Hawkins, Lionel Hope

Only son of Isaac Thomas and Mary Hope Hawkins of Surbiton. His father was in the Colonial Civil Service. Before coming to Winchester he was with Reverend J.H. Wilkinson at Waynflete School. He entered the Army (1st Dragoon Guards) in 1907 and made a reputation in India as a polo player. He was also a member of one of the teams which ran in the Marathon Race of 1908. He specialised in signalling, and for two years commanded the brigade signal section.

The outbreak of war found him at home on leave and he was posted at once to the 6th Dragoon Guards, and with them went through the Retreat from Mons and the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne. The 6th Dragoon Guards saw action again on 31st October 1914 between Messines and Wyteschaete when the seemingly unstoppable German advance ground to a halt, although elsewhere the German pressure was maintained. The official history states: “The British fire was steady, and for a time the Germans were held off; but weight of numbers told, as ever in night fighting… On the open ridge the enemy was able to penetrate in large numbers through the gaps in the line, attack the groups of defenders from flank and rear, and even surround some of them… The successful resistance of one squadron, in particular, of the Carabiniers, enabled possession of the top of the ridge to be maintained… The last to go were two squadrons of the Carabiniers… who remained in their trenches until 0645.”

Hawkins died in the fighting that night. Major S.W. Webster, of 6DG, wrote to his parents as follows: “The farm we held was rushed by the Germans about midnight on 31st October. I at once went to the trench in which your son was. We retired from there to some reserve trenches about two hundred yards in rear. I was there with him for about half an hour. I then left him to go and see a troop who were holding a trench on his right… It was pitch dark at the time.” As the Germans approached, Hawkins, unsure of their identity in the dark, ordered the men of his troop to hold their fire, and went forwards from the trench which they held. The approaching figures shouted: “Don’t fire! We are the London Scottish!” Reassured, Hawkins continued to move towards them. He was still less than thirty yards from his trench when he was shot in the right side, mortally wounded. Two of his men immediately ran forwards and fetched him, and he was being carried back towards Kemmel when he died, aged twenty-eight. The regiment’s Adjutant, Captain P.M.A. Kerans, described what happened next: “On reaching a place of comparative safety, two of the men went off to try and find a stretcher, and two remained with your son, who died very shortly afterwards. He had been unconscious from a few minutes after he had been hit, and passed away quietly. The men were unable to bury him then and were obliged to leave him covered with a blanket at the edge of a wood, where, I have no doubt, he has since been buried; but as, unfortunately, the Germans now hold the piece of ground, it has not been possible to do what would otherwise have been done.” Webster added: “He died when they had carried him about ¼ mile to the rear. My man, Private Williams, then left the body under a fence. It was impossible to recover the body or even the wounded, as we had to evacuate the position at dawn. I am perfectly certain, from what the men told me, that your son died within half an hour of his wound. It must seem strange to you that we could not recover the body, but we were fighting for our lives through the night, in the pitch dark, over a front of at least half a mile. Three of our own officers and many men were left behind, and we do not even know if they are dead or prisoners.” Whether or not the Germans buried Hawkins’ body will never be known. He is commemorated in panel 3 of the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Hawkins
  • Forenames or initials: Lionel Hope
  • House: I
  • Years in School: 1900-1903
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Dragoon Guards
  • Date of Birth: 28th July 1886
  • Date of Death: 1st November 1914
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer B5
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on the MENIN GATE MEMORIAL, YPRES: Panel 3