Private Hugh Higgins



Hugh Higgins was born on 21 May 1897 at 53 Rosebery Road, Belfast, the second of three children of linen trade book-keeper John Higgins and his wife Mary Jane (nee Martin). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his parents, siblings and grandmother at 216 Ravenhill Avenue, Belfast. He later worked as a grocer and shop assistant for the firm John Rea Ltd of 34 Ann Street, Belfast.

Higgins enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 27 December 1916 (No.2337). On 14 May the following year he embarked for France, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was disbanded and most of its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the infantry. The majority, including Higgins, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September. Higgins was issued a new regimental number – 41373 – and posted to B Company. He probably saw action with the battalion in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Higgins was one of the many reported as missing following the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. On 27 March he was among those forced to surrender at Erches, near Roye, when they were overwhelmed by the fast-moving German advance. It was not until May that his family received a postcard from him informing them he had been captured, but was well.

Red Cross records show that he was held at Giessen then Limburg. He was released soon after the Armistice, arriving in Hull on 27 November 1918. He was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 25 February 1919.

Later that year Higgins claimed a pension for rheumatism "caused by working in [a] wet German coal mine", and dysentery "caused by bad German food". His claim was partially accepted and he received payment until 1921.

Higgins later emigrated to Australia. On 12 October 1927 he married May Victoria Jean Badger at the Baptist Church, St Peters, Adelaide. He died in Adelaide in 1992 and is buried in Centennial Park Cemetery.


Higgins's older brother, John Martin Higgins, also served in the war, as an officer in the 5th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.


Image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (