b. 24/03/1909 Ashmansworth, Hampshire. d. 22/09/1944 Rangoon, Burma.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 02/1943-22/09/1944 Burma.
Hugh Paul Seagrim (1909-1944) was born on 24th March 1909 at The Vicarage, Ashmansworth, Hampshire, the son of Reverend Charles Paulet Conyngham and Annabel Emma Halstead Seagrim (nee Skipper). His mother originally came from Eastbourne in Sussex. Hugh had four elder brothers, Charles, Cyril, Derek and Jack. His brother Derek would also be killed in action during the Second World War, receiving the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions in Tunisia in March 1943. Therefore, the Seagrim brothers are the only to date to receive the VC and GC.
Hugh attended Norwich Grammar School as a boarder in the lower school and then the King Edward VI, Norwich, along with his brothers Derek and Jack. Although none of the boys were academically minded, they were all talented sportsmen. Hugh was particularly good at football, playing goalkeeper for Norwich City Reserves. It helped that he was 6ft 4in in height, hence his later nickname of “Grandfather Longlegs”.
On leaving school, Hugh entered Sandhurst and was commissioned on 31st January 1929, becoming a Lieutenant on 30th April 1931. Hugh’s first appointment was to the 5th/6th Rajputana Rifles on 9th August 1931 and transferred to the Kumaon Rifles on 1st April 1937. He was promoted to Captain and became attached to the Burma Rifles in 1940-1941. After a period back in England at the Staff College, he returned to Burma during the retreat.
Hugh was a member of a small patrol that operated behind enemy lines in Burma in 1943. He became the leader of a group known as Force 136, which included two other British officers and a Karen officer. They were operating in the Karen Hills. Towards the end of 1943 the presence of this group became known to the Japanese, who commenced a widespread campaign of arrests and torture in order to discover their whereabouts. In February 1944 the British officers (Nimmo and McCrindle) were ambushed and killed. The capture of their equipment furnished the enemy with the information they required about Seagrim's activities and they redoubled their efforts to capture him. The Japanese arrested at least 270 Karens, many of whom were tortured and killed. In spite of this, the Karens continued to help and shelter Seagrim, but the enemy managed to convey a message that if he surrendered, they would cease reprisals. Seagrim gave himself up on 15th March 1944 to stop the reprisals.
He was taken to Rangoon, along with other members of the group, and on 2nd September 1944, he was sentenced to death, along with 8 others. Seagrim attempted at the court-martial to ask for clemency for his colleagues and for just him to be executed. The plea was ignored. Up to the time of the executions, Seagrim conducted prayers, reading from the Bible, and stated “If we die with him (Jesus), we shall also live with him”. He was executed on 22nd September 1944, aged 35, not 40 as his headstone in Rangoon War Cemetery erroneously stated until 2005.
Hugh was recommended for a posthumous GC, with the citation published in the London Gazette on 12th September 1946. He was also awarded the DSO and MBE for his service in Burma. His medals are displayed alongside his brothers in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum. There is a memorial to both brothers unveiled at Whissonett Churchyard on 30th June 1985. The village sign also contains images of the two brothers in the centre.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON
BURIAL PLACE: RANGOON WAR CEMETERY, RANGOON, BURMA.
PLOT 4 ROW A, COLLECTIVE GRAVE 13-20.
Hugh Seagrim's medals on display next to his brother Derek's in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (December 2014).
Memorial to the Seagrim brothers at Whissonsett Church, Norfolk.
Seagrim Road, Bournemouth
Whissonsett Village Sign including the Seagrim brothers in the centre.
Picture of Hugh Seagrim's grave courtesy of Mick McCann of British War Graves Website.