World War Two veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Isaac pictured with UUP representatives, Cllr Stephen McCarthy, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Deputy Mayor, Cllr Vera McWilliam and Cllr Jim Bingham.
Isaac pictured with UUP representatives, Cllr Stephen McCarthy, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Deputy Mayor, Cllr Vera McWilliam and Cllr Jim Bingham.

Birthday wishes have been sent to a decorated Royal Navy veteran from Co Antrim who celebrated his 100th birthday today.

Friends and family joined Isaac Higginson for a special party at the Ballyclare Royal British Legion Club to mark his major milestone.

Well-wishers took to social media to wish Isaac happy birthday.

Commenting on Facebook, one woman said: “Happy 100th birthday, Isaac. What a lovely man you are.”

Another person said: “Congratulations Isaac. Happy birthday.”

One local resident said: “Happy 100th birthday Isaac. I hope you enjoy your day.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Cllr Paul Hamill visited Mr Higginson to wish him happy birthday.

South Antrim UUP MLA, Steve Aiken OBE joined party colleagues during a visit to see Isaac today. Mr Aiken said: “Such an honour to wish another Navy Veteran ‘Happy Birthday’ on turning 100. Happy Birthday Isaac!”

Isaac signed up to the Royal Navy during peacetime in 1934.

He was a member of the Royal Naval Band prior to war breaking out and served on the HMS Valiant before he boarded the Laconia for his scheduled leave.

He was on RMS Laconia when it was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans on September 12 1942. He then spent 16 hours in shark infested waters before being rescued by the very same Germans that sunk his ship.

Of those on board the ill-fated ship 1,621 souls were lost and 1,104 survived.

Isaac and his fellow survivors were put onto lifeboats and spent a week at sea before they were picked up by a Vichy French cruiser. They were then interned in a camp outside Casablanca for eight months.

Following his release in 1943, Isaac returned to Ballyclare on leave.

During his two-and-a-half year spell on the Valiant, Isaac served with a young Prince Philip of Greece, who was then courting Princess Elizabeth.

Isaac went to the cinema with the future husband to the Queen and was in the same turret as the Prince when the British sank most of the Italian fleet at the Battle of Taranto.

Following his release in 1943, Isaac returned to Ballyclare on leave. However, there was one small obstacle put in the way of his homecoming.

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times in 2011, he said: “There was a taxi waiting at the docks in Larne and I asked him to take me to Ballyclare.

“He said he couldn’t because they had a 10 mile limit and it was 11 miles away. So I told him what I had been through and he told me to get in - and he never took a penny for the journey.

“When I walked through the door my wife Isa was in floods of tears, and then she gave off about my beard, but I told her I had no choice as there was no razor in the camp.

“I was ordered straight to the bathroom for a shave there and then.”

Mr Higginson left the navy in 1948 following campaigns in Japan with the HMS Black Prince and joined the civil service where he worked in the Department of Agriculture and became a Colour Sergeant in the Territorial Army.