A belated goodbye to another old friend: Liz Higgins

I recently chanced upon a mention that an old friend of mine had died in 2020. After checking an obituary article in one of our local newspapers, I found it was true. It had been some years since I lost track of this person and it came as something of a shock.

The friend in question was the late Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins.

Those who knew or encountered Liz would not have to try hard to remember her. She was a force of nature. She could be difficult, rude and demanding … but equally she could be charming, was certainly driven and knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. I heard her give several excellent talks on WW1 topics.

Liz Higgins was the driving force behind the formation of the Heart of England Branch of the Western Front Association, based in her adopted home town of Warwick – a town of which she later became a councillor and mayor. A few of us used to go to the Birmingham Branch but found the trip to Sutton Coldfield and that they met on a Saturday to be a bit of a drag. Up stepped Liz in typical fashion, sorting out a small scratch committee and a grand opening meeting. She was the branch’s first chairman. The branch is still going today and without her it is most unlikely that it would have existed.

Liz is the tall lady, seventh from left. This photo is from 1998, when a group of us from the Heart of England Branch of the Western Front Association were on a tour, following the footsteps of the British “retreat from Mons” in 1914. We had stopped at the Guards Grave cemetery in woods near Villers-Cotterêts in France. All of a sudden a car pulled up, and a lady jumped out with notepad and camera. It turned out she was a journalist and, after taking a few notes and this photo, off she went. We appeared soon afterwards in the local paper, and later that year a number of our party went as invited guests to the Armistice ceremonies in the town. Sadly, quite a few of this group are no longer with us.

There was a time when something funny appeared to be going on at WFA headquarters, and Liz and I both said we thought that we could do better. We stood for election to what was then called the National Committee. I eventually served on it for (memory) seven years; she did so for several years longer than that, and always as its Hon. Secretary. That’s hard work, organising committee meetings, the members’ Annual General meeting, producing minutes, etc. The Association has much to thank her for.

And then, one day, it seemed that she had given up all things WW1. She stood at a Conservative councillor for West Warwick, and once she was involved in local politics she not only never appeared again at any WFA or other local meeting, but I scarcely ever saw her again. We bumped into other in Warwick from time to time, and on what was, I think, the last time I saw her a few years ago she was guest of honour dignitary, wearing her mayoral chain, at an event in St. Nicholas’ Park.

So, belatedly, goodbye Liz.