Footballer, RAF gunner and ‘true hero’ from Newham dies
- Credit: Archant
RAF gunner and footballer Ronald Valentine Higgins – so named because he was born on February 14 in 1923 – has died aged 92.
The Second World War veteran, who was part of the action on D-Day, was described by his family as being “part of the heart of Newham and just simply the best dad” following his death on January 23.
The great-grandad was born in Maplin Road, Custom House, and later moved to Lathom Road, East Ham, in 1952, with wife Isabella – who died in 2007 – where they had three children.
Son Ronnie, 66, said: “My dad loved his middle name – but I bet the kids took the mickey out of him when he was at school.”
A keen sportsman who “loved sport, competition and the outdoors”, Ronald played and trained with West Ham boys for several years, scoring five goals against Tottenham in a famous game in 1935 that finished 6-1.
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He joined Royal Docks firm Silley Weirs as an apprentice ships driller in 1939, working on the construction of Mulberry Harbours and Tank Landing Craft in the Victoria Docks, which played a vital role in the Normandy landings.
It was as an RAF gunner that he was to see the Mulberry Landings again during D-Day.
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Ronnie said: “He wasn’t so frightened of being shot down. He was more frightened of the planes crashing into each other.“
Ronald was signed by Leyton Orient FC in 1947 and had a spell at QPR before coaching East Ham United, taking the club to victory in the Woolwich Cup.
Ronnie said: “Dad was a true hero in many ways. In the RAF, in sport, at work but more than anything a true hero for his love and devotion to family”.
Ronald is survived by his son Ronnie and two daughters Jean and Geraldine.
A service will be held at City of London Traditional Crematorium at 11.15am on February 15.