The Pickfords employee who fought in WW1 and was awarded a VC

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When a young lad of 14 walked into the Pickfords offices in Holdenhurst Road in Bournemouth in 1902 to begin his working life as an errand boy, no one could of imagined he would one day be awarded the highest award for gallantry in the country – The Victoria Cross.

Frederick Griggs was born in Bournemouth in 1888 and went to Malmesbury Park Council School. He was described as a ‘fit, tough young man of average attainments full of boyish spirit’.

Within a few years at Pickfords he had risen through the ranks (so to speak) to become a recognised carrier for Pickfords, delivering loads throughout the local area.

When the First World War began in September 1914, Frederick was amongst the first to volunteer, swapping his blue Pickfords uniform for khaki, joining the 14th Reserve Cavalry. He would first see action as part of the reinforcements drafted to Galipoli in June 1915. By this time he had joined the 6 Bn Yorks and Lancashire regiment and would cover the evacuation of the Allied forces off the Gallipoli Peninsula the following December.

After a brief respite from the horrors of the war in Egypt, the battalion was transported to the Western front in France, in time to participate in the latter stages of the Somme Campaign. It was here in the mud and barbed wire of the Somme, Frederick would sustain his first wound – a serious head injury, that resulted in his evacuation back to Britain. He would not re-join his battalion until the following summer of 1917.

In the months that followed he rose to the rank of Sergeant and was awarded the Military Medal for ‘Bravery in the field’, having taken part in many battles of the time such as Polygon Wood and Passchendeale.

By October 1918, the Allied Forces in France had finally driven back the German Army and were advancing on all fronts. To breach the final German defensive position – the Hindenberg Line, the Allied Forces had to cross the Canal du Nord. The 6th Battalion was assigned to attack the German lines around Epinoy. It was during this attack, that Frederick would win his VC.

With his officers killed or wounded, Frederick led his men through the barbed wire and fire of the German defences to take the German lines – forcing 50 German soldiers to surrender. It was during German counterattacks that, Sergeant Frederick Riggs sadly lost his life.

His citation would read ‘Subsequently, when the enemy again advanced in force, Sergeant Riggs cheerfully encouraged his men exhorting them to resist to the last, and while doing so was killed’. Frederick has no known grave but he is commemorated with eleven others of the Battalion who have no grave and died that same day on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.

In his home town of Bournemouth, his bravery and sacrifice is commemorated by a blue plaque on the Capstone Road, where he lived. Fredrick was a Pickfords employee who swapped his uniform and willingly paid the ultimate price.

Below is a picture of Holdenhurst road just after the war showing Pickfords’ depot on the left with Pickfords’ vehicles parked on the road.

Picture of Fredrick Riggs -
Picture of Pickfords Bournemouth in 1920s - Alywn Landell - flickr
Holdenhurst Bournemouth early 1920s Alwyn Landell
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