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HIGGS, Horace

Horace Higgs also known as “Jerry” was born on the 8th March 1884 in Birmingham, England[6]. He migrated to Australia with his family when he was aged about seven years. He joined the South Australian Police Force on the 1st March 1907, after active military service in the South African Boer War. He had enlisted as an eighteen-year-old Australian with the First Commonwealth Horse on the 6th June 1902. Before Federation Australians served in the Boer war as members of the military forces of the Australian State, in which they had enlisted. Later on his enlistment attestation form, Horace stated that he had also served in the South African Constabulary. Five foot eight inches tall, Horace as a member of the South Australian Police transferred on 1st July 1908 to the Northern Territory. At that time, the Northern Territory was still part of South Australia. He arrived in Darwin on the 14th July 1908. Later that month he commenced duties at Borroloola, remaining there until 30th August 1910. From the 8th December 1911 to 9th September 1912, he was stationed at Katherine. He is recorded as being stationed in Darwin from December 1912, until his departure back to Adelaide on the 21st December 1913. During that period he was also appointed acting Officer of Customs. Horace returned to the South Australian Police after serving out his five-year secondment in the Northern Territory. Life in the’ Top End’ must have been appealing as Horace returned to the Northern Territory Police Force on the 20th August 1914. The transfer to the Commonwealth of the administration of the NT and with it, its police had taken place in 1911. Therefore, it is supposed that Horace would have had to resign from the South Australian Police Force before joining the Northern Territory Police Force. He commenced duties in Pine Creek on the 5th October 1914. It is not known when he left Pine Creek or the Northern Territory. He is recorded as being on duty at Pine Creek Police Station on 16th April 1915. He signed the prisoner record book in Katherine on 15th March 1915. He may well have transferred the prisoner from Pine Creek to Katherine for Court proceedings. The NT Times and Gazette reported in its 17 June 1915 edition on page 8. “Constable Horace Higgs had the misfortune to break one of his legs on Friday last, the 11th instant. He was riding into Darwin, and when near Dr. Jensen’s residence his horse crossed its legs and fell heavily upon him.” Trooper John Johns (Lewis.1998. p.78) commonly known as Jack Johns, made mention of meeting Horace Higgs in Darwin just before Horace transferred to Leichardt’s Bar in his book ‘patrolling the ‘Big Up’. ‘On my return home I was advised by the next mail that Trooper Horace Higgs (Jerry Higgs) was to be my successor at Leichhardt’s Bar. Jerry Higgs had been a trumpeter. Before leaving Darwin to come to Roper River, he was thrown from a horse and broke his leg. I therefore had to handover to Trooper Hunt. I handed over my plant at Pine Creek and at last reached Darwin. Here I met Trooper Higgs. He went out to Leichardts bar, shortly afterwards.’ In any event, Horace left the Northern Territory and moved to Mount Gambier, South Australia, where on the 6th April 1916 he enlisted as No. 3707, with the ninth Reinforcements of the Fifth Pioneer Battalion. On his attestation papers, he listed his occupation as ‘Mounted Constable’ and recorded his wife Mary and one child[7] as his dependents. As a veteran of the Boer war, Horace knew the risks of engaging in military service. Added to his personal experience of combat, was the knowledge that his 48-year-old father Private John Higgs, No. 1108 of the Twelfth (South Australia / Tasmania) Battalion had already been killed in action. His family were advised that he was killed by a shot to the forehead on the 26th April 1915[8], the day after he landed on Gallipoli. Policing was family tradition as John Higgs file states that he was a Constable in Adelaide prior to his enlistment. Between the 30th August 1916 and the 24th October 1916, Horace attended and passed a School of Instruction for Candidates for Commissions in the Australian Imperial Force. There are no official records of him being commissioned as a Lieutenant as reported in the place names extract of the Northern Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure. His personal records held by the Australian Archives show him to have been a private at the time of his death. His embarkation for active service took place on the 10th February 1917 when he boarded HMAT Sesang Bee, A48. Disembarkation took place in Devonport, England on the 2nd May 1917. Horace was appointed as an acting Sergeant in the 10th [South Australian Battalion] [5th Pioneer Battalion[9]] in France on 26th July 1917. He reverted to the rank Private after the period of acting higher duties ceased on 11th August 1917. On the 7th October 1917, Horace was initially reported as missing in action. Later that day he was recorded as having died of wounds. He was buried in Polygon Woods. He is officially commemorated in the 112 Hooge Crater Cemetery Zillebeke Belgium and on Panel 59 at the Australian War Memorial Canberra. Horace remained on the Missing in Action list until the Major, Officer i/c Base Records in a letter a copy of which is attached to his personal file, dated 23rd September 1918, officially advised his wife Mary of his fate.‘ With reference to the report of the regrettable loss of your husband the late No.3707 Private H. Higgs, 10th Battalion. I am now in receipt of advice, which shows that he was buried by a high explosive shell burst in support line of the Battalion on 7/10/17. He was dug out by his comrades and carried to Reg. Aid Post. He was then in a semi conscious condition and died on the way down. His body is reported to have been buried near Battalion Headquarters, near Polygon Wood.’ According to the Northern Territory Department of Planning and Infrastructure, Place Names Register, Higgs Street in the Darwin suburb of Moil, was registered on the 25th September 1968, to honour his memory. Horace Higgs was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres also known as Paschendale. The battle was characterised by some significant advances by the Australians but memorialised by the horrendous suffering and huge casualties, which occurred after heavy rain, drenched the battlefield turning it into a debilitating field of deep mud in which some of the wounded were drowned. The Australian component of the fighting occurred in the successive battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood [Where Horace was killed] and Broodseine. On the evening of the 3rd of October 1917 in accordance with a Tenth battalion’s operational order[i], the Battalion with Horace in its ranks moved into the front line.

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