Stories from the graves in Cuckfield - Ralph Wigram

We continue our series of features looking into the lives of those buried in Holy Trinity Church yard by telling the story of foreign office informant Ralph Wigram. Known as the ‘great unsung hero’ of the Second World War, Wigram, at great personal risk, kept Churchill informed in detail on German rearmament during the 1930s.

By Claire Cooper

Ralph Follett Wigram was born on 23rd October 1890, at Egginton House, Bedfordshire, the only son of retired army officer Eustace Rochester Wigram and Mary Grace Bradford-Atkinson. He was also the grandson of the Right Reverend Joseph Cotton Wigram, Bishop of Rochester and had a younger sister, Isabel.

Wigram was educated at Eton and University College, Oxford where he obtained a second class degree in Modern History. While at university he was a keen ‘boatie’ and records show he was cox for the Second Torpid and Second Eight of 1920 and the First Torpid and Second Eight of 1911.

When he left Oxford in 1912 he spent time working in a boys’ club in the east end of London, was also a scout master and taught at the working man’s college, later lecturing in economics at Leeds University. He is described as gentle and shy with ‘an arc of hair falling forwards, cutting across his forehead like an English knight’.

When the First World War broke out he wanted passionately to join the army and serve on the front line, but was turned down.

In 1916 Wigram travelled to Washington DC where he was employed as a temporary secretary at the British Embassy. In September 1919 he passed into the Foreign Office where, as Third Secretary in the central department, he acquired an expert knowledge of the peace settlement and attended many of the post war conferences in France, Italy, and Belgium.

{This is just an excerpt from the full article published in the February 2017 issue of Cuckfield Life magazine - available in shops and Haywards Heath Sainsburys from 14th February.}