The Duke of Westminster will honour a Chester sapper who lost his life in the First World War on Saturday (November 8) during a moving ceremony.

His Grace will officially rename a boat after Lt Thomas Higgins at the Grosvenor Rowing Club boathouse on The Groves at 11am.

Christine Fawcett, from the club, said: “For the 145 years of the club’s history members have named the prestigious rowing eight boats after the Duke of Westminster’s family.

“However, this year our veteran squad suggested we should select a name from the Great War commemoration board on the club wall as a tribute in this centenary anniversary of the First World War.”

“In April we choose the name Lt Thomas Higgins MC and since then we have researched his background.

“We found out he had joined up as a sapper in the Marines and was sent to Gallipoli. He must have impressed as he was given a commission and sent back to the UK for officer training.

“He then chose to join the Royal Engineers and was sent to the Somme where the role of the Royal Engineers was to build and repair trenches for our soldiers, very often on the front line, under fire and to strip out wood and wire from captured German line to use in our trenches.”

Thomas received his military medal for ‘Conspicuous Gallantry’ when he returned numerous times to front line trenches to help consolidate and shore up trenches and help the front line troops. Unfortunately he didn’t live to receive his medal as died from injuries incurred during the war at the age of 26.

Christine added: “We looked in to his family and discovered he was one of eight children and his siblings had various occupations ranging from a singer/actress to the landlord of the Coach & Horses Pub in Chester and a Franciscan monk.

“One of the archivists from the Rowing & Regatta Museum in Henley is searching through The Rowing Almanacs from 1900 to 1914, in the hope of finding some detail of Thomas’s rowing career.”

Junior officers of the Royal Engineers will provide a guard of honour at the ceremony on Saturday and place a flag over the boat.

Actor David Edwards, of Theatre in the Quarter will read Thomas’s story during the ceremony.

Christine added: “It has certainly been an emotional journey of discovery for club members and it is just fabulous that this gentleman has now come alive and been humanised by the research we have done.”

Lt Thomas Higgins, a First World War sapper, will be honoured by the Duke of Westminster on Saturday, November 8 when a boat is named after him
 

Lt Thomas Higgins MC

Lt Thomas Higgins MC was born in Chester on the March 6, 1890, son of John and Amelia Higgins, of Chester, who later moved to Prestatyn.

He trained as a civil engineer, working for H F Bullam as a county surveyor for Cheshire for three years, leaving in 1908.

He joined the Royal Navy as a sapper on September 25 1914 at London.

Thomas served at Gallipoli and at the Somme and was awarded the Military Cross.

On November 15 1916 his parents received a telegram: “Deeply regret to inform you 20 General Hospital Camiers reports 2Lt Thomas Higgins RE died of his wounds 4.10 am November 15th. The Army council expresses their sympathy.”

Lt Higgins MC was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery Pas de Calais France, Thomas is commemorated on the Chester City Memorial.