John Higby had been working for the Raunds Co-operative Society in Northamptonshire for eleven years prior to enlisting in the army. He had spent three of these years as an assistant in one of the stores, before spending a further seven as a manager of a different store. Higby was said to be very highly respected and esteemed by all who met him.
He enlisted in the army as a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment, 1st Battalion and was sent to fight on the Western Front. He was unfortunately killed in action on 12 March 1917, dying a few days after he was injured in battle. The paperwork stating where he was killed is vague as, although soldiers could be fighting in Belgium, they still referred to it as ‘France’ as a point of reference to where they had arrived in Europe. As a result, some death records state that a soldier on the Western Front was killed in ‘France or Belgium’. His friend A R Groom, a fellow co-operator who he had met as part of his duties in the co-operative store, had died three days earlier on 9 March after sustaining similar injuries as a result of the same attack.
Co-operative News, 7 April 1917, page 338.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.