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HAWKES, Walter (1898-1917) – Private, Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Walter Hawkes’ connection with Badsey is unknown.  Private Hawkes is recorded on the war memorial in St James’ Church, Badsey.  He has no known grave, but his name is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. 

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Walter Hawkes was born at Aston, Birmingham, Warwickshire, in 1898, the youngest of six children of Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkes.  His elder siblings were Elizabeth, George, Gertrude, Thomas and Edith.  In 1901, the family lived at 11 St James Place, Aston; Thomas was a labourer.  By 1911, the family had moved to 43 Hams Road, Saltley, Birmingham.  Thomas was by now described as a fitter of bedsteads.  All the children were at work, with the exception of 12-year-old Walter who was still at school.

Walter Hawkes enlisted at Birmingham with the 1st/7th Battalion (this was a Territorial Force) of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Number 300115), though a note on his records says that he was previously with the Norfolk Regiment.  He probably enlisted in 1916 when he was 18.  He fought in the Western European Theatre of war.

Walter was killed in action on 8th October 1917, aged 19, in the Ypres Salient.  There had been little significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south (the First and Second Battles had taken place in 1914 and 1915).  The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele – but by that time, Walter was dead.

Walter’s body was never found.  His name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery, 9 kilometres north-east of Ieper in Belgium.  No mention of his death was made in the Parish Magazine and his connection with Badsey is unknown but, for whatever reason, his name appears on the Badsey War Memorial.