No. 6980100, 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died as the result of enemy action on Wednesday 16 April 1941 (aged 25)
Newtownards (Movilla) Cemetery, Co. Down (Section 28 Protestant Plot Grave 81)
McAllister family grave headstone in the Greenland Cemetery, Larne
Fusilier Daniel Higgins (No. 6980100) was one of 13 soldiers serving with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who died as the result of an air raid on Newtownards aerodrome during the night of 15/16 April 1941.
Between 10.45 pm on Easter Tuesday 15 April and 4.30 am on Wednesday 16 April 1941 there was a large-scale German Luftwaffe air raid on the City of Belfast. Other nearby towns and villages, including Bangor and Newtownards, were also attacked. Areas of Bangor where bombs fell included Ashley Gardens, Bangor Golf Clubhouse, Baylands, Farnham Road, Hazeldene Gardens and Ranfurly Avenue. Fires blazed on Scrabo Hill, Newtownards and bombs fell on Green Road, Conlig and Comber Road, Newtownards. At least 29 people with North Down and Ards connections were killed, including the following 15 civilians.
- Matilda Grattan together with her daughters Angeline Grattan and Shelagh Grattan who died at 40 Ashley Gardens in Bangor.
- Margaret Byers Watt who died at 5 Hazeldene Gardens in Bangor.
- Robert Wright of 32 Baylands, Bangor who died of his injuries in Bangor Hospital.
- Edith, Henry, Isabella, and William Dunwoody; Nancy Simms Gribbin; Thomas Morton; William Henry Taggart; Bessie, Ellen Ogle, and Evelyn Tate who all died in Belfast.
That night the aerodrome at Newtownards, which was the Headquarters of 231 Squadron, Royal Air Force was attacked. The aerodrome was guarded by soldiers of the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, some of whom were too young for front line service and were deployed instead on the home front. Newtownards aerodrome was attacked with a considerable number of incendiary bombs and some high explosive bombs. One high explosive bomb that fell on the hutments of ‘A’ Company Headquarters killed 13 men, all of whom served with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Most were killed instantly, and the remainder died the following day as the result of their injuries:
- Fusilier William Bellamy (aged 28)
- Fusilier Samuel Burke (aged 18)
- Lance Corporal Alexander Carlisle
- Fusilier Andrew Copling (aged 16)
- Fusilier Hugh Fulton (aged 17)
- Fusilier George Graham
- Fusilier Daniel Higgins
- Fusilier Leslie Love (aged 34)
- Fusilier Samuel McFarland (aged 19)
- Company Quartermaster Sergeant William McMurray (aged 27)
- Fusilier Ernest McNeill (aged 17)
- Warrant Officer Class II Alfred Penfold (aged 36)
- Fusilier Matthew Wright (aged 18)
The casualties were all taken to Ards District Hospital in Newtownards.
There was another casualty with an Ards connection who died during the night of 15/16 April 1941. Flight Lieutenant Wilfrid Mark Hamilton Brookes (aged 23) of 231 Squadron who was in Belfast at the time was killed during the air raid.
Daniel Higgins was born on 19 February 1916 in St John’s Place, Larne and he was a son of Robert James and Ellen Higgins (nee Houston) who were married on 20 August 1908 in Larne Independent Church. Robert Higgins, sometimes Heggins, a labourer from 37 Waterloo Road, Larne was a son of Thomas Higgins, a labourer. Ellen Houston from 21 Mill Lane Larne was a daughter of Frank Houston, a sailor.
Robert James and Ellen Higgins (nee Houston) had at least two children:
Robert (born 19 December 1911 in St John’s Place, Larne)
Daniel (born 19 February 1916 in St John’s Place, Larne; father deceased)
Fusilier Daniel Higgins was a career soldier and his home address at the time of his death was 83 Eskdale Gardens, Belfast.
The funeral of Fusilier Daniel Higgins (No. 6980100) to Movilla Cemetery in Newtownards was reported in the 26 April 1941 edition of the County Down Spectator under the headline Military Honours for Raid Victim. The funeral took place on Saturday 19 April in the morning and the coffin, draped with the Union Jack, was drawn on an Army carriage. The Lord Lieutenant of County Down, Lord Londonderry, together with the Mayor of Newtownards, Alderman Robert Edgar, attended.
Fusilier Daniel Higgins is commemorated on the McAllister family grave headstone in the Greenland Cemetery, Larne.