Claude Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born in London on 11 September 1873. He was the oldest of nine children of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana, Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell. The five sons of the fourth baronet were all given the first name Claude. The younger four sons each had a middle name: Raul, Philip, Vierville, Norman.
Claude was sent to Eton College, and from there to the Army College at Aldershot. On 13 April 1891 he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment, joining the 2nd Life Guards on 3rd July 1895.
Claude served in the South African war, and was mentioned twice in despatches, once for special bravery at Rensburg, where he saved the life of a wounded trooper by mounting him on his own horse. For this he was recommended for (though not awarded) the Victoria Cross. On 3 February 1900 Claude was promoted to captain. A month later on 7 March in the Battle of Poplar Grove—a rout for the Boers—he was severely wounded. In 1901 he was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his services in South Africa.
From December 1900 to January 1902 he served as aide-de-camp to Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India. In 1903 he was appointed to the British colonial garrison West African Frontier Force in Southern Nigeria. There he was again wounded.
Claude was an accomplished polo player, on his regiment’s team until his retirement from the army in 1909. In 1907 and 1908 his team the Leopards won the Roehampton Cup, in England the game’s most prestigious trophy. In 1909 he played for England against Ireland, and in 1910, for the English Hurlingham Club touring the United States.
On 18 May 1910 Claude, then thirty-seven, was discovered dead by the side of the road at Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire. A friend lived nearby. The coroner found that Claude had killed himself in a temporary fit of madness which may have been caused by influenza and repeated heavy falls while playing polo. The New York Times however, noted that he had been named as co-respondent in a divorce case, and speculated that Claude had believed the only way to save the woman’s name and honour was to commit suicide. This explanation was not offered at the inquest.
Two of Claude’s younger brothers: