Biographies, Military Service

Herbert Vigers Caldicott – 1873 – 1944 – Died in WWII Bombing of Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London

Guards Chapel Wellington Barracks London

Herbert Vigers Caldicott was part of the Coventry ribbon manufacturer Caldicott family and spent most of his life working as a ribbon merchant based in London. However, his tragic death during WWII was perhaps the thing he will be most remembered for.

Herbert was born on 19 September 1873 to Thomas Parker Caldicott, ribbon manufacturer, and Eliza Vigers Lloyd, daughter of Richard Lloyd, publisher in London.

He was baptised a month after his birth, on 29 October 1873 at St Matthew’s Church, Brixton.

St Matthew's Church, Brixton
St Matthew’s Church, Brixton

Herbert had one younger sister Marguerite Beatrice Caldicott who was born three years later in October 1876 in Norwood, Greater London.

Herbert Vigers Caldicott was educated at Haileybury College, then a public boarding school for boys.

Haileybury College

He then went to Oxford University in 1892 and studied at University College.

On 6th February 1895, aged 21, he was granted the Freedom of the City of London as a ribbon manufacturer. He continued in the ribbon industry for the rest of his working life, eventually becoming a ribbon merchant, owning his own company, H.V. Caldicott Ltd. which was only dissolved in 2010. His trade requiring him to travel abroad often to places such as Canada, South Africa and Argentina.

Herbert was a Freemason, belonging, first of all to the Thames Lodge at Henley on Thames and then later to the Old Haileybury Lodge for ex-pupils of the school.

On 10 December 1913 Herbert married Mabel Browne, daughter of a London bookseller’s assistant, at St Stephen’s Church, Dulwich. The marriage was annulled ten years later in 1923.

St Stephen's Church, Dulwich
St Stephen’s Church, Dulwich

B He signed up for service in WWI on 22 June 1918 as an RAF Airman. He was discharged on 20 April 1920.

By WWII, Herbert was a resident of Berners Hotel, Berners Street, Marylebone, London.

Berners Hotel, Berners Street, Marylebone, London
Berners Hotel, Berners Street, Marylebone, London

On Sunday 18 June 1944 he was attending a service at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, Bird Cage Walk, Westminster, not far from Buckingham Palace. The congregation was a mixture of military and civilian worshippers and it has been suggested that the Guards Chapel had become the place to go to see and be seen by members of London high society, including lords and ladies, old Etonians, political figures and other well-known people.

The choir had just started the sung Eucharist when a V1 flying bomb hit the Chapel roof. It was a direct hit and the bomb completely destroyed the roof, its supporting walls and concrete pillars and the portico of the Chapel’s western door. 121 civillians and soldiers were killed and a further 141 others were seriously injured. It was the most serious V1 attack on London of the war.

Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks
Guards Chapel – The Sphere – Saturday 15 July 1944 Page 5

Amongst those killed were the officiating Chaplain at the Chapel,B Revd Ralph Whitrow, several senior military officers and Herbert, himself, aged 70. Those who were killed in the attack are remembered on a memorial stone contained in the now repaired and restored chapel, just inside the west entrance.

2 thoughts on “Herbert Vigers Caldicott – 1873 – 1944 – Died in WWII Bombing of Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London

  1. You can read more about the 124 victims of the Guards’ Chapel incident in my book, “Send More Shrouds”, published by Pen & Sword in April 2017. Herbert Vigers Caldicott was a member of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers; had he not been killed by enemy action in 1944, he was due to be appointed Master the following year.

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