11.10 – Samuel and Esther Rigg

Samuel Rigg was a Tod lad, born and bred. He arrived in Tod in 1897 to proud dad Samuel, who was himself a Tod lad, and mum Harriet Fosbrook (a Mancunian but at least she got here in the end). He was the 3rd of 6 children. The first three were boys, and the rest girls. Unfortunately, 2 of his younger sisters died in childhood, but he rests here with one of them, Esther Elizabeth, so at least big brother continues to look after her. Esther died on the last day of 1905 aged just 20 months old.

Samuel grew up in Lydgate, where dad worked as a wood bobbin turner. We’re not sure what school he went to, but by the age of 14 in 1911, he had joined the family working in the mills – he and his sister and one of his older brothers were all cotton weavers. It was hard work, but when war broke out a few years later, young Samuel must have eagerly looked forward to his 18th birthday so that he could fight against the Germans with his brothers.

He enlisted as soon as he could on the 11th of May, 1915. He joined the Lancashire Fusiliers, in the infantry and in January 1916 he was sent to Egypt to cut his teeth in battle. We don’t know much about this part of his life, but it must have seemed a whole new world to a lad who had hardly ever been out of Lydgate. He didn’t stay long, though. As part of the 29th division, known as The Incomparable Division, he was shipped to France to the Western Front just two months later. I hope he was ready for what came next. After spending time doing tours of the trenches and training behind the lines, they began to move on the German positions.

Samuel’s service record is impressive. In July 1916, he was at the Battle of Albert, one of the Battles of the
Somme. In October, he was at the battle of the Transloy ridges, and then The Battle of Le Transloy in January 1917, in some of the most miserable conditions of the whole Battle of the Somme. Our boys took
heavy casualties, and many died of disease as well as in battle. He survived, however, and moved on to the Battles of the Scarpe. The first in April and May 1917 at Arras, which ended in a stalemate. Then in August, he then moved on to Ypres in Flanders, and took part in the Battle of Langemarck. An unusual amount of rain for the region fell that month, and the trenches and battlegrounds became a virtual swamp. Mud flooded shell holes during frequent rainstorms, and while the battle had started well for the British and French troops, the weather stopped further progress for weeks. The trenches must have been a wretched place to be during those weeks, and we can imagine what Samuel must have endured. In October, he took part in the Battle of Broodseinde, still in Ypres, one of the most successful Allied attacks of this phase of the war. The poor weather from August continued into October after a brief respite in September, and conditions must have been utterly miserable. Our boys pushed the Germans back, and back, over a morass of mud and rain- soaked ground. Records show that Samuel was injured in one of these battles, though we don’t know the details. Family members believe that he may have been injured at Borry house and Beck Farm, pill boxes on the site of old farm houses which were subject to heavy shelling. He clearly recovered enough to soldier on.

He went on to be part of the tank attack at the Battle of Cambrai with the rest of the Third Army. The British boys had great success initially when the battle commenced on the 20th of November, but were let down by mechanical failures that put about half their tanks out of commission and slowed progress. The final effort to reach their target on the 27th of November saw our Samuel injured again. He was sent home for treatment this time, but he must have suffered greatly, as he finally died of his injuries on the 3rd July, 1918, more than 7 months later. He died at York Place Military Hospital in Brighton, and the building is still there and is being used by City College Brighton, if you should want to visit.

Todmorden and District News, July 1918. The mention of another fallen son is an error.

He was a hero in every sense of the word, and spent the last 2 years of his life fighting for his country and suffering some of the worst conditions of the war. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal…cold comfort for his mother Harriet, who was named as his pension beneficiary and received 10 shillings and sixpence a week. It was small comfort, but comfort nonetheless, for her and her husband to eventually have their other two sons return home alive.

Both Samuel Sr. and Harriett lived to see another world war. Samuel died in 1942 and is buried here at Christ Church. Harriett died in 1944 and is buried up at Cross Stone with her other daughter who died in infancy. Rest in peace Samuel, and we thank you for your heroic service.

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