Lieutenant Waldemar Robert Hawkes, 21st Australian Machine Gun Company

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Posted on 30 March 2021

Waldemar Hawkes, known as “Bob”, was born on the 18th of November 1894, the second son of Waldemar Gaskell Hawkes and his wife, Isabella, of Burra, South Australia.

His father was a prominent pastoralist and sheep breeder in South Australia. He had founded Koonoona stud, where Bob was born. Bob was educated at Queen’s School in North Adelaide, and went on to work on his father’s properties.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the 19-year-old Bob Hawkes was working on Morden Station, one of his father’s properties in New South Wales. He immediately telegraphed his father for permission to enlist. His mother and sisters were on their return journey from England at the time, and his father was concerned that his mother would not like him to enlist.

An old football injury had left him with a bad knee but Bob said, “Hang the knee, I’ll go as soon as mother returns.”

Bob Hawkes’ knee injury was quite serious and although he was approved for service abroad, he was not approved for general service. He was posted to the 9th Light Horse Regiment, and while in Egypt, managed to get the medical board’s decision overlooked.

In February 1915, he was promoted to lance corporal in the regiment’s machine-gun section. He landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in May, and during the August Offensive was shot in the chest, arm and leg. He was evacuated to hospital in Malta and later, London.

In mid-1916, Hawkes was transferred to the 7th Machine Gun Company. He was wounded in the thigh on the Somme in November 1916 and sent to hospital in Birmingham. He returned to active service again in January 1917 and assumed command of an Australian Machine Gun Depot Company at Belton Park in England.

In August 1917, Second Lieutenant Bob Hawkes was transferred to the 21st Machine Gun Company, and the following month was promoted to lieutenant.

He wrote to his father on his way back to the front line, saying, “In the event of me being scuppered … you must just take it as the unfortunate circumstances of war and don’t worry, or allow anyone else to do so either. I am perfectly fit, happy and prepared to take whatever comes my way, so look at it all in the best light, as I know you will … I’ll cable as soon as I am out again.”

On the 29th of October 1917, Lieutenant Hawkes was in a dugout with Lieutenant Norman Martin firing in support of operations on the Ypres Salient. An artillery shell scored a direct hit on their position, killing both instantly.

Hawkes and Martin were most probably buried together near the place where they were killed but their graves were lost in subsequent fighting. Today they are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. 

Bob Hawkes was killed less than three weeks before his 23rd birthday.

 

Meleah Hampton, Military History Section