Tag Archives: Staff Sergeant

CWG: Serjeant Major Percy Hawkins

Staff Serjeant Major Percy Hawkins

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.

CWG: Staff Serjeant William Coggan

Staff Serjeant William Coggan

William Reginald Coggan was born in Twerton, near Bath, at the end of 1882. His father, also called William, was a railway guard, and with his mother, Annie, he would go on to raise nine children, six of them girls.

William Jr became known as Reginald, presumably to avoid confusion with his father. He didn’t follow his father onto the railways, but found a way to serve his country. In the 1901 census, he was working as a baker for the Army Service Corps, and was based at the Stanhope Lines Barracks in Aldershot (along with more than 1800 others).

Ten years later – by the time of the 1911 census – William had left the army but continued his trade. He was listed as a baker of confections in Glastonbury, was living above the bakery with his wife of four years. I have been able to find little information about his wife, Kate, other than that she came from Dublin.

William Coggan’s former bakery in Glastonbury, Somerset.

William’s life becomes a little vague after the census. A newspaper report confirms that he had served in the South Africa war (1899-1902), and that he had seen five years’ service in France. The report – and William’s pension records – confirm that he had continued in the Army Service Corps, gaining the rank of Staff Sergeant.

William had died in Ireland, and his death registered in Fermoy, thirty miles to the north of Cork. The report confirmed that:

Nothing is yet known of how he came by his death, although a request was made for a post-mortem examination.

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 11th August 1920.

I can find no further information about his death and, unusually, his Pension Record gives the date, but not the cause. Staff Sergeant Coggan died on 29th July 1920, aged 38 years old.

William Reginald Coggan’s body was brought back to England for burial. He lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in Bridgwater, Somerset.