Claude Vierville Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born at Heybridge, Maldon, Essex, on 25 January 1882. He was the seventh of nine children and fourth of five sons 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.
On 25 January 1900, just a few weeks after it was established, Vierville joined the Imperial Yeomanry, a volunteer light cavalry force, to serve in the war in South Africa. On the record he claimed to be 20 years old; he was actually 18. Two of his older brothers were already serving in the army, the other was in the navy.
Vierville was initially a trooper with the 21st Lancers but in February 1901 was appointed 2nd Lieutenant with the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment). He was made Lieutenant in 1903 and in 1904 became aide-de-camp to Sir D. W. Stewart, Commissioner, East Africa Protectorate.
From January 1906 to September 1909 he was employed with the King’s African Rifles. He was said to have spoken Swahili fluently. In 1908 he was tried and acquitted of the charge of causing the death of his native servant by a rash and negligent act.
In 1910 he was promoted to captain. From 1912 he served in the Special Reserve, a force established on 1 April 1908, responsible for maintaining a reservoir of manpower for the British Army and training replacement drafts in times of war.
On 19 July 1911 Vierville married Mary Nora Catherine McSloy on 19 July 1911 at the Brompton Oratory in Kensington, London. They had one daughter together, Mary Charmian Sara Champion de Crespigny (1914 – 1967).
In December 1916 he was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal, with rank equivalent to staff captain. He was promoted to major in 1917. In December 1918 he incurred the Army Council’s displeasure when he turned a water hose on men who were attempting to rush the doors of the Albert Hall during a boxing tournament. He was demobilised in July 1919.
In June 1919 he sailed for Canada with his wife and daughter intending to settle there. They lived on a ranch near the remote settlement of Wilmer, British Columbia. However, Vierville left in December 1920 and returned to England.
In February 1921 he joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC). With the RIC, the Auxiliary Division was disbanded in 1922.
In February 1924 Vierville was appointed game ranger, at a salary of £300, in the Game Preservation department of the Tanganyika Territory Government.
In March 1924 his wife divorced him.
On 6 December 1924 at Mombassa in present day Kenya, Vierville married for a second time to Elspie Madge Salmon, daughter of the Rev. Frank and Mrs Salmon of Langton rectory, Blandford.
Probate was granted to his widow in March 1928. His effects were less than £350. Elsie later lived with his brother Raul at Champion Lodge, Essex, acting as his housekeeper.
Vierville’s four brothers:
- Claude de Crespigny 1873 – 1910
- Claude Raul: Raul de Crespigny the 5th baronet
- Claude Philip: The sailor and the princess
- Claude Norman: C is for Compiègne on 1 September 1914