Captain Maurice Heggie

30 Aug 1920 - 31 Mar 1993

Captain Maurice Heggie was a Platoon Commander of 3 Platoon, 9th Field Company RE during Operation Market Garden. 

He was born in Edinburgh on August 30, 1920, the son of Maurice Heggie (the elder, 1882-1972) and Ada Mary Aitchison (1883-1965). He was educated at George Watson's college. He was studying at the Edinburgh College of Art when war broke out, and promptly volunteered for the Royal Engineers via the university's Officers' Training Corps (OTC), but was forced to finish his intermediate degree first. On September 12, 1940, he went to the 6th Training Battalion, Royal Engineers in Elgin. The following year he was sent to 142 Officer Cadet Training Unit, RE in Aldershot. 

Heggie received an emergency commission from the Royal Engineers on August 10, 1941. He was first posted to 246 Field Company RE, where he commanded a Platoon. A promotion followed to the position of Intelligence Officer, RE of the 3rd Division. At the end of 1942, he helped to form the new 616 Field Company in Dorset, but he wanted to be posted back to the 3rd Division to serve on the front lines. He stated: "at that time the only application for posting which could not be turned down by a Commanding Officer was that of volunteering for the Parachute Regiment which I accordingly promptly did". Although he wanted to be parachute trained, he discovered "the Division was due to leave for abroad in the very near future and there would not be time for us to complete our seven parachute jumps of training". Instead, Heggie joined a gliderborne unit, the 9th Field Company RE, on March 10, 1943. He landed in Oran, North Africa on April 23, 1943.

Heggie was the CO of 3 Platoon during the battle of Arnhem. He spoke of the seventeen cancelled Operations that preceded Market Garden, and stated that he thought Comet might have succeeded. In the event "of my own platoon of 2 Officers and 48 other ranks only a Lance Sergeant and three sappers returned. From the 9 Officers of 9 Field Company, R.E. only the O.C., Major Winchester, survived to be brought back after the battle". 

They took off from RAF Keevil, Wiltshire at 1020 AM, September 17, in Glider numbers 381-385. Heggie's 3 Platoon landed at LZ-Z at around 1330. He and 11 sappers had the task of driving to Arnhem to remove explosives from the bridge. But the four jeeps did not arrive at his LZ, the gliders containing them having failed to leave the UK. Later confined to Oosterbeek, Heggie was asked to find ferry crossing across the Rhine. He and his men helped to defend the Heveadorp ferry between 17 and 20 September. On withdrawing to the 9th Field Company HQ, Heggie was wounded by mortar fire and later became a POW for the rest of the war. 

Heggie stated of the battle of Arnhem,

"It was, in terms of men's lives, the costliest and most disastrous battle of World War II, probably only equalled by the Light Brigade at Balaclava...If we, who were there, were to be asked would we do it again, the answer would be yes. Our only regrets are for those of our comrades who found their last resting place in the soil of Holland". 

After returning from Europe, Heggie joined his father's shopfitting firm, Heggie and Aitchison. He married Audrey Stuart Adams in 1947. They had a son, Nicholas and a daughter, Sally Ann. He retired in 1982.

Maurice Heggie died on March 31, 1993. 

Compiled with information from:

Airborne Assault Archive (3G2 8.1.1) (account of Maurice Heggie and attached obituary)

Article written by Alex Walker 

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Service History

  • Date not known
201227 Captain Maurice Heggie 9 Field Company RE

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