A Poppy
A Poppy

Memorials & Monuments
on the Isle of Wight
- CWGC Headstones -
- Brighstone St Mary the Virgin Cemetery -
- Edward Higgins -


In St Mary the Virgin Cemetery, Brighstone, Isle of Wight

Private headstone. Additional inscription.

Brighstone St Mary : Higgins
Brighstone St Mary : Higgins


Further Information CWGC record ...

Edward Higgins had previously served in HM Coastguard. According to the Isle of Wight Mercury of 13th March 1914, he had "been in the office of the Ventnor Coastguard Station for the past few years, [and] left the town yesterday, having been attached to the Coastguard at Southsea."

He was born at Charles, Devon, on 11 April 1874, and attested for service in the Royal Navy in 1892. He served with the Coastguard from 1901 to 1914 when he was re-assigned to the Royal Navy on the outbreak of the Great War.

He married Bertha Elizabeth Hawker in 1902 at St Mary's Church in Brighstone. They had 2 children.


Friday, June 9, 1916 Page 1

The casualties in the great Naval battle of May 31st include a good number of Isle of Wight men and others having relatives on the Island. We regret to hear of the death of one or two Ventnor men, and desire to express the deepest condolence with the families. Sub-Lieut. Eynon Ll. Jones, R.N.R. who went down in the Indefatigable, was the only son of Mr. and the late Mrs. Evan Jones, formerly of Trentham, Spring Gardens. Able Seaman Walter Burden, of the Queen Mary, whose name appears in the list of casualties on that ship, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. S. Burden, Longdown, Ventnor. Leading Seaman E. Higgins is supposed to have been on the Tipperary. He was a coastguard at Ventnor for several years, and had a wide circle of friends in the town. Seaman George White, son of the late Petty Officer E.G. White and of Mrs. Snow, of Temperance Cottage, Bonchurch, was killed in action in the recent Naval battle. His father was on H.M.S. Bruiser when he volunteered for special service boat's crew and was drowned at Smyrna 16 years ago. He was buried at Smyrna. Among the saved on the Queen Mary is Midshipman J.L. Storey, whose sister is the matron at Elm Dene, St. Lawrence. He spent shore leave here recently.


Friday, June 16, 1916 Page 1

The name of Leading Seaman E. Higgins was on Monday included in the official list of those lost on H.M.S. Tipperary. As we stated last week, Mr. Higgins was attached to the Coastguard at Ventnor for several years. He was a frequent singer at local social gatherings and much respected for his generosity of character and good nature. The deepest sympathy has been extended to his young wife and family.


Edward Higgins was born in Plymouth in 1873 and joined the Navy in 1887. On completing his training he went to Australia and the South Seas, and later Galapagos, just two of many voyages. By 1901 he was an Able Boatman and was eligible to take the option of entering the Coastguard Service.

He served as a coastguard in Ventnor and Brighstone, where he met his wife Lizzie Hawker. They married in 1902 and lived in the Coastguard Cottages, Brighstone. Their children Sydney and Winifred were born in 1906 and 1910.

Lizzie was the daughter of Job Hawker, landlord of New Inn, Brighstone (now the Three Bishops). Job was landlord from about 1880 until he died in 1923 when his daughter Maggie took over until about 1960.

Edward was sent to Southsea as a coastguard shortly before the outbreak of war and the family followed. As a naval seaman and Leading Boatman, Edward was recalled to active service when war was declared.

Lizzie returned to her family at New Inn to live and bring up the children in the security of village life. Here she lived with her parents, Job and Lucy, and her sister Maggie. It was a large family; Job and Lucy had nine children. Other sisters lived nearby or visited. Sid and Win went to Brighstone school and were in Brighstone Scouts and Guides and the church choir.

Edward served on HMS Edgar July-Dec 1914, serving in the North Sea as part of the Northern Patrol blockade of Germany. Its purpose was to prevent ships carrying raw materials and supplies from reaching Germany by blocking the exits to the North Sea. It was a hostile environment and Edward would have experienced severe winter storms. As he already had gunnery and torpedo training, it is likely he was manning munitions against enemy ships.

Six months of shore based duties in Portsmouth at HMS Vernon followed, probably further torpedo training. It is hoped that during this time he was able to visit his family at home in Brighstone, for in June 1915 he joined HMS Tipperary.

HMS Tipperary had only been launched three months earlier and had been built at Cowes by JS White. However Tipperary spent most of 1915 in dock as the result of two accidents. The first being a collision with a British submarine off Harwich, which resulted in a huge rent being torn in the side of the destroyer. Then, just a few weeks after coming out of dock, whilst leaving Harwich Harbour on a dark night and in a strong tideway, it ran aground in order to avoid colliding with a light cruiser. It remained in dock under repair until the beginning of May 1916 when it finally joined the Grand Fleet.

She lead the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916, when the Grand Fleet fought Germany's High Seas Fleet with devastating losses on both sides. Contact was made during the afternoon and towards midnight Tipperary was hit by fire from the German dreadnought Westphalian. Her bridge was destroyed and fire soon spread to fuel oil and ammunition. The crew of the aft gun continued to fire until the last man was killed.

We may never know how Edward met his death. Was he killed by enemy fire? Did he burn in the wreckage? Did he jump into the sea or manage to get a place on a life raft, only to drown later? Only the statistics are certain: of the 197 crew members of HMS Tipperary, 185 died (11 officers and 174 men) 8 men were taken prisoner and 4 wounded men were saved by British forces.

A few of the survivors of her crew took to life-saving rafts - the boats had all been smashed up by gunfire - and others just swam off to take their chances in the sea, for the rafts would not hold all who were left. Eight men on a life raft were rescued by a German torpedo boat and taken prisoner. HMS Sparrowhawk picked up four wounded survivors.

In Brighstone, news of Tipperary's fate probably first reached Edward's family via newspaper reports. The Daily Mirror reported the losses on 3rd June. Word would have spread quickly around the village with New Inn at its centre.

The first official letter to Lizzie, dated 6th June, stated Edward was believed to have lost his life. It may not have reached her at once as it was posted to Southsea. At any rate, she wrote to the Admiralty concerning her husband's fate. Her hopes must have been cruelly raised by the reply of 16th June stating that 7 prisoners were held by the Germans and their names were as yet unknown. It was not until the 28th of June that Lizzie was finally told that her husband was not one of the prisoners and must be assumed dead.

Villagers no doubt helped to comfort and support Lizzie, Sid and Winnie. She kept the letters of condolence from Rev Silver and his wife and from the children's Sunday School teacher, Margaret Preston.

Lizzie died at New Inn in 1929 aged 47. Sid and Win both married, had a son each and lived out their lives in Brighstone. Edward's great granddaughter still lives in the village.

Letters Home

Edward was a good letter writer and wrote home every few days at the beginning of the war. His letters were always cheerful and uncomplaining as men were instructed to be, but he often said he was waiting for a letter from Lizzie. No doubt her two young children and the pub kept her busy at home. Lizzie would post him the County Press, and he asked for apples to be sent.
4th September 1914, Edward writes that Shurn Downer was on his ship (HMS Edgar) and they had had a yarn. (Shurn was the nickname of Frederick Aaron Downer who later worked for the Wykehams at Pitt Place and spent the rest of his life in Brighstone.) He writes that they cannot understand why Fred Baker (also of Brighstone) was still at home, but by 14th Sept he was "with us" on HMS King Alfred which was also part of the North Sea blockade. No letters have survived from after Feb 1915. Could he not write or were they lost?

--- from Hilary Higgins, whose husband is the grandson of Edward Higgins, June 2015

HMS Tipperary

HMS Tipperary casualty list

Janet Griffin for newspaper reports; Hilary Higgins for biography.
Page updated : 22 June 2015 - added biography (thanks to Hilary Higgins for this)


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