Sergeant Cecil Thomas James Higgins Military Provost Staff Corps
The Man Cecil Thomas James Higgins was born at Ashford in Kent on 22nd January 1911 and lived with his parents, Percy, a Labourer in the electric Light Department of the Railway Carriage Works and Ada, at 1 Sturges Place, Beaver Road. At the time of the 1911 census he had one sister, Grace Beatrice who was bon in 1903 and a brother Edgar Percy born in 1909. Cecil was bought up in the Baptist faith and educated at this local school, after which he obtained employment with the General Post Office. During the last quarter of 1936 aged 25, Cecil married Dorothy Ellen May Hopkins in West Ashford, and they lived at 7, Appeldore Road, Tenterden, Kent. On 26th April 1939, with war against Germany believed by many to be inevitable, he enlisted into the Territorial Army Royal Artillery, as a Gunner with service number 1466818. He was described as being 5’.5½” tall, weighing 150lbs with a chest of 38½”, a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. Upon the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939 Cecil was with No 306 Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery where his principle occupation was as a clerk. The Anti Aircraft Command worked with the RAF to defeat the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign. During these early days not many aircraft were actually shot down, but anti aircraft guns fragmented large formations of enemy aircraft, making the work of Fighter Command easier. Although it seemed to lack the prestige of front line units, it nevertheless played a vital role in the war effort. By May 1941 there were over 300,000 men and about 3,500 women staffing nearly 2,500 anti aircraft guns. Cecil soon became a Ration Clerk, then Bombardier Pay Clerk and on 6 – 11th October 1941 attended a course of instruction in pay duties at Eastern Command School, gaining a 75% pass. Four times he enjoyed a weeks privilege leave and then, on 2nd May 1942 went onto embarkation leave. By this time Ceil had become a Battery Confidential clerk and promoted to the rank of Sergeant. No 306 HAA Battery, No 75 AA Regiment was posted to North Africa where Cecil qualified for the award of the Africa Star. It was late in 1942 that the Afrika Corps was defeated at El Alamein by the Eighth Army and the Germans began their long retreat leading to them being forced out of Africa the following Spring. Cecil also served with Paiforce, the Palestine and Iraq Force, and his Arica Star was awarded by the authority of GHQ Paiforce, Part II Order 308 of December 8th 1943. During 1943, Cecil’s blood group was recorded as O Positive and in addition to the usual vaccinations he was given an inoculation against typhus. On 1st November he had to experience LAC and CAP training in a gas chamber, and from 10th January until 10th May 1944 attended a shorthand course which he passed successfully, subsequently instructing learner clerks on Bty courses. He also became entitled to wear four service chevrons during May. As a souvenir of his time with Paiforce, Cecil kept a Christmas card with good wishes from Iraq’s Minister of Communication and Works and the Acting Director General P&T and his staff.
Eventually the time came when 306 Battery was disbanded and its personnel were transferred to other units. Cecil received excellent reports from the Officer Commanding 306 HAA Battery and OC 75th AA Regiment, who said respectively:
“A most pleasing personality, very reliable indeed and has been my Orderly Room Sergeant and confidential clerk for the past two years. Works extremely well, always willing and has never made a breach of confidence. Efficient as a disciplinarian and a good NCO. Has been personally known to me since 1939. Transfer to the Intelligence Corps Service is recommended, in which he has been very interested, and it is my considered opinion that he should do well”.
“A very good and efficient NCO. Good disciplinarian with a sound knowledge of pay and clerical duties. Very keen on field and security duties”.
However, in true army style and on 26th July 1944 he was posted to the Northamptonshire Regiment and then on 4th December 1944 to the Military Provost Staff Corps (MPSC). The MPSC was formed in 1901 as the Military Prison Staff Corps but its name was changed in 1906. It consisted of Officers, Warrant Officers and NCOs only and provided the supervisory staffs of military prisons and detention centres. Cecil spent the remainder of his service on the staff of No 54 Military Prison and Detention Barracks. During this time he received his Efficiency Medal with Territorial suspender, on top of the 1939-45, and Africa Stars and Defence and War Medal 1939-45. He was discharged on 21st January 1946 and returned to his pre-war job with the Post Office, rising to an Inspector for the Hitchen and Letchworth area. He retired aged 55 in 1966 and was awarded the Imperial Service Medal for 25 years service in the London Gazette of 2nd December 1966. On 29th February 1980, aged just 69 Cecil Thomas James Higgins died. At the time of his death he was living at 11 Bracken Close, Kennington, Ashford, Kent leaving £4590.00 to his widow Dorothy.
The Story This group of medals were acquired from E-Bay in October 2013. They were of interest, once again, due to the double long service awards, coupled with the unusual naming of the Efficiency Medal to the Military Provost Staff Corps. There was no photograph but some paperwork with the lot, and the previous ‘custodian’ had already prepared a biography from what was available. All that had to be done was some research on Ancestry.uk, which helped fill some of the gaps. Additionally Cecil Higgin’s will was retrieved from the Family Records Division in London.
- 1939-45 Star: Unnamed as issued
- Africa Star: Unnamed as issued
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as issued
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as issued
- Imperial Service Medal: CECIL JAMES THOMAS HIGGINS
- Efficiency Medal: 1466818. SJT. C.T.J.HIGGINS. M.P.S.C.
This page last updated 28 Jul 14