John Hawkes, formerly a Private with 73rd Battalion, B. Company, no. 5 platoon, Canadian Royal Highlanders, died at 370 Beach Street, Saco, Maine, USA on 4th May 1920, aged 41 years and 20 days. His cause of death was listed as Bright’s Disease (an inflammation of the kidneys), with “life in trenches” given as a contributory factor.
John was born in Leek Wootton on 14th April 1879 and was the second of the eight children (three sons, five daughters) of parents Thomas (a gardener) and Emily (née Biddle) who had married at Cubbington in 1875. Both of John’s brothers – Charles Thomas (1886-1978) and Horace Alfred (1895-1918) – served in the war, with Horace dying in hospital in Leamington Spa in December 1918, also suffering from an inflammation of the kidneys.
By 1891, having spent time in Bubbenhall, Dudley and Kenilworth, the family was back in Leek Wootton, with 11-year-old John working as a boot and knife cleaner (the school leaving age was raised to 11 in 1893).
By 1901, the Hawkes family had moved to Lyndon End, Sheldon, where they remained for at least 17 years, although John had moved out of the family home before 1901. He became a gardener and, at the time of the 1901 census, was employed as a foreman gardener at Shughborough Hall in Staffordshire, home of Thomas Francis Anson, 3rd Earl of Lichfield.
In 1905 John married Mary Eunice Davey in Sevenoaks, Kent and the birth of their daughter, Enid Mary, was registered in Bearwood, Staffordshire in 1907. By the time of the 1911 census the family was living in Great Malvern.
In April 1913, John Hawkes sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia from Liverpool aboard the Megantic. His wife and five-year-old daughter, Enid Mary, joined him a few months later, sailing from London to Montreal in June 1913.
After the outbreak of war, John volunteered for the Canadian Army, enlisting on 3rd November 1915 and giving his occupation as gardener. He sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 31st March 1916, arriving in Liverpool on 9th April. He embarked for France on 11th August 1916 and was attached as a batman to the 4th Divisional Headquarters in January 1918. He remained in France until April 1919 when he again sailed for England before transfer to Canada, where he was demobilised on 24th May 1919.
Soon after he was demobbed, he emigrated from Canada to the USA and is recorded on the 1920 census living with his wife and daughter in Saco, Maine. His occupation at the time was a worker in a cotton mill. He died in Saco about six months after entering the country and four months after developing Bright’s disease.
Although he had emigrated from England in 1913, and had moved out of the family home at Lyndon End by 1901, John is commemorated on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton (pictured at the top of this page).
His widow continued to live in Saco until her death, aged 84, in 1963.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977