Baxenden Lads: Hawker W

23rd February 1917

PTE. 16068 WILLIAM (WILL) HAWKER of the Gordon Highlanders died on February 23rd 1917 of complications following appendicitis in hospital in Durban, South Africa.

Will lived with his parents, Mr. & Mrs. F. Hawker of 45 Hill Street, Baxenden, and he was twenty years old. He enlisted in September 1914 in the Scottish Rifles (The Cameronians) and was severely wounded at the battle of Loos in France in September 1915. After hospitalisation he volunteered to return to the front but his injuries were such that his regiment returned him from France back to England. In November 1916, on the grounds that he was unfit for general service, he was transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, for garrison duties in India. He was on board a troopship en-route to India when he was taken ill and taken to Durban hospital.

On Saturday, February 24th 1917, Will was given a full military funeral with the regimental band and his comrades in attendance. Thousands of people watched as the funeral procession went through the streets of Durban on its way to Durban Military Cemetery. Will’s platoon officer later wrote to his mother -“L/Cpl. Hawker was one of my N.C.O.’s and such an obliging and capable young fellow that his death was a real grief to us all – we paid our respects to the memory of one I and my comrades got to admire and like to an unusual degree. Yours very truly, Nicol Bruce, Lt.”

Durban Military Cemetery is on the north-eastern outskirts of the city. It was started in 1842 during early fighting in the colonisation of Natal. There are eighty World War One war graves. For some twenty years after 1917 a local lady who had a son buried nearby also tended Will’s grave. During World War One Durban was a considerable hospital centre.