No.2817 Private Stanley Higgins
Stanley Higgins was born in 1890 to James Higgins and Mary Jane Walker at Rutherglen, Victoria. His parents having married in Victoria in 1884.
His siblings were:
- Ernest Higgins - born 1885
- Frederick Higgins - born 1887 (also served in WW1)
- Rubinia Higgins - born 1889
- Rebecca Higgins - born 1892
- Charley Higgins - born 1894
- Pearl Higgins - born 1896
- Percy Higgins - born 1897
- Alma Higgins - born 1900
Stanley Higgins enlisted in the A.I.F. at Melbourne on 5 July 1915, and was sent to the Army Base at Seymour, for initial training. This was his second attempt to enlist, as he had previously been rejected because of his chest measurement. After two weeks training, he was appointed as a Private with the 7th Infantry Battalion, 9th Reinforcements, on 19 July 1915.
The 7th Infantry Battalions (9th to 12th Reinforcements) embarked from Melbourne on 10 September 1915, per H.M.A.T. Star of Victoria A16 and disembarked in Egypt for further training.
On 4 December 1915, Private Stanley Higgins sailed from Alexandria to the ANZAC Advance Base at the port of Mudros, where he joined his Battalion. It was there, on 7 December 1915, that he was taken on Strength with the 7th Battalion A.I.F., from the 9th reinforcements.
The ANZAC force withdrew from the Gallipoli Peninsula several weeks later, on 19 and 20 December 1915, so it is unlikely that Stanley landed there.
Stanley Higgins was admitted to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital at Mudros on 6 January 1916, suffering with influenza. The weather at this time of the year was very cold. Four days later, on 10 January 1916, he was classified Class A, and discharged back to the Advance Depot.
He re-joined his unit at Giza on 21 January 1916, but had not fully recovered. He had gotten wet whilst returning to Alexandria, and had developed rheumatism in his legs and hips which was treated by the 2nd Australian General Hospital on 25 January 1916. Stanley was then transferred to the A. & N.Z. Convalescent Hospital at Helouan on 10 February 1916 where he remained until 5 March 1916, when he re-joined his Battalion at Serapeum.
On 26 March 1916, the 7th Battalion embarked from Alexandria per H.M.A.T. Megantic, to join the B.E.F. on the Western Front. They were joined on the voyage by the 8th Battalion.
During the voyage, Stanley Higgins was charged with absenting himself from the morning parade, and was awarded 3 days in detention. This was later remitted. The unit’s war diary states that the seas were rough during the voyage, and about two thirds of the officers and men were sea-sick. The Battalion disembarked at Marseilles on 31 March 1916, and proceeded by train to the La Chreche area.
Several days later, on 4 April 1916, he was charged again. This time it was for being absent from the retreat roll call at La Creche. His punishment this time was 2 days in detention, which was remitted. The Battalion had yet to see action.
On 6 July 1916, the 7th Battalion were located at Neuve-Eglise. Stanley Higgins was charged with being absent without leave "In the Field" for seven hours. His punishment was a forfeiture of 29 days pay.
On 18 August 1916, the 7th Battalion took over the front line at Pozieres, between Tramway and Bapaume Road. Stanley Higgins was slightly wounded in action, but remained on duty. On the following day he was admitted to the 2nd Field Ambulance suffering with shell shock. They passed him to the A.R. Station, and on the following day, he returned to duty.
The practice of tunneling under enemy trenches was used extensively on the Western Front. On 23 August 1916, Stanley Higgins was attached to the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company in France. This was not to last, and he was Struck off Strength, "In the Field", two months later, on 16 October 1916, and returned to the 7th Battalion.
His next charge for absenteeism occurred on 18 November 1916. While "In the Field", he was absent from his billet at the tattoo roll call. His punishment was a forfeiture of 3 days pay. This was the day that the Battalion moved from Ribemont to St. Vast.
A further charge for absenteeism occurred on 20 November 1916. That day was occupied with training in practice trenches. Many men were granted leave in Amiens, and perhaps Private Higgins went with them. Stanley was charged with being absent without leave from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m., and he was fined with the loss of 31 days’ pay.
Private Stanley Higgins was granted leave in England in May 1917. Whilst there, he was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital at Bristol. Condition N.Y.D. [This could be a recurrence of his earlier case of shell shock] He remained there until 24 May 1917, when he was discharged back to his unit in France. He re-joined the 7th Battalion at Bois d’ Henencourt on 31 May 1917 where the Battalion was involved in training duties.
Between 23 October and 31 October 1917, the 7th Battalion moved from Ypres to the front line. 'A' Company went to Anzac Ridge; 'B' Company to Tokio; and 'C' and 'D' Companies to Westhoek Ridge.
During this action, Private Stanley Higgins received a special citation from the Army on 31 October 1917. The Army Corps Commander expressed appreciation of the gallant services rendered during the recent Operations, 31 October 1917 in Belgium. This citation was promulgated in Australian Military Order No 11, dated 12 January 1918. He was also recommended for a Military Medal, but this didn’t eventuate.
The citation for the Military Medal states "Near YPRES on 8/9th October 1917, displayed great courage and devotion to duty under heavy shell fire. As a scout and runner he successfully carried forward important messages from Bn. Pers. to forward Coys." Signed by Lieut Col Harrod, Commanding 7th Aus Bn. Recommended by Lieut Harris, Adj, 7th Bn.
Stanley was admitted to hospital twice at the end of 1917. First for 5 days between 7 and 11 November, and then for two weeks between 29 December 1917 and 4 January 1918. He was treated by the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance for laryngitis.
His service record is then uneventful until September 1918. He went absent without leave overnight on 7 September 1918, and was awarded three days loss of pay.
Between 25 October 1918 and 14 November 1918, he enjoyed a leave break in England, before being detached to the Australian Comforts Fund. He was in London on 11 November 1918, when the Armistice was declared, but returned to his Battalion in France.
He left the A.F.B.D. at Havre in France on 24 January 1919, to begin his return to Australia. Private Higgins embarked from England per Suffolk on 12 April 1919, for return to Australia.
After arriving home, he was discharged from 3 M.D. on 28 July 1919.
In October 1923, he advised the Army that he was living in Corowa, New South Wales.
In 1925, Stanley Higgins died at Corowa, New South Wales. The index to his death records that his mother was Mary J. Higgins.
His death was reported in The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 30 January 1925, p.2.
Medals & Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
1. The name "Higgins, S." first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 13 February 1919, p.3.
2. SS Megantic was an ocean liner built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast, and operated by the White Star Line. The ship was attacked by a German U-boat during World War I, but survived. Megantic was taken out of service in 1931 and scrapped in 1933.
3. N.Y.D.N. : Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous (medical term for suspected shell shock)
4. A copy of the Recommendation for a Military Medal is at https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1627868/
Federation Index of Victoria 1889-1901 CD
Pioneer Index of Victoria 1836-1888 CD