Herbert Hawes – Stretcher Bearer ‘Was Dead and is Alive Again’.

Herbert Hawes

Title: Herbert Hawes
Description: Gazette July 16 by-nc

In 1987 Joseph Hawes was in service with the Royal Engineers who were stationed in Gibraltar and it was here that his second son Herbert was born.  In the Doncaster Gazette in July 1916 we are told that Joseph served for 12 years with the Royal Engineers and fought in the second Boer War (1899 – 1902) and ‘received both the Kings and Queens Medals’.  While Joseph was away fighting, Herbert, his mother Louisa and his three brothers, Joseph, Thomas and Edwin were living in Peckham, London.

By 1905 the family has moved to Doncaster and are living on Palmer Street, Joseph is now working as an Electrician in the Loco Department at the Great Northern Works.  At the age of 14 Herbert is working as an Errand Boy for the Co-op Friendly Society, but by the time the war started Herbert was an apprentice at the Carr Wagon Shops along with his brother Joseph.

The Doncaster Gazette reported that at the outbreak of the war Herbert, who was only 17, ‘enlisted in the K.O.Y.L.I. as a stretcher bearer and served for three years in that capacity before taking up combatant duties with the rank of corporal’.  In July 1916 the Gazette reported that Herbert had been injured, receiving a bullet wound in his left arm, and had been transported to Wharncliffe Hospital at Sheffield.  The report tells us that Herbert had been at the front for 16 months with only one leave of absence and that whilst carrying out his duties as a stretcher bearer he had had several narrow escapes.  The report told how he had been buried twice in dug-outs and how ‘when a shell burst among the stretcher bearers killing 12 of them, Herbert and one other Doncaster stretcher bearer were blown several yards by the blast but they both escaped without injury’. It was the day after the latter incident that Herbert was wounded.

In April of 1918 the Doncaster Chronicle reported that ‘It is almost certain that Corporal Hawes, son of Mr and Mrs Hawes of Elmfield Road, may be numbered among the slain’. His parents had not received official confirmation but ‘according to a comrade he had last seen him among a group of men who had been surrounded and were fighting like devil’s’.  Then in June 1918 both the Chronicle and the Gazette reported that after a three month wait his parents had received a letter from Herbert telling them that although ‘he was a prisoner in Germany, he was very much alive’.  The Gazette article also reported that Herbert had in the last 18 months ‘been in most of the hardest fighting’ and had been ‘wounded in one battle and gassed in another’.

In the 20th December 1918 issue of the Doncaster Chronicle it was reported that Herbert had returned home two weeks previously and that while a prisoner of war ‘he was employed for sometime behind the German lines and was 2 months at the Giessen camp’.  Herbert was ‘the last survivor of the original K.O.Y.L.I. stretcher bearers who had enlisted when war broke out’.

From the report in the Doncaster Gazette on 7th June 1918 we learn that two of Herbert’s brothers are also ‘serving with the colours – Joseph with the Hussars, and Thomas in the Flying Corps’.  Also that Herbert’s father Joseph Hawes, at the outbreak of the war joined up with the National Reserve, where he did four months service before being released to do munitions work.

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