Leading Seaman Walter Hubert Hawke, 237738

  • Batt -
  • Unit - Royal Navy
  • Section - Hm Submarine E.24
  • Date of Birth - 13/9/1890
  • Died - 27/03/1916
  • Age - 25
  • Decorations - British War Medal, Victory Star

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Source: Michael Doyle Their Name Liveth For Evermore: The Great War Roll of Honour for Leicestershire and Rutland.
He was the son of William Charles Hawke, a bookmaker, born 1841 in Kettering, Northants., and his wife Elizabeth Hawke (nee Watkinson, married q3 1873 in the Uppingham, Rutland district), born 1851 in Somerby, Rutland. Walter Hubert was born on the 13th September 1890 in Hallaton, Leics., his siblings were, Frederick Charles, a bookmaker, born 1876, Arthur William, a schoolboy, born 1881, Edwin James, a schoolboy, born 1883, Ernest Herbert, a schoolboy, born 1885 and Adah Alice., born 1888, all his siblings were born in Hallaton, Leics., in April 1891 the family home was at High Street, Hallaton, Leics. In March 1901 Walter was residing in the family home at Hallaton, Leics., together with his father, a boot manufacturer, his mother and siblings, Frederick, a photographer and picture frame maker, Ernest, a grocer’s assistant, Adah and Lawrence Jesse, born 1894 in Hallaton, Leics. Walter enlisted into the Royal Navy to serve a 12 year engagement on the 10th November 1906, his reckonable service to commence of the 13th September 1908, and he was allocated the service number 237738 in Plymouth, Devon. His medical examination recorded that he was 5 foot 4½ inches in height, and he had light brown hair and grey eyes, his complexion was described as fair, it was noted that he had a snake tattoo inside his left forearm, a scar in the centre of his forehead, and a scar at the side of his right eye, he gave his trade or calling as baker’s assistant. On attaining 18 years of age he was re-examined and his height was recorded as 5 foot 5½ inches. His record of service began when he joined HMS Ganges as a Boy 2nd Class on the 10/11/06 – 30/6/07, when he was promoted to Boy 1st Class. HMS Ganges, 1/7/07 – 9/8/07. HMS Achilles, 10/8/07 – 9/9/07. HMS Hogue, 10/9/07 – 22/12/07. HMS Vivid I, 23/12/07 – 14/2/08. HMS -?-, 15/2/08 – 27/4/08. HMS Suffolk, 28/4/08 – 12/9/08, when he was promoted to Ordinary Seaman. HMS Suffolk, 13/9/08 – 14/6/09, when he was promoted to Able Bodied Seaman. HMS Suffolk, 15/6/09 – 2/5/10. HMS Vivid I, 3/5/10 – 10/12/10. HMS Defiance, 11/12/10 – 23/10/11. HMS Queen, 24/10/11 – 14/5/12. HMS Defiance, 15/5/12 – 22/6/12. HMS Vivid I, 23/6/12 – 8/8/12. HMS Defiance, 9/8/12 – 26/8/12. HMS Bellerophon, 27/8/12 – 27/10/12. HMS Forth, 28/10/12 – 4/12/13, when he was promoted to Leading Seaman. HMS Forth, 5/12/13 – 30/10/14. HMS Arrogant, 31/10/14 – 18/1/15. HMS Bonaventure, 19/1/15 – 2/9/15. HMS Dolphin, 3/9/15 – 20/1/16. HMS Maidstone (HM Submarine E.24), 21/1/16 – 27/3/16, when he was recorded as having lost his life on duty. The background leading to the circumstances in which Walter lost his life is as follows. HM Submarine E.24 belonged to the Harwich based 9th Flotilla at the time of her loss. She was the second E class boat to be converted into a minelayer. HM Submarine E.24 left Harwich on the morning of 21st March 1916 to lay mines in the Heligoland Bight. A positional report was issued late that night. Her commander, Lieutenant Commander Naper, was ordered to enter the Bight in darkness on the surface via the Amrum Bank. Once in position he was to lay mines in a zigzag formation. As mines were known to have been laid by the Germans off Ameland, Naper was ordered to return by the same route. She did not return from the mission, and was logged as missing on 24th March 1916. Divers hunting for a Second World War era U boat in 1973 raised sections of a mined submarine wreck, including the conning tower. The boat was towed to Cuxhaven where the wreck was identified as a British E class boat, rather than a German submarine. The German government then informed the Admiralty. Human remains found in the wreck are buried in Ohlsdorf Cemetery, Hamburg. HM Submarine E.24’s commander is buried in a separate grave to others. Lieutenant Commander Naper was identified because of the 2 half rings on his sleeve, and the fact that his skeleton was 6 foot tall. All the skulls of those in the boat were found in a pyramidal formation. The sunken wreck lay at a downward angle, causing the heads to become detached from the bodies and to roll down the slope into that position. Three bodies were found lying under the battery boards directly on top of the batteries, with arms folded. They may have died of the effects of chlorine gas before the rest of the crew. Artefacts from HM Submarine E.24 and her crew, such as smoking pipes belonging to Naper, a bottle of blackberries, the sextant, a firing pistol and boots are on display at Cuxhaven, as are the submarine’s conning tower and propellers.

Source: Leicestershire War Memorials Project.
Walter was the son of Charles Hawke a boot maker and grazier. In November 1906, aged 16 years he swopped his life as a baker's assistant signing on in the Royal Navy’s Training Establishment, HMS Ganges with service number 237738. One of the assignments for all young sailors was to “man the mast” – a nerve-wracking experience. On his eighteenth birthday 13th September 1908 he signed on for 12 years. For four years he served on 14 different ships, including many famous names such as HMS Defiance, Bellerophon and Arrogant. He transferred to the relatively new, Submarine Branch of the service in October 1912 attached to HMS Forth. Living was extremely cramped for the 35 crew. On 5th December 1913 he was promoted to Leading Seaman. On the morning of 21st March 1916, E24 with her crew of 35 including Walter left Harwich to lay mines in the Heligoland Bight. They entered the Bight in darkness and on the surface. They would not return home. On 27th March E24 struck a mine and sank and all hands, including Walter, were lost. The story eventually becomes even more extraordinary. In 1974 the German navy attempting to recover diamonds and jewels from a sunken U boat, located what they thought was it and towed it back, under water, to Cuxhaven where they raised her to the surface. To their horror and surprise she was not the sought for U boat but E24. Instead of diamonds they found the skeletons of only 25 British sailors. This was most embarrassing as it was a British war grave. It is said that this episode was kept quiet for 10 years and the remains were eventually buried in Ohlsdorf Cemetery, Hamburg. Walter is commemorated on Plymouth Naval Memorial as well as our village memorial.

Information kindly provided by Dennis Kenyon.

Leicestershire Project Findings
  • Conflict - World War I
  • Cause of death - KILLED IN ACTION
  • Place of death - Died At Sea
  • Burial Place - Hm Submarine E24 Or Ohlsdorf Cemetery
  • Birth Place - Uppingham
Research from Michael Doyle's Their Name Liveth For Evermore
  • Unit - Royal Navy
  • Cause of death - KILLED IN ACTION
  • Burial Commemoration - Hamburg Cem., Ohlsdorf, Germany
  • Born - Hallaton, Leics
  • Enlisted - 10/11/06 In Plymouth, Devon
  • Memorial - HALLATON MEM., LEICS

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