Percy Harold Chidgey
Born 3rd February 1891 - Died of Wounds 12th April 1918

    Percy Harold ‘Cassius’ Chidgey was the son of Hugh Thomas and Sarah Sophia Chidgey born in Stepney. His father was a County Councillor and subsequently Mayor of Stepney for two terms spanning most of the years of the Great War. Percy had older brothers - Arthur Reginald and Herbert Thomas and sisters Edith, Mabel, Kate and Gertrude. The family lived at different times at ‘St Augustines’ in the HIgh Street, Wanstead then at Grove Cottage, George Lane, Wanstead.

George Lane was renamed Nutter Lane in the 1930’s and the Chidgey’s home was a 17th century cottage situated on this then peaceful lane at its junction with Leicester Road. Later the family would move to Magdala House, Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill, and then to ‘Highclere’, High Road, Buckhurst Hill. Percy was brought up in a household with a great and enduring commitment to public service. His father featured in local and national newspapers as a patriotic spokesman very active in local government, charitable acts and in public meetings in and around the Borough of Stepney.

The Bancrofts School Mission, which was the focus for the philanthropic attentions of so many of the old boys working with the less priveleged children of Customs House, was of course located with the borough of Stepney. At one of the public meetings over which Percy’s father presided the group reflected upon the Boer war 1899-1902. The gathered assembly took it upon themselves to voice:

"..... full confidence in HM Government... ..and deeply deplores the member for Stepney in associating himself with Irish members in their disloyal attitude during the grave national crisis."

The move was against the progressive party MP who went on to be defeated in the subsequent election. It was an age of great social change in the east end of London particularly. While the radicalism formerly espoused by the liberal governments of Gladstone and others had always been popular they were now giving ground to a burgeoning labour movement. Ultimately, after serving himself in the Great War, the future mayor of Stepney elected in 1919 would be one Clement Atlee the future prime minister. At school Percy distinguished himself in sports being a good distance runner and winning annual prizes for gymnastics. His confidence and pleasure in this role is evident as captain of the East House athletics team for 1908.

He also came first in the wheelbarrow race of 1907 where his partner was Gilbert Waterhouse. It is not recorded who was the wheelbarrow! Other contemporaries at school included John Frederick Paramor and Frederick Stephen Boshell. It is not clear how Percy earned the sobriquet Cassius, but it was to stick. Was it an early recognition in the man of an innate opposition to tyranny or indeed the willingness to adopt the role of the arbiter seeking reconciliation. Father Hugh was a civil engineer and Percy after leaving school followed him into this profession as a surveyor. Percy with all his family were non-Conformists and regularly pursued there christian convictions as members of firstly the Wanstead Congregational Church and subsequently the congregational church of St James in Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill.

With the declaration of war in August 1914 the family was no less engaged in public works. Father Hugh as Mayor of Stepney led recruitment meetings in the Borough. At one of these in September 1915, 150 men volunteered only for 135 to be later rejected as malnourished and unfit, a stark indication of the poor standards of health and fitness of east Londoners. Mother and father were throughout very engaged on the home front. Not least this involved running clothing appeals for Belgian refugees and supporting the poor of Stepney with soupkitchens for those children made orphans or those homeless from the bombing of the East End.

Percy enlisted in the City of London Field Ambulance on the 20th May 1915. He was posted to Littlegore Barracks at New Barnet and was subsequently after attendance at the Royal Engineers training centre appointed Second Lieutenant on 21st October 1916. On 2nd January 1917 Percy arrived in France. He lasted a little over a year applying his professional skills to the task of building and maintaining the network of defences on the western front. We are not sure how Percy was injured we merely know that he died of his wounds at the No 36 casualty clearing station on the 12th April 1918.

We do know the value placed on his comradeship by his fellow soldiers in their letters written to Percy’s father. They are very much personal and heartfelt tributes. Percy was at the time stationed close to Rousbrugge in Belgium. He is buried at HARINGHE (BANDAGHEM) Military Cemetery.