Pte Fred Hawkins (protest poem; letter)



Pte Fred Hawkins (protest poem; letter)


Pte Fred Hawkins


Photograph of Pte Hawkins; protest poem; letter from hospital.


Fred Hawkins was great uncle to the contributor, Dave Hawkins; Fred was Dave’s grandfather’s younger brother.

Fred Hawkins was born in 1890 at Maltby, Rotherham, Yorkshire, the son of John and Hannah Hawkins. He was injured May 23rd 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, a surprise German attack, and the first offensive to use poison gas. Fred was treated in a military hospital in Rouen, but died of his injuries 10th October 1915.

Fred had spent his childhood at Sandbeck Park, near Maltby in South Yorkshire, where his father was gamekeeper for the Earl of Scarborough. As a young man he lived at Middleton Tyas and enlisted in Northallerton, joining the Green Howards, the 1/ 4 Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Yorkshire Regiment; Service No. 2871. This was a territorial unit. The unit had just departed for their summer camp in Wales when war broke out, and at once the men returned to their Northallerton base.

After training in Northumberland, they proceeded to France 18 April 1915, leaving Newcastle at 9am for Folkestone, and landing at Boulogne at about 2am. They camped in the nearby hills. They broke camp at 10pm, marched to Desveen, entrained for Cassel. They arrived in the Ypres sector as the enemy attacked Ypres, using poison gas for the first time (April 22nd, chlorine gas), and went straight into action. They remained in the Ypres sector throughout the Second Battle of Ypres, April 22-May 25 1915. The Allies held the line, but with heavy losses: 87,000 killed, injured or missing.

Fred Hawkins was injured on Whit Sunday, May 23rd 1915, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. He was treated in the military hospital in Rouen, but died of his injuries, age 25, October 10 1915. He is buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, IX.D.20.

By then his parents had moved to the East Yorkshire coast, north of Whitby, and a record states they lived at ‘The Cottage’, Easington. A memorial service for Fred was held on October 31st at Easington Parish Church, and Fred Hawkins is commemorated on the war memorial there.

Note: At the same time, close by, a Montréal physician, John McCrae was serving as a major and a surgeon with the Canadian Field Artillery, in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Second Battle of Ypres was the Force’s first major engagement of the war. ‘The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare,’ McCrae wrote to his mother, ‘…And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.’

On 2 May, McCrae’s young friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed. Because the brigade chaplain was absent, McCrae—as the brigade doctor—conducted the burial service for his friend. Later, at Helmer’s grave, he wrote a few lines of verse that were the beginning of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.




Flanders and Rouen


Dave Hawkins

Collection Day

November 3 2018 Menston

This item was submitted on February 6, 2019