There was a surprising find in the garden of the East Wing of Market Deeping
Rectory last week.
As soon as this badge was unearthed, Greg Ford recognized it as an Army Chaplain’s lapel badge from the First World War.
Just over 5,000 served as Chaplains in the First World War and two Rectors of St Guthlac’s Church are among that number.
Both men were awarded the Military Cross.
Reverend Paul O Ashby was the Rector during the war and when he left the parish, he was replaced by Reverend Leonard F Pigott as Rector from 1923 until his death on December 26th 1961.
Poignantly, Reverend Pigott was awarded his Military Cross 98 years ago this very week, November 6th 1918 – under a week before the Armistice was signed. So the find could not have come at a more appropriate time.
We are almost certain that the badge belonged to Reverend Pigott and was possibly discarded when the Rectory was emptied after his death.
When we looked at this photograph we could see the lapel badge prominently displayed as well as his cap badge.
Fair to say we were elated but we then began to wonder what has happened to the other lapel badge or indeed who owns his medals now…
Reverend Pigott served in the Royal Army Chaplain’s Division from 5th May 1916 until 6th December 1920 alongside the North Staffordshire Regiment. Although there are few records of his service we do know he was on the Western Front. He was mentioned in dispatches on several occasions and he was wounded under the chin by shrapnel.
The Edinburgh Gazette reported the award of his Military Cross on November 6th 1918:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward with a party about 1,500 yards (almost a mile) in front of the line to bring back a badly wounded man and carried the man back through a heavy artillery barrage to the lines. He was indefatigable in the performance of his duties and showed the greatest disregard of danger.”
Early on in the war Chaplains had been given the order to stay away from the front line, but by 1916, the role of Chaplains had been redefined and they were instructed to go where they were most needed. They performed a critical role in conducting services and performing burials but also in helping wounded soldiers (and sometimes rescuing them from “No Man’s Land”), giving spiritual guidance on the battlefield, writing letters to the families of wounded/fallen soldiers and boosting morale.
Towards the end of his military service Reverend Pigott was possibly serving in the Edinburgh War Hospital and wrote to the editor of the Scotsman on 3rd July 1920. He regretted that officials had not scheduled the hospital into the visit of the King to Edinburgh. There were 900 men in that hospital “their bodies shattered in the service of their King and Country.”
This commitment to the men who served in the war continued throughout his long service in Market Deeping, indeed he became Honorary Chaplain to RAF Langtoft in 1954 until its closure a short time before his death.
He died on Boxing Day 1961, one day before his 80th birthday.
(Photographs courtesy of St Guthlac’s Church and Greg Ford)
This comment attributed to General Haig provides a fitting tribute to all those Chaplains who served:
“A good Chaplain is as valuable as a good General.”
Without doubt our two Rectors were good Chaplains!