Higgins, Arthur James

Arthur James Higgins was born in the March quarter of 1883 in Walsall (Staffordshire Vol 6b Page 751).   His parents, Arthur Higgins and Fanny Elizabeth Richards had married in the September quarter of 1882 (Walsall, Vol. 6b Page 904)

On the 1891 census he was with his family at 21 Orlando Street, Walsall, Staffordshire. The head of the household, Arthur (Senior), 36 was a ‘Chain Front Maker & Metal Worker’ who had been born in Walsall. His wife Fanny Elizabeth Higgins 29 was originally from Dawley Bank in Shropshire. Their children were Arthur Jas 8, Fanny Elsie 6, Martha E.A 4 and John E. was 1.

The family were to devastated and split up on the death of Arthur senior who died in the June quarter of 1893, age 38. (Staffordshire Vo. 6b, Page 413).   However Fanny was to remarry to Thomas Pearson in the March quarter of 1896 (Wolverhampton Vol. 6b Page 640).  They were to go on and have 3 other children, half siblings to Arthur.

Arthur was living with his Uncle & Aunt, Fanny’s brother and his wife, at No 2, No 9 Court, Off High Street, Connahs Quay, Flintshire on the 1901 census. They were Thomas A. Richards, 31 and wife Mary A 34. In the household were their 5 children and a mother in law. There were three Boarders and their nephew Arthur Higgins 18, an Ironworker.

The 1911 census sees Arthur still with his Aunt and Uncle Thomas & Mary, but living at, 1 Brook St Connah’s Quay, Flintshire and classed as a Boarder, Arthur Higgins 27, Single, and an ‘Opener’ in the Galvanised Sheet Mills. Arthur was one of 4 Boarders, all working in the Sheet Mills. The Richards family had expanded with 2 extra children.   Arthur’s brother John, mentioned on the CWGC Certificate was living with his Grandparents, John & Martha Richards in Wolverhampton.  His sister Fanny Elsie, 18, was a servant to a Publican in Wolverhampton.

On the 1901 census Arthur’s mother Fanny Elizabeth Pearson and her husband Thomas were living at 2 Back 62 Back Street, Bilston, Staffs, with their 2 children Joseph, 4, and Ida M. Pearson,2, but also living there was Arthur’s other sister Elizabeth, 14 as Thomas’s Step-daughter.   The 1911 census find

Arthur’s mother Fanny Elizabeth Pearson and her husband Thomas living at 15, Oldbury Road, West West Bromwich, Staffordshire, by the 1911 census, and they had been married 15 years and 3 children had been born, Joseph, 14, Ida M., 12, the last child born to them was Sidney Thomas, 9, still living, Fanny filled in and signed the census form.

Arthur Higgins in the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 does not tell us where his first Theatre of War was nor when he entered it.

UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 about Arthur Higgins confirms his regimental information above and also tell us that he was born in Walsall and enlisted in Shotton.

Arthur Higgins in the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 tells us that Arthur’s last thoughts were for his siblings, they were probably not far from his thoughts, as this document tells us that the Legatees were sister Elizabeth Higgins (Crossed off and Hampton written), sister Elsie Darly (or Darby) and brother John, who each received £12. 6s 4d on the 22nd March 1920.

His sister Elizabeth Hampton or his mother’s side of the family, the Richards, were probably instrumental in making sure his name was included on this memorial as he had spent so much time here, they were also living in Connah’s Quay.

Thanks to Alun Griffiths for helping with the story:-
grifflyons62  Nov 21, 2015

Daisy is my Grandmother and her mother (my Great Grandmother) is Martha Elizabeth Ann Hampton (nee Higgins). I do have a photo of Arthur James Higgins and also copies of letters he wrote from the front line along with a picture of his death penny. I would be willing to let you have copies of the items I have.
Regards, Alun

Transcription of letter show below:-

Alun sent me a 6 page letter:- May 10

Dear Liz, I am writing at last but it is as you say I have been having a hot time of it,’ not arf’ & I am luck to be alive.   Perhaps you have heard of the battle of Arras, and the fighting around that quarter, well I have been through all that, & Oppy Wood.    I have been in that but Fritz made us hop it out again.   Well Liz it is bloody Hell let loose, & thousands of men are going under, & legs & arm, & heads are all over the place, it is a marvel how one keeps sane.   Well I am allright (sic), for another couple of weeks, as we have been relieved for a rest, that is, what is left of us, & that is not many.   My gun got blown up by a shell, ammunition and all the spare parts & my four men with them, so you see I am a bit lucky.  “Ha Ha”    Well Liz I am going to spend that 2/6d now & also that 2/- that Joe sent, I ain’t had a chance before, (fancy having 5/6 in your pocket in the trenches) so I’ll get a drop of that tiger piss tonight, some fags & a biscuit or two & I expect we’ll get some pay this week, 5 or 10 francs so I am going to have a blow out & also a girl or two, as there is a few in the village where we are, stomping (or stopping) (jig a jig tre bon monsieur,) how do you like my French, ask Bill to get it in English, & tell him I’d be glad to be helping him to dig that plot, as I have had some digging to do out here, I have been buried twice this last lap, & I’ve managed to scramble out, but my 4 mates were smashed, oh it is a bloody game, & if the censor opens this, I’ll be for it so write straight back & I’ll know you’ve had it, ain’t got much more to say, only that I am in the pink, so hoping you are all the same, I remain, your loving Brother, Sag*.   * Possibly family nickname of unknown origin.   (Faded red ink) Just a bit more, I’ve been out and bought an (word on a crease) ???ing ink pencil 5d and this is how it writes, same as everything we have out here, you can see nothing for your money.

(Black lead pencil) I’ll carry on with Black Lead, ha ha, that’s better.   We are getting plenty to eat again, you see it is when we advance some, that we don’t get any, the transport cannot get up to us, and never mind if I made a mistake in the date, we don’t know what day it is, until we are our ou of the line, & I smoke the envelope, for a fag, & the paper off the jam tins, ha ha, we ain’t arf civilised on this job, myes (sic), I think I’m as cheerful as the next as I am singing all the time & the shells are bursting everywhere around, & we have been specially praised by the General, for the magnificent way we have fought & conducted ourselves, in attacking and gaining the strongest fortified positions, that the Germans thought impregnable, but at what a cost ( bad job the poor buggers could not have been there to have heard it) so if I go under, you can bet tell my friends that I died fighting & as cool as the snowball that Griffiths used to call me.   Well Liz, if you get this you might send it our Jack, as perhaps I should not get another one through, & the Lord knows when I’ll get another of these envelopes & I like him to know where I’ve been, or write & tell him.

Many thanks to Alun for sharing these with us, and in doing so gives us all a little insight to what the men and boys went through and also Arthur’s character, it seems he always tried to so cheerful, even in those awful days, he saw a bright side, bless him.

Arthur James was mentioned on the Absent Voter’s List of 1919 – 2860   HIGGINS, Arthur  9 Butler Street.   54578 Pte., 21/M.G.C., B.E.F. (Died 18/9/18)    (The number that Arthur was listed on the 1918 list of the same name – 5486)

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Connahs Quay and Shotton War Memorial

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