Kenneth Alfred Biggs GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 26/02/1911 Greenway, Hertfordshire. d. 11/01/1998 Ewhurst, Surrey.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 02/01/1946 Savernake Forest, Wiltshire.

Kenneth Alfred Biggs (1911-1998) was born on 26th February 1911 in Greenway, near Totteridge, Hertfordshire, the son of Alfred Ernest and Elizabeth Jane Biggs (nee Ponthieu). They had married in 1905 and Kenneth had an elder brother, Rodney. His father worked as a warehouseman in the shoe and boot industry.

Kenneth A Biggs GC

Little is known about his schooling, but he began his working life at the age of 17, when in May 1928, he started work for the Midland Bank, based at 431 Oxford Street, London. He transferred to the Knightsbridge branch in 1936, which was actually situated at 6 Sloane Square. In 1938, he married Vivienne Richardson in Edmonton, London, and they had a son, Christopher.

In July 1940, Kenneth enlisted with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and was commissioned in December that year. He served for four years in India, Iraq and Persia (now Iran) before returning to England in May 1945 at the end of the war.

On 2nd January 1946, in Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, a munitions train was being loaded with ammunition when there was a violent explosion and a 3 tonne lorry and 2 railway wagons literally disappeared. Fire broke out at a dozen places around the yard. A wagon load of 5.5 inch shells, some distance off, went off and the fire spread further. Small arms ammunition began to explode in every direction and the scene resembled a battlefield. Eight men had died in the explosion and 6 more were badly injured. There were in fact few of the original working party left to do anything about the situation. However, the noise brought help onto the scene in the form of Sydney Rogerson and Kenneth Biggs. Rogerson took commanf and split the men who were uninjured into small parties with each group to deal with different fires. One party had to move an explosives truck that was close to a blaze, and then Rogerson himself climbed under a burning truck full of shells to rescue two injured men. As more men arrived, he gave them the job of carrying away the wounded men. Major Biggs then arrived and took over the command. He then helped another officer uncouple a burning wagon full of shells from the rest of the train and push it clear of the other trucks. He then set about extinguishing the fires. He then organised the removal of other wagons to create fire breaks. He was then thrown to the ground by a massive explosion and badly shaken. He picked himself up and went on alone, refusing any help, to inspect the site of the latest explosion and see if there was any further damage. He then realised nothing more could be done safely so he ordered the withdrawal of the men until he was last to leave.

In March 1946, two months after the explosion, he returned to the Midland Bank, and discovered that he was to be awarded the George Cross whilst at work, when his wife telephoned him. The award was announced in the London Gazette on 11th October 1946 where both Kenneth Biggs and Sydney Rogerson were to receive the GC. Both men were invested with their medals on 10th December 1946 at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. Kenneth was accompanied by his wife and son.

Kenneth became a bank manager, running the Mortimer Street, Muswell Hill and Edmonton branches before retiring in February 1971 after 43 years of service. He and his wife retired to Surrey after finishing with the Midland Bank. Kenneth died on 11th January 1998, aged 86 in Guildford, where he was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Right Glade and Guildford Crematorium. His medals including the GC, 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal and United States Bronze Star (also awarded for the Savernake Forest incident due to the fact the ammunition came from the US) are privately held.