Stephen Skeels Piggins 1836-1915
On Saturday July 15, 1905, an English newspaper, The Weekly Budget, published a composite illustration made up of portraits of "The Largest Military Family in England" under the patriotic headline, "For King and Country." The family's head, the newspaper said, was ex-Superior Barrack-Sergeant Stephen Skeels Piggins now residing at 5 Winscombe Road, near Locking Road, Weston-super-Mare, and continued:
In 1899 the late Queen Victoria graciously accepted a photographic group of 12 members of Sergeant Piggins's family - the father, five sons, and the grandsons being in service at the time- the only known case of three generations of one family serving with the colours simultaneously.
Since then, although the father and two sons have retired on pensions, three more grandsons have enlisted to maintain the family tradition for loyalty to Sovereign and country.
The father of this family, whose portrait is No. 1 in the group, altogether put in 47 1/4 years service - 22 1/4 in the old 28th (1st Gloucester Regiment) and 25 years in the Army Service Corps. Out of this later period he was 20 years a superior barrack sergeant - a mark now abolished in favour of that of barrack wardens. Mr. Piggins enlisted for the 28th Regiment on August 14th, 1854 (one month before the Crimean War commenced), landed in the Crimea January 1855, was present at the general engagement of June 18, 1855 (where he saved an officer's life), and also at the storming of Sebastopol on September 8, 1855. He did duty day and night for eight months in the trenches, repulsing the enemy, digging trenches, dragging up shot and shell to the batteries, &c., before the town fell.
He was also present in India with the Ochamungle Field Force at the storming of Beyt Fort and the siege and capture of Dwarka, in September 1859. No medals were ever given for either of these two engagements, although there were at least one-eighth of the total force engaged either killed or wounded; the only public acknowledgement the troops received was through the newspapers at Bombay.
The 28th was the only known regiment to march across the Isthmus of Suez for the Mutiny in 1858, and then they had to go as civilians, accoutrements, &c., being packed up.
During this march the whole of the officers' silver mess plate was stolen by the Arabs. Mr. Piggins retired from the army in 1901 on pension, and in possession of the Crimean, Turkish, good conduct, and meritorious medals. He is the first on the roll at the War Office to receive the meritorious medal with the annuity of £10.
Mrs. Piggins, No. 2 in the group, was a soldier's daughter born and married in India. Her father, Mr. Charles Fennell, served nearly all his service in the 2nd and 86th Regiments in India, and was through all the Indian warfare 20 years prior to the Mutiny, with which he wound up. Mrs. Piggins never left the service until her husband was discharged, in October 1901.
The other members of this remarkable family shown in the group are as follows
Despite his 70 years, the father of this record military family is a picture of good health, and seldom taken for more than 50. Time has dealt kindly with him, and as he says, if he shaved off his beard and trimmed his moustache, he would pass for the militia at 35. In curious contrast to present day rules, it is amusing to note that when appointed barrack sergeant, Mr. Piggins, though 40 years old, was compelled to grow a beard in order to make him look older.
The record at the National Archives of the first phase of his service, in the 28th Regiment, reads:
clerk, 28th Regiment
attested at (Hoct? my own note illegible) 16 August 1854
house painter and plumber
aged 18 years 6 months
born St Andrews the Less, Cambridge
Service history: corporal 1873, clerk 1874, sergeant 1875, reduced to private (arrest), colour sergeant 1876
Discharged 25 October 1876 at age of 40 years, 8 months
5 ft 7¼ins, light complexion, dark brown eyes, brown hair
- WO 97/2077 (part of second series 1855-1872), Army Discharges, extracted 1994/09/30 at PRO (at the this point the file was very untidy, as if it had been dropped once).
© Jean-Baptiste Piggin 2000-2009
This page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.