South West Wales

Swansea school honours Battle of Britain fighter ace

A plaque has been unveiled at a Swansea school honouring a former pupil who became a World War II fighter ace.

Wing Commander Frederick "Taffy" Higginson attended Gowerton as a boy before joining the RAF.

As a Hurricane fighter pilot he was one of only 36 British pilots to shoot down more than 12 enemy planes.

The plaque was presented by the Battle of Britain Historical Society and is the first such tribute to one of "The Few" in Wales.

Born in Loughor in 1913 Mr Higginson joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice in 1929.

In June 1941 following the Battle of Britain his story entered the realms of a 'boy's own' fantasy.

Shot down over France he was arrested by two German soldiers after he parachuted to ground.

He promptly escaped and, with the help of the Resistance, headed for Spain.

Picked up at the Franco-Spanish border he spent 14 months as a prisoner before again escaping.

Equipped with false papers and posing as a priest, he reached British-controlled Gibraltar. He made it back to Britain in October 1942.

His eldest son Paul said: "My mother refused to believe that he was dead.

"The first we knew he was alive was when we received a postcard from France under the name of the person he pretended to be, some eight or nine months after he was shot down."

Next generation

Following the war, he became sales and service director of the Guided Missiles Division in the Bristol Aircraft Company and also played rugby for London Welsh, Richmond and Surrey until he was 41.

Wing Commander Higginson was awarded the OBE for services to industry, along with other decorations for his war time exploits.

In later years he returned to south Wales to live in Carmarthenshire with his wife. He died in 2003.

The plaque was presented as part of the Society's events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

His son said he felt it was important the youngsters learn about the debt owed to past and serving members of the forces.

School head teacher Peter Harrison said: "The idea behind the presentation is not just to honour a local military hero on the 70th anniversary but also to develop awareness of the Battle of Britain itself amongst the next generation."

Pupils from nearby primary schools attended along with members of Mr Higginson's family.

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