Fred Higinbotham (b1894)

Fred Higinbotham, WW1 medals card

Fred Higinbotham, the son of William Higinbotham and Jane Howarth, was born in 1894, brother to Annie, my great-grandmother.

He was my grandmother Doris's favourite uncle, so much so that she named her first daughter, my mum, in honour of him (though thankfully she's not called Fred - but Freda).

Fred Higinbotham died in the First World War, on 15 September 1917, aged 23. I have no photos of him, but have been able to download from the National Archives site a record card from their Medal Rolls Index, as shown here.


Commonwealth War Graves

Fred Higinbotham is included in the Roll of Honour on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. It reads:


10733, 3rd Bn., Coldstream Guards
who died age 23
on 15 September 1917
Son of William and Jane Higinbotham, of 8, Adas Terrace St., Paul St, Hull.
Remembered with honour

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

I expect it's not just me who finds some of this family history research rather emotional at times. I didn't even know Fred Higinbotham, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website would make even the toughest person feel emotional. Because of the photos of the lines of headstones stretching as far as the eye can see, in cemetery after cemetery.

And that phrase "Commemorated in perpetuity". It's a phrase from a different time and a different order of things. Now we would probably say "Remembered forever", which doesn't have the same elegance, isn't so profound, though it means the same thing.

Family memorial

Old headstone, Hull cemetery

Fred Higinbotham isn't only commemorated on the military memorial, but also on the family headstones in a Hull cemetery.

I visited Hull for the first time in 1991, to see some of the places where my mother had grown up, and to try to find the family graves in the local cemetery. As anyone who has gone on this kind of visit will know, it's rather moving when you finally find a long-forgotten grave. I saw the name Fred Higinbotham - with that strange feeling you get when you catch up with a part of your history that you've been chasing. The stone was rather faded, but I made out a date of death, and mention of the Coldstream Guards. It said he was 23, and I was 23 then. Under the factual details, two lines just legible still in the crumbling stone: "Christ will link the broken chain - closer when we meet again".