The Irish 'Branch'

We share a common ancestor with the ‘Irish’ branch of the Piggots of Angus in James Piggot 1810 – 1874.

Many Piggots have contributed greatly to the life of Northern Ireland.

Guthrie Piggot has provided a news paper cutting given to him by him father showing Commander William Brown Piggot OBE, DSC , RD, RNR  ( Londonderry) who served with distinction in WW2.

The following service details were found on various web sites. Captain Piggot commanded two war ships during WW2. The most notable incidents were as follows:

Corvette HMS Mallow (K 81)

17 Nov 1940
HMS Mallow (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Piggot, RNR) picks up 18 survivors from the British merchant Saint Germain that was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-137 north-north-west of Tory Island in position 55º40’N, 08º40’W.
[ HMS Mallow was a convoy escort vessel attached to the 8th escort group based at Londonderry NI. She operated mainly in the North Atlantic covering convoys between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Liverpool via Iceland.]

19 October 1941
The German submarine U204 was sunk near Tangier, in position 35.46N,06.02W, by depth charges from the British corvette HMS Mallow ( Cdr W.B.Piggot,OBE,RNR ) and the British sloop HMS Rochester ( Cdr C.B.Allen, RN)

Sloop HMS Fleetwood (L 47 / U 47) [Unfortunately the ships log for the 1939 – 1945 period are not available at Kew for some unknown reason.]

11 May 1943
The German submarine U-528 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Ireland, in position 46º55’N, 14º44’W, by depth charges from a British Handley Page Halifax aircraft (Sqdn. 58/D) and by depth charges from the British sloop HMS Fleetwood (Cdr. W.B. Piggot, OBE, RNR).

2 Nov 1943
The German submarine U-340 was sunk at 0430hrs on 2 November 1943 near Tangier, in position 35º33’N, 06º37’W, by depth charges from the British sloop HMS Fleetwood (Cdr. W.B. Piggot, DSC, RD, RNR) and the British destroyers HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. P.G. Merriman, DSC, RN) and HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN) and by depth charges from a British Wellington aircraft (Sqdn. 179/R).

The Sinking of U528

U528 was making its way back to Lorient on 11th May 1943 when sighted by a Halifax bomber in anti submarine patrol to another convoy. Pilot officer Stark in Halifax 11- D-Dog sighted a wake on the Port side 3 miles distant. He then sighted the U. Boat making good speed in a calm sea. By the time he had manouvred to position to attack the U. Boat had been submerged for one minute. so the depth charges were not released. he made visual signal back to convoy escorts because his R.T. had problems. Later he again spotted the U. Boat on the surface some 10 miles aft of the convoy achieving almost complete surprise he dived and the his navigator opened fire and saw tracer hitting the conning Tower The U. boat changed course to starboard and dived The Halifax attacked from the submarines Port Bow releasing five mark X1 Torpex depth chargers set to shallow depth. The rear gunner saw  one explosion alongside the diving U. Boat  having seen nothing further the pilot set course back to the convoy and fifteen minutes later sent a report back to the Senior Naval officer. Receiving no reply the aircraft left the scene. Down below the report had been received by the SNO in HMS Scarborough and  L47 HMS Fleetwood was sent to investigate. Fleetwood carried out a box search and sighted a smoke candle dropped by the Halifax an hour earlier. Twenty minutes after she made asdic contact and attacked the position. The contact started slowly moving eastwards  Six minutes later another pattern of ten depth charges was dropped.  Contact was lost and Comdr. W.B. Piggot decided to do another box search during which the officer of the watch sighted spray coming fro the conning tower of a U. Boat. on a Southerly course. another attack was made with the U. Boat diving and once again contact was lost. Another contact was made and as Fleetwood made yet another attack with charges set to deep. By now the Fleetwood was low on charges and HMS Mignonette joined the hunt in a box search. As the West leg was completed they sighted the U. Boat stopped low in the water the guns were ordered to fire sinking the U. Boat. Survivors were seen in the water and Fleetwood rescued 39 of them including the Captain Georg Von Rabenau.

Here we see Captain Von Rabenau taking a photo opportunity with Commander Piggot ( left ) and with members of the ships company.

The Sinking of U340

The second sinking occurred in the Straits of Gibraltar,East of Ceuta  Just over an hour into the morning of the 1st November 1943 contact was made at 2 miles by Wellington “R” of 179 squadron.The Wellington homed in and dropped six depth charges across the target. The U Boat dived  and all contact was lost. U 340 was damaged but emergency repairs effected and the boat was on its way again. It was located some hours later by HMS Witherington off Malabata light. The Destroyer Active and Sloop Fleetwood joined in the depth charge attacks. Proceeding submerged U340 surfaced in the evening to recharge her batteries. Two hours later she was sighted by Fleetwood and the Corvettes Bluebell and Poppy. Depth charge attacks forced the U Boat to dive deep and contact was lost. Five hours went by before the boat resurfaced in the early hours of 2nd November, and as daylight approached it became impossible to remain there and impossible for it to continue. So her Captain Hans Joachim Klaus decided to scuttle his boat. Charges were set and exploded and U 340 sank. Klaus and 47 others were picked up by three Spanish Trawlers. Soon after dawn Fleetwood still searching for the stricken U Boat approached for a closer look at three suspicious looking fishing trawlers and fired a warning shot when they failed to stop. Search parties from Fleetwood found the U 340 crew took them off as POW’s. and later landed them at Gibraltar.

Below are photographs of the action – the U-boat exploding; survivors in the water; POW s being landed at Gibraltar and POW s intercepted aboard a Spanish Trawler.

At the National Archive at Kew two documents survive ( December 2011 ) relating to W.B.P.’s activities and his two DSC awards – ADM 1/12478 and ADM1/14457  . The OBE citation remains undiscovered but surely relates to the 1940 incident and the rescue of  the crew of the Saint Germain. The DSC and the Bar to his DSC  relate to the sinking of the three U -boats in 1941 and 1943.
The citation for his second DSC was as follows:

” For outstanding zeal and efficiency when HMS “Fleetwood” , after a hunt of 5 hours during which seven attacks were carried out destroyed an enemy submarine.”

The Anti Submarine Control Officer , Lt John Duncan ( Aberdeen ) , was also awarded the DSC for his actions on this occasion:

” Successful destruction of a U-boat (U 340 ) which would have escaped in the misty conditions prevailing after a third attack had it not been for his keen sighting of spray from the conning tower and, as A/S Control officer, performing subsequent five excellent A/S attacks.”

Captain Piggot’s career in the Royal Navy is set out below are his decorations.  Prior to his service in the RN he served in the “William Mitchell” a three masted clipper ship on the Australia run as an apprentice for 16 months in the years 1919 and 1920. She was then owned by John Stewart, of London. William Piggot held a master’s certificate in deep-sea sailing ships.He eventually retired as Captain Piggot commanding HMS Caroline a RN base in Belfast  in 1957.

Three images of the William Mitchell

Prob. S.Lt. 13.10.1926
S.Lt. 1927?, seniority 13.10.1926
Lt. 13.10.1928
Lt.Cdr. 13.10.1936
Cdr. 30.06.1941 (reld < 04.1946)
Capt. 31.12.1947 (retd 07.06.1958)
OBE 01.07.1941 HM’s birthday 41 [investiture 30.06.42]
DSC 14.09.1943 destruction U-boat Western Approaches 11.05.43 [investiture 18.07.45]
DSC 02.05.1944 sinking U340 captain captured Mediterranean 02.11.43 [investiture 18.07.45]
MID 11.07.1940 HM’s birthday 40
RD ? ?
21.03.1928 (06.1928) HMS Versatile (destroyer) (to complete 12 months’ training)
06.10.1939 (04.1940) Commanding Officer, HMS Hugh Walpole (trawler)
1940? Commanding Officer, HMS Arctic Explorer (trawler)
21.05.1940 01.07.1941 Commanding Officer, HMS Mallow (corvette)

Captain Georg Von Rabenau

Captain Georg Von Rabenau was a very inexperienced U-Boat commander. His U-Boat was sunk on his first patrol as captain by HMS Fleetwood commanded by William Brown Piggot . Georg was born in 1916 in Strassfurt – Leopoldshall, Saxony. He joined the navy in 1936. His command of U-528 began in December 1942 and he left Kiel in the Baltic on U-528’s fateful first and last voyage on 15th April 1943. U-528 did not sink or damage any Allied vessels. Twenty seven days later it was on the bottom of the Mediterranean.  For Georg and his crew – as they say – the war was over. From the photographs of Georg with William and other members of the  Fleetwood’s crew  you get the feeling that he was glad to be out of it. With the technology and codebreaker advantages that the Allies had in the later stages of the Battle of the Atlantic he was lucky to have survived.  Georg died in 1991 at the age of 74.

An interesting coincidence is that Georg was born in Saxony the ancestral region of an aristocratic Von Rabenau family whose forbears were Teutonic Knights. In this Rabenau family – there is no information liking Georg with this family as yet- there was a military  tradition which continued in the First and Second World Wars.

General Friedrich Von Rabenau was an extra ordinary person. He was opposed to the Nazi regime and was appalled by the Nazi led violence towards the people of Poland. He was a Christian and made his views known although he did not join the Resistance. As a result in mid 1942 and in his late fifties he was ‘retired’ . He went to Berlin University and studied theology completing a dissertation on military chaplaincy. The last assassination attempt on Hitler resulted in his arrest through his associations with a number of the conspirators. He spent some time in various prisons before being moved in the final months of the war to the notorious Flossenburg Prison. This prison held a number of ‘special prisoners’ including Dietrich Bonhoffer. General Rabenau and Paster Bonhoffer had a dialogue during this time. Both were hanged in April 1945. Friedrich’s wife and two children survived the war.

It would be interesting to know whether Georg and Friedrich were related. Is there a family resemblance?

Patrick Piggot – Captain Piggot’s youngest son – was kind enough to add the following information.

‘My father went to sea aged ~16 in sailing ships in the Merchant Navy. (Commercial, non military). Initially as an apprentice (~cadet). He was on sailing ships for several years – there are photos of some, the William Mitchell and the Lansing. My cousin Ian Piggot has a big model (3 feet long?) of the William Mitchell which was my father’s, and which I grew up with; Ian keeps wanting to give it back, but I am afraid that it will be wrecked moving to the USA, or just surviving the climate here – Ian took it to look after when my mother died, neither Charles nor I wanted to risk moving it to England, and at the time Ian lived near my parent’s flat in Derry. Daddy was very proud that he obtained his Extra Master’s Certificate (Square Rigged) so that he was qualified to be captain of a large (square rigged) sailing ship, though I do not think that he ever captained one.

He eventually moved to steam ships to being Captain (Master) of them. These included banana boats to the West Indies, and timber boats to Scandinavia (an early advocate of comprehensive, AKA “socialized”, medicine which he benefited from in Sweden in the 1930s). He also joined the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), which meant that he spent some time in the Royal Navy, hence the ranks in the attachment that I sent. When war broke out (Sept 1939 for us) he moved full time to the Royal Navy, but with his rank being RNR, not RN – hence when he was captain of the ship I think that it would fly the Blue Ensign, not the White Ensign of an RN captain (I think even if he had RN officers serving under him). For much of the war he was on convoy escort duty, and for some of that time he was commodore (commander) of the escort group, not simply captain of his own ship (HMS Fleetwood, and before that I think HMS Mallow).
After the war he left the navy and worked for the Civil Service as a “Nautical Surveyor and Examiner of Masters and Mates”. This meant that he would inspect sips for seaworthiness and examine candidates for their Master’s, Extra Master’s and Mates certificates (i.e. their qualifications to be officers on merchant ships). Thus from 1945 onwards (when I was 4) he lived at home, which moved from Bangor (NI) to Belfast (NI) to Liverpool (England). I do not think that my mother was totally thrilled with all the moving, but adapted amazingly well and always made friends where she went. Then for four years my father was Nautical Advisor to the Indian Government (I think to a considerable extent helping them set up a similar Civil Service system, but am not absolutely sure); my mother spent the first year in Derry, but the next three in India, living in Bombay (Mumbai). She did some travelling in India – even met Indira Ghandi (sp?). I spent about 6 weeks with them in Bombay in 1957. But otherwise went to the ultimate English punishment institution – a boarding school.  I tended to spend the school holidays either in Belfast (with my mother’s parents and her sister, Auntie Kathleen) or Derry (with my father’s sister, the legendary Auntie May). Then in ~1959 my parents returned to the UK, to Milford Haven in Wales and then ~1963 to London, with my father back to being nautical surveyor and examiner of masters and mates. He retired in ~1968 and my parents moved back to Derry.’

Two images of  Bill Piggot in later life.

James Anderson Piggot

Another Irish Piggot who excited the interest of Guthie’s father Tom was J A Piggot. The cutting below describes in brief an active man in business and public life.

2 thoughts on “The Irish 'Branch'

  1. Malcolm

    What a wonderful tribute to uncle Willie and where did you get the photos with the U boat Captain. Willie`s grand daughter Vanessa Pupavac nee Piggot is a Professor of International relations and Law at Nottingham University and a former member of the UN War Crimes Tribunal into the Balkans War.

  2. Hello Malcolm
    I hope all is well . The Irish Piggots were my great grandfather James Piggot and his wife Margaret Don who emigrated from Glasgow in 1890 to Londonderry , James a master baker and Biscuit Factory manager . James was the son of Andrew Piggot , brother of your great grandfather Tom . James Anderson Piggot was James and Margaret third son and was named after James Anderson the evangelist . My great grandfather James was also an Evangelist with the Church of Christ . James Anderson Piggot had a son also named James who was an orthopedic surgeon in Belfast , his son James Anderson Piggot is currently the Headmaster of Epsom College in England having formerly been a teacher , housemaster and assistant head master at Eton where he counted HRH Prince William and Prince Harry among his students along with Eddy Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston . Capt William Brown Piggot was the youngest of my grandfathers siblings .

    The American Piggot family is also an interesting lot . They are the family of James Piggot 1844-1933 brother of your great grandfather Tom and Andrew my great great grandfather . They settled in the Chicago area in 1870 and there are many still in the area today . Thats for another post

    all the best

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