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Ceremony to remember former C/Sgt Tony Higgins RM to be held in Deal


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A special farewell ceremony will be held in honour of a Royal Marine (RM) who competed in the Winter Olympics.

Former Colour Sergeant Tony Higgins Staff PTI (Physical Training Instructor) died in April 2020, but due to Covid, only a limited number of people were able to attend his funeral.

C/Sgt Tony Higgins (left) at the closing of the RM Deal Barracks gates on May 14, 1981. Pictures: Peter Brown
C/Sgt Tony Higgins (left) at the closing of the RM Deal Barracks gates on May 14, 1981. Pictures: Peter Brown

As such, former colleagues, friends and family, including his two daughters, will tomorrow come together for a memorial service, being held at the PTI’s 'Resting Bench', near the RM Memorial Bandstand, along The Strand in Deal.

They will continue to the Royal Marines Association (RMA) Club after.

Peter Brown MBE, chairman of RMA PT branch, said: "Tony was a well-known character in Deal as a former SPTI, corps sportsman, leader of the RM cadets and as the Deal Town Sergeant.

"He was an outstanding man, and a lot of people would know him."

An obituary will be read by former WO1/RSM Bill Howie RM during the memorial.

Mr Higgins achieved international honours by being selected for the Great Britain Bobsleigh Team
Mr Higgins achieved international honours by being selected for the Great Britain Bobsleigh Team

Mr Howie said: "Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Tony in his prime cannot fail to have been impressed by this larger than life character.

"Blessed with enormous physical presence and confidence, he was hugely competitive and a fierce adversary.

"Armed with these qualities it is not surprising that he became an outstanding all-round sportsman.

"He was, of course, a rogue - albeit a most likeable rogue and this aspect of his personality is widely recounted whenever PTI’s meet.

"The anecdotes are endless and to the uninitiated they may seem rather exaggerated, but they do give a flavour of how and why he attained such legendary status in the corps."

He was also Deal Town Sergeant for several years
He was also Deal Town Sergeant for several years

Mr Higgins competed in many sports, including football, horse riding, judo, and athletics.

Mr Howie added: "For someone who played sport at every level it would be fair to say that football was his first love, where he was a regular choice for the Combined Services team.

"He was utterly formidable and the ultimate deterrent to have in your team at centre-half.

"In one Royal Navy Cup Final, I remember Tony coming back on to the pitch, having received treatment for a head wound.

"He had a first field dressing wrapped round his head which was oozing with blood. He looked like something straight out of the Somme!

Mr Higgins playing badminton
Mr Higgins playing badminton

"He was courage personified."

In 1973, Mr Higgins tried his hand at bobsleigh, under the guidance of Capt. Roger Spiers, working his way up to the Navy and finally, the British team.

In 1974 and 1975 he won the Brakeman’s Trophy, was second in both years in the British Championships and was on the short list for the Olympics.

At the age of 37 he achieved international honours by being selected for the Great Britain Bobsleigh Team, competing as GBII in the two-man Bobsleigh World Championships at St. Moritz, as well as in the four-man Bobsleigh crew.

He was part of the Great Britain Bobsleigh team at the Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria in 1976.

Mr Higgins also represented the Royal Navy at judo and athletics
Mr Higgins also represented the Royal Navy at judo and athletics

Mr Howie added: "This team was headed up by Prince Michael of Kent, who was not without influence when it came to assuring Tony’s availability.

"When giving a demonstration by Tony on his duties as brakeman in the Four Man Bobsleigh Team Tony was asked how the brake operated. Tony replied that he had never ever used it - he was absolutely fearless."

Mr Howie also recounted a time when Mr Higgins was admitted into Stoke Mandeville Hospital with spinal injuries after an abseiling accident.

He said: "The consultant sent for his wife, Maria, who was to break the news to Tony that he would never walk again, which caused Tony to reply 'Go back and tell this consultant that not only will I walk again, but I will walk out of this hospital' - and he did!"

Mr Higgins was also Commanding Officer for the Deal Royal Marine Cadets.

He was also one of the first on the scene when an IRA bomb went off at the barracks in Deal, killing 11 bandsmen.

Every RM Unit football team’s dream - winning the Tunney Cup
Every RM Unit football team’s dream - winning the Tunney Cup

Mr Higgins cleared away rubble with his bare hands for hours, hoping to find men who were still alive.

That was on September 22 1989, Mr Higgin's 50th birthday.

Following service life, he also became the Deal Town Sergeant for several years.

The memorial will be held at noon tomorrow.

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