I was not raised in a military family, growing up in the 60’s, probably quite the opposite. But like most families the past wars and family member’s service in the military impacted us greatly over multiple generatations. It started with both sides of my family coming to the United States from Europe in the early 1900’s, no doubt fleeing the troubles before the start of The Great War.
My Dad served during the Korean war, but never made it further from California than Oklahoma where he was stationed and where he and my Mom started their family. The biggest impact on us kids was his coveted WWII patch collection and phrases like “Lady with a Baby” that he would call out when we had to clear the way for a wheel barrel full of concrete during Saturday chores.
He lost his oldest brother in Normandy and somewhere in my family is the letter from the government where they described his death as a heroic act, leading the charge “over the hill” (remember the scene in Spielbergs “Saving Private Ryan” with all the women typing letters to send home after the invasion). My Dad knew better, he described his brother as a sweet, gentle man that had no business going to war. His family was not suprised when he did not return.
My mother recalled many times the story of being a little girl and crying on December 7th after Pearl Harbor was bombed, sure that her birthday party on December 8th would be cancelled. My Grandfather worked for the Federal Government in California and gathered up Japanese nationals after Pearl Harbor to remove them from their homes and send them to internment camps. My brother-in-law’s, older brother’s name is engraved in black granite at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
My connection to World War 1 is physical and real. It is a handshake that I still remember. His fist was big and strong, his fingers short and callused. We were standing in his backyard in Ventura, California next to the orange trees he was so proud of. I was dating his grandaughter ( my future wife) and was probably more interested in the potential of making out with her in the drive-in that night than hearing his story. But he gave me a few bits that I still hold on to. He was short and stocky. He had that classic Scottish unblinking squint in his eye and when he called out his son-in-laws name it was “Wully!” instead of Bill. A man of few words but of strong will and character.
Worked as coal miner in New Mexico…”Toughest job there is” …and you knew he meant it.
Fought in World War 1, took a bullet, got gassed with chlorene gas…”Awful stuff”…and you knew it was.
William Brown Rigg was born in Kilsyth, Sterlinshire, Scotland on October 14th, 1896. He was a miner by trade and when the Great War came, he served in the 7th Battalion of the Argylls and Sutherland, the Scottish Territorials. In 1922 he moved to Victoria BC. Later he came into the United States, became a citizen and moved to New Mexico where he continued his career as a miner. He eventually retired in Ventura, Ca
That’s it , that is all I have ….and it haunts me how little I gathered from that conversation the day I met him when I consider how much time I have spent since in trying to learn about this conflict thru sketching, reading and even flying in a virtual world. His old military documents give us some clues of his service. Researching these documents would be a whole other project, that I hope to do someday, but I thought in honor of Veteran’s Day in general and William Brown Rigg in particular, I would share some of those documents with you.
Here are his medals
Here are some of his papers that give his Regimental Number and a recommendation from the Major from his unit.