Thursday, 6 December 2012

War hero's medals tell amazing story

THE story of a North East hero who fought in both world wars has emerged from an auction which takes place today.

Boldon Auction Galleries in South Tyneside will sell seven medals awarded to Major Norman Batey Pigg, who was born in Seaham in County Durham in 1894.

He joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1915 and served in the 21st and 1st Battalions Northumberland Fusiliers.  The medals are estimated at between £3,000 and £5,000.

They include a First World War Military Cross inscribed Armentieres, and awarded for conspicuous gallantry in action. Major Pigg led a successful raid against the enemy’s trenches and was severely wounded.

His Distinguished Service Order medal for conspicuous gallantry and initiative was earned during the operations east of Solesmes from the October 23-26 1918.

He commanded a company (YCO 1st BN Northumberland Fusiliers) which made three assaults during the operations.  On one occasion he pushed forward with a small party and captured a machine gun which had been causing casualties.  Later he observed the enemy’s field battery which he at once charged and routed the gunners, saving the battalion many casualties.

He was praised for “his fine example of leadership and courage” when he encouraged his men to successfully repulse three heavy enemy attacks.

Later when the enemy drove back the line on his left, he quickly threw out a defensive flank enabling the remainder of his force to take up a new position in the rear. His rapid grasp of the situation considerably impeded the enemy’s advance.

During an enemy attack, for two days under repeated heavy bombardment and in the face massed attacks, held his men cleverly together and rendered great assistance to his battalion commander.  On November 23, 1916, after being severely wounded, he was carried back to the trenches and taken to hospital having been shot through the leg.

He was told he may have to have his leg amputated. The night before the operation the surgeon examined the wound and found a piece of khaki thread that was impeding the healing process and his leg was saved.

During the Second World War he served with the 8th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in France in 1940.  As a Major commanding ‘C’ Company on May 25, 1940, he became second in command of the battalion evacuated at Dunkirk.

Giles Hodges, who runs Boldon Auction Galleries, said: “His war record is remarkable. He was a very brave man.”

ANOTHER bravery medal will be sold today as part of a family archive.

The 49th Tynemouth medal, which was awarded to Percy Catmore Chaston in 1916 “For Bravery in Saving Life at Sea,” will be sold at Boldon Auction galleries along with a 1914 - 1918 war medal, inscribed Percy C. Chaston and a Mercantile Marine War 1914 - 1918 medal.  The medals are estimated at £300-£500.

Percy Catmore Chaston was awarded the Tynemouth medal for saving the life of Philip Goddard at Alexandra Dock, Hull.  The record of the medal presentation describes how Mr Chaston, third engineer on the Cairn liner Hurona, was in his bunk when he heard the cries of men in the water of the dock.

It was a dark night, but Mr Chaston dived into the dock and rescued Mr Goddard. He then returned to search for Nelson Gabree, Mr Goddard's uncle, but was unsuccessful and Mr Gabree drowned.  Mr Chaston was presented with his medal at a ceremony in the Shipping Federation Offices in Newcastle.

The Chaston family are believed to have lived in Jesmond in Newcastle.  There is a record of Percy Catmore Chaston dying in 1917 in his 25th year.

Four First World War medals awarded to Second Lieutenant J Chaston and another four to Cpl H Chaston 16 Northumberland Fusiliers, are valued at £100-150.

A plaque in St George’s Church in Jesmond includes the name of Cpl Harry Chaston, who was killed at the age of 24 in 1918.

Published in The Journal 5th December 2012

Read more: Journal Live

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