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Tributes to veteran
A SECOND World War veteran has died peacefully at the age of 93 at his home on Sunday, following a life devoted to serving his country and his family.
Williams Higgs, known as Bill, moved to Wroughton, from Hilperton Marsh, near Trowbridge, with his wife Barbara in 1997.
He was a glider pilot during the Overlord D-Day landings in June 1944 when he took troops and equipment to Normandy.
In September that year he was shot in the chest in Arnhem, Holland, during Market Garden, the largest airborne operation of all time.
As a result of his wounds he lost a lung and became a prisoner of war.
Market Garden saw 30,000 British and American troops dropped behind enemy lines on a mission to capture eight bridges which spanned the network of canals and rivers on the Dutch-German border.
Once Bill was released from his prison camp in Silesia he returned to Hilperton Marsh and began a painting a decorating business, known as WW Higgs.
He met his wife in the post office at Hilperton and his daughter, Frances Sharpe, said it was love at first sight for the pair.
Barbara died in 1999 shortly after the couple celebrated 50 years of marriage.
They also had a son, Steven and Bill was grandfather of three and a great-grandfather of three.
Frances said he rarely discussed his military past with the family.
“He had to get on with life after the war, there was no such thing as Help The Heroes in those days,” said Frances, 60, of Old Town.
“He never grumbled about anything he just got on with it, including when my mum’s health deteriorated in later life and he took care of her.
“We are very proud of him. We have people coming over from Holland for the funeral.
“Some of those who lived in Arnhem during the conflict are too old now, but he has friends from later visits coming over.”
Bill became a popular figure in the 16 years he spent in Wroughton and Swindon.
Frank Avenell, 92, of Beckhampton Street, who was also a pilot during the D-Day landings, said he came to know Bill as a character in the town’s Conservative Club.
“We never talked too much about the war together, but when he was in the club he was always extremely popular and never one to turn people away who had questions,” said Frank.
Bill’s funeral service will take place at Kingsdown Crematorium on Thursday at 12.45pm.
Family flowers only are requested but donations to Prospect Hospice would be welcome.
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