Private James Higgins
Unit : Signals Platoon, Headquarters Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 2044354
James "Jim" Higgins was born on the 10th May 1921 at 8 Sussex Place, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, to William and Susan (Nelly) Higgins. He was the youngest of seven children; five sisters and a brother, Harry. Numerous tragedies befell the family in Jim's early years; his father, a veteran of the First World War, died of tuberculosis on the 2nd February 1923, and Harry died on the 28th March 1930, aged 26, as a result of a mining accident. After his mother also died on the 11th June 1933, the children were raised by an aunt in a "two up two down" terraced house.
Jim worked as a miner and also became a Royal Engineer in the Territorial Army on the 6th September 1937. Placed on the reserve at the outbreak of war, he joined the North Staffordshire Regiment on the 24th March 1941. On the 29th July of that year he was transferred to the South Staffordshires, then the South Lancashire Regiment on the 18th June 1942, before finally settling at the Army Air Corps on the 19th October 1942, when he volunteered for service with the Parachute Regiment. Having completed his training at Chesterfield, he qualified as a parachutist on the 10th November. Family tragedy struck once more on the following day; Jim's brother-in-law died, aged 35.
Jim Higgins embarked for North Africa on the 10th December 1942, joining the 2nd Parachute Battalion as a Signaller on the 8th January 1943. He participated in the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before returning to England on the 9th December 1943. On the 27th May 1944, he married Elizabeth May Pimlot at Fenton.
In September 1944, Jim Higgins took part in the Battle of Arnhem and was killed in action on Tuesday 19th September, aged 23. He was at first reported missing, and the family was not informed of his death until the 31st July 1945. Two of his friends visited his aunt after the war, but she never spoke of what passed between them. Jim's grave has never been found, but his name is recorded on Panel 9 of the Groesbeek Memorial.
His nephew, Andrew Brown, visited Arnhem with his wife in September 2009, and, on the 65th Anniversary of his death, laid a wreath on the memorial together with a photograph of Jim which had accompanied an article in a local newspaper.
My thanks to Andrew Brown for this account.
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