. All I can say is, I am thankful to have returned safely to our billet. We had our first christening under fire, and were up to our knees in mud and water most of the time. We had one casualty and some narrow escapes. The fighting went on all the night, and we were digging and making up the trenches in the daytime. We were along with an infantry regiment, and real good chaps, too, who would do anything for us. They had been in action several times. . . . and gave us some useful tips, the chief being, as the ‘ Scotties’ say, ‘ To keep your head below the bone.’ The Germans made a charge on our left, but were repulsed with loss. They charged shoulder to shoulder in hundreds. You have only to keep your head and blaze away, and bowl them over right and left. They are forced to charge, poor beggars ; and all those who retire are shot by their own officers. The Germans are very much afraid of the Gurkhas, who steel up their trenches armed only with their ‘kuris’ (long knives), and do them in. We left our horses at the farm in charge of our No. 3’s. We ride in sections of 6, and the third looks after the horses while we are away. They do not do any fighting, as we ride only within two miles of the firing line, and they bring our horses back to the billet. . . . I am pleased to say we have a good billet in a big loft, and all sleep like tops. It is a terrible job getting on and off our top coats, which get plastered from top to bottom. It is a rough lot out here, but I hope to get back soon.”

THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE TRENCHES.

GRAPHIC STORY BY A RUGBEIAN.

“ We always manage to enjoy ourselves, and I never get depressed,” wrote a Rugby tradesman’s son, serving at the front with the Honourable Artillery Company, in a letter just received by his parents. This remark followed a description of three days and three nights in the trenches during a drenching rain, and under very trying conditions. “ I am off again to the trenches,” he wrote light-heartedly. “ The strain of war has been too much for a lot of our fellows, but the physique of the H.A.C is recognised as being quite as good as that of any regiment.

NOVEL HAIR-CUT.

“ At, present I am billeted in a barn at a farmhouse. This is the best barn we have been in up to the present ; it is rainproof and not so draughty. You should have seen me in this barn, sitting on an up-turned tub having my hair-cut with a pair of nail scissors by our drummer-boy ! We are like schoolboys when the mail comes in. If General French could see us, he would say, ‘ The morale of the troops is excellent.’

“ I have just returned from three days and three nights in the trenches. Fortunately, there was only one killed out of the Company, but two officers had to be taken away ill, and several men are queer to-day as the result of the trying time we have had.”

The march to the trenches in the early morning through a turnip field, with mud over the shoe-tops and rifle fire in progress, was next described.

“ At one place we had to cross an old trench and I tried to jump it. Instead of clearing it I fell in and sank over my knees in mud and water. I scrambled up the bank and through a hedge, just in time to see our bugler disappear in another trench. I helped him out, and we presently reached our trenches in safety, although the fellow immediately behind me had a bullet through his cap.”

WITHIN FIFTY YARDS OF THE ENEMY.

The mud in the trenches was awful, but, fortunately, the part I was in was drier, being covered over with old doors and straw. We were only fifty yards from the Germans, and you can tell we had to keep a sharp look out. We had half an hour on guard and one hour off. The first day we had plum pudding for dinner and afterwards cigars supplied by the officers and the chocolate father sent. . . . It rained all night, and, in spite of our covering, the rain came through. At about 9.0 o’clock in the morning there was a very furious rifle fire, so we all jumped up and opened fire, thinking the Germans were attacking, and expecting every minute to see them rushing through the fog not 20 yards away. We kept up a terrific fire for a short time and then ceased. We were told afterwards it was an attack. When the fog cleared some of our fellows played the Germans at their own game of sniping and killed four of them.”

Orders came for the Company to spend another 24 hours in the trenches. About 20ft of the trench in which the writer was situated fell in, and he spent most of the third day on his back repairing it. There being no other food supply for the third day, the men had to draw upon their emergency rations-consisting of “ bully ” beef, biscuits, Oxo, etc.

DEAD FRENCHMEN.

“ We felt it was rather risky drinking the water,” he went on, “ as dozens of dead Frenchmen were lying all about. I fell over one on my way back in the darkness, and it was a gruesome sight. Whilst we were repairing the trench we came across a dead body. I don’t know whether it was a Frenchman or a German—the body was so decomposed. On the third day the Germans fired on our No 4 Section, and the Company drew their fire and apparently created a panic in the German lines. We were glad when the relief came, and it was a tiring march over the fields to the village. One fellow tumbled into a stream, for me to pick him out, and Turner, a ‘ Prudential ‘ man, collapsed. I carried his rifle and helped to get him to the village, where we were given some tea and had a good night’s rest.

ALWAYS CHEERFUL.

“ It was very fatiguing—three days and nights without lying down and without proper sleep. However, I am quite well and happy, but very tired. . . . Chocolate is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. I don’t know what I should have done if I had not had what father sent to me. At present we are pulling crackers. We always manage to enjoy ourselves, and I never get depressed. We don’t mind if the mud is over our boot tops. We thank goodness it to not over our knees ; and if a sniper shoots at us in the trench, we have a competition as to who can be the first to ‘spot’ him. Our officer says we all have wonderful hearts. At present I am cook. I have to get supper ready for two fellows who will be back late, and cook bacon for forty in the morning.” In conclusion the correspondent put in a good word for his officer, whom he describes as “ a Jolly good sport, and as cool as a cucumber under fire, so you need not worry about our losing heart.”