Percy Harry Hawkins was born in Waltham Green, London, in 1886. One of five children, all boys, his parents were Frederick and Elizabeth Hawkins. Frederick initially worked as a brewer’s collector – collecting rent from tenant pub managers on behalf of the brewery – before working as a tobacconist.
In July 1908, Percy married Gladys Parnell. Sadly, tragedy was to strike and, over the next couple of years both Elizabeth and Frederick passed away in 1909 and 1910 respectively.
By the time of the following year’s census, Percy and Gladys were boarding with a dispensing doctor (or GP), and his wife. Percy listed his occupation as a ‘traveller’, was probably employed as some kind of salesman.
Tragedy was to strike Percy again. Months after the couple had their first child in July 1911, Gladys also passed away, leaving him as a widower and single parent at just 26 years old.
From his later military documentation, it seems that Percy married again in August 1915, this time to a woman called Mildred, and, by September 1919, he had gone on to have three children in total; one boy and two girls.
When war broke out, Percy was quick to enlist. He joined up in Birmingham on 10th August 1914, and gave his profession as a commercial traveller. His records show that he was 28 years and 120 days old, stood 5ft 6ins (1.69m) tall and weighed 131lbs (59.5kg).
After initially joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Private Hawkins was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps, and was assigned to one of the supply companies.
Over the four years of the war, Percy served on home soil, and was promoted a number of times, rising from Private to Lance Corporal, Staff Sergeant to Quartermaster Staff Sergeant. In September 1917, he was again promoted, this time to Staff Sergeant Major, a position he held for the remainder of the conflict, and on into 1919, when he volunteered for an extra year’s service, rather than being demobbed.
In February 1920, Staff Serjeant Major Hawkins fell ill; he was admitted to the military hospital that had been set up in Brighton Pavilion, Sussex. The diagnosis was heart failure, and, sadly, it was to this that he was to succumb. He passed away on 20th February 1920, aged just 34 years old.
Percy’s family was, by this time, living down the coast in Worthing; his body was brought there for burial and he lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town.