Wiggins T.

Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Thomas Wiggins, 2nd/4th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment


Killed in action 27th May, 1918

Thomas Wiggins was born in Stokesley in 1887. His parents were Sam Wiggins and his wife Martha Boyes, whose marriage was registered in Stokesley in 1882. Sam had been born in Wetherby, the son of Thomas, a brewer, and Martha’s father was Thomas Boyes, a farmer of Greenhow. Sam followed his father into the brewing trade, and was a much-respected figure in the town, eventually becoming Chairman of the Stokesley Rural District Council (1917-18). Thomas Wiggins was the third child of the marriage but as the first son he was given the name shared by both his grandfathers!

For at least twenty years (1891-1911), the Wiggins family lived in Chapel Yard, Stokesley, where Sam could watch over his Brewery.1 Sam and Martha raised a sizeable family. Their first two children were girls, Mabel and Emma, then came Thomas, Sam junior and Guy. It appears that Guy died young, but four further children were born: Stanley, Harold, Mary Ann and Reginald.

Thomas first attended the Preston Grammar School in the town, and then was sent away to Barnard Castle School to complete his education, and is recorded as a pupil there in the 1901 census.

In 1911, the family were still in Chapel Yard, though Thomas at 24 years of age was now recorded as a brewer himself, (he was a Master Brewer) and five of his brothers and sisters had flown the nest.

When war broke out, four of the Wiggins brothers joined the forces. Early in the war, Thomas had enlisted in the army as Private 3998, 28th Battalion London Regiment (the Artists' Rifles). This unit, because of the 'quality' of recruits it attracted, came to be a fertile ground for producing officers, and on 1st October, 1915, Thomas Wiggins was commissioned Captain in the Yorkshire Regiment.

According to the Book of Remembrance, Captain Wiggins was an instructor at first, and was sent to France only in the Spring of 1918, just as the Germans were launching their final desperate offensives. He was one of a group of reinforcements sent to the aid of 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in early April. Here Captain Wiggins fought on the retreat in the Battle of the Lys, between 9th and 13th April, as the British desperately tried to stem the German onslaught.

After this particularly severe engagement, Thomas Wiggins’ regiment was sent south to a ‘quiet’ part of the line for a rest (at Beaurieux), but on 26th May they were ordered back into the line around Craonelle and La Hutte on the Chemin des Dames ridge. Unfortunately for the 4th Yorkshires, it was precisely here between Soissons and Reims that the Germans launched a surprise attack. A heavy bombardment in the early hours of the very next morning, (27th May 1918), was followed by an infantry assault with 25 Divisions. Such heavy British losses resulted that it was said that the 4th "Battalion may be said to have practically ceased to exist".

On that day, Captain Wiggins was reported missing, but several months passed before it was confirmed that he had died at the Chemin des Dames.

After the war, his awards were sent to his father, whose address was then at Highcliffe, Argyle Road, Whitby.

Thomas Wiggins was 31 years of age when he fell, and was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.

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