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Sgt Len Hawes

1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry

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Leonard Martin Hawes was born in Reading on 26th January 1890 and was educated at the Kendrick School in Reading. In 1902 the family moved to Twyford where Mr Hawes took the licence to the Railway Hotel.

Following his elder brother, he joined the Berkshire Imperial Yeomanry at Wokingham around 1906 and served with the 'A' (Windsor) Squadron and specifically the Wokingham Troop. On annual camp at Churn in 1912 Lance Corporal LM Hawes was promoted Corporal and by annual camp of 1914 he had been promoted again to the rank of Lance Sergeant.

Len, as he was familiarly known, had many and varied interests. He was an all-round athlete, playing regularly for the Reading Amateurs football team (an offshoot that sprang from Reading Football Club), assisted the Reading FC Reserves and also played cricket for several teams within East Berkshire. He was a fine rider and followed two local hunts. He assisted his father at the hotel and was a chorister at Twyford parish church. Any remaining spare time was taken by his interest in motoring.

Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, the ‘A’ Squadron mobilised at Windsor.  After completing the mobilisation the squadron centralised at Reading from where the Regiment deployed briefly to Bury St Edmunds, prior to moving to Churn on 1st September 1914. By late summer Len became the 2nd Sergeant in No.2 (Windsor) Troop under the command of 2nd Lieutenant AHK Williams.

The Regiment spent several months in progressive training on the Berkshire Down from individual training up to divisional schemes. In November 1914 the 2nd Mounted Division, of which the Berks Yeomanry was part, was sent to Norfolk to protect the East Coast against possible German invasion.

In April 1915 the Division was sent to Egypt with the Berkshire Yeomanry landing at Alexandria on the 21st April. Stationed in Cairo, the men were used in guarding duties, prisoner of war escort, and later moved to the outskirts where they could train again in the open terrain.  In August 1915 the Regiment was reorganised into two dismounted squadrons ready for service on Gallipoli. ‘A’ Squadron, bolstered by men of ‘B’ Squadron, became a combined unit known as 1st Squadron under the command of Major ES 'Teddy' Gooch.

In a letter sent just before leaving Cairo Sergeant Hawes wrote, ‘Fancy going on a Friday, and the 13th above all days. Everything is going magnificently; the only thing going against it is leaving the horses behind. Today everybody is saying goodbye to their horses - a bit rough after having them a year.’

The Regiment embarked at Alexandria on the 14th August and landed on Gallipoli at Suvla Bay, early in the morning of the 18th. The Regiment landed under shell fire, from where they occupied dugouts and carried out fatigues above Suvla Bay until the 20th when the Brigade marched by night to Lala Baba and bivouacked on the shore ready for the battle the next day.

In a letter home written on the day before the battle he recorded, ‘There are no casualties in the Berkshire Yeomanry, but all other units except Bucks have landed under heavy fire. I have not had a shave for nearly a week and about one wash. I am afraid to look at myself in our looking glass – biscuit tins. Our Colonel is leaving us, and is being invalided home. We have had a very heavy shrapnel fire all day and night. You are under fire everywhere here and anywhere in fact. I am fit and well.  Water is very scarce here and very dirty at that, I would not think of washing in it home, let alone drink it! We have had to dig ourselves in every time we move. It is hard work and blisters are numerous, but with it all it is very exciting and nice to be in it.’

At 3pm on 21st August the Second Mounted Division with the Berkshire Yeomanry as lead Regiment advanced some two miles across the Salt Lake under heavy shell fire to Chocolate Hill. Unlike other regiments crossing this lake, the Berkshire Yeomanry suffered few casualties comprising eleven men wounded. ‘Shrapnel was bursting all around us and men were going down in dozens. Several times the whole of my troop were blown down by the concussion of the shells.’

Under the shelter of Chocolate Hill the men were able to rest briefly and receive further orders. The men had thought that they were going forward to reinforce trenches but actually the role of the 2nd Mounted Brigade (Berks Bucks & Dorset Yeomanry) was now to renew the assault on Scimitar Hill in support of 29th Division which was already heavily engaged.

1st Squadron (under Captain Hurndall) orders were to advance with its left on the track running from Chocolate Hill 53 toward Scimitar Hill.  At 5.15pm Berkshire Yeomanry, again as lead regiment, advanced north around Chocolate Hill with the Bucks and Dorsets in support and crossed the British front line.  They advanced to a gully just below the summit of the hill. The advance was hindered by a large amount of burnt scrub in their line of advance. Sergeant Hawes as part of the 1st Squadron was on the right of the Berkshire Yeomanry’s line.

From here in co-operation with the two regiments of the 29th Division the whole line charged the Turkish trenches once again. The order was give to ‘Fix bayonets’ and Berks with the Bucks and Dorsets charged and captured the enemy’s front trench. ‘With a yell we went forward but the final charge is impossible to describe. As soon as we got over the gully there was a fusillade of shells and rifles and machine guns seemed all around us. It seemed impossible to live though and that was where we had most casualties.’

The portion captured formed the apex of a triangle and owing to enfilade fire the Brigade was unable to hold the trench and had to evacuate it.  All Brigade staff and 70% Regimental officers had become casualties.  The Brigade gradually retired in various small parties and eventually rallied on 22nd August on western slope of Hill 53 (Chocolate Hill).

The 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry went into action with a strength of nine officers and 314 men. At roll call next morning only 4 officers and 150 men answered.  In all two officers and 71 men were killed or died of wounds.  Len Hawes was shot in the neck and spine but it is not recorded at what stage of the battle this occurred. Leonard Martin Hawes died of wounds on 25th August 1915, aged 25, on board HM Hospital Ship Salta and was buried at sea. He is commemorated on Panel 18 of the Helles Memorial.

It is reported that he was built upon the right lines for a soldier: always cheery, yet nonchalant, he was full of determination and thoroughly understood the meaning of discipline even on a football field, whilst never at a loss to voice a mild protest in a legitimate manner.  Sergeant LM Hawes No. 949 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Wounded in Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli; Died at Sea – HMHS Salta.
Buried at sea; commemorated on Panel 18 of the Helles Memorial, Turkey.

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