The following story appeared in volume 34 of the BURGUM FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Journal; Summer 1998.
Frederick Charles Riggs was born on the 28th July 1888. He was born at Springbourne, Bournemouth, Hampshire, in the UK. He was adopted by Mrs G. Burgum (BB family tree) when he was about five years old. This made him uncle to Joan Yeatman (BB053) who lives in Inverell, Australia. Fred lived with the Burgum family at 39 Capstone Road, and went to Malmesbury Park School. After leaving school, he went to work for Pickfords, the furniture removals company. In September 1914 he joined the 15th Hussars and was promoted in France, during 1915, to the rank of Sergeant in the 6th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment.
Sergeant Riggs was posted to Gallipoli and then to Egypt, before being returned to France. He was badly wounded during the Battle of the Somme and was sent home to England, winning the Military Medal. Later he returned to France. He was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. At Epinoy, on the 1st October 1918, Fred found himself leading his men after the death of his platoon officer. He took them through uncut barbed wire while under heavy fire and, despite losing many of his men, continued his advance. He captured a machine gun post and using two captured machine guns caused the surrender of fifty enemy soldiers!
Later, with the enemy attacking in force, Frederick Riggs was shot and killed. He was 30 years old. For his "most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice", Fred was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His medals now lay in the York and Lancaster Regimental Museum in Pontefract. Frederick Riggs is buried in an unknown grave somewhere in France, but his name is recorded on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial in the Nord-Par-de-Calais, Northern France. He is also commemorated by the Riggs Gardens in Wallisdown and by a bronze plaque in the school hall at Malmesbury Park School. Indeed, Joan recalls as a child at that school, the pupils and teachers would honour his memory each Armistice Day.
In 1995, Bournemouth Council placed a blue plaque in Capstone Road, close to where Frederick Riggs lived. It reads:-
Charles Riggs V.C. M.M.
Sergeant 6th Battalion
York and Lancaster Regiment
Born Springbourne 1888
Killed in Action near Epinoy
1st October 1918
the Victoria Cross
for conspicuous bravery and
resisting with his men
to the last
Joan says that the family always spoke of Fred as her father's brother. However, Fred was adopted and after she grew up, she often wondered why Fred did not become a "Burgum" when he was adopted? "I sometimes wonder if he may have been a child of my grandfathers, out of wedlock," she says. So was Fred actually related to the Burgums, or simply adopted by them? Were his parents known to the Burgums? Why did he keep the surname Riggs after his adoption? Was this usual? Needless to say, I shall be looking into this further....
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