Friday, June 27, 2014

When Edward's Boy Came Over

By Scott Higginbotham

One cannot talk about the United States’ role in Second World War in a geographical vacuum, for this note in history is very much entwined in England’s not so distant history.  Many can still recall the fear when the Nazi war machine was in sight of the English coastline, the air raids, the loss, and an unknown future.

Donald Stanley Higginbotham served in the US Army's 29th Division, the Blue and Gray.  Growing up in McKeesport, PA he spent his days working in a steel mill. He turned out shell casings for the war effort during the week, followed by a weekend of playing snooker at the local pool hall and dipping Copenhagen Snuff.  

PFC Higginbotham - Photo by Scott Higginbotham
And then his number came up.  Lately, I have wondered which country he had fought for the most.  It’s an intriguing question concerning the fact that Edward’s boy came over to fight.  But for whom?

There is no whiff of treason here, for both countries were in lockstep.

He wrote letters to his widowed mother, his sister, and sometimes his older brother serving in the Merchant Marines.  He spoke of Sunny Devon, where he trained; I asked what the weather was like, and he said that it was quite rainy.  He had such a dry sense of English humor.  And from where did that derive?

He enjoyed movies, so it was no small stretch for him to find himself at the theater.  He once mentioned that a young lady asked for a tip once he was seated.  I had found this odd, and perhaps a little forward on her part, but once he explained the desperation and the privations I began to see things more clearly.  He tipped her with nary a thought.

That was Edward’s boy.
Edward Higginbotham - by Scott Higginbotham

On February 20, 1944 he wrote the following to his sister Evelyn.  Reproduced word for word.

Dear Sis:
I received your letter this week and today is Sunday and I am going to drop you a few lines.  When I was on furlough I did not see Stanley Higginbotham but I seen Aunt Jane and her sister's husband and the two children Ted and Kathleen, they aren’t children, they are both grown ups and Ted is married and he stays at his Father’s home and Kathleen stays there also, she is not married.  Well Aunt Jane is pretty lively, but she will not tell anyone her age, she really treated me fine when I was there.  Well you can send me some more candy and movie magazines.  Well how is Eddie I guess he is enjoying self in the snow well I hope this finds you all in the best of health.
Your Brother
V-Mail by Scott Higginbotham

On May 31, 1944 the following form letter was sent home, very scant in the way of personal expressions.  It reads:
Dear Mother,
Effective immediately and until further notice please do not send any more mail to me at the address given below.  I will advise you promptly when mail should be resumed and will give you my proper address.  I cannot do so now for military reasons.
Your Son, Don

V-Mail by Scott Higginbotham

Within a week Edward’s boy would be wounded and lying in a shallow ditch in Normandy, after crawling through the surf, dodging German machine guns, and seeing things that twenty year old kids need not see. 

        Edward’s boy lay near a hedgerow, trying to keep warm, trying to stay alive, and listening to the moans of the wounded until the evening of June 7.  He mentioned seeing a church steeple in the town of Verveille sur Mer, where he and a few stragglers and new found comrades had been heading, until a German artillery shell cut lives short and left others with hellish memories.  On July 17, his mother would receive a Western Union telegram, detailing the events of him being wounded in action.
We know who Edward’s boy is.  But who is Edward?

       Edward Higginbotham was born in 1882 in Burton on Trent, England, emigrated to the United States, and became a citizen in 1937.  He died in 1939, never experiencing the pride and fear of sending his boy off to fight, not only for his new country, but for the family, the friends, and the beloved country he left behind.  

Edward Higginbotham - by Scott Higginbotham

The letter to his sister gives a glimpse into how the English relatives regarded Edward’s boy.  Forty years later, we visited doting relatives in London, Bradford, and a certain house visited by a US Army soldier so many years ago – 7 Knowsley Road in Macclesfield. 

It was there where there was a distinct awe concerning the former PFC Donald Stanley Higginbotham.  The aunties Kathleen and Agnes brought in relatives from all around, making a huge fuss over the soldier that had returned so many years after the war.  Peter Higginbotham was a director of the Majestic Theatre in town and gave us the best seats one evening; perhaps he knew of the soldier’s love of movies from the stories that had been handed down.

But the part that strikes me so solidly is the fact that during this time, English and American histories were so entwined.  That is an undisputed fact.  And the memories, mainly as it pertains to his family on British soil, were very long, very dear, and unforgettable.  So who did he fight for?  The United States?  Indeed, for he was a soldier that followed orders.  However, if I had to wager, I would say that in his heart, Edward’s boy fought for England, too.
A Soul’s Ransom

Scott Higginbotham writes under the name Scott Howard and is the author of A Soul’s Ransom, a novel set in the fourteenth century where William de Courtenay’s mettle is tested, weighed, and refined, and For a Thousand Generations where Edward Leaver navigates a world where his purpose is defined with an eye to the future.  His new release, A Matter of Honor, is a direct sequel to For a Thousand Generations.  It is within Edward Leaver's well-worn boots that Scott travels the muddy tracks of medieval England.

1 comment:

  1. Nice entry! My paternal grandparents were both born in England and came to the U.S. as adults. My father visited his aunts and uncles in the UK when I was small. The ties were close, as you rightly say. But we Americans were not always welcome -- or well behaved. You might be interested in the book "Rich Relations" by David Reynalds about the U.S. in Britain during WWII.


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