CWG: Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was born in Silverton, Devon, on 9th May 1882. He was one of six children to Matthew and Sarah Gigg, both of whom were born Ottery St Mary, but who moved the young family to Chudleigh in the late 1880s.

Matthew was a domestic gardener, and his son initially joined him in this trade. However, as the third of five sons, Leonard obviously wanted to carve out a life for himself and so, on 21st August 1897, he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Leonard’s naval records shows that he was 5ft 3ins (1.60m) tall, had light brown hair, blue-grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He also gave his year of birth as 1880 so he would be accepted in the navy.

Even with this altered date of birth, Leonard was still under age, and so was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class. He was obviously dedicated to his career, however, and, on his “eighteenth” birthday in 1898, he was officially enrolled as an Ordinary Seaman.

Over the course of his twelve years’ service, Leonard served on ten vessels; after each voyage, however, he returned to HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, Portsmouth. During his time at sea, he also progressed through the ranks, becoming an Able Seaman as early as 1900.

When Leonard’s initial contract came to an end, he volunteered for a further term. Up until the outbreak of war, Able Seaman Gigg served on another six ships, but after falling ill while on board HMS Caesar in the summer of 1914, he returned again to Portsmouth.

Leonard had contracted cancer of the mouth, and, as a result of the condition, he was formally invalided out of the Royal Navy in May 1915. He returned home but, in spite of a couple of operations, he succumbed to the cancer, passing away on 9th October 1915. He was just 33 years of age (his gravestone gives a different age).

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was laid to rest in the cemetery in Chudleigh.

Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

The local newspaper reported on Leonard’s funeral:

The death has taken place at his father’s residence of Mr Leonard FJ Gigg, third son of Mr M Gigg, after a painful illness. The deceased had served in the Royal Navy for 18 years and was only invalided out in May last, owing to cancer of the tongue. Although undergoing three operations, he was no better, and expired form the effects of that dreadful malady at the early age of 33 years. In the service he was extremely well liked and highly respected both by officers and men, and always had a pleasant word for everyone.

The deceased’s four brothers, Mr Charles Gigg (now in Canada), Chief Petty Officer H Gigg (HMAS Australia), Able Seaman Walter Gigg (HMS Carnarvon), and Private Albert Gigg (4th Devons, now in India) were prevented from attending.

Western Times: Friday 22nd October 1915

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