A small SAS puzzle: died in an accident in Africa 1961?

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by davidbfpo, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Prompted by the 2008 thread 'Mystery SAS Man' appearing today reminded me of a another gravestone, this one located in Witton Cemetery, Aston, Birmingham and initially spotted in 2013.

    The headstone has a SAS emblem atop! The grave is for a Gordon Samuel Bates Higgins, who died whilst climbing the Matteposs Mountains in Africa, when a rock fell and killed him on the 27th August 1961. The engraving is wrong, the Matopos Mountains, are now in Zimbabwe and were Southern Rhodesia in 1961. The Matopos range is in western Zimbabwe, near Bulawayo and the resting place of Cecil Rhodes is there.

    Wiki has this on the mountains: Matobo National Park - Wikipedia

    In the early 1960's parts of the SAS ran selection courses in Africa and there was a strong, regimental link to 'C' Squadron, SAS, following WW2, Malaya and Aden - which explains him being there. There are numerous open source references and a few books on the relationship.

    The historical information I have is that Mr Higgins was on selection course for the British SAS, not the Rhodesian and came from their reserve component based in Birmingham. I know his family still visit the grave, although I have not spoken to them.

    Just checked Google and I am wrong as a researcher has found his Death Notice in the national Archives, Harare:
    Link: Gordon Samuel Bates Higgins (1933-1961) | WikiTree FREE Family Tree
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    The Death Notice via the researcher:
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  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    This week's publicity has led to interest from ex-members of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and others.

    Can anyone assist with identifying who Gordon Higgins's brother is? I will visit the cemetery soon, as a relative visits on Sunday mornings. The trail is rather "cold" given he died in 1961, followed by his parents in 1992 (Dad) and 1999 (Mum).
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  4. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Samuel B. Higgins married Doris M. Adams at Birmingham North in the June 1930 Qtr.

    Apart from your subject, born Birmingham in the June 1933 Qtr, there is a Malcolm J B Higgins, born Birmingham in the December 1943 Qtr.

    Edited to add: Malcolm Higgins married Jean A. Attwood at Birmingham in the December 1960 Qtr. It appears two children came from this union, one born in mid 1969, the other in the Spring of 1971, both in Birmingham.


    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
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  5. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Shows in five online ancestry trees, with additional info. None of the publicly available trees, the 1939 Register, or the 1955 electoral Roll show siblings :

    Gordon was just 28 when he was killed by a falling boulder in the mountains of Rhodesia in August 1961. He had just been promoted to the Special Air Service serving what was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Second Lieutenant Higgens, from Kingstanding, was always keen on flying and joined the parachute regiment in 1952. During his training he won himself a special certificate presented by Lord Montgomery. His mother Mrs Doris Higgens recalled the Christmas her son came home for a rest from hunting down terrorists in Cyprus."I asked him why he looked such a terrible mess- he had an over grown beard and his shirts were all ripped.Then he told us he was being used as a decoy for the terrorists." He was sent on a three-year mission to Africa in April, 1961,after being commissioned. It was four months later that he met his death high up in the Rhodesian mountains, close to Sir Cecil Rhodes's grave.

    "Flowers" have been left on his findagrave entry by two people and I think one is the originator of the above bio.
    Gordon Samuel Bates Higgins (Unknown-1961) - Find...
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  6. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Hi davidbfpo,

    Have located a 2006 address for Malcolm. Will PM it to you.

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  7. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Birmingham Daily Post 31 August 1961

  8. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Following PM to David I have sent messages to the people who left flowers on findagrave & the online tree originators on ancestry.
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  9. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Thanks to Travers1940's :) help contact has been made with Gordon Higgins brother and my next, simple task is to explain to him my interest, plus the possible involvement of his old comrades from Rhodesia. In due course an update will be added, especially if restrictions lapse and his comrades can pay their respects.
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  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Gordon Higgins brother has made contact, in particular that his name is recorded in the books of remembrance for those who died on 'active service' from Birmingham, the entry was made at the army's request; the books are held in the Hall of Memory (the focal point for Remembrance Sunday ceremonies). See: Hall of Memory, Birmingham | War Memorial
    Attached is a photo of the book and his name is in the top left corner.

    Attached Files:

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