Research Notes on Brigadier George Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys): The First South African-born Recipient of the Military Cross (MC)
I believe that Lieutenant George Frederick Pigot-Moodie may have been the First South African-born recipient of the newly-instituted Military Cross (MC).
It was on the 1 January 1915 that the London Gazette announced the introduction of a new decoration, the Military Cross (officially created on the 28 December 1914), to be awarded to officers (of the rank of captain and below) and warrant-officers who had distinguished themselves under fire.
Accompanying the Royal Warrant was a list of the first recipients of the Military Cross.
Among the names listed (in fact the seventh) was that of George Frederick Arthur Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Dragoons (The famous “Royal Scots Greys”), a native of South Africa.
G.F.A. Pigot-Moodie was Born in Cape Town on the 3 November 1888, the son of George Pigot-Moodie and Rose Spranger.
His father (a member of a well-established South African family) was a surveyor who at one time served as a member of the Legislative Council of the Cape Colony.
Like many South Africans’ at the time, Pigot-Moodie received most of his education in England, at Harrow School, and subsequently attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before being commissioned into the 2nd Dragoons, Royal Scots Greys, an illustrious regiment (formed in 1678) and the same regiment depicted in that most famous of military paintings, “Scotland Forever”, painted by Lady Butler and depicting the regiment’s capture of the French 45th Regiment's "Standard" during the Battle of Waterloo on the 18 June 1815.
Then came World War I, one of the greatest conflagrations known to man.
The Royal Scots Greys were to serve in France from the outset, and Lieutenant Pigot-Moodie with them, the Royal Scots Greys forming part of the 5th Cavalry Brigade (together with the 20th Hussars and 12th Lancers) of the 2nd Cavalry Division, under Major-General H.P. de la Gough.
It was during these very early days of the war that Pigot-Moodie distinguished himself, and was mentioned Field Marshal French’s Despatch, dated the 8 October 1914, which appeared in the supplement to the London Gazette (Dated 19 October 1914), and, as mentioned above, subsequently received the Military Cross (Supplement to the London Gazette, 1 January 1915, page 8), one of the very first recipients thereof and, as I have already mentioned, very possibly the first South African-born man to be so honoured.
But his military service was far from over, and he would end the war as a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel (substantive rank, Captain), attached to the Machine Gun Corps, but relinquished his temporary rank on ceasing to be employed with the MGC on the 5 June 1919.
He had in the interim accrued further honours, namely The Russian "Order of Saint Anne”, 2nd Class (London Gazette, .24 September 1915), which he had received while still serving with the Royal Scots Greys, and would continue to serve with his illustrious regiment during the post-war years, and commanded the Royal Scots Greys from 1932-1936, leading the regiment’s famous last ride through Scotland. He then retired from the British Army after many years of distinguished service, but was again “in the saddle” during the Second World War, although his command on that occasion was not that of a gleaming and resplendent cavalry regiment, but the command of a pioneer brigade.
Brigadier George Pigot-Moodie then retired from the British Army for the last time, and returned to southern Africa, residing with his sister, Minna, in Melsetter, Southen Rhodesia, until his death.
His personal life, however, was quite sad really, his brother, Charles Pigot-Moodie, being killed in the First World War, his wife, Alexandra Rhoda Astley, dying in April 1918, fairly shortly after their marriage, and his son, John Peter Pigot-Moodie, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, succumbing to wounds received on the 4 August 1940, having been wounded in action while serving aboard HMS Greyhound!
Here’s to a courageous man, who may (as I have asserted) very well have been the first South African-born man to receive the MC, and I sincerely hope he will be accorded his rightful place in Southern African military history.